We found Buddy in our front yard. Him and his little friend. “Look at how colorful those little yellow and blue birds are,” I observed as our family pulled into the driveway. I thought for a moment and as my husband Mark parked the van I said, “Those aren’t wild birds. Those are somebody’s pets.”
My four children, Mark, and I immediately sprang into action. “We need to catch them,” someone said, verbalizing what we all were thinking.
Anna had a pillow with her from our overnight trip to the grandparents’ house. “Give me your pillowcase,” I said, remembering how my dad once caught a bat flying around in our home during my childhood by throwing a sheet over it.
Mark said, “I’ll get a net.” The net he had in mind, and ultimately used with unfortunate results, was a fishing net with rather large holes. He managed to catch the blue bird which shortly worked it’s way through a hole and out of the net, flying off to land high up in a neighbor’s tree. The yellow bird, in his panic when the net came into the picture, flew into our front door and landed on our porch, somewhat stunned. I threw the pillowcase over the yellow bird. We named him Buddy and he became our pet.
In my usual surround-and-conquer approach to life’s challenges, I bought a book about caring for Parakeets, and a cage with a swing. After consulting with the pet store sales clerk, I bought seed, vitamins, gravel, a cuttle bone and a bird net.
We put Buddy in his new home and as the weather was nice, put the cage outside on our screened-in porch in the hopes of luring his little blue friend back, but that never happened.
I was having fairly good success at training Buddy to stand on my finger until we decided he needed a companion and brought Beatrice home from the pet store. If a bird can show happiness and delight, that is what Buddy did when he met Beatrice. We put the small cage she was in beside his cage on the floor and he hopped around and got as close as he could to her. She moved in with him and all was well, although she was a bit more cranky than Buddy. And Buddy regressed in my standing-on-finger training.
Over the years they lived in the cage hanging from a stand by the window to our porch door. At times we had to banish them to the back room when they squawked too loud at night for us to hear the television. In nice weather I put the open cage on the screened in porch and allowed them to fly there. Initially I caught them with a net to return them to the cage, but later I realized they got back in on their own if I gave them enough time. This saved me a lot of aerobic contortions on the porch trying to catch skitzo birds with a net.
Three years ago, in 2008, Buddy had lived with us eight years. How much older he was than that we didn’t know, having rescued him from our yard. But we could tell he was getting old, slowing down, sleeping more.
Then he noticeably developed a limp. He seemed to be dragging one leg. He started having trouble getting around the cage. Then he started falling off of his perches. I tried added more perches closer together. I bought a yellow tunnel made out of thick soft fabric to place in the cage as a place of refuge.
I researched his problem on the internet and became hopeful there was a cure. I took the bars out of the cage, placed Buddy in the yellow tunnel on the bottom, and took him to an avian veterinarian at a nearby clinic. I can’t remember the diagnosis, but I think Buddy got a shot and I took him back home.
I lowered all the perches in the tall cage to the halfway point. I also spent a lot of time watching Buddy move around the cage to try to determine how to place things in the cage to best help him, or to make his cage handicapped accessible, you might say.
Even though I lowered some perches to near the floor of the cage, Buddy was still able to get to the perches that I kept up higher for Beatrice. He insisted on doing so even though he continued to land on the floor of the cage with a plop if he fell while asleep, or with a flurry of wings if he was awake. I lowered all the perches to no higher than a few inches off the floor. I cut the yellow tunnel apart and shoved the bulky soft fabric folded in half into the bars of the cage just in front of and slightly below the only perch he was able to hop to now. I think it allowed him to sleep some because he sat with his tail propped on the fabric and that seemed to stabilize him.
I took Buddy back to the doctor who x-rayed him. I cried the entire time I waited because I thought she was going to recommend putting him to sleep. The vet said Buddy had a fairly common ailment for parakeets (I can’t recall the exact diagnosis, but it seems like it was some kind of cyst). The vet said sometimes birds will recover on their own; sometimes they die. I returned home with him.
The bird cage now had a hospice corner. I removed the grill at the bottom of the cage so that Buddy could walk on a flat surface. I fashioned a tent-like shelter for him in the corner from the soft yellow fabric. I scattered food on the ground and placed a shallow bottle lid filled with water on the floor. Buddy was reduced to crawling around on his belly as he continued to try to eat. Whenever I put my hand in the cage he panicked, his little body heaving from the effort. Death appeared to be imminent.
Family members started talking about putting him out of his misery. I remembered when I was young my dad asphyxiated our lame bird by somehow holding him in the exhaust of the car’s tailpipe. I wasn’t comfortable with the logistics of this idea. I asked my now 24-year-old son, and he suggested I call the vet to see if they had any ideas how we could euthanize Buddy. He emphasized that it was up to me; he didn’t want to give an opinion.
I called the vet and they said the only thing they recommend is to bring him in and the doctor could euthanize him with a shot. I hesitated to make Buddy endure the 20-minute trip in the car because the last time had been difficult for him. But I thought maybe in his little hospice corner the trip might not be too bad.
Armed with a box of tissues, I cried the whole way as Mark drove us back to the vets.
My already low spirits sunk even further when I saw the crowd of people, dogs and cats in front of the check-in desk at the clinic. I was embarrassed to be crying over a bird. We overheard a nurse say there was a 2-hour weight. Oh no. I wasn’t going to be able to sit in the clinic waiting room holding Buddy’s cage for two hours waiting to euthanize him. When we worked our way up, my husband told them what we wanted. The nurse immediately picked up a phone and said she needed a room. They whisked us back, and told us the doctor would be with us shortly.
That was the end of Buddy’s story.
Birds are not the only creatures who suffer from infirmities and slowly lose their ability to be self-sufficient, to walk, to eat.
We can only do so much to help. We can only do what we can do.