Julian Norton: Lost pigeon and anemic hedgehog cases for Yorkshire vet

North Yorkshire vet Julian Norton writes for The Yorkshire Post every weekend. Picture courtesy of Daisybeck Studios.
North Yorkshire vet Julian Norton writes for The Yorkshire Post every weekend. Picture courtesy of Daisybeck Studios.

Perky had been with us for a couple of days and already had made himself comfortable in a quiet corner of the kennels. Perky wasn’t his real name, but his only other form of identification was the number on the ring on his leg.

It didn’t seem very nice to refer to this racing pigeon simply by his number, so we hit upon Perky as an apt name. But while Perky was fairly perky, he was not really very good at racing.

He’d been found by a passer-by, sitting on a village green just outside Boroughbridge.

Many tourists had been doing a similar thing over the warm summer, some having travelled long distances to get here. We did not know where Perky’s journey had started, but it must have been a long way away, because he was tired, hungry and dehydrated when he was brought into the vets.

The lost pigeon was just one of the waifs and strays under our care at the time. At the opposite end of the kennels was a hedgehog who had been found, equally bewildered and in a place where he shouldn’t have been, out and about during the daytime.

Just like a racing pigeon sitting on the village green, a hedgehog who is out in the daytime is clearly in trouble and it was right that he had been brought in for veterinary attention. The hedgehog had been given the name Horace, after the 1980s-computer character, Hungry Horace, who crossed roads, avoiding traffic and trying to find things to eat.

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Horace the hedgehog had narrowly avoided a similar fate to his computer game namesake, and once we’d had chance to check him over, his problems were very evident. Horace was covered in ticks, each one the size and shape of a piece of sweetcorn, full of the little hedgehog’s blood which the horrible parasites had been sucking to engorge themselves, before laying lots of eggs.

The result was severe anaemia for Horace. Every tick needed painstakingly to be removed. After half an hour with the forceps, Horace was looking and feeling much better. He was free of ticks and the base of the kidney dish next to him was covered in the annoyed arachnids. We put him back to bed, with a bowl of cat food and some water. He would make a full recovery.

Perky the pigeon was also gaining strength. He had been eating and drinking well and looked healthier. We’d managed to find his owner by tracking his phone number via the identification number on his leg.

Sally, one of the nurses, called the owner to pass on the good news that we had found his pigeon, and find out what he wanted us to do with him. I guessed the owner might not be so excited, because a pigeon that didn’t return home was surely not a very good homing pigeon. There was a possibility that he wouldn’t want him back at all.

After several abortive attempts, Sally eventually managed to make contact. To our relief, Perky’s owner was pleased his missing pigeon had been found and delighted that it had regained strength after a period of rest.

So, asked Sally, what should we do with Perky?

“Just chuck it up, duck!” were the instructions from the owner, who told us he was based in Derbyshire.

After morning ops had been finished, we took Perky outside and found a space clear of roads and traffic. He’d had a good drink and some breakfast and we held our breath and “chucked it up”.

The new series of The Yorkshire Vet continues on Tuesday at 8pm on Channel 5.

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