DEAR JOAN: Watching the Tournament of Roses parade on New Year's Day, we noticed a couple of the floats released white doves. It got us thinking -- what happens to the doves after they are released?
Do they return to their home or the float like homing pigeons, or are they now set free? We assume they were not originally captured wild birds and are raised in captivity from birth. Will they survive in the wild on their own?
Condors that are born in captivity are trained to hunt in the wild before release, if my memory serves me right. Were these birds trained?
DEAR DALE: I love the Tournament of Roses, and I, too, noticed the bird release and even commented that I sure hope those were trained birds. It's a very serious issue that few people are aware of.
Unless the doves or pigeons are trained to return to their roost, they face a very unhappy and often short future. Some companies that specialize in the release of doves for weddings, funerals and other events consider the birds disposable. The birds are raised in captivity, and after they make their grand exit, they are never heard from again.
These birds have no idea how to fend for themselves, and because they are flock animals, their chances for survival on their own are not good. They become easy targets for hawks, and those that escape raptors or cats may starve to death.
If they are released at night, they are at an even greater disadvantage. Doves and pigeons aren't normally out after sunset.
Fortunately, there are companies that use special birds -- often a type of pigeon that looks like a dove -- with homing instincts, and they train them to return home after their release. They take good care of the birds and release them only during daylight hours and when weather conditions permit.
If anyone is planning on a bird release, please ask questions first to make sure the company uses trained birds.
And if you're interested in helping abandoned doves and pigeons, check out our very own MickaCoo Pigeon and Dove Rescue, based in San Francisco (www.pigeonrescue.org). The group tries to educate folks about releases and also fosters birds that might otherwise be killed. You can help by adopting a bird, providing a temporary home for them, or donating money to help pay for birdseed and other expenses.
DEAR JOAN: Can anyone help Friskie, a cat whose human mom has been taken to a hospice facility and will not be coming home?
Friskie needs a home where he can be loved and cared for. He's orange and white, about 6 years old, and a little shy around new people at first. Once he gets to know you, he loves to play.
Would you be able to put out the word to see if anyone is willing to adopt him? He's looking for an indoor home where he will be the only cat, as he has not been around other animals.
If anyone can provide a home, please ask them to call 925-672-2829.
DEAR ILONA: Consider it done, and thank you for trying to find a home for Friskie. I'm sure his owner will be at peace knowing her cat has found a loving home.