It is true: Numbers have never really been my cup of tea. This might explain the fact that I underestimated the overall distance of our trip by a good 200 km. As a consequence, last Sunday, we load our bikes onto a train in Koblenz and get on. The first thing we see getting off the train in Karlsruhe is a pigeon. She is only young, has some fluff left on her head and is sitting inertly on a metal grid on the platform. As I move closer and gently touch her, she doesn’t even flinch. I move away and wait at a distance – and wait a little longer. But no parents appear. No wonder, really, so close to the trains and with all those people getting on and off trains in a hurry.
We call Tine, the pigeon specialist, in Düsseldorf. Her advice is clear: Take the pigeon with you. «Chances she’s going to get thumped over the head are way to high». And she is obviously at an age at which she can neither look after herself nor fly yet. At the station library we find a cardboard box for the pigeon transport, in a small supermarket some cereals for her dinner and at the next best hotel a room for the night – into which we smuggle the pigeon without anyone noticing. We leave a message on the answering machine of Karlsruhe Animal Shelter, which apparently has its own pigeon cots.
Thanks to Tine’s instructions we know that getting grains down a young pigeon’s crop can appear a little rough at first sight. But the pigeon is hungry and very thirsty and seems to quickly understand we mean no harm. Thankfully, the next morning already she picks the softened cereals out of our hands without further ado.
Ms Golz from the animal shelter rings back early Monday morning: We can bring the pigeon to the shelter. When we arrive at the shelter by taxi, Ms Schramm takes in the pigeon and puts her in a cage next to other pigeons who are also in need of care. Ms Schramm shows us the shelter’s won pigeon cots, where the pigeon will be placed once she is capable of looking after herself. She will then be able to decide whether she wants to stay on living there or, for example, move to the nearby woods. However, in Ms Schramm’s experience pigeons who come to the shelter at such a young age stay at the shelter for the rest of their lives.
We are very grateful the pigeon is now in good hands and well looked after. Unless they live in one of the sheltered pigeon cots, city pigeons often live very stressful lives: They are unwelcome wherever they go and fought against in every (im)possible way. Finding peaceful breeding places and suitable food is difficult, too. Chances are very high that ‘our’ pigeon will have a much better and less stressful life with good food – and care should she need it – than if she were to grow up in the city.
And so we leave Karlsruhe Animal Shelter with a sigh of relief, return to our bicycles and head south – France is beckoning!
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