Pigeons of Paris

Love and Grief

I was walking Dexter, my fluffy dog who is already far more Parisienne than my wife and I combined, when I came upon a pair of pigeons. One dead and one not-so-much.

One sees pigeons everywhere in Paris. I can sit on my deck having a Galoise cigarette and look across the street and see them canoodling on balconies all along my street. Did you know that pigeons canoodle? It seems even rats with wings crave affection.

I have not googled pigeon canoodling, or even whether they pair off and mate for life so everything I write today is one hundred percent my own observations and projections onto these much maligned critters. Be honest, unless you’re Mike Tyson you’ve never really given pigeons much thought.

Same. Until I got to Paris and started seeing them together. Not in a kitte, but in sweet little pairs. Canoodling like teenagers with a crush. Sharing whatever little scraps they find together. Watching over their person (pigeon) as they slept. And yes, even grieving their loss.

As Dexter and I approached the pair I noticed first the one laying splat on the sidewalk. Likely the victim of a car or motorcycle coming down the road. Paris pigeons really do strut about the place as though they expect the world to make way. Unfortunately, for our victim, it seems the world decided not to comply. As such, they left their partner alone in this world, crestfallen.

Dexter usually enjoys chasing pigeons off whenever he gets the chance, but even he seemed to grasp the gravity of what was going on.

What was going on was this: the surviving pigeon was very clearly mourning the loss of their loved one. They stood vigil beside their beloved and attempted to peck away anyone/thing that dared get too close. We stood and watched for a spell and when left alone for a bit, the survivor would walk around the deceased seeming to implore them to get up. Please get up!

Anyone who has ever lost someone who means quite a lot to them knows that look. That look that belies the sentiment of, why is everyone else going on as if the world didn’t just end?! I know grief. I saw it in that little creature.

If you are tempted to think, it’s just a bird Rudy, I would like you consider how you might feel if it were your beloved dog, or cat. We ascribe so much humanity to our pets, or pretty animals like cheetahs and baby elephants, why should it be any different for a city bird, a rat with wings, when they are clearly feeling that most human of emotions?

I watched for a little while longer thinking, I see you little guy, I know it hurts like hell and I hope that you know you aren’t alone. Dexter put his little head down and whimpered.

We left the pair of them behind.

I was surprised to find myself caring so much about a fucking bird. But I do. Somewhere, right now, there is this stupid bird flying around, alone for the first time in who knows how long? I wish I could tell the little fella that he can come land on my railing on my deck and I’ll look out for him while his little heart heals.

This post originally appeared on my Substack on August 29

©2024 Rudy Martinez