Friday, January 22, 2016

"Just" a Bird

  Almost 5 years ago I had been thinking about getting another bird. I have always loved birds, and been fascinated with them---how wonderful it must be to fly! Then my friend Lori decided she wanted another bird, and she contacted a lady on Craigslist who raised parakeets. Lori asked me to ride along with her to pick up a bird, as it was a half hour ride and she wanted company. The lady had three birds for sale. They were only three weeks old, and they were all hand raised, because their mother had rejected them. One was pure white. She said she might keep that one, and I hope she did, because it obviously loved her.The other two, which she hadn't originally thought were even going to hatch, were blue. As we stood in the lady's living room, Lori snuggling one bird to her chest, and I the other bird to mine, I began to fall in love. I was considering taking the bird myself. I even kept thinking of a name, over and over. I would call him Irving Birdwing. But Lori decided she would take both birds. As we drove home we discussed the birds and Lori said I could take one of the birds if I wanted to. I called Ken to see what he would think of me bringing home another pet. (It seemed like every time I went to visit with Lori I brought home a pet: a parakeet once before, a rabbit, a dog.) Ken didn't like the idea. His answer was a resounding "NO". He said we had enough pets and didn't need another expense. "All those 'free' pets have been expensive.", he said. I wanted the bird so much, I overrode his decision. When we got home we opened the box where the birds were huddled neck to neck, and I took Irving out.
  Irving turned out to be a girl, but we kept the name. it suited her somehow.

  Two days after we took her home she got her foot caught in a thread on my clothes, and in her panic to free herself she injured her foot. She couldn't walk on it very well, but still insisted on walking around and climbing her cage, using a wing, one foot, and her beak. A few days later, when we had been out for the day, we came home to find she had hurt her tail, probably from falling while trying to climb her cage. Now she couldn't balance  either. I felt so guilty. I had taken her when she could have gone home with Lori, and now I had certainly doomed her to death. We took her to the vet, who recommended  we put her down. "You have to consider quality of life over quantity.", he said. He said it was very doubtful she could repair her nerve damage. His proof that she was beyond help, was that she walked toward him no matter which way he kept turning the towel he stood her on. (She wanted to walk to him!), and that she snuggled in my hands. "I don't know of any bird, handraised or not, that will let you hold it." Well then you don't know much. Irving was still a baby, and loved to fall asleep snuggled in my lap in my bed. Even when she grew up, she would still consent to be held occasionally, and would lean against my face when asked to "Give me a snuggle".
  And grow up she did. The vet said the only chance Irving had depended on how much time we were willing to spend on her. She had to have a fish tank so she couldn't climb,and we had to spend as much time holding her as we would. So we got a tank, and when I got up in the morning I went to her tank and put my hand in the bottom. As fast as she could she would drag herself over and climb into my hand. We all took turns holding her all day long. Ken works evenings, so all day he and I would take turns holding Irving. There was no other way she could groom herself because she couldn't balance, and it kept her weight off her foot and tail. When the kids got home from school, they took their turns holding her. In two or three weeks Irving was back to normal.
  Irving had more personality than any bird I have ever seen. She also showed so much love.

Irving was hard to photograph because she was fascinated with the camera.(Like most female parakeets, she wasn't much of a talker,but she learned to copy the sound of the camera shutter,along with the microwave beep, and the dining room door squeak.)

Trying to photograph her outside her cage usually resulted in this.

 But we did manage to catch this one, before she could get close enough to jump onto the camera! But she was running at it already!

She loved to spend time sitting on my head.

She was not usually a shoulder sitter. She preferred heads, in this case, Emma's.

She would use my hair like a tether rope and slide down by it to nibble at my face.
Although she did sit on shoulders so she could indulge in another interest...

...For some reason she also liked to look in mouths.

 She'd put half her body in there if she got the chance. Very trusting of her, but I nearly bit her head off once when she stuck her head in there while I was talking.
  She had to be a part of everything, and was very curious.
Irving helping to make a phone call in Ken's messy computer room.
  We tweeted back and forth constantly.
  One day, when Irving was about 9 months old, I had spent the morning working around the house with her on my head. It was so normal for us I didn't even think about it after a while. I found a lady bug and went to throw it out the back door--forgetting Irving was on my head. Of course, she flew out the door, and continued down the street and around the corner. It was November, and there was a freezing cold rain falling. I ran after Irving, but she was nowhere to be seen. I stood in the street and screamed to the family for help. Ivy was in school, but Emma was home from college and Fuzz was doing computer school and only went in for German class in the afternoon. Ken was home too, since it was 10:45 AM. They all ran out. Fuzz went all the way to the corner, barefoot and in pajamas trying to see her. Ken told me she was gone and there was nothing I could do, so I should come in. But I couldn't leave her out in the cold, She probably wouldn't survive. And she was so friendly, she would land on our dog's head. She would certainly be eaten by something. I was so upset I tried to tweet to her and couldn't get it out. Ken told me to calm down and tweet to her. I grabbed my coat and started down the street tweeting. When I got to the corner I heard her tweet back, but from waaaaaaay down the street. But I kept tweeting and in a second I heard her very close. She had come back.
  I found her on the roof of a house on the next corner and across the street. I couldn't see her, but we tweeted back and forth for a while. Fuzz had put on shoes and a coat at my insistence, and was out looking too. Emma had gotten dressed and came to the house where we were. It's a good thing no one was home because we stood outside their house tweeting and calling, "Irving!" Emma brought Irving's cage over in case we could coerce her back into it. But Irving stopped tweeting back. I wasn't sure if she had flown away or decided to do what she did at home after a bath: take a nap until she dried off, and no tweets until she woke back up.
  Fuzz thought he saw her fly around the back of the house, but he wasn't sure. We decided he would head down an alley on the other side of the side street, and I would take the alley behind the house where she had been. I started down the alley tweeting, and there she was,on a bush behind the house. She flew from bush to tree, to tree, to tree, until eventually she was 2 more house down.
  The whole family spent the day trying to get Irving to come down. But it rained all day. It was freezing cold. A group of sparrows were in a bush under the edge of a shed, but Irving was in a bare tree in the cold rain. I tweeted to her on and off all day so she wouldn't forget I was there. Eventually we realized Fuzz was late for German, and Emma ran him to school, still in his pajamas and boots. She came back with a net, but that didn't work either. I had to explain to the lady whose tree Irving ended up in, why we were all behind her house, with two vehicles, (Emma's and ours.),and a 16 foot ladder up her tree. Irving had parked in their tree and decided to take her nap until she dried off.
  The vehicles were to survive the cold, because it was COLD. I soaked two coats and a large tablecloth standing in the rain. Ivy had been picked up from school in the afternoon and joined the vigil. It got late. Ken had to be at work by 5, so he had to go home to get ready for work. Emma had to go to the bathroom. Fuzz had already gone home when he got mad because I wouldn't let him break his neck climbing a wet tree to try to catch Irving. Eventually,it was just me and Ivy, but Emma left the truck so we could stay warm. It was beginning to get dark.
  The rain stopped, and Irving began to tweet back, and shake the rain off her feathers. Pretty soon she would be dry and fly away forever. I decided to try again to climb the ladder up the tree and try to get her to come to me. I got to the top of the ladder and tweeted. She tweeted back. Then she flew. I thought."This is it. She's gone." But she only flew in an arc, and landed on my shoulder. I got her on my hand and she gave me a kiss, and flew onto my head. It was literally a blur after that, as I was crying so hard I could hardly see. I talked to her all the way down the ladder, although I'm not sure how I got down.I had been straddling a huge puddle in front of the door of the truck, getting in and out for the last few hours, but I have no memory of the puddle at this point. I only remember gliding over to the truck and getting in with Irving on my head, and shutting the door. Once inside she hopped onto my chest and I clutched her in my hands. Ivy got in with her cage and we were home free. I immediately put Irving in the cage and Ivy said, "Aw, you're not going to put her in the cage are you?!" "Are you kidding?!"
  She had given up her freedom to come to me.
  Everybody got colds after that: except Irving.
  A couple of years ago or more Irving began to lay eggs. They weren't fertile of course, but birds lay them anyway. I constantly worried that Irving, being so small, would become eggbound, unable to deliver her egg. It's fatal. Every time she went into egg laying mode, I worried. We aren't sure if that was the problem, because she was still eating, and active,but Irving kissed me goodnight for the last time last Friday night.
  When there's a death, never tell someone, "It's just a bird." Or a dog, or a cat, or whatever. Animals are part of the family. They give us love, and we fall in love with them. I never had a pet show me as much love as Irving did. I never had a pet who loved me more than anyone else. Irving was my baby. We had a bond I've never had with any other pet, as much as I loved them all. Irving was special.
   I will bring home no more pets. I don't want another bird. I'm finished.

Goodnight my Irving girl. I love you forever.


  1. Awww. I'm so sorry to hear that. You went through a lot with her!

    1. Thank you. Yes we did, and she was worth every bit.

  2. I'm really sad to read your post, Irving went through a lot in her short life but she was definitely loved. We lost our African Grey, Cocoa, several years back now and someone did in fact compare her death to one of my dogs in a less than favourable way saying it could have been worse, at least it wasn't one of the dogs. She meant well and didn't mean to hurt me but oh boy that did hurt so much because we loved Cocoa every bit as much as our dogs and still miss her now. It doesn't matter how small they are, if we love them and lose them we are heartbroken. I send you big hugs and am very sorry about your loss of little Irving. Xxx

    1. Than you.Some people think you can't love an animal you can't 'cuddle' as much as one you can, but yes, it's more than possible.

  3. Tam, I am so sorry for your loss. A pet is never just a... They capture out hearts and we love them in such a special way. And when they pass it is truly heartbreaking and we never forget or really get over it. They are beyond our reach but our hearts are still tethered to them. I am childless, so it's the closest thing I will ever feel to that kind of bond. I once read in a book about pets that it's brave of us to take them into our homes and hearts. Knowing that most likely we will outlive them and have to go through that sadness. I think of it as the price we have to pay for all that joy and love we experience with them. Though we've never met, I share your pain, I had to say goodbye to two of my furry family just last year. And I hope you have lots of hugs and understanding from your family to help you through this. Best Wishes.

    1. Thank you so much Evie.Yes,I have a great family. Fuzz walked all the way from his house on the other side of town,in frigid weather to be with me on Saturday night, when Ken was at work and Ivy was on a school trip. Emma baby sat me one night. Ken and Ivy have had to be ready with hugs all week. I've always believed that people were wrong to avoid love to avoid the pain of loss when it ended, however it ended. But I'm old and tired now. I've had the love of many pets, and I'm reaching the point where I've had enough loss. As far as another bird, or pet of any other kind,I don't foresee ever having the bond I had with Irving anyway. That was a once in a lifetimer.I guess you could say she spoiled me for any other animal.

  4. I'm in tears right now. I'm sorry about Irving. She sounds like such a sweet, lovable bird.

    1. Thank you. She was. She pretty much stole everybody's heart.

  5. What a wonderful, thoughtful post. I can so relate - I had two birds - a tiny finch (Finchy) & a turkey (Morty) that I dearly loved and interacted with that have gone ahead of me. Morty used to fall asleep, like your dear Irving, wrapped in a sock in my hand as a baby. Then when he was a much bigger bird, he still wanted to climb up on my lap & cuddle by putting his head and long neck on my shoulder and burying his head in my hair. I think I will always miss that love from this dear, extraordinary bird.
    Sorry for your loss but I thank you so much for sharing ^_^.

    1. Thank you.Morty sounds wonderful. Stories like that really have to make you rethink eating such animals. Ken told us after Irving got out and we were all trying to get her inside, that at the time he made a silent promise that if she would just come back, he wouldn't eat turkey at Thanksgiving, (which was just a few days after.). He kept his promise. I'm proud to say the kids have never had meat, and I haven't eaten meat since March,1988.

  6. Wow - thanks Tam for that. I need to re-think my eating habits as well, as I still eat meat, even turkeys. I know...I didn't for a long time after Morty. But thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday and I love preparing the 'main dish'. I still raise turkeys - as friends only. I have two now; Saturday and Charming and their little chicken, Chickers (not real original, but it fits her). They sit when you lower your hand - it is so cute. You can take a look at them on my YT channel - they are in a video. Take care and feel better each day remembering your dear, little love Irving.

    1. When I ate meat my favourites were chicken, turkey, and tuna fish. I gave up veal when I was a kid and the farm we lived on housed a veal calf. Gave up shrimp near the same time when I took a bite and the breading pulled off and I saw the veins. I didn't give up any other meats until I was in my mid twenties. I began to amass a collection of pig items, and gave up pig meats because I felt like a hypocrite. Finally, when I was out with friends for my 26th birthday, the one friend, who was vegetarian, asked what made it ok for me to take the life of an animal for food. The only answer was "Nothing.Nothing makes it ok." I went home and told my dad not to bring home any more meat products for me. (I practically lived on tuna fish and French onion soup at that point!) I haven't touched anything derived from dead animals since then. (I still eat dairy and eggs, although I try to get cage free eggs.)The longer I went without, the more disgusting the thought became. I wish I were strong enough to give up dairy, considering the cruelty and the fate of the calves. When we were having our kids we decided to raise them veg, (Although it wouldn't have mattered what Ken said, because I certainly wasn't going to feed them meat!), and let them choose when they got old enough to understand what 'meat' really means. I'm proud that none of them have chosen to eat meat.
      I will check out your animals on YT!


Thanks in advance for your comments.