Real-life stories of animals and their amazing bond with humans

Grateful pigeon

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Hugh Perkins lived a quiet life in West Virginia, and often used to play happily on his own out in the backyard. One day in the 1950 a pigeon flew into the yard. Hugh, then aged 12, was intrigued by the grey bird; it had an aluminium band on one of its legs – with the number 167 on it – and was clearly a homing or racing pigeon. But despite this the pigeon seemed in no hurry to return to wherever it had come from. Hugh began feeding his new friend and over time the pigeon became more at ease. The youngster spoke to the bird and it seemed to respond to the kindly tone of his voice. There was no way of telling whether the bird had been lost, hungry, or tired. But it quickly became more comfortable in Hugh’s presence and within a few days the pigeon had become Hugh’s pet and the two became good friends.

Their friendship continued throughout the following year, with Hugh regularly feeding and talking to his new pet. One day, however, the youngster fell seriously ill.

His parents, worried for Hugh’s health, drove him 100 miles across the mountains, to a large hospital where he could be taken care of. At the medical centre the doctors quickly operated on Hugh and fortunately he was soon out of danger. However, he was still very weak from his ordeal and was told he had to spend time recuperating in a hospital bed.

The night after the operation there was a snowstorm and, as he lay awake, Hugh heard a gentle tapping on the window. At first he assumed it was just the storm blowing branches against the pane. But the tapping continued and in any case the tapping was more regular than might be caused by a swaying tree.

Hugh looked carefully, and saw a pigeon huddled up against the cold and snow, tapping his beak on the glass. Too weak to get up, Hugh called to a nurse to open the window. Sure enough, as soon as she did, the half-frozen bird hopped inside. Hugh knew right away who this bird was, and the aluminium band on the bird’s leg confirmed it; the number was 167. Hugh’s pet homing pigeon had come to visit. The boy had once shown this bird great kindness, feeding it and offering it friendship. Now the same bird had flown a hundred miles through heavy snow to return the favour to its friend in his hour of need.

 

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