By Debbie Burke
On a happy Saturday afternoon, my beloved Timneh, Papi, was perched on my partner's shoulder. Without thinking, Kelly walked out of our front door, in order to get something out of the car in the driveway. When she bent over to open the car door, Papi spooked and flew up into the sky. Kelly screamed and watched two red tail hawks swoop down and grab Papi.
I heard the screams and ran outside and looked everywhere and could not see Papi, nor hear any more commotion. That was February 12, 2008. We did find Papi, alive, on March 13, 2008. During those 30 days, Kelly had lost heart to look for her because she thought the hawks had killed her. But I never gave up. I searched for her from sunup to sundown.
Long story short, on March 13th, I got a phone call from a man who had found an emaciated Timneh that was standing at his back door. He took her in, put her in a cage, gave her water, and called me in response to my newspaper ads. I rushed over there, KNOWING if this were my Papi, I would know it. But the Grey I saw in that cage had sunken eyes, mottled, dirty feathers, and she could only make one sound, a horrible croaking noise. I felt in my heart that it was Papi.
I gave him a reward, and rushed her to Emergency Care, and they rushed her into ICU. The doctor who saved her life was an angel, I am sure. I was only allowed a 10 minute visit with her everyday. I would softly sing to her "I love little baby ducks, old pickup trucks, slow moving trains, and rain, and I love you, too." That was her favorite song. On the first time that I sang it, she struggled to her feet and stared at me. Then she lost it and fell back to the bottom of the incubator.
Lessons I learned, Papi has two permanent imprints on either side of her face from where the hawk's claws had grabbed her. The doctor surmised that Papi had probably bitten off the hawk’s foot and then she got loose. Hawks are not used to birds that fight back.
I was so naive. I thought that if she heard my voice calling to her, she would whistle or respond. All the time I called out for her, she was hiding: an instinctive reaction. She had pneumonia, starvation, deprivation, and anxiety diagnosis. We nursed her back to health.
We accepted that she would never be the same because there is very little literature on domestic Greys who suffer from trauma and then recover. But, I've become aware of amazing insights into the domestic Grey's ability to recover from brain and physical trauma. It’s been 18 months, and JUST NOW, Papi is remembering, relating, and resorting back to her former habits. I believe her brain is healing, finally.
Copyright © 2009 Debbie Burke, All Rights Reserved.
Here are TWO links to articles that can help people when they’ve lost a pet bird:
My Bird Flew Away! What Do I DO?
Faith & the Kindness of Strangers