Monday, March 1, 2010


My "first born" is not human.

Years before I had children, I had Squeaky. He came to us, air cargo, from Vancouver Island. My first encounter with him was peering through the mesh on the side of a plywood crate marked "live baby bird". He made an odd little sound, like the one that comes out of a squeaky toy when you squeeze it. At that point, he'd christened himself.

The first time he mimicked the word "hello", I thought I'd imagined it. And then he did it again... and pretty soon he was saying "Hello Squeaky" on a regular basis. When he'd hear my husband's truck pull up outside, he'd yell "HELLO SQUEAKY!!" at the top of his little avian lungs.

My Canadian friends of a certain age may remember a children's show called The Friendly Giant. At the beginning of the show, Friendly would whistle for his friend Gerome the Giraffe. Gradually, I taught Squeaky to whistle that call. He soon picked up a wolf whistle as well. It's really amusing when he sits on top of the shower door as I shampoo my hair in the morning, and whistles like a construction worker.

I've even taught him a trick. I know, crazy bird lady, right? Well, maybe. But if you've ever seen him perform you will agree - it's quite amusing. Squeaky will let me place him on his back in the palm of my hand. This alone is a true show of trust, as being belly up is a position birds usually only take when they have given up against a predator. But wait... there's more!! On command, he will drop his head back - "play dead". It makes me giggle every time he does it.

Sometime earlier this afternoon, Squeaky decided he'd had enough of his perch on top of the kitchen cabinets and flew down to the floor. As he has clipped flight feathers, his landing was less than perfect. His sternum hit the floor with a thud, and the skin on his stomach split. The vet's term for this was "splitting his keel".

My husband took him to the vet for what I imagined would be an application of surgical glue and a quick trip home. Not so. It seems the cut on his belly was worse than I thought. Stitches were required. Husband returned home without bird.

Shortly after husband returned sans bird, the vet called. She wanted to tell me that since Squeaky would have to be anesthetized for the stitching, I should know the risks involved. Small animals, such as birds, sometimes do not "handle being under very well". I was silent for a moment and then asked her, "So, you're saying, sometimes they don't wake up." She confirmed my suspicion. I handed the phone to my husband and tried to absorb what I had just been told.

That damn bird, whom I have cursed repeatedly for screeching for no apparent reason, crapping on nearly everything I own, and nearly re-piercing my left earlobe, was suddenly in peril of never waking up. He's been part of our family for over 10 years. I fell apart. Suddenly, the "dead bird" gag didn't seem so funny. As much as I complain about cleaning his cage or whine about listening to the cacophony of his screaming serenades, the thought of losing him turned me into a blubbering child.

My husband is on his way to the vet as I write this - he will bring home a small plastic carrier with my "live baby bird" inside. And I'll be damned if I let him perch on top of those kitchen cabinets again.

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