Friday, August 22, 2008

Flash's Story

I deliberately went to the local bird club's bird fair with only a debit card and maybe $15 in cash. It was maybe four or five years ago. I had two birds: Sugar Franklin and Charli. I wasn't going to let myself become a victim of MBS (multiple bird syndrome).

It was a great day -- lots of beautiful parrots and toys and cages and toys and treats and toys. Baby parrots, breeder parrots, pet parrots.

I stopped by a cage full of baby cockatiels. The birds, the man at the table told me, were from a friend who had died. He raised English budgies and didn't know much about cockatiels.

He pointed out one of the babies and praised the bird for playing with toys and climbing all over the cage. "He's like that all the time," the man said. "My niece feeds him Cheerio's through the cage every day. He likes Cheerios's."

I listened politely and said I wasn't going to buy any birds, and then I turned away.

"I'm willing to come down on the price," he called.

I lifted my hand in farewell and went on to admire the parrots at the next table.

Later as I walked back by the man and his cockatiels, he stopped me and said he'd sell him to me for only $50. I stood at the cage for a long time and watched the bird interact with his cagemates. He was pretty active, I thought. But I summoned up all my strength and again said no, I already had all the birds I could handle.

I walked away, feeling very good about myself. I went outside to get some fresh air and thought about the little cockatiel the man was willing to sell for only $50.

A little later I went back inside to pick up some more toys, and I had to pass the man and his cockatiels.

"Here he is!" the man said. "Just $50." I shook my head. I glanced at the cage. He really was a cute cockatiel.

I went on and the man followed me. "I really need to sell these cockatiels and I won't take him home with me." I couldn't imagine what he would do if he didn't sell the bird.

"I only have $5 on me," I said. "Sorry."

"I'll take it," he exclaimed. "I'll give you my card and you can just mail me the rest."

Before I could say no again, I was holding a ragged box with the baby cockatiel in it.

I had an extra cage at home, so I got things set up quickly and turned the bird loose in it. I placed the cage in my study for quarantine, then called Dr. Z for a baby bird check. He was about 6 months old.

He was such a sweet baby bird -- hungry for scritches and curious. He had, I saw for the first time, a crooked beak. But he didn't seem to have trouble eating.

I watched him for a few days before naming him. At one point he was out of the cage and flew over to the table with the play stand. It happened in a flash, so that's what I named him.

Dr. Z gave me the bad news -- Flash tested positive for pssiticosis (I know I'm spelling that wrong) and he would have to receive treatment. Because all my birds shared the same air system the other two would have to be treated, too.

I called the man to tell him that his entire flock was probably infected, but he said his birds were healthy, nothing wrong with them. I explained that pssiticosis could be passed to humans, but he was "sure" his birds were fine. He hung up on me.

Flash was maybe a year or two old when Nicholas came into the house, and that was about the time Flash decided he didn't like being touched and liked me even less. He wasn't impressed with Nicholas either, despite Nicholas' joy at being with other cockatiels. Flash was and still is very interested in Sugar Franklin, but she thinks she's human and doesn't like any other birds (I blame myself).

So that's where things stand with Flash these days. He refuses to let me touch him and hisses mightily if I get too near. Everyday I "force" him to step up and take him to the basket stand or the study to be with Nicholas and Sugar Franklin, which he tolerates so he can get out of his cage. But he almost always makes heart wings at me when I'm near the cage, protected by the bars, and will often come to the bars to listen to me telling him what a big boy he is, if I'm a safe enough distance away.

I love Flash in a special way, even though he'll probably never really warm up to me.

Sometimes I offer him a Cheerio through the cage bars.

1 comment:

Mary said...

Flash is very lucky to have found a home with someone understanding of his personality. Many of the birds are surrendered to the rescue where I volunteer because the bird failed to live up to the unrealistic expectations of its owner. But then when you do have a small breakthrough with Flash, isn't it that much better?