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Birds Were Made to Fly Away
I remember walking into that store, expecting to come out empty handed. “I just want to look!” I kept telling my mom. When we opened the door, a chill came to my skin. I heard the jingle of a bell signaling that there was a customer. A strange smell -soon to be a familiar one- filled the air. It smelled like birds.
The store was loud. Macaws screams filled the air. Finches and Canaries chirped nearby. Cockatiels chattered and lovebirds called. I stepped onto a platform in front of a big clear cage housing dozens of lovebirds. They were many colors. Some were bright blue with white faces. Others were yellow and orange, with tiny pink feet. A few were green with grey ceres and chests. I pressed my hands to the glass leaving a cloudy imprint. My mother told me to keep moving. Not wanting to leave, I stayed for a moment… But continued to walk. Even as I looked at other birds such as Quakers and Conures, I could not keep my mind off the lovebirds. I always thought that birds were so cool and how they laid eggs fascinated me! I kept glancing back to the lovebirds. Ignoring the aisle ahead of me, I ran into a saleslady with brown hair and grey highlights. In bold her nametag read BARBERA.
“May I help you?” she asked in an unfamiliar tone.
“No…” I said. She started to walk away until I said, “Wait!”
She slowly turned around, maybe fearful that I had done wrong.
I continued, “Do you have any nestlings in the back that I can hold?”
“Why yes I do! I have lovebirds, finches and conur-”
Before she could finish, I blurted out, “Lovebirds!”
She glanced down at me and then looked around. “Do you have a parent or guardian with you?” I turned toward my mother who was looking at a conure. She nodded her head to the lady and then went back to what she was doing. “Okay,” said Barbera. “Sit down there. I’ll be right out.”
Hesitant and shaking from excitement, I sat down. A moment later, Barbera returned, holding a white towel containing someone or something inside of it. I stood up to take a peek and saw a yellow head. She bent down to hand the bird to me. I took the towel from her and smiled at what I saw. The towel was wrapped around a little yellow lovebird. I pet the bird on her head and scratched her on her neck. She seemed to really enjoy it.
My mother moved next to me quietly. “Thank you so much,” she said to the saleslady. Barbera smiled crookedly in return. Barbera left sensing that we wanted to be alone. “Wow… She’s a real beauty,” my mom said.
The next day, we returned. A new lady helped us instead. I sat down in the same spot, on the same bench. The bird was brought out in the same white towel, with blue lines at the ends. My mom took out her phone and snapped a quick picture of me. I enjoyed my time with the bird. Soon enough we had to leave once again.
When I got home I sent the picture to my whole family. I was so proud! Then I asked to talk to my mom ‘In Private.’ So we went to her room and closed the door. We had a long conversation about me and my first pet. Once we talked the whole thing through, we came to a conclusion. Owning a bird was a big responsibility and I thought I could handle it. I was getting her. I was ready to take on the challenge.
Every day that week we went back to the store. Day by day, the bird-soon to be MY bird- changed. After two weeks, she developed a little pink patch on her head. Soon after that, she had enough strength to fly and climb. I could still hold her in one hand, stroking her with the other. Sometimes I would walk around the store with her nestling by my neck. Others, I would have her sitting in my pocket. Finally after what seemed like months, it was time to bring her home. I decided to give her the name Docile.
That day we went to a different pet store. I purchased a tall, white bird cage. I set it up in the corner of my room and filled it with a few toys, food, and water. After setting up Docile’s new home we went to get her.
When we entered TreeTop, the same chill came to my skin as the first day I had entered. I felt my skin prickling with goosebumps. A little bell rang, signaling that we had entered. Then the familiar smell and sound of birds filled the air. I didn’t bother to look in the glass cage before me, for I knew Docile was in the back. I walked to the register and said, “I’m here to get my bird!” A man named Eric went to the back to get her. I wasn’t surprised that he knew which bird I was talking about. I had visited almost every day for two months. He put Docile in a little white box that read Handle with Care! After we paid I had to sign a little yellow receipt. The next thing I knew we were in the car. I remember peeking into the little holes in the box, hoping she would not get scared. When I got home, I went upstairs to my room. I opened the box gently and placed her on a perch in her cage. I covered the cage with a dark blue towel and then went to sleep.
At 2:00 AM I was awakened by a familiar cry. It was Docile. I opened the cage and she seemed to still be asleep. I crawled back into bed and fell asleep to the humming of the fan.
Every day that week, I came home to a chirping bird, excited to see me. I took her out and built forts or playhouses for her, and set her on many stands we had around the house. While I was at school, almost everyone took her out. My nanny would even take her out during the day and carry her around while folding clothes or doing other chores. Sometimes when I was holding Docile, my sister would come in and yell at me. She would tell me I was either stressing her out or killing her. This scared me so I always put her back for a few minutes. After she left, I took her back out.
One Wednesday night as I was doing my homework, I looked over at Docile, sitting on her perch, puffed up. I ran to a book I had that indicated common bird illnesses. I found a picture in the book and saw that she looked just like it. When I opened the cage to check her out, she fell to the bottom of the cage. I tried lifting her up, but her feet were purple and limp. Then I screamed in horror and yelled out, “Mom! Something’s wrong with Docile!”
By the time my mom came upstairs, I was bawling. My cheeks were raw from my tears and my mouth was sore from frowning. Olivia, my oldest sister, blurted out, “I told you she would die…” This made things even worse. My mom tried explaining to me in her calmest voice that Docile was going to pass away.
We moved downstairs to my mom’s room. She was holding Docile while the bird jerked uncontrollably. Everyone watched as her head lolled back and forth, her eyes rolled around, and she shook. A lot. Frightened, I ran upstairs. I cried myself to sleep that night. I kept telling myself repeatedly “Everything’s going to be okay. Everything’s going to be alright.”
By the time I got home the next day, my room seemed empty. My room had been vacuumed so the floor no longer had seeds between the crevices. The place where the cage had been was also empty. I was no longer greeted by chirps and songs. It was completely quiet. I felt… alone. All my memories and my love for her were gone. Docile was gone forever. My heart was now broken.
I don’t really know what my family did with her little body. I was just glad everything was over with. Although I had only spent a week with her at home, it seemed like longer. I had watched her grow up, become stronger, then slowly watch her deteriorate.
As vivid as any dream, I entered the store once again. Everything looked the same except for the placement of different birds. I saw Barbera again and Eric as well. They asked me how Docile was, and I told them my story. By the time I got to the end, I was in tears. Barbera seemed distraught. She was about to say something when she headed towards the back door. When she came back out, she was holding the same white towel, wrapped around something that was vaguely colored. When she opened the towel revealing what was inside, I gasped. I had fallen in love.
“Because your other lovebird is gone, you can have a free one. It’s kind of like a warranty,” Barbera said.
“What if she has a disease like Docile?” I asked.
“Nothing will happen. If you want to make sure, you can send her body to this address,” she handed us a business card, “and the avian veterinarians will examine her body. They’ll tell you what happened to her. This way you can help prevent it from happening to this one.” It seemed like she knew just what to say.
When I thought about what she said, I was terrified. Just the thought of them dissecting my bird’s old body disgusted me. I told Barbera we would think about it. When Barbera turned around I quietly whispered to my mom, “NO!”
When we came back to the store the next day, the bird was still in the back. I wasn’t as excited as I was with Docile but I was still happy. A different lady by the name of Aubrey helped us this time. Several times while holding her the committee came by to hand feed her with a syringe. Her feathers were not even done developing yet, so she was very weak. After staying for 20-30 minutes we left.
By the third time I saw her, I had come up with a name. Because she was multicolored, I had decided to name her Starburst. She definitely had a burst of energy! She often flew around the store or hopped around the floor instead of staying in one place. Sometimes I wouldn’t even bother to catch her; I knew she was too fast. As she grew older, she developed a bit more green. She also developed a little black patch on the top of her head, similar to Docile’s. I decided to rename Starburst Kiwi. After only visiting once a week for one month, it was time to take her home.
I had read lots of books and done a lot of research. I set up Docile’s old cage in the same corner of my room, like last time. This time, I was well more prepared. I put the same food and water dishes in the cage and filled them each halfway. I also added more perches, and soon her cage was complete!
When we brought Kiwi home she seemed happy but nervous. I quietly creeped up to her cage and covered it in a blue cloth I had bought. Soon after, I went to sleep, unprepared for what was soon to come.
Kiwi woke me up at least eight times that night! She was screaming, chirping VERY loudly, or chewing on a toy with a bell. Finally when the sun rose, I fell asleep. The sound of my alarm clock awakened me and I was up and ready fast. When I came home from school that day, Kiwi was completely silent. It seemed like she was nocturnal. At night, she was loud and active while during the day, quiet and peaceful. Luckily, I found a way to avoid the effects of this; I moved her cage to another room. Even though Kiwi seemed like a mess, whenever I took her out she was completely different. She no longer flew around or screamed but she was completely calm. I could walk around with her sitting on my shoulder and she would not mind. Sometimes I even set her on my desk while doing homework and she would sit there. I also set her in a small cart I had ordered online while she sat there happily and contently.
After about a week with her, on a Sunday night, the worst happened. Kiwi puffed up like Docile had the night she passed. Instead of screaming in horror, crying like a maniac, or freaking out, I calmly approached my mom. She told me that Kiwi was fine. For proof, I showed her the picture in the bird book. My mom agreed that we should take her somewhere.
When I looked online for veterinarian groups they were all closed on Sundays. Finally I found one open in Plano. My mom and dad said they would take her, but I had to stay behind.
I went upstairs to get a shoebox and her little green birdie tent. I said my goodbye’s while Kiwi rested snuggled by my neck. Then I put her in the shoebox. She relaxed in the box for a few minutes, and then I gave her to my mom. In five minutes they were in the car and gone.
Once Kiwi had seen the vet, my mom called me. I was so anxious that I answered the phone on the first ring. Kiwi had a few internal problems. She was in an incubator that gave her oxygen and kept her warm. My parents waited in the hospital for news. Soon after I answered the phone for the second time, I had an answer.
Kiwi was gone.
I was calm at first. Then I started shaking uncontrollably. My gentle cry rose to a loud sob. I sipped my tea, then cried some more. I gave it all trying my best. I thought I did everything right. Was it really over? My thoughts were interrupted when my mom came home. I ran to give her a hug. I wanted to be in her arms. I thanked her for all she had been through and was sent upstairs to go to sleep.
Docile was gone. Kiwi was gone. Everything in my life seemed hopeless. The repetitive feeling of guilt washed over me over and over again. My heart not only felt broken in two, but shattered into a million pieces.
Two whole years passed. The memories of Docile and Kiwi were no longer as painful as they used to be. Every weekend I would go to the pet store with my dad. I would always look for the same thing, birds. I loved their bold colors and strange personalities.
Although I went through two very painful experiences, I learned a lot. I learned how big of a responsibility it is owning a bird. I also found that in life things aren’t always as perfect as they seem. I presently have one parrotlet by the name of Serina. She has successfully been in my life since the end of last summer. I am still in love with birds and no matter how hard anyone tries, no one can take the right away from me being… a bird lover.