Sunday, July 01, 2012

Pet Tales : Walter, racing pigeon

         To enlarge article, please just click on it,

It took me three days to notice him. Each morning in the livery yard, as I mucked out my horse’s stable, a pigeon stood outside, pecking at the ground and quizzically tilting his head to one side with a fixed gaze. He took particular interest when I was preparing feeds. Eventually I got the message and threw him a handful of tiger oats. He ate voraciously, methodically picking up every last grain.  

His visits for tiger oats turned into a daily routine and he roosted each night in the eaves of the barn nearby. As a long-term visitor, I felt he should have a name. He had a ring on his leg marked “GB 12 A” and five digits. Though I was tempted to steal Noel Coward’s line to T.E.Lawrence and call him “GB12A,” I chose “Walter” instead.

Each morning and evening, Walter would keep me company, exploring the stable and standing in feed bowls eating any leftovers. He particularly liked to stand underneath my sixteen hands cob, enjoying his companionship, but was never trodden-on.

My fellow liveries liked him, although there was the odd complaint about droppings in water buckets or on newly-cleaned tack. Any inconvenience caused by his presence did not however exactly amount to a reign of terror.

After checking with the website I realised that Walter’s ring prefix meant that he was registered with the Royal Racing Pigeon Association and that, much as I enjoyed having him around, he should be captured and returned to his rightful owner. I was also concerned that I was about to go away on holiday and couldn’t help but notice that several dogs on the yard were regularly stalking their new neighbour who needed to keep his wits about him to avoid their attention.

It proved straightforward to capture Walter using a trail of his favourite tiger oats and an old bird cage. A local animal sanctuary kindly agreed to take care of him until he was reunited with his owner and I put his cage on the front seat of my car to take him there. During the journey Walter alternated between grooming himself and taking an intelligent interest in the Warwickshire countryside and the road ahead.

I was sad to part with Walter, but knew it was the right thing to do. Shortly after, I learned that he had been returned to his owner in Walsall and had resumed his racing career. Each time I see a pigeon overhead I still can’t help but wonder if Walter has come back to visit.

LIKES: tiger oats, exploring stables and socialising with cobs

DISLIKES: being stalked by dogs

FINEST HOUR: standing in feed bowls and stealing the contents



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