I don’t believe I’ve mentioned this, but we have a bird. Actually, we had two birds… and a miniature hamster. Yes, I know- a recipe for disaster; it was not my decision. Chris had the bright idea to surprise me for our anniversary (the 15th, I think) with a pair of peach-faced lovebirds. A friend of a co-worker raised them and had a surplus that he couldn’t sell; my master scavenger saw flashing “FREE” signs, rounded up a cage, and TA-DA, we own some birds. They arrived right on the very tiny tail of the hamster, Mr. Nibbles, bequeathed to Sam by my in-laws- they didn’t think he would survive the move to Oregon from Southern California in a van with 3 kids, a dog, 2 cats, & a dwarf rabbit named Barfy. Go figure.
Now, I like birds in theory; I like to watch them through the window, listen to them tweet & twitter in the trees when I take a walk. But birds at home… with cats in residence… I’m not enamored of the idea. When I asked Chris why birds, he reminded me of a conversation we had sometime in the previous 5 years, in which I mentioned that I thought lovebirds were pretty. Oooookay. Somehow, his mind translated my admiration into a desire to possess said animals; somewhat of a leap in logic, but a sweet gesture nonetheless. In true meg fashion, I headed off to the library to read up on the life & care of lovebirds; did you know that lovebirds are small parrots & they can live up twenty years! OY! That’s a long time to run interference between members of the fur & feather camps; but what’s done is done.
The new residents were christened Beatrice & Benedict (after the quarrelling lovers in “Much Ado About Nothing”); fortunately, I found that their vocalizations- while somewhat loud first thing in the morning- were not unpleasant (though their penchant for flinging seeds is rather annoying). Providentially, the cats showed little or no interest in the birds: Daisy patently ignores the cage; Poppy watches me refill the food & water, will occasionally leap to the top of the cage to gain a better vantage point to the backyard, but scurries off at the first sign of squawking (Pops has taken a vow of silence & is disturbed by sudden, loud noises); only Dahlia has shown cat-like curiosity, but as she suffers from Feline ADD & severe coordination impairment, I think the interest is strictly token.
These are not tamed birds, raised to be handled by humans; Benedict eventually- after much coaxing- would sit on my finger while in the cage, but Beatrice would just scream & fly at my face if I tried to approach her. The first winter we had them, our “love” birds began to lay eggs in their nesting box. We were excited over the first two eggs (“this will be so cool”), had a few concerns about the next four eggs (“I hope we can find homes for them”), and began to panic when the count reached twelve eggs (“OMG, what are we going to do?”) I believe now that our Benedict was really a “Benedica” & the two of them were combining their efforts just to drive me crazy. We started to remove the eggs from the box after nearly a month & finally had to remove the box altogether.
Shortly thereafter, Benedict began plucking out his/her feathers. We tried everything- changed the diet, changed locations, less noise, more noise, new toys, no toys- we even moved Beatrice to another cage on the advise of the bird psychologist (yes, you read that correctly- what we do for our animals!) Nothing helped; eventually he/she was bald from neck to knees. When Benedict died last year (heart failure, we believe), the only feathers still in possession were on the head & wings, with one lone tail that came out just a couple of days before.
Now, I’m about to dispel a myth: a lovebird does not necessarily die after losing their companion; but it will become a bit quiet & moody. Beatrice has never been a particularly pleasant bird, but now she is just plain paranoid; the slightest noise or movement will cause her to squawk & fly around her cage. About 3 months ago, Beatrice began feather picking; so far it is not too noticeable, beyond the excess number of feathers floating around the cage. But last week, as I was replacing her millet seed branch, I noticed a bare patch under her wing; it appeared (in the split second I saw it as she flew at my face) to have an open sore, so I called our vet & made an appointment.
[Let me interject that I simply adore our vet; she is equal parts dedicated professional, animal enthusiast, & twisted humorist. We began seeing her after we got the birds, since she was the only one in town that would see “exotics”. I filled out a questionnaire, listing all our animals, & the doctor noted that I hadn’t listed names for the birds or hamster. I told her we couldn’t decide what to call them yet; she suggested “Breakfast, Brunch, & Appetizer”- my kind of gal!]
After questioning us about changes in her routine, diet, etc, the vet prescribed a topical ointment & an oral antibiotic, both to be administered twice a day for three weeks. Since Chris has an affinity with this bird, he took on the duties of dosing her. This…hen…has a wicked bite, but Chris sports the thickest skin I’ve ever seen. Seriously, he can cut himself 1/16th of an inch deep & not bleed (though Beatrice once bit the end of his finger & punctured through his fingernail) But since he’s going to be in Florida for the next couple of weeks, the job is left to me & Sam. Oh, this is going to be fun!
I know it sounds like a version of the old joke, “How many people does it take to screw in a light bulb?” but it really does take both of us to treat this bird. To be brutally honest- she scares me! So here is our process:
- Trap the bird with a thick hand towel- 5 minutes
- Pass said hand towel bundle back & forth “You hold her!” “No, I did it last time”- 2 minutes
- Loser of #2 discussion carefully maneuvers squirming, screaming bird so everything but left wing is secured in the towel- 3 minutes
- Second person gently holds flapping wing & applies ointment to sore with cotton swab- 30 seconds
- Second person goes to medicine closet for another cotton swab when bird turns around in skin & bites it in half- 1 minute
- Repeat step #4 & #5 as needed
- Rearrange bird in hand towel until only head is exposed- 1 ½ minutes
- Retrieve bird from curtain rod after she escapes hand towel- 6 minutes
- Repeat steps #7 & #8 as required
- Second person gently grasps struggling bird’s head to administer ½ c.c. of antibiotic- 45 seconds
- Second person goes to medicine closet for a bandage to cover puncture wound on finger- 1 ½ minutes
- Repeat Step #10
- Refill syringe with another ½ c.c. of antibiotic when head jerks to the side- 30 seconds
- Repeat Step #10
- Release bird back into cage
Since no one seems to want to play my guessing game, I suppose I will have to reveal my new activity. Then again, maybe I'll just give a couple more clues. Let's see, what were the clues I gave? Oh, yes:
1. A pair of women's gloves
2. A fundraiser tea party
3. Index cards filled with notes
4. Christopher Augustine Buckely Sr (google me)
So here are a couple of BIG hints
1890's Period Costumes
Look at the "Yuki Adventures" Category entries
I promise, I will tell all next week; but if you guess it first, I'll send you something sweet!