A big surprise

Yesterday afternoon at 4pm I was writing, mood: relatively content. Freelance writing, in the spare room which used to be our garage back when Chesney Hawkes was singing his blisteringly successful number 1 single ‘I am the one and only,’ and everyone down our street proudly wore a different coloured shell-suit (mine was purple with green and pink bits). As is usual at around 4pm, my Greyhound Jojo was beginning to get lively. This is very much the habit in our house. Greyhounds, despite their love of speed and darting about, tend to sleep a lot, only to become more active in the afternoon in the lead-up to food-time. This craving for activity is further encouraged by the fact that at around about 5:30pm, Jojo’s Master — and my dad — returns home from work. Basically, if you have four legs and an obsession with sniffing which is only just a bit less fantastic than your Master — easily the best thing in the entire world, even better than sniffing other dogs’ bums — this is the absolute most exciting time of the day.

So I stopped writing to watch my mum play ball with Jojo — something which happens like clock-work in the afternoons, and is carefully timed so that there will be an hour or so afterwards for Jojo to rest (because the moment her Master comes in she’ll go mad and run about, which Jojo never realises is a bad idea until the moment she pukes all over the carpet). A five or ten minute break is nothing less than essential when your working day is largely spent alone, imagining things. I highly doubt I needed to tell you that.

The game of ball, yesterday, was of medium quality. I say ‘medium’ because Jojo’s bal-catching capabilities are, at times, second-to-none. On a good day she can catch the ball after its first bounce every single time and predict where it’s going even before it’s thrown. On a medium day she misses it more often, and scampers about like a small horse who has just learned how to play.

I heard the noise but Jojo didn’t — no surprise; Greyhounds aren’t alert unless they see something, and besides that, she was too busy recovering from the game and enjoying having her belly stroked by mum. It was by the fence, whatever was making the noise. As I wandered over I had in my mind that it was a small bird scuttling about in the bush there, above my head, but as I scanned the smaller bushes and ground I saw it was a baby pigeon.

As anyone who frequently reads this blog will know, I am a bird lover. While many people cite the pigeon an annoyance and a bird which we can do without, I have always marvelled at them. Pigeons are, after all, one of the most intelligent birds there are, not to mention they have a powerful memory and sensory perception — something which by far not all garden birds possess.

So there was the pigeon; it’s fluffy head and naive wandering quality something sweet in an otherwise routine day. For about five minutes I chased it around in-between the small plants and bushes, trying to either scare it into flight or pick it up so I could set it free. The pigeon wouldn’t go with either option. It just wanted to strut up and down by the fence all day. And that would have been fine, if it wasn’t for Jojo having something territorial against it.

I had some success getting the pigeon to take flight in the corner of the garden, but this was to be short-lived, and led to it scrambling with confusion up against the study-window. From the way it did this I could see it was no more than a week or so old. All birds get confused by windows, it’s a fact, but this pigeon lost bright white feathers as it landed, unsure of which direction to head next.

I’d decided to grab the pigeon whether it liked it or not when I looked to my right and saw Jojo break away from mum. In the time it took me to register this, Jojo had grabbed the pigeon, sinking her teeth all the way through it. I stepped back and put my head in my hands, walked to the other side of the garden. Mum shouted at Jojo and told her to put the poor animal down but it was already too late. More than anything at that moment, I didn’t want Jojo to put the pigeon down. Cruel as it sounds, I wanted the pigeon to go now, to die quickly, for it to be smooth and finite. I just couldn’t stand the idea of being left with no other option but to finish the job myself.

We spent 10 minutes trying to free the bird from Jojo’s mouth. 10 minutes, but her mouth was like a vice. When I finally did get the pigeon out it was without its right wing. I buried it in the front garden, the poor thing.

I was in a rage after that. I rarely get in a rage, but this, all this, seemed like everything bad and doomed and broken about the world. I blamed myself for the death of the bird. Myself and my mum for allowing Jojo to murder it and not taking her inside the house while I dealt with the pigeon. As upset as I was about what I had just witnessed, I wasn’t angry with Jojo for what she had done. It tainted the day, this thing. Nothing is quite the same when death has left its mark before your eyes.

But on the bright side, at least it wasn’t some kind of rare bird of prey. That really would have pissed me off.

One comment on “A big surprise

  1. yasminselena says:

    I was just about to go to bed but wanted to say that’s sad about the baby pigeon, Chris. I completely understand how awful it is to witness something like that and not be able to rescue the bird : ( Reminds me of a v.grim 5mins at Kingston Upon Thames last year. It was a indelible blight on what had been a great day. You’re right, it’s impossible to pretend you didn’t see or feel something and crack on merrily, especially if you heart birds & animals.

    You tried though, that counts for something. Though get you wished you’d done things differently. And it was a kindness to bury the wee one. l like pigeons too, my parents love them. They watch them late morning from the conservatory together. Sometimes it’s kind of relaxing to focus on just the one and be a fly on its wall for a bit. I did that on Waterloo Bridge last Friday : ) Hope the rest of the week is better, Chris. Yasmin x


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