Stories of rescue dogs and cats aren’t too hard to find, but rarely does one hear a heartwarming tale of a rescue pigeon. For Detroit Lakes couple Karen and Dave Shepard, though, that’s exactly what they’ve got.
“People are going to think we’re crazy,” laughed Dave, as their little tag-along pigeon, Pudge, be-bops around the garage like he’s lived there forever.
“Yeah, I call him Pudge,” he said, insinuating that the name could possibly have come from the pigeon’s newfound girth. “Everybody’s got to be called something.”
The Shepards first met Pudge on Aug. 22 when Karen was driving on Roosevelt Avenue in Detroit Lakes; she was near the Highway 10 underpass when she saw a little bird trying to make its way through traffic.
“He was soaking wet, and he was trying to get across the road, but he had a broken foot,” said Karen, “and I just made a U-turn - wasn’t supposed to, but I did - went back and got him because I knew the next car would kill him. He was trying so hard to get across.”
Karen says cars stopped for her while she got out, picked up the injured bird and put it in her car. She says she could tell right away that the bird was happy to be with her.
“He just snuggled; he was so glad,” said Karen, who went home and cleaned up the small, dirty bird.
“It was so full of sand because it was raining that we couldn’t even tell what it was until she got all the dirt off him, then we knew from the colors that it was a pigeon,” said Dave, who says they’re not even really sure if it’s male or female.
Karen fixed a little bed for the new little visitor on top of a refrigerator in their heated garage. She took a cat carrier, removed the door to it, and made a home for the bird, complete with a little hand warmer that is placed under a washcloth that is its bed. A dish of food and water sits close by.
Over time, Pudge earned his name, getting plumper as his leg slowly healed. The Shepards figured once the bird was good to go, it would fly away.
“But he didn’t,” said Karen, who says the pigeon seems to have claimed their home as his home. “He follows Dave all over. Wherever Dave goes, Pudge goes.”
“Sometimes he rides on my shoulder when I go to the mailbox, or he’ll ride on the four-wheeler...whatever we’re doing,” said Dave, who says Pudge is free to go, he just doesn’t.
“Oh, he’ll go off for a few minutes when we’re outside, but then there he is again.”
Pudge, who still has quite a limp from his bad leg, has pecked his way into the Shepards’ hearts, too, just like a family pet.
“He’ll cry to get in (the house) and doesn’t stop until you let him in,” said Karen, who says Pudge gets to come in for short periods of time.
“Yeah, we’ll let him in for a cup of coffee,” said Dave. “He sits with us.”
Karen says Pudge has even started to “cry” when Dave leaves in his pickup, and will try to follow him.
“I have to go back and put him in the house,” said Dave.
The Shepards do have other animals, a couple of dogs and cats, but they say Pudge fits in just fine.
“The dogs don’t bother him,” said Dave. “He can sit with them, but the cats would like to take a run at him once in awhile...he watches them pretty close.”
And while pigeons are famous for their pigeon poo, the Shepards say it’s not too much of an issue.
“It’s not loose or anything - they’re just like little hard things, and she (Karen) cleans it up out of the garage every day,” said Dave.
And even after all that cleaning, Karen doesn’t seem to get any thanks from Pudge.
“He picks on me,” said Karen, getting little nips from Pudge as she goes to touch him. “He slaps me with his wings, and I’m the one that takes care of him!”
Karen even pours Pudge a warm bath, which he takes every three days.
“Yeah, he has it pretty good here,” laughed Karen. “He’s got a warm place to stay, all the food he can eat and a lot of attention. We’ve raised a lot of animals, but he’s one that’s been around the longest without leaving home.”