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Animal lovers celebrate 17 years with pigeon Susi

An animal loving Austrian couple have not gone on holiday for over 17 years after adopting an injured pigeon that came into their home at Xmas in the city of Salzburg - and never left.

And Bertl and Irmi Reiterer have also been unable to use their oven after it was taken over by the injured pigeon as its nest.

Bertl, who is a taxidermist by trade, said: "I found her by the side of the road where she had obviously been hit by a car and had broken a wing. That was in the spring.

"We gave her some food and had her treated by a vet and put her in the garage downstairs – that was in April 17 years ago.

"It was clear that because of her injuries she would never fly again and at Christmas when I accidentally left the door open she came inside and then hopped into the oven which had just been used and was still warm – and refused to come out. I guess she felt it was too cold down in the garage.

"We gave her a bit to eat in the oven – a few pieces of cornbread. The next morning when she was still there we gave her some water, and she sort of just remained.

"After a few days she was still there and we stopped leaving the door open any more for her to leave - it was just too cold – and 17 years later she is still there. This April will be our 18th anniversary."

The couple named the pigeon Susi, and say that they can't imagine life now without despite her advanced age. She recently suffered a stroke according to vets which has meant she can't even fly into the oven any more, and needs to be lifted up or alternatively if nobody is around to move her she has taken to sleeping behind the rubbish bin in the kitchen.

Irmi, 77, says that they have to wait until the pigeon decides to go for a walk around the house before they can use the dishwasher as it disturbs her while she is sleeping. As she doesn't walk much nowadays it means very often that the dishes have to be washed by hand.

"I don't regret the fact that we haven't gone on holiday because of her – we didn't travel much anyway although we do have a hut in a ski district we can only go there for the day. We no longer stay the night. We did try taking her there in a cat box but she was clearly unhappy about being caged and we had to bring her home, and we haven't tried it again."

Balanced against the fact that most of the time they have to do the dishes by hand – Susi's new favourite place to sleep does mean that they can use the oven again. And they also say that they spend so much time with the bird that they almost feel they know what she wants without speaking.

Bertl, 84, said: "She follows Irmi around all over the place, but she isn't a great fan of being in my company too much because I like to pick her up and she doesn't like that.

"In her old age she actually isn't a fan of many people and doesn't particularly like visitors – when somebody comes to see us she comes over and pecks them on the foot to make sure they know they are not welcome. That they need to leave."

The family vet Heide Maria Müller who is looking after the bird said: "Susi is a very unusual case. I understand that pigeons can live up to 20 years. But in the wild no bird would manage to live that long. Obviously where she is with plenty of good food and no predators she has a good chance of reaching an even higher age."

She doesn't need to have to worry about the future – the couple have promised that the relationship will be until death do us part.

In the wild pigeons live 5-6 years but the world's oldest recorded pigeon was a German bird named the Kaiser, who was a captured German pigeon from World War 1 that died aged 33.

The US Signal Corps made him a POW after he was caught and he was used in their breeding program. Hatched in the year 1917 as shown on his leg band he died in October 1949.

It made him the oldest pigeon on record and he too ended up with a taxidermist, his remains are on show in the National Museum in Washington DC.

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