Pets. It’s a moving, morphing, background, foreground situation. I was raised with all manor of pets between myself, my mom and my two brothers. We had it all at one point or another, and funny enough, I have no idea what really happened to most of them. We had mice, rats, snakes, lizards, a chicken, dogs, cats and fish.
I have always loved animals, but to be honest, maybe not the 100% most devoted best owner. Vet visits happen … when I remember, or when there’s an issue. Preventative stuff kind of falls by the wayside. I do not brush my dog’s teeth. I do not walk them daily, or even weekly. They do not sit in purses on my shoulder or have their own monogrammed bed in the back window of my car. They are simply part of the family.
We’ve had some interesting luck the past few years with the canine pets. Not all have worked out for various reasons and we tried to do the right thing and find them homes that could serve them better. Currently we have a small chupacabra that passes for a min pin/chihuahua mix and our old man, Barney, the 13 year old corgi mix. AKA The Best Dog Ever.
Last year I adopted a bird from an animal shelter and worked really hard to tame him and show him we are not big scary carnivores preparing to roast him as he likely thought. I’ve written about our little mess of a bird, Squirt, before. He has been slowly learning how to be a bird since last year. Sadly, though, the flock life just never took with us humans. He’s been less than 100% for the last few weeks and meds have no solved the problem. The likely issue is his past life, living in an apartment with a smoker for 7 years who rarely cleaned the cage, offered fresh food, or gave anything resembling an appropriate toy. We wont go into the lack of any decent perch in the small cage.
So being as how cockatiels are flock animals…. like HUGE flocks, I’ve been toying with the idea of getting him a buddy. There are no guarantees with pets, and this is especially so with birds. A new friend may not immediately bond or even like each other, but the likelihood is pretty big for this species.
I was out running errands with my 13 year old – a converted bird lover who used to be “a cat guy” – and I decided to take him to a great little bird shop who often raises their own chicks. This shop is well respected and very knowledgeable and responsible. My thought was that maybe they’d have a young ‘tiel that we could handle and slowly introduce to Squirt.
Sidenote: Squirt allows us to step him up, but he is not at all interested in affection to/from us. Cockatiels are known for loving “scritches” -head scratches- and cuddles for the most part.
I don’t know what nudged me to the shop this particular day other than my daughter- the animal-crazy kid- was not with us to make a scene when we would CERTAINLY leave empty handed.
Low and behold, among the baby Quakers, rehomed African Greys, Amazons, Kakarikis and budgies, there was a cage with a pair of birds. A white face cockatiel paired with a green cheek conure. After speaking with the folks at the shop we learned the birds did not need to be adopted together, as they were not bonded. They were house-mates and cage-mates, but would be fine separate.
Uh oh. A green light.
So the whole way home I spoke to my son about how it’s a 3 year old bird. There are no guarantees that just because he stepped up onto both of us with nary a breath from his beak did NOT mean we could absolutely expect for him never to bite. Birds Bite. It’s what they do. There is not an honest bird owner on this planet that can claim their bird has never bitten them to some extent. WHEN this bird bites, would his feelings be too hurt to forgive and move on?
I also explained that there was no guarantee that just because MOST cockatiels were easy going and accepting of new birds into the flock did not mean these 2 particular birds would hit it off. We may have 2 separate birds in 2 separate cages forever…. and they may end up both being non-affectionate to us and never wanting a head scratch for the rest of their 20+ years of life.
I ALSO mentioned to my sound-sensitive son that there was a good possibility that once out of the loud shop with screaming jungle dinosaurs he may very well be a really loud screaming bird. Just because we had heard nary a peep out of him in the shop was no guarantee that this was his personality once in a quiet(ish) home.
Anyone surprised he was willing to accept all of these warnings and still want the bird? Me neither.
Next obstacle: Dad. My husband has had birds, has loved birds, and has lost birds in varying ways. All heart-breaking. He is not a fan of delicate pets for very good reason. I, however, am much like my son with the “we’ll wing it and figure it out as we go because damnit, he’s adorable and i’ve already let him into my heart.”
For many admitted reasons, my husband was not able to refuse the idea of a 2nd bird, but he let us know he wasn’t gung ho to blindly accept any old bird just because we claimed we loved it.
I put a hold on the bird, and we all went to see him a day and a half later. We get to the shop and find out TWO other families had come to love the pair of birds and were willing to take them together.
Do we selfishly take him in the hopes our bird will bond with him and leave his buddy all alone? Or do we selflessly allow another family to take them together?
After much talking with the owner- who hand-raised this cockatiel, by the way – she assured us it would be fine to take the cockatiel. She was amazing and told us the whole backstory of this guy and how she, the shop owner, had raised him. She knew the couple well. They are elderly, one is in a wheelchair. They had no children and recently the husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness that would likely take his life in a matter of weeks. Devastating, right? She told us the birds were both from a quiet, doting, very devoted home and the birds show that.
We decided to take him. He’s been a doll from moment 1. Technically you are supposed to leave a bird in his new cage in his new home and let him quietly adjust for the first 24hours. Don’t stress him out by handling him a bunch…. but I swear, y’all, he was begging to come out! He just wanted to be with someone. Anyone. He’s not even picky. He goes to all of us and is happy to sit, preen, fluff, poop, and sleep on everyone.
We love him. The next step is to convince the grumpy old man – aka Squirt the quasi-bird- that he needs this bird in his life and in his cage. So far Sprite, the renamed new guy, is gung ho to make friends but the OG is not interested. He will peep back and forth, but that’s about it. We’ll get there …. I hope… for Squirt’s sake. After all, that’s who we really got the bird for, right?
And just to remind us that life is never smooth, our old man corgi is struggling with his back again. We have been very careful to limit his jumping and opportunity to strain himself, but once in a while it comes out of nowhere and he can barely move without crying out. It’s never fun to be reminded of how old the ones that have been with you the longest really are. 13 seems very young some days, and very very old on other days. Hopefully he will pull through this ’bout with meds and be back to his spry 13 year old self soon.
What’s new with YOUR menagerie?