Walter the Pigeon, Fight or Flight & Desensitisation to Fear
Around a week ago, a pigeon landed in the back garden at the house where I live. The pigeon had an injured wing and was obviously in distress. I was in the garden at the time and was careful not to add to any more distress to which the pigeon was feeling. I went to go and get a handful of cornflakes to see that he had food. I walked slowly toward the pigeon, so as to drop the handful of cornflakes in front of him, so at least he would have something to eat. Even though I tried to be careful, not to make any sudden movements, the pigeon was very frightened and in a state of panic. He flapped his wings and ran into some ivy which was draping from the garden fence.
I made sure I kept my eye on the pigeon (who I named ‘Walter’), while he was in the garden, hoping he would make a full recovery. I looked on the internet to see if there were any animal/bird services who would maybe pick him up and take him into care, but the problem being, birds are very hard to catch, even if they are injured and are needing help. I decided to keep checking up on him while he rested in the garden, made sure he had food and to make sure he was safe.
Over the course of a few days, Walter was becoming less fearful, more used to me and it came to a point where he would no longer run away from me when I went to give him his cornflakes. He was still slightly on edge and cautious of me, but no longer as distressed as he was on the first day he flew into the garden. On the first day, I could see the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism in full operation, except poor Walter couldn’t fly with his injured wing and had to resort to running into the ivy and hiding amongst the leaves.
I could see, over the period of a few days, while I checked up on Walter, his fear of me was diminishing. I could see he was forming a new habit, or was learning through experience that I was not a threat to his existence. On the first day we met, I was an object of fear, but a few days in, I was transformed into being an object to be cautious about and not an object to cause Walter full scale panic. I noted, in a relatively short time period, the intense fear in Walter had diminished over a few days after being exposed to my presence at frequent intervals. I could see a desentisation to fear in progress, right in front of my eyes. Walter gave me confidence in my own ability to diminish my own sense of fear and high-anxiety triggered by certain situations through repeated exposure to the object/situation of fear.
After a few days, Walter’s wing had healed enough for him to fly and he flew off into the sunset to live his life again.
Life’s teachers can come from the most unexpected places, times and situations.
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(Written June 2015).