Elizabeth Young is doing something for animal welfare that has never been done before. In 2007, she had just started volunteering at the San Francisco animal shelter when she saw a big, white bird anxiously bouncing around in a cage. No one in the shelter knew what to do, but Elizabeth took a chance, and took her out. It turned out that Gurumina (as she was named), was a very polite domestic King pigeon who simply wanted a friend. Out of that singular action, born out of empathy, Elizabeth became the sole champion for these birds and formed Palomacy, which is devoted to domestic pigeon and dove rescue and adoption. She has built a solid and growing grassroots community of volunteers who advocate not only for these birds, but also for their special ability to foster compassion. Palomacy is now creating a paradigm shift in how people see pigeons, our environment, and each other.
Pigeons have a long and complex history with humans. Often described as “rats with wings” and cruelly treated, pigeons are homebodies and completely devoted to their families. Moreover, most domestic and many ‘street’ pigeons are gentle, charming, and highly affectionate with people. By their very natures, pigeons provide a gateway to compassion and re-sensitization. Our outreach events bear this out: Although some folks are incredulous, cynical or afraid, most are curious; and some of the most open and accepting are young children, who seem to appreciate the pigeon’s small, quiet calmness. Meanwhile their parents are surprised by the birds’ cleanliness, warmth and gentleness.
Since meeting Gurumina, Elizabeth has helped over 700 of these misunderstood animals. She spends all of her time working on the birds’ behalf: caring for foster birds and special needs birds, recruiting new adopters and volunteers, educating shelter staff and members of the public through numerous outreach events, maintaining a website and blog, and doing tons of data entry. And one year she racked up over 3,000 pigeon transport miles.
Most importantly, Elizabeth is that rare gem of a person who brings out the very best in people. She always models kindness, intelligence, and inclusivity. She is a natural helper, educator and mentor, and yet she is also supremely modest. We as volunteers take Elizabeth as our compass, and model these behaviors to others. By her actions every single day, Elizabeth has created something truly rare and unique - a loving, growing community of people who have come together to nurture people as well as birds. A great need was filled in my life when I discovered Palomacy, and many other volunteers feel the same way.
Elizabeth and Palomacy are now joined around the world by other like-minded people who care about these disposable yet magnificent birds. We show people how to “find splendor in the commonplace, and grace in a simple act of kindness.” Pigeons remember and recognize faces; they mate for life; they can fly 55 mph. They deserve compassion – as we all do. Elizabeth – and the pigeons – show us all how to give it.
Photos: 1 - Roller pigeon Charlie, his mate Cub, and Paul. Paul was drawn to protecting Charlie and to helping Charlie find a mate; 2 - Feral pigeon Mick greeting a young girl at one of our recent outreach events; 3 - Beth and her King pigeon Winkie.
Video: Elizabeth explaining the plight of King pigeons.
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