Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Oh so sweet...

Just had to share this recent photo of Blogger and Mouse. Aren't they as sweet as can be? Look how they take care of each other. Both of them are spending an hour or two out of their cage with the other birdies these days. Blogger even came out on his own this evening. They still aren't thrilled with me trying to pick them up, or trying to get them to step-up on my finger or hand, but they have eaten broccoli from my hand. And they do come to the front of the cage, chatter at me, and play the winking game.

So, slow-going a bit, but it's going.

I can take a hint...

Lately, when I'm getting the birdies ready for bed, I've been getting pretty much everything done, then turning off two main lights in the room and turning on their night-night CD. It's a nice mix of mellow celtic tunes that they've really gotten to know as bedtime music. Some nights, after I've dimmed the lights and started the CD I'll sit down at the computer for a few minutes before I officially tuck them in. A good deal of the time it includes actually having each bird hop on my finger and putting them in the house, one by one.

The past week or so they've been going in on their own. When I turn around after a bit at the computer, there they are, all inside, waiting for me to close the door, say goodnight, and cover them (slightly). After that, the nite-lite goes on and they are off to lullaby-land, grinding their beaks until they drift off to sleep.

Google still requires me to tuck him in. He doesn't have the flight yet to get over to his cage and climb in on his own. I expect he will someday.

So, tonight, I had everything done...their cages cleaned, food freshened, clean waters, the floor vacuumed. I turned out the two main lights, put on the music CD, and left them all to settle down for a few minutes. I walked down the hall to talk to my husband, Joe, about something. It got involved, a few more minutes passed. Mid-conversation I felt something on my foot. I looked down to see Google standing on top of my shoe, staring up at me. He didn't call, he didn't whistle, he just decided he was done waiting for me to come back and took the walk down the hall to come and get me.

Startled, I picked him up and we walked back to birdland. All the budgies were in their beds, waiting for me to say goodnight. I tucked Google in, he went swiftly to his sleeping spot, and I, finally, said goodnight to all my lovelies.

I can hear them grinding their beaks softly now. Dreamland must be near by.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Beginning...

His name was Hutch. Yeah, as in "Starsky and...". It was 1976. It was the hot TV show, and I had a thing for David Soul. Back then. I was in seventh grade. I spent a lot of time at my best friend Diane's house that year. Her mom had a parakeet. He was a very cool bird, and I started wishing I could have one too.

I don't really recall where we got Hutch, but I asked enough, and my mom allowed me to get him. He was a great parakeet. Tame. You could hold him. He had the run of the house. He talked quite a bit. He liked to sit on the edge of the bathroom mirror and admire himself while I got ready for school in the morning. He even knew a cuss-word or two. We went on a summer vacation up north, and we took him along. I believe that's where this picture was taken. His cage was sitting on a dresser in front of a mirror, and he was out for a bit of play. Everyone in the family liked Hutch. Even my dad. Somewhere there's a picture of my dad relaxing in a chair with Hutch sitting on his head.

If I'd have only known then what I know now, Hutch may have had an even better life. A longer, healthier one. Oh I took care of him. Trust me. But if I had known then the dangers lurking. Cigarette smoke. Non-stick cookware fumes. Cleaning chemicals. Fragranced candles. Hairspray. And to feed him fruits and vegetables. If only I had known. He lived maybe 4 years or so. To be honest, I can't remember exactly how long. But I do remember the trip to the vet with my mom, to have him put to sleep. He had developed a very large tumor that is prevalent in parakeets. I remember handing him over to the vet tech, never to see him again. Oh, how I wish now that I had gone in with him. Held him in my hands while he drifted off to sleep. Told him softly, sweetly, how much I loved him. I know that I told him I loved him. But, that final moment. I was scared. Maybe it wouldn't have been the right thing for me then. I don't know. But now, how I wish I had.

He was a great pet. Smart, funny, sweet, talkative. A great companion. For years after, decades actually, I wanted another. In college I got two more, but they didn't last long. A casualty of the environment, the cats, something. I don't really know for sure. But it wasn't the same situation. I don't think I was ready then. I'm sorry for not doing as well with those two. I wish they had been with us longer. I do recall we bought them at Walmart or something like that. So, they probably weren't the healthiest birds from the day they came home with us. Ah, regrets...

So, I pretty much consider Hutch the first and only...until now. Now, decades later, I have parakeets again. And the experience has been an awakening of sorts. Now I know the dangers that lurk out there for birds. I know not to use cleaning products that aren't safe around them. I know not to paint a room in the house with them here. In fact, I'm looking into zero-VOC paints. I know now that they need to eat, and they actually love, fruits and vegetables. I give them spring water, and purified tap water. I buy a special blend of bird food from the breeder filled with nutrients they need. I clean their cages every day. I still make a mistake here or there. Or worry that I have, and lie in bed at night hoping that they will be okay.

I worry about them dying someday. They have had injuries, just a hazard in life. We've made some trips to the vet. A few of them panicked. But, so far, everything seems to be working out okay. I pray that the fresh fruits and veggies, and the lack of toxins in the air we breath, the water we drink, will help them to avoid those drastic tumors. I pray they live a long, long life.

They bring so much joy to my life. Joe and I don't have kids. We're late bloomers (and starters). It's not something we felt we had to do. So, the birds. The birds are my children. My babies. I get it now. All those people out there with pets that they spoil and worship, worry over, cry over, mourn so deeply when they are gone. Not that I didn't understand it before. I've had pets. Lost them, too. But, at this stage in my life, it just means something even more. I get it now, I do.

So, people might think I'm nutty because I spend an hour every night cleaning their cages, getting them ready for bed. A little "off" because we have rituals, and songs that I sing to them. A room full of playgyms, and toys, and CD's especially made for their enjoyment. That's fine.

They make me happy. They bring joy to my day, every day. No matter how terrible a day it might be. Or how upset I might be about something. They can always make me smile. Warm my heart.

They have already taught me so much. Opened up my eyes to things I used to try to avoid thinking about. The environment, animal rights, watching out for the innocent. They make me want to be a better person. A better pet companion. A better friend, daughter, sister, love. A better human being.

Adolescence wasn't a fun time for me. I wasn't one of the popular kids. I didn't have a lot of friends. But Hutch, he was my friend. My sweetheart. If he were here right now, he'd probably be sitting on my shoulder as I write this. And when I was done, he would hop up on my finger, and I would tuck him inside his cage, cover him lightly, tell him I loved him and say good night.

Good night, Hutch. I still miss you...

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Gangs All Here

You could color me surprised. Tonight I left the door to Blogger and Mouse's house open for a bit, sometimes Mouse comes out. Blogger isn't so keen on it. Mouse doesn't have much for large flight feathers right now, so he mostly flutters to the ground, then I pick him up and place him up top one of the playgyms with the other birds. Blogger tends to stay behind. I'm hoping that curiosity will get the better of him and he'll climb out on his own to play with the rest of the gang. So far, that hasn't been the case.

So, after dinner, Mouse came out. The rest of the gang was already out. Except for Blogger. I decided to try and lure him out. He wasn't having any of it. Finally, I just scooped him up and brought him out. Let him hop from my hand onto the top of his cage, to the playgym there. Imagine my surprise, not long after, when he flew around the room. I was stunned! He has more flight feathers than Mouse, but he hasn't really used them much, except for a bit of exercise in his house, on his favorite perch.

Anyway, he showed me. He flew about the room, trying to follow the other birds. They are expert flyers, dipping, and turning, landing smoothly. Blogger had a few rough landings, but, overall, he did quite well. I'm still struggling to get them to be comfortable coming to my hand, stepping up, and so on. But they are young, and I think we'll get there. What's really important to me is that they bond with the other birds, and are interested in following along. Playing, singing, flying, chatting up a storm. They both say "pretty bird" already. It's amazing.

I told Joe my goal for the week was to get a photo of all of the birds together. All seven of them. He said it couldn't be done. So, of course, I had to do it. And, immediately.

So, maybe it's not the best photo of all of them. Some of them aren't even facing the camera. But, heck, have you ever staged a photo shoot with seven birds? It don't come easy.

I had a dream once, shortly after we brought Tori home. I dreamed I was standing in a room, and there were birds all over me. Happy. Cheerful. Singing. From the top of one hand, to the other. The dream was peaceful. Happy. I wonder sometimes if it was a brief peek into the future.

Works for me.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Google Speaks

Google was ill last week. We're not sure exactly what it was, but it showed up a day or two after Google tried to fly to me and landed abruptly enough to frighten him into running to me crying, and took me a while to calm him down. We looked him over well once he was calmed down and saw a small blood spot on the tip of a feather, but nothing other than that. He was alert, eating, playing. But two nights later Joe and I discovered he had developed some kind of tremor or flinch of his wings. This later also moved into his feet. I ended up taking him over to see Kay at the pet shop, and, when Kay and Ralph determined neither had seen this before, I set up an appointment to take him to the vet the next morning.

The vet hadn't seen anything like it before either. He gave him a thorough exam. We discussed Google's health at length, the episode, any other possibilities, and I took him home to keep him warm, get some rest, and to watch for the next few days to see if he improved. Thankfully, he did. By Sunday all signs of the tremors were gone, Google had finally gotten a good night's sleep, and he seemed back to himself. Calling out for us in the morning, and getting into mischief. Hopefully it won't present itself again. Only time will tell.

In the meantime, he's started talking! It started on Monday night. He gets very excited to see Joe, and decided that he would start talking while sitting on Joe's shoulder. We made out "pretty bird" very clearly, and few sing-song type whistles, and something else that wasn't clear. Nothing else the rest of the night besides his regular whistle calls.

Last night, once again, while hanging out with Joe, he decided to say "pretty bird" again, and "I love you". Nothing for me. Nope. Nada for the mama who takes care of him, sings to him, cleans his house, makes his food. Oh, boo-hoo.

Then, tonight, while Joe was taking a much needed post-work nap, he was hanging out on my shoulder and very clearly said "Hi", "Google", "pretty bird" and "I love you". I was elated! I couldn't wait for Joe to wake up so I could tell him. And when he awoke I did tell him. Google then took roost on Joe's shoulder, and went crazy.

He said all the things he'd said to me, and more! And a few I couldn't make out at all. In fact, at one point it sounded like he was trying to sing! All this to Joe. It should be noted that he was very enthralled with Joe's ears the whole time. I couldn't tell you what that's all about, but, boy, does he love them.

So, he's talking. And so quickly, too. I do sing to him a lot, though. I sing to them all. But I have to admit, I'm a bit jealous. All this time, and love, and singing, and he decides to share it all with Joe first. Well, I suppose I could take advantage of that somehow. Perhaps I should teach him to say something like "paint the garage", or "clean the basement". That could be sweet...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sunday in Birdland

Awww, aren't they all so cute? Even the one without the feathers. He's pretty cute, too. Google sure seems to like him. He likes him a lot.

It was a full day in birdland. The kids were up early as it was a bright and sunny, albeit cold, day. Google was having none of that "sleeping in" stuff. So I got up, dressed in loungewear and went off to the living room with him and his portable playgym and a breakfast bowl of Google food. The rest of the gang arose and played in their room. The house was filled with happy bird calls and the flutter of wings.

We were kind, we let Joe sleep in.

Google and I made it to the living room sofa. There I covered up cozy with a blanket and he ran up and down the couch, rested on my shoulder, climbed over the pillows, spent some time on the playgym having a little breakfast, and playing with a toy. After a while we both got drowsy and ended up napping, with Google nestled happily above me on the top of the sofa back where I could see him, his head tucked neatly into his wing. It was a nice nap for both of us.

This afternoon I did some shopping to make Mouse and Blogger's home more functional. I think we've got things set up pretty well for them now. Time will tell, but this evening they seemed quite comfy, and chipper. They even came over to the front of the cage to chatter to me. I wish I knew how to approach them, to make the most of their disabilities and tame them. I guess I will follow my instincts and let time work its magic. It seems to have worked with the others.

Tori came over to supervise and visit with Mouse and Blogger for a bit. Pumpkin, too. Miss Pixel and Texter attempted to make further friends with Google, but he didn't seem to be in the mood. Miss Pixel gave me a look like "What the...". I just told her to try again. Remember, he's just a baby. Miss Pixel can be quite bossy, so I don't think she's giving up yet.

This evening, Google was on the desk playing, while I was cleaning their cages, and got impatient to come over by me. He doesn't have all his flight feathers, and is just getting the hang of things, so he's not always very steady, but he seems to land just fine. He fluttered to the floor and called to me. I said to him from the other side of the desk to come to momma. I expected him to waltz over from under the desk and look up at me to pick him up like he usually does. This time, though, he was running, and flapping his wings incredibly, and calling to me. Running to me as if he had been frightened by something or someone. I bent to pick him up and he leapt fiercely to my chest, climbed up to my shoulder and fluttered his wings like crazy. I could tell he had been spooked, but I didn't know if he was hurt. So, I spoke softly to him. Shushed him. Told him it was okay. He kept fluttering his wings. I wondered if he was hurt. I tried to get a good look, but he was still upset. It almost seemed to me like a "night-fright" without the night. I talked to him some more, walked around with him on my shoulder. He calmed down. I lifted him up on my hand and examined him. I didn't see anything. Eventually, after putting him in a towel and taking a look at his wings I saw a little spot of blood at the tip of one of his feathers. Everything seemd to have stopped bleeding, and he was calm and happy again. But it was a scare. I should be used to this by now, but I'm not. After a while I tucked him in his house for a rest. When he came out to play a while later he was just fine.

One thing that amazed me about this was the difference in behavior. Most birds, when frightened, will fly away from you. Some will, after learning to trust you, look to you for reassurance, but their first instinct is still to fly away. Tori does fly to me if he gets scared, but not quite the way Google did. Even cats and dogs don't do what Google did. Children do that. They run to mommy and cling to her. Fortunately Google wasn't hurt badly. And it melts my heart to know he trusts me so much already. But I'm not in any hurry for it to happen again.