The Skipper and the Cockatiel
Part I: The Skipper
Skipper lives in a great little house near downtown San Carlos. She is active and alert, not bad for an 85 year-old with rheumatoid arthritis! She enjoys feeding the wild birds and squirrels on her deck and working in her garden of fruit trees and organic vegetables-- so you get the idea that she has a lot of energy and will probably live to be 100. You see, Skipper used to race sailboats -- hence the nickname. Skipper spends much of her time in a charming, airy, sunroom reading and listening to the radio. The arthritis has slowed her down a little, so she rarely leaves the house. But, her daughter, Margo, comes by every day. Still, the days had been lonelier recently. Skipper missed her old cockatiel Tiki. She loved to interact with Tiki through the cage bars. Tiki would chatter back and forth with Skipper, always moving to the corner of the cage closest to her. With Tiki gone, the days were too quiet.
Part II: Picabo (pronounced like the baby game -- peek-ah-boo)
Picabo was probably a tame bird before he was dumped on the vet that saved his life. Picabo is a lovely little male lutino, of unknown age who arrived at the vet with a nasty lump on his wing. His person wasn't willing to pursue treatment and left him to be euthanized. Talk about scary! The lump turned out to be an abcess that had damaged Picabo's wing. Not cancer, but still, the wing had to be removed along with the lump. Nevertheless, the vet gave him a good prognosis. It took Picabo a while to regain his self-confidence after losing his wing. He was a quiet and not very happy bird, and remained cautious for a long time. As his wing healed, he eventually started to whistle and sing a little (but only when he thought no one was looking). He was keeping a secret, that he was really hand tame, but hadn't decided whether to trust people again. It had been a long winter for Picabo. The trusting part was developing slowly. He wouldn't step up on a finger from inside his cage, but he liked to come out and hang around with people outside the cage. He'd come and sit on a shoulder or knee, snacking on pasta or a cracker, and being sociable. Picabo even began to talk a little. And, he was especially happy to sing and whistle in the sunshine -- he seemed to love sunshine. As Picabo worked on his social skills, it came time to consider his future. He would do best in a home where his people could spend time with him. And, because of his injury, he would probably do best as an only cockatiel, or at least with his own cage. It was time for him to venture out and build a bond with a new person--someone who could appreciate this musical boy!
Then Mickaboo got a call. It was from a young woman named Margo. She wanted to discuss adopting a cockatiel for her mother, who had recently lost hers..............
Part III: Epilogue
I stopped by a few weeks ago to visit Margo and her mom, Skipper, to see how they are getting on with Picabo. I met them in the garden where Skipper was harvesting some organic kale, parsley, and carrot tops, which she handed to me for my birdies! We went into the sunroom; no longer quiet and empty. I heard the happy sound of whistling and singing. We walked over to Picabo's cage and Skipper began telling me about all the cute things he does, how he loves his showers, what he likes to eat, where he likes to sleep -- everything. Skipper is enchanted with Picabo, and he is so happy to be singin' in the sunshine, in a big cage with lots of toys and freshly-picked greens from the garden.
Margo glanced at me with a twinkle in her eye, clearly happy that her Mom, once again, had someone to lavish attention on. Mickaboo has made one elderly woman and one little cockatiel very, very happy--and I suspect that it's going to be clear sailing for a long, long time for the Skipper and the Cockatiel.
Believe it or not, Mildred, at 23 years of age, was being offered, for free, in a newspaper ad. Sadly, she had never even had a name of her own. She was just referred to as "the bird." One of our volunteers saw this ad and it tugged at her heartstrings so strongly that she had to respond. The more she found out about Mildred's neglect, the more it saddened her. Poor Millie was kept in a cage so tiny that she was never even able to fully spread her wings. She had one dowel perch to sit on and no toys.
The tiny cage Millie was kept in (it was circular and about 10 inches across), meant that she could only stand on the one dowel perch and lean against the wires of the cage. She used the side of the cage to swing herself to the seed or water dishes. Mildred was in very sad shape when she came to Mickaboo. Her feet were crossed, her hips were deformed, and she had thinning bones and arthritic wings. She had a lack of socialization, severe arthritis, and poor health from a seed-only diet. All she would, or could do, was sit. She couldn't even move herself around.
She was taken to an avian specialist for observation and treatment and was so fragile that the vet was afraid to take blood for tests. The vet did determine, however, that Millie had no symptoms of disease and nothing problematic in her droppings. The doctor told her foster mom to take her home, keep her warm, feed her well, and make her comfortable, and with that kind of loving care, Millie began the long, slow process to recovery.
When the vet prescribed keeping Millie comfortable, little did her foster mom know that making her comfortable meant giving her lots of space to roam in! But once Millie got some space, she began to take full advantage of it! She travels all over the full length of her cage now, investigating every nook and cranny.
She still has arthritis, feet and bone problems. Any temporary ailments such as anemia, liver and/or kidney- function problems she might have had (and we'll never know) were corrected by good diet, exercise, and full spectrum lighting. Even some of her existing problems such as the brittle bones may improve with diet. It's amazing that Millie even had the will to live- but she did and is now doing unbelievably well. She eats voraciously (actually obsessively), so we believe she was not always fed consistently. She loves her Nutrian cakes and eats them with gusto. She scoots herself along the floor of her extra wide cage quite well. She has learned to pull herself up by her beak and can walk up special ramps to get to a shelf in her cage. Once she does that, she looks quite proud of her accomplishment!
Millie is learning to play with toys and enjoy human companionship. Initially when picked up, she'll act quite feisty and pretend to bite, but will soon snuggle into the cup of your hand and savor the head rubs she gets each night and which put her to sleep rather quickly. As a geriatric bird she does need to nap frequently. She takes such things as traveling in a carrier, going to the vet, and changing into different cage set-ups in stride.
Mildred was named by her foster parents, who each had an Aunt Mildred. They felt that, after all she'd been through, the very least she deserved was a dignified name!
As an added plus to Mildred's new happy, healthy life she now has a cockatiel buddy named Binky. Binky came from a similar life when his owner passed away two years ago. He was a solitary 'tiel, in a small cage, on a dowel perch with no toys or out of cage time. Binky is 24 and arthritic like Mildred. The two now share a large specially set up cage with ramps, soft perches, toys, good food and both cockatiel and human companionship. Mildred's foster parents adopted both Binky and Mildred and provide them with all the love and care their previous homes lacked. We are hoping that within a few short weeks, Sabu, another geriatric cockatiel, will also be able to join this amazing pair.