A Labor of Love Helps a Penguin Return Home

When Dottie the African Penguin fell ill, National Aviary experts noticed it immediately. The normally friendly and sweet penguin was lethargic and weak, unable to stand and experiencing labored breathing.  

Fortunately, the National Aviary operates a state-of-the-art Avian Hospital on site, where veterinary teams provide high-level, comprehensive care for birds from Andean Condors to Owl Finches, through every stage of their lives.  

penguin looking at camera
Dottie was treated in the National Aviary’s onsite Avian Hospital, where she received customized treatments to recover from pneumonia.

Dottie was immediately admitted to the Avian Hospital’s ICU. In the ICU, Dottie received oxygen and emergency treatments along with a battery of tests to determine the source of her symptoms: pneumonia and a mass in her chest.  

Facing a difficult diagnosis, the National Aviary assembled a team of experts in veterinary care, penguin behavior, and husbandry to collaborate on her care. Dottie’s treatment was intensive and thorough. She received human-grade antibiotics and nebulizers, a treatment pioneered by the Dr. Pilar Fish, the National Aviary’s Director of Zoological Advancement and Veterinary Medicine. She received nebulizer treatments every four hours, twice-daily medications, and daily fluids. With intensive nursing, slowly but surely, Dottie regained her strength and made strides towards a recovery. 

But, something was missing in Dottie’s recovery. Penguins live in colonies and are very social, and often pair with the same partner for years at a time. Dottie’s care team knew what she needed to fully recover: companionship.  

Cue the arrival of Stanley (named for the Stanley Cup), Dottie’s life-long companion and one of the National Aviary’s four original African Penguins.  

Dottie and Stanley on a daily walk outside of the ICU last spring.

Stan started visiting Dottie in the ICU each day, at first for only an hour at a time. As Dottie gradually regained her strength, Stan’s visits got longer. Eventually, Stan moved in to be with Dottie in the ICU full time.  

“Stan worked in tandem with the team who visited throughout the day to encourage Dottie to eat. While our penguin experts would feed Dottie, Stan would sit right next to her, vocalizing and grooming her. When Stan ate, Dottie would take a bite, said Dr. Fish. 

Dottie’s health improved, and soon she was fully recovered and ready to return to Penguin Point. When she and Stanley returned to the colony, they were met with a chorus of brays and calls from their companions. The pair made their way back to their cave and fell back into their old routines, enjoying being back home after a long journey.  

Watch their full story below…

Learn more about we help birds like Dottie by visiting Avian Hospital. Learn more about how you can help birds like Dottie by visiting Donate.

Your support can go even further! Thanks to an anonymous donor, donations to our Spring Campaign will be doubled, up to $10,000!

Give Today!

In The News

See All News

Top 10 Things to do in Pittsburgh with Kids | Trekaroo

At the National Aviary, families can enjoy friends of the feathered variety.

Read More »

Hike, Bike, Explore, and Support the National Aviary Hike-A-Thon Presented by UPMC Health Plan | National Aviary News

Registration is now open for the first National Aviary Hike-A-Thon Presented by UPMC Health Plan!

Read More »

9 groups helping Pittsburgh kids celebrate Earth Day throughout April | Kidsburgh

Plan to spend the day at the National Aviary on April 24, when the schedule is jam-packed with Earth Day fun from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Read More »

National Aviary Welcomes Its Newest African Penguin Chick | Happy Living Magazine

The National Aviary in Pittsburgh welcomed its newest penguin in January. The chick is the first offspring of parents Buddy and Holly.

Read More »

Pittsburgh’s National Aviary Saving Endangered Species Around the World | North Hills Monthly

By supporting the National Aviary and its work, Pittsburghers never have to leave town to take part in conservation programs that are saving birds all over the world.

Read More »