Scooter… Meet Vinny! The WBU Clearwater/Safety Harbor Competition for Cuteness has Begun!
It’s a familiar tragedy worthy of an A&E special. A pigeon… a racing pigeon… at the top of his game. Vinny was racing, and pooping, and winning against the very best. A hero to all who knew him. Lauded and showered with glory -perhaps- once too often until, finally, the fame became too much and Vinny hit… rock bottom. For Vinny, It started with small handouts at local parks. Sun-drenched old ladies showered him with bags full of mealy crumbs as they knitted on Tampa’s numerous park benches. Landscapers and construction workers tossed bits of hero sandwiches his way in an attempt to drive him from their shiny, clean windshields. Children adorned the ground with peanuts; innocent of Vinny’s hidden path of self-destruction. Soon, the crumbs and crusts and peanuts and pooping on local statuary weren’t enough to satiate his growing appetite for junk food. Vinny sought refuge in the dense underbrush of Pinellas County’s parks and public features.
Like some demented troll… he’d dart out from beneath bus stop shelters in the hopes of grabbing even a small flake of ice cream cone. His head bobbing from side to side… his gentle cooing, once pleasing and sweet, now only a tattered gargle at best. Vinny had become only a shadow of his former self. He had become… a full blown bird feeder addict and was on the path to nowhere fast. His once graceful feathers had lost their luster and with such bad nutrition, his molt had stagnated leaving him looking worn and weather-beaten. Vinny had fallen to the lowest of the low for a racing pigeon. No more racing in the clouds… no more plump breast fluffing to beg for crumbs, no more perching on wires… no more well-aimed poop tosses. He had neared the point of no return where staggering around on sidewalks annoying the local population was, well… good enough.
But, all was not lost.
With his last bit of courage, with the last remnants of strength and self-respect he had left… Vinny -cold, scared, frail and hungry- staggered towards the only place left that hadn’t abandoned him. The one place Vinny the Pigeon knew would be his final resort for recovery…. In the night –in the chill– shivering from the dense night air… Vinny saw a light. A light in a window of the Northwood Commons Shopping Center on North McMullen Booth Road, suite 101…. Vinny saw it. Brightly lit among the haunting melody of racing cars and mournful wails of newborn Mockingbirds… the Wild Birds Unlimited sign shone like a beacon of rescue against a long-beaten trail of bird mites and lost dreams. Vinny, succumbed to the last bit of hope he had left, spread his wings on the welcome mat, rested his head…and waited for dawn’s early light when Carl or Karen…or maybe Nate,Tracy or Birdie…would be there to find him… lost… alone… and waiting for reformation’s hand.
“Wait a minute! What??? …Cold? Scared? Frail and hungry? … Shivering from the cold, dense, night air…? We’re in Florida! Where is it “cold” in Florida? Where is anyone “chilly” in Florida? At the top of his game? What “game” ? The “pooping” game? He’s a pigeon! He poops on things! It’s what they do! …Mournful wails of newborn Mockingbirds… Reformation’s Hand?? Really? Really…??? Thanks to the seed, suet and feed from WBU Clearwater/Safety Harbor– Vinny the Pigeon is now… FAT… and happy and eating MY leftovers and handouts at the backdoor to the Northwood Commons Back lot Preserve! So spare me the “Orphan Annie” story as he sits in the comfort of the store while I remain ‘baffled’ at the squirrel proof feeders, MmmKaaayyy??!”
Well, so we embellished a bit for poetic flair… but some of Vinny’s story does ring true!
Vinny the racing Pigeon, WBU Clearwater/Safety Harbor’s new mascot (much to Scooter’s chagrin), was found by a local dog trainer. After a night or two with a rehabber and veterinarian, the staff of Wild Birds Unlimited at Clearwater/Safety Harbor decided it best to allow Vinny to recover and continue to live, as long as he likes, in the store and back lot preserve area of the Northwood Commons Shopping center. Vinny is permitted to come and go as he pleases and is provided a perch and proper food befitting his dietary needs as directed by his vet.
While Vinny was brought into the store by a helpful WBU friend, as opposed to the comically woeful story of survival we whipped up above there… some elements of his life are relative to many racing birds’ lives. Although many racing (also called Homing) pigeon owners show detailed care and genuine affection for their racing birds, some racing pigeons can face an unhealthy life during training and racing. Introduced in the US in the late 1800’s, pigeon racing became a fast and easy sport for mostly urban dwellers. A well-bred racing pigeon can fly at speeds upwards of 60 MPH, while some have been clocked at over 100 MPH!
Even when well-cared for, the perils they face during training and racing can be many. Natural predators such as hawks, unforeseen weather conditions and accidents along the racing route have been known to kill and injure these fine birds. At times, possibly as in Vinny’s case, they can become lost or unable to fly due to age or irreparable injury. When this occurs, they can sometimes fail to return to their home lofts where they had been cared for. Since some of these birds cannot fend for themselves in the wild, they are often found malnourished and require consistent care and proper, professional attention in order to bring them back to renewed health. But, a healthy, well cared for racing pigeon can have a lifespan of 20+ years.
So, WBU Clearwater/Safety Harbor’s resident seed stealing squirrel, Scooter, has some competition in the cuteness department. Vinny has a better life story and, while his tail doesn’t flick and while his eyes don’t carry Scooter’s cherubic flair… his charm will endure as long as his friends and family at the WBU Clearwater/Safety Harbor shower him with attentive affection. And we don’t see that ending any time soon! Welcome home, Vinny! Welcome home…