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JUNIOR... Over the Bridge…but Never for a Moment Out of my Heart!

By Dee Hayston

You may have to be a parrot lover to read this and understand the love, intelligence, and companionship, but maybe not.  Perhaps you can just be a pet lover and understand that whether it is a bird, turtle, dog, cat, snake, frog, or fish, it doesn’t matter.  When they and we interact, and we name them and take them to heart, then it’s a done deal.  We make them family and the bond is formed, never leaving... always in our hearts and minds.

Junior was a Pacific Parrotlet and a runt at 24 grams.  He was not, however, my first Parrotlet. SO I must digress.

I went into a pet shop one day to buy a carrier for my dog and while looking about, I saw a beautiful tiny bird, about the size of a finch, but a bit chunkier.  He just wanted my attention so badly. He was in a tiny cage and I was already thinking that this birdie needed a bigger cage.  I asked the price… only $30.00 for bird and cage.  Sad, I thought even then, as I could see that this bird was very special. When I asked what the bird was, the store owner had no clue.

DITTO as I named “her” came home with me. I called to get the breeder's name and learned that I had purchased a “parrotlet.”  Then the search was on.  I found many sites about these tiny parrots... perhaps the tiniest being bred in the US and not for that long, maybe ten years at that time and from “wild caught” imported parents.  I also found that one breeder named Sandee Molenda in California was one of the first and largest breeders of these birds. She and I formed a bond immediately after many emails and then I found a parrotlet list on the web to join, so I could share my experiences (that list “Parrotlet Express” owned by Judie Wellman and several close friends is still going strong today and a wonderful resource).  My husband and I were so enamored with this little, intelligent bird.  We purchased a huge flight cage and this little one was out on my shoulder for all of my days off, as well as during any free time that I had.  In fact, she shared posts to the parrotlet list with me, as well as my dinner and much, much more.  I worked over 60 hours weekly then and spent every spare moment with her out with me.  About two months into our love affair, I came home one night to find her on the bottom of her cage.  I immediately took her out and began to make calls to vets for help. Not prepared and having no list of emergency clinics, I was not able to save her.  She died in my hands, in a few, short minutes, as I was making calls for help.

My husband came home to find me in the corner of the living room, just crying and rocking with her in my hands. She was buried at the back of our three acres of woods (protected wetlands where I KNEW she would never be disturbed) under a huge, natural holly bush.  And within weeks I JUST KNEW I HAD TO HAVE ANOTHER. I called her breeder and told her what had happened.  She was sad and understood.  She said she would call me when the next clutch hatched, and I sent her $50.00 immediately, so that she would understand my commitment to try again, as well as the love I felt for these little parrotlets.

Two months later, she called me to say that out of her two pairs, only one had laid eggs, and only one egg was viable. I asked if she called to say that it would be “mine.” She said, ”YES.”   

I picked Junior up at the pet shop where I had purchased Ditto and paid only another $10.00?  At the time that price made me angry, as I saw these little ones to be worth so much more.  I was so afraid the price would lend them to be seen as “throw aways."  I called the breeder upon bringing Junior home and told her so... what she did about it, I will never know. Junior was much smaller than Ditto, and yes, I worried over him immediately but found an excellent avian vet who "knew" parrotlets.  After a full vet check, she told me that he was a “RUNT,” but healthy otherwise. (Juniors' name came from the Foghorn/Leghorn cartoon, which was about a rooster and his side kick named Junior, who was a chicken hawk.  I wanted my Junior to be strong and willed him to have the power of Junior, the Chicken Hawk).

I could fill pages with the love and companionship that we shared. He begged to come out nightly, although he didn’t have to because I was at his cage the moment I got home. He spent nearly every night with me.  He was a great flier, with the fans being off throughout the house... the cats in the basement... and the dog in his carrier.  No threats. He spoke to me and he loved to sit on my shoulder, while I worked on the Internet (I had two accounting side jobs from home).  Many nights, he fell asleep, beak grinding with my earlobe in his beak.

He loved visitors and showed it by yelling at them.  In spite of tiny lungs, you could here, “COME SEE ME!” If that didn't work, he would really yell,  “COMEER!!”  I don’t have the phrase, COMEER, in my vocabulary. So where did that come from? I'll never know!

I came  home one day to find that Junior had a terrible gouge on the back of his neck, and unfortunately, he was going at it constantly.  So, off to the vet we went.  Actually, the vet wanted to make sure that nothing else was going on, so she gave him an X-ray. We believed that somehow, he had backed into a sharp, small natural wooden branch while flying about his cage. The vet actually had a special collar made for Junior to stop him from picking at his neck.  Most hood types would either tip him over or not allow him to eat; therefore, we were thankful that she had taken the time to design a special collar for him.

Junior went to work with me every day in the little carrier pictured below, and frankly, he  just wanted that collar off and his flight cage back.  He still sat on my shoulder and tweeted away as I worked.  Weeks later and fully healed, he ran to his flight cage and hopped in, so proud to be healed and home again!

At twelve years old, Junior became ill and no one could diagnose what was wrong.  He had stopped absorbing the nutrients in his foods, and the vets believed that the problem was genetic. They suggested the Harrison's Budgie Builder product.  And I believe we kept him alive with this product in his water for another few years or more; but do NOT run out and buy that please, because we will never know. Did it lengthen his life? Or did his will to live give us those extra years?  We’ll never know.

At fourteen years, the morning of his last day with me, I called in sick to work. I just knew that it was his time and I thank whatever Power that gave me that instinct.  Junior spent the day inside my shirt with his little head sticking out.

He spent a few of his last hours holding my ear lobe… beak grinding with joy and then traveled down to get inside my inner garments, with his head out, peeping, and looking at me.  And in the last hour, I KNEW his time had come.  There was no pain, no jerking, and no horror, with his heart and body against my heart.  I felt his heart slow and then stop.

I felt no horror or shock as he had outlived the time frame given to me by over four vets.  I was just so happy.  Maybe this is the wrong word; but I was with him and he was with me, when he went over the BRIDGE.  I felt blessed to have had the intuition that this would happen, and as a result, that he had not died alone in his cage.

Junior loved life!  He loved toys, he loved to fly about, and he adored his huge cage, which we called “FIDSNEYLAND.”  He loved to watch me work on the internet and to watch ANIMAL PLANET, too.  He often ate from my plate at dinner time.  He went with me on visits to see  friends.  He loved his carrier and going in the car with me.  He was a “light in my life.”  No children?   HA! I had JUNIOR!!!

He is buried in a “protected wetlands area” where I know he will NEVER be disturbed.  He is in his little tug boat, which he loved so much.  Did I say that he may be gone but not forgotten?  He is still with me, for every day in my life.  And when it’s my time, I hope to see that little face sitting on my husbands’ shoulder, both waiting for me to cross over to them and all of the others whom I have loved and lost in my life.

For those afraid to take on the challenge of these small, wonderful, intelligent birds due to their size, please note that Junior Hayston, with genetic problems and all, lived for 14 years, from May, 1996, to April, 2009.

I WILL own another parrotlet.  I must, as the companionship, intelligence, and the memory of “two” whom I have loved so much will drive me to do so.  I highly recommend them to others.  

"It’s Spring and I swear I feel you on my shoulder!"        Love, Mom

Dee Hayston is the Owner of Avian Network and Avian Advantage Network.  Learn more at:

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