The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) activists who staged a noontime protest Friday in the F Street Plaza in Eureka arrived with friendly optimism plus a pile of fake green ivy, a curvy near-naked woman painted like a snake and a quiet leaflet-and-sign plea (no megaphone antics here) to stamp out the vile and mostly foreign trade in the skins of exotic animals -- like crocodiles, alligators, snakes and lizards and such, some of whose skins are torn right from the living flesh after the poor things have been paraded on a death march to their destiny, say the activists, in order to make flashy fashion accoutrements for you and me.
They left sadly, less than an hour later, bearing with them a more homely creature in a little shoebox, near death.
The pigeon had been contentedly cooing and pecking about underfoot with the other resident pigeons, who daily tend the cobbles down there relieving children of the corn kernels brought as bait for entertainment. But about three quarters of the way through the PETA protest -- which was peaceful, by the way, and drew a small but supportive trickle of onlookers -- the whole flock swooped into the air and arced around the fountain and then -- "smack!" -- one of them flew right into the glass door of Shoe Envy, which faces the Plaza.
Yes, yes, the irony.
The PETA activists rushed to the pigeon's aid. Inside Shoe Envy, clerk Katrina Mosler grabbed an empty shoe box and some paper towels -- can't leave the bird lying there in front of the door -- and they placed the pigeon gently inside it. Moments later, the snake lady -- Meggan Anderson, an actress and model from Los Angeles who owns cockatiels, so she knows a bit about birds -- sat, wrapped now in a sweater, in the group's van cradling the box with the pigeon in it. She placed a finger on the bird's breast. "I think I can feel it breathing." The bird's eyes were shuttered to slits, its feet edging skyward -- hard to tell its state of being. The group planned to call a vet.
Eureka was the activists' last stop on their journey to spread the word about the cruel trade in exotic skins (their fliers spoke of animal abuse here on the homefront, as well, in the name of fashion), said Jena Hunt. Hunt, also an actress, is the campaign coordinator for PETA's international grassroots campaigns -- she's also the fetching person who peeved local media boys earlier in the day by leading them to believe she would be the naked snake lady. Boys, get over it: There was nothing wrong with Ms. Anderson's portrayal of a sexy beleaguered snake. Take it from the fellas in the beat-up red car who made two passes around the Plaza shouting things like, "That's sexy awesome!"