Back in March, I was headed to my first portrait painting session with a friend when I came across a seemingly 'drunk' pigeon in the middle of the road. I watched the young bird for a while trying to figure out what was wrong with it. I decided to pick it up and wasn't really sure what my next step was going to be. I just knew I needed to get her out of the road before she became a pigeon-cake. While holding the bird, I noticed her neck getting limp and I knew she needed immediate medical attention. We scrambled looking up emergency vet hospitals in the area while I held this poor pigeon in my hands.
Finally! A clinic nearby that we could walk to...without having to take a pigeon on the subway to the L, F and 5 train or possibly getting kicked out of an Uber. We reached the clinic hoping that they may be able to offer us some assistance. Instead, I am turned away and told that 'we don't do birds'. My internal rage at this moment was at its peak. Without being rude I said, "This is an animal hospital, right? Don't you help all animals?". The receptionist went to the back to see if someone could help, but no. I was given a box and some hand sanitizer and sent on my way.
Now what? We've got a sick, injured, possibly dying pigeon on our hands and nowhere to go. My friend suggests that maybe we should just give the pigeon some time. Bring her to the studio and see how she does. So, plan B commences. During this time, the name Penny came to mind. It seemed very fitting for such a bird. In New York, pigeons are everywhere. Thus, giving the impression that they are meaningless, not important, chop change. How many of us would stop to pick up a penny?
While in session, I continue my search for a rescue center or some place that could help with Penny. They always say you shouldn't name anything you aren't going to keep...and they are probably right. In the few hours I spent with this little pigeon, I became attached and determined to see her well. Through my search, I came across a rescue center, Wild Bird Fund in Upper Manhattan. I called and emailed, left an online inquiry, but had no luck reaching anyone. I decided I would go there after our art session.
So, I hopped in an Uber and was on my way. When I arrived, it was just as amazing as I expected. While Penny and I waited to be seen, there was a curious goose, several ducklings and a gorgeous swan that greeted us. I was in bird paradise. The technician called us into an exam room and began the evaluation on little Penny. The young man asked if I would assist in drawing some blood to test for lead. Of course, I was more than happy to assist. I had done some technician work myself and was excited at the opportunity. While we waited for the test results, Penny was started on fluids. She was severely emaciated and dehydrated. This poor girl had been suffering for some time.
The results came back positive for lead poisoning which is a reality of living in New York as a small animal. Seeing the realities of human-related destruction to our environment really hit me hard. I teared up a bit just thinking about Penny and all the animals that suffer due to our heavy footprint on this planet. But, after that moment of sadness, I perked up knowing that Penny was now in good hands and would be well taken care of. I said my goodbyes, made a donation and flew back home to Florida the next day.
A few days later, I followed up with the center to see how Penny was doing. The Veterinarian wasn't sure if Penny would make it. With lead poisoning and a possible head injury at such a young age, the prognosis was not good. The medication for lead poisoning is very hard on small animals. But, I continued to follow up over the next few weeks, and week by week Penny seemed to be doing better. She was now socializing with other young birds and putting on some weight! They had even started preparing her for release with some other pigeons.
I decided to send one last follow up regarding her release and decided to leave it at that. I knew she was okay and that she would be released into Central Park. To my surprise, I received a voicemail telling me that Penny was released with 12 other pigeons. I was overjoyed! How could something so small, so minute, bring me so much happiness? I was so happy and excited to think that my little Penny would be fluttering around Central Park and maybe one day, by chance, I may just catch a glimpse of her. So, if you're strolling around Central Park someday and find a penny, pick it up. All day long, you will have good luck!