Last Sunday, finally a gorgeous day after almost two weeks straight of low overcast, rain, and storms (one of which brought golf ball sized hail), I hoped to fly. I hadn’t been able to fly my new Seneca in over a month. First, it needed new seals on a leaky strut, and it took a while to get the seals and then for my mechanic to have space to work on my plane. Once it was fixed, then we had the bad flying weather that seemed like it would never end. I was about to go nuts as it had been way too long since I had flown the Seneca. I really figured by now, about two months after I bought the plane, that I’d have my multi-engine rating and could get back to my beloved flying freedom.
I had gotten up early to run so we could start the flying day early as well, and I got excited that I’d finally be back behind the yoke.
But all that excitement turned to frustration as soon as I tried my first right turn while taxiing to the runway. The right brake was so spongy that instead of turning like I was trying, I was headed towards the grass and pressed hard on both brakes to stop the plane before I did. My instructor tried his brakes to see if he had the same issue, and he did. So we used differential power on the engines to get us safely (and grass-free) back to the ramp. Sigh. This not flying was getting super old with me.
I would have likely had a minor breakdown if my instructor had not offered me a ride in a very nice Cessna 421 that he was selling. We made the short flight across the lake to get fuel. Each way was maybe 12 minutes, but it was enough for me to see the ground from the sky again, maintaining my sanity.
I went home to relax before a planned dinner out with my parents. I was surfing Facebook on my laptop when I noticed an odd noise. Mind you, on a weekend with nice weather, especially after everyone’s cabin fever from the long stretch of gloomy days, the traffic along the lake can reach fever pitch, so noises on a gorgeous weekend day here don’t really get much attention from me other than cursing the drag racers. I probably didn’t even notice the first time the noise happened. But I did notice when it was repeated. I instantly blew it off as someone at the garbage chute near my front door. The garbage falling three floors often made an odd sound as it scraped along the sides of the chute and then plopped down into the metal garbage bin. And sometimes it surprises me how long a person stands there feeding garbage down the chute. But now this had been going on for about a minute, longer than I would think it would take to throw stuff away even after a big house party. So I got up from my comfy desk chair and peeked out my front door. No one there. Hmm.
It was then I heard the sound again and realized it was coming from behind me, inside my condo. I have an end unit, and it was on the side without neighbors. I listened closely. It happened again and I walked to where I thought it had come from. I was standing in front of a little enclosed alcove where my washer and dryer sit. They were not running. I heard it again. It was coming from the short wall of the enclosure between my washer and where my surfboard, which I’ve yet to use, rests against the wall on the other side.
Oh no. Not again! Years ago and soon after I had moved in, a bird had somehow gotten into one of the outflow vents on the outside of my building. We didn’t know it at the time, but we found out the hard way that apparently that vent leant access to a low ceiling above my desk before my living room opens up to a high sloping ceiling. The noise I was hearing now was that same scratching that I had heard when the bird was in the ceiling above my desk.
But how on earth did something get into this wall? I went outside to look at the outflow vents. After the first bird incident, I had covered them in mesh so that nothing could get in. I noticed my dryer vent had a very tiny hole in the mesh, and I figured that must have been how it got in even though there was also a flapper on the outside to keep anything from getting in. I also figured, as with the first bird break in, that there must have been a hole in the duct, allowing it to get into the wall. Still, it seemed extremely improbable. But, then again, it had happened before.
I stood there looking at the wall. At least with the air vent, all we had to do was remove the vent cover and then move the duct to one side to allow that first bird to escape. But this one was in a wall with no way to access the inside. I did what any mid-30s person would do: called Dad. He was on the road coming back from a crawfish boil in Lafayette with one of his car clubs. And he had his hands full as his car was acting up. So we said we’d figure out what to do when they came for dinner in a couple of hours.
I stood there again, staring down at where the occasional sound came from. It sounded like it was trying to fly but was stuck. I walked around both sides of the wall looking for any opening that I hadn’t noticed before. There was some kind of access panel that had been painted over years ago by the previous owners. I had never used it, so I figured it was for something that wasn’t even here anymore. It had no markings. I slid my washer out a few inches so I could see behind it. Maybe there was some way into the wall there? Nothing.
It was still moving and sometimes chirping, so I figured it would be okay while we went to dinner. On the way back to my house from the restaurant, we discussed options as we thought of them. We joked that I may need to cut the wall open, something that just made me groan. I had just survived a very unpleasant bathroom remodel (is there such a thing as a pleasant remodel?) where a lot of sheetrock had to be removed from the ceiling below the bathroom. My contractor swore I “wouldn’t be able to tell there was a hole there” with a good sheetrock patch and a careful painter. I can tell. Everyone who walks in my condo can tell. So to hear “cut into the wall” made me think “Only as an absolute last resort.”
We got home and I started calling “Bird? Bird, are you still here?” and knocking on the wall. For the first few minutes, we didn’t hear anything and I said “I guess it found its way out!” quite relieved there would be no holes cut into my wall. But just as I finished that sentence…the scratching. Oy.
My parents had the same reaction as they stood staring at the wall where the sounds were now again regularly coming from. “How on earth did it get in there?”
My dad noticed the access panel that I had seen near a shelf above my washer. We got a razor blade to cut where it had been painted over. It opened up to a metal box with old telephone wiring. I don’t have a land line, so it was useless. We pulled the wiring away to get to the metal box. The weird thing was we couldn’t figure out how the metal box was attached to the beam as there were no screws. There was no way for us to remove the box so we could get into the wall. I asked my dad if we could somehow cut the bottom of it off. He asked if I had tin snips. I have a surprising amount of tools for someone who doesn’t do much mechanical work, but I don’t have tin snips. I grabbed a large pair of diagonals, the best metal cutting tool I could find in my toolbox. Dad was able to cut a couple of inches and bend back part of the bottom of the box.
We straightened out a coat hanger and put a little perch at the bottom and lowered it down through the small opening. We hoped that once it got over being scared from something getting close to it that it would latch on and we could pull it out. After a few minutes of sitting very still while holding the end of the coat hanger, I thought I felt it move a few times like the bird was feeling it out. But after a few more minutes, my legs cramping while crouching on top of my washer, I gave up and pulled it out.
By now, my boyfriend and three other guys in his house with him were watching the whole thing unfold on Skype. He said this was more entertaining than the movie they had been watching prior to Operation Bird Removal. He suggested we use some rope since it would be easier for the bird to grip. Dad went down to his car and got some rope. Down goes the rope. I tied it to a bottle of laundry detergent and moved away as we all sat quietly, figuring by now that it was terrified from all the hubbub and noise.
We let about five minutes go by. No sound. No rope movement. It was now nearing 11:00 at night. It was a Sunday. We all had to work the next day.
I sighed heavily and said “Well I guess it’s come to cutting a hole in the wall. Do I even have a sheetrock knife?” I didn’t. More moving of the laundry appliances to give me room to crouch down to cut the wall. We figured I should cut the hole about a foot from the floor so that hopefully it wouldn’t come out in full attack mode. Did I mention my dad has an irrational fear of birds? I told him he didn’t even need to be in the room or my condo for this part. My mom stood by with a bag waiting to catch it, all of us assuming that as soon as it saw the light of day, it’d come racing out at full charge and then we’d have to chase it around the condo.
It took forever to cut a square hole big enough to fit my hand and forearm into using only a dull kitchen knife. I slowly removed the cut square. Mom got closer with the bag. Nothing. No movement. No sound. We poked a flashlight down there, but we still couldn’t see the floor given the acute angle. I slowly stuck my hand in. I had to force my forearm in and can already feel the circulation slow in my arm from squishing it against the edge of the sheetrock. I gently move my hand along the floor from one beam to the other. Nothing. How is this possible? I do it again. Nothing.
The noise is still there. It must be on the other side of one of the beams. Lovely. Not just one hole but two holes! At least they’ll be out of sight once I put my washer back where it belongs. I started cutting. I was now sweating like crazy from the aerobic arm workout. This should be on P90X.
Once again, I slowly lowered my hand down the hole. I went all the way to the beam on one side…nothing. I moved gently to the beam on the other side. I felt a small, trembling mass huddled up against the beam. I said “I got it!” to my parents, and my mom moved the bag in closer. But I didn’t have a good grip on it since I didn’t want to squeeze hard and injure it, and it was squirming. I had to put it down and go in for a better grip. It was really small. I’m small and therefore have small hands, and it easily fit in my hand. “Okay, I got it again!” I said while I gently withdrew my hand from the hole. My mom brought the bag as close to the opening as possible, but I said “No, it’s okay. I got it,” as I moved my other hand in to hold it in case it tried to fly. It really wasn’t moving that much other than shaking.
I slowly took my top hand off of it once I stood up from crouching behind the washer. It wasn’t trying to fly off or do anything. It was just looking around. It was the cutest little thing! Gray feathers, yellow pointy beak, and the most adorable little white fluffy wisps so light they almost weren’t there on both sides of its head.
We decided to take it outside on my front balcony figuring that once it tasted the wind, it would want to fly off to its home. We also brought out some crackers and broke them up into tiny pieces so it could eat something after that scary ordeal. My mom put some water in a little dish so he could drink too. Admittedly, I had no idea if it was a boy or a girl. I knew absolutely nothing about birds other than they fly and poop a lot, mostly on my car and plane. I didn’t know what it was or how old it was. All I knew was it was cute and seemed to really like me since he didn’t want to leave.
He wasn’t going for the food or water. We stuck it right up in its face, but he still wouldn’t take it. I thought maybe he was just still so shaken up from all the drama and maybe he’d eat and drink later once he calmed down and figured out we were here to help him.
After sitting in my hands for a few minutes outside, my hands still gloved, which I did as a precaution in case whatever was down in my wall tried to bite me when I went to grab it, he started to climb all over me and settled on the back of my neck. He seemed to have lousy balance. When he’d sit on my shoulder, neck, or head, it was never right on the top where he wouldn’t fall off, it was a bit towards the back, so I had to move around stooped over so he wouldn’t fall.
My parents started taking pictures, my dad marveling every few minutes “I can’t believe he hasn’t flown off yet! This is so weird!” I was kind of glad it hadn’t as I was enjoying our time together, but I still figured that any second he’d fly away and that’d be the last I ever saw of him. We kept trying to encourage him to eat to no avail. Then my mom pointed at the back of my neck and said “Oh! He…um…” “What? Pooped on me?” She got a paper towel to wipe it off and seemed surprised that I hadn’t flipped out.
Mom started saying that I should bring him downstairs to leave him. “I’m not going to leave him outside until I know he can fly. There are too many things around that will eat him if he can’t.” But then we figured maybe we should bring him downstairs anyway to see if he could fly. He had been flapping a little on the balcony but didn’t seem to generate enough lift to go anywhere. He’d just kind of sink.
I was thinking of how weird this whole situation was and how lucky this little thing was that we were able to cut him out of my wall. “What a wayward little thing!” I thought and then… “That’s it! I’m naming him Creedence since Creedence Clearwater Revival sang the song ‘Wayward Son’!” (Read more before you correct me!) I told my parents and then started and ended every utterance to my new pet with “Creedence” so he’d get to know his name.
It must have been 11:30 at night by now, and we went inside to grab my key. Creedence took a somewhat flying leap for the top of the refrigerator and made it (barely, but I was standing pretty close to it) and then started to walk in between all the pots and pans I had on top of the refrigerator. Mom said “Grab him quick before he falls down behind the refrigerator and we have to move that, too!” I retrieved him and patted him on the back while I said “That was a good job, Creedence! You’re getting it!” We headed downstairs for what we hoped would be a successful flight home, wherever that was. Mom again said to put him at the bottom of a tree in the boat yard next to my condo, but after seeing some baby ducks disappear one by one last summer, victims of a hungry alligator gar that lived in the canal just behind my building, hell if I was going to leave him there until I knew he was safe. So it was time for some flying lessons.
Creedence was still sitting up on my head, so I started to run around the huge puddles from our recent stretch of deluges and flap my arms so he could see how to do it. “Come on, Creedence! Like this!” I thought my slow running could help generate lift, like how airplanes take off into the wind. “Come on, Creedence! You can do it!” He, however, seemed to not care. I stopped by the tree and said I’d count and then give him a little boost. Mom said “Maybe you’d better get lower in case he falls again.” I crouched down, and gave him a countdown from three and then gently tossed him upward. He flapped but slowly settled to the ground. “That was a good try, Creedence!” I said as I picked him up off the ground. You could kind of see something like “Well, darn” in his face. He climbed back up onto the top of my head and we went running around again with me flapping my arms. Our “flying lessons” are one of my two favorite memories with my sweet little Creedence.
Seeing that I wasn’t getting anywhere and it was now around midnight, I told my parents they didn’t need to stay and that I was going to try to get Creedence to sleep so I could sleep. My parents left, and then I started my whole song and dance with trying to get Creedence to A. not have to be attached to me at all times and B. go to sleep. It was like having a newborn around.
I brought a small box that my mom had prepared with torn up pieces of toilet paper in the bottom with another small tray of water and some cracker crumbs up to my room figuring that since he wouldn’t leave me at all, I doubted he’d go for me leaving him downstairs and me going up to my room to sleep. Maybe at least in the same room I could get him to sleep in his little box? I put the box right next to my bed and sat down cross-legged next to the box. I peeled Creedence and his grippy claws off the back of my neck and placed him down in the open box (I didn’t want to put him in a closed box). He leapt to the top edge and then to my arm and climbed right back where he was before. We did this about three times, each time with the same result. I was now so tired I was getting cross-eyed and delirious. I started begging “Creedence, pleeeease?” What to do? What to do?
I looked around for something else to put him in. I’m not putting him in my bed. I’m obsessive/compulsive and would not be happy if he pooped in my bed. I tried putting him back in the box. Same thing. Now I went looking around my condo, bird on head, for something – anything! – I could use to put him in so I could get some sleep. I spotted my dirty laundry basket from my closet. It’s one of those pull out drawers that has a metal cage you can remove. That’s like a bird cage! I wasn’t crazy about putting him in something so confining (even though the laundry basket was large – I just didn’t want him in anything closed). But it was getting late, and I was getting desperate. I took it out and spread a towel on my floor next to the bed and put the cage upside down over it. I put the water and some food in there and then gently placed Creedence inside. He took a look around, was like “Screw this!”, and squeezed out through the rungs, what I had thought was impossibly small openings. Oy. This time I got a another towel to drape over it so hopefully he couldn’t wedge himself out. I propped stuff up against it so he couldn’t easily push the towel away. He got right out.
I was getting a little frustrated just because of how late it was and how tired I was, but there was no way I could be mad at something so darned cute. Every time I clapped eyes on him, his cuteness just melted my heart! I said “Sugars!” and raised up the hand he was sitting on so I could kiss his beak. He was so good about letting me get affectionate with him. I could pet him, stroke his plume, and kiss the tip of his beak and he never pulled away or fussed. So “Sugars!” became a regular thing with us.
It was way too late to call or text my friend who is a veterinarian. It was also now such a long time since dinner that I was getting hungry again (I’m usually in bed around 10 and asleep by 11 or 12). Creedence and I went downstairs for a snack, and I was hoping he’d see me eating and figure out how it’s done and want some himself, so I put a pile of crumbs on the counter for him. He didn’t so much as give them a sniff. I was also hoping that while I was eating, I’d come up with another idea of where to put him so I could sleep. I didn’t. While we were downstairs, it occurred to me that Creedence Clearwater Revival didn’t sing “Wayward Son”. But I was so tired I couldn’t think of who did. I used my one free hand to look it up on my phone. Kansas. Oops! Should I rename Creedence? Nope. I had called his name too many times, and I also liked that the misnaming showed how thoroughly exhausted and frazzled I was from such a long, weird day. It was perfectly…us. I knew CCR had sung a song with “Son” in the name…what was it? Oh yeah! “Fortunate Son”. Which also totally applied to Creedence being lucky enough to fall into the wall of someone who cared enough to hook, fish, and cut him out of a wall rather than letting him die in there. So…um…yeah that name still worked!
I looked around my place. It was a shambles. Washer and dryer in the middle of my breakfast area, tools strewn all over. “Creedence, you’re a troublemaker,” I said to him. But, very out of character for me, I didn’t mind at all. If a human had caused that kind of mess in my place, I would have kicked him out.
Back upstairs and since it was now past 2:00 am, it had come to this. I put a towel on the other side of my bed, climbed onto my side, and gently put Creedence down on the towel, pointed at the towel, and said “Now you stay here, okay?” as he immediately walked off the towel and onto me. Sigh. I slowly lowered myself to lie down. “Do birds poop while they sleep?” I wondered to myself. Creedence snuggled as close and cozy as he could against my neck and chin, literally making it so that as much of his surface area was in contact with as much of my surface area as possible. He even would stick a wing or his beak up on my chin for extra coverage. I wondered if he was doing that because he was cold, though he wasn’t shivering, so I got up, bird in hand, to turn my A/C hotter. I’d sweat like crazy all night since my internal thermostat turns the heat up every night, but all I cared about that night was Creedence being comfortable. I laughed to myself that this must be what it’s like to have a child. I had never wanted kids myself and laughed at myself now. How motherly I was sitting with a bird on my neck that I wasn’t totally sure wouldn’t poop on me or my bed while we were sleeping…and yet I couldn’t have been happier.
I was so highly amused by the whole situation and so overwhelmed at the cuteness of it all that I gently grabbed my phone so I could get pictures of us like this. It was only after looking at one of the pictures that I noticed something: an extra white spot that wasn’t part of my necklace. “Ah, Creedence! You didn’t!” Hold bird against neck while getting up to look in bathroom mirror. Yep. He had. And since it was right on the shell necklace my boyfriend had given me, the necklace and Creedence’s little feet had rubbed it around a bit, so I had an abstract chest painting of bird poop. “Is bird poop good for your skin?” I wondered as I wiped it off with one hand since the other was holding Creedence against me.
I had to draw the line somewhere. I went downstairs to get my hammock, one of the large, all cloth deals that you can easily cocoon yourself in. I hung one side of it on my bedroom doorknob and hoped Creedence would accept this as a bed. I put the water and crumbs on the flat part on the floor. I lowered him down onto the flat part and hoped he’d go for it. He immediately climbed up the part hanging from the door and settled onto the highest spot on the cloth before it turned to rope. Now was he just playing around on a new toy or could I actually separate myself from him? He was still eyeing me. I slowly backed away. I also reasoned that if he was so clingy, maybe he’d sleep better if he could still see me and be sure that I was there with him. Like when babies are comforted just knowing mom is right there. But my airplane nightlight was upstairs in my guest room. And Creedence’s bed was on my doorknob. Hmm…what to use for a nightlight? My nightstand lamp would flicker and keep me up, so that wouldn’t work. I had my phone in bed with me from when I was taking pictures of us together, so I searched for a nightlight app. There’s an app for everything, right? I found a cute one for kids that had a little animal on it and swirling stars. Click. And it was just the right amount of light. I whispered “Goodnight, Creedence. I love you,” and rolled over to sleep. It was past 3:00 am.
My damned internal clock woke me up at 8:30, later than I usually sleep but not nearly enough after falling asleep around 3:30. Sigh. Well let’s see where Creedence has gone off to. I figured he wouldn’t stay on the hammock all night. I was wrong. He was right there on top where I had left him. “Hi, sweetie. Good morning!” I said as I cupped him into my hand and he crawled up my arm and onto my shoulder. I was getting very used to this. It was so sweet, how could I not just fall totally in love with it all?
We went downstairs and I texted my friend the veterinarian while I ate my breakfast Pop Tart and Creedence still wouldn’t go for food or water. While I waited to hear back from her, mom texted and asked “Are you an empty nester?” I think we all assumed that once Creedence saw the light of day, he’d be off to get back to his family. “Not yet. And still faceplanting when trying to fly. Think I need to get a cage. He’s so cute and well behaved.” I had resigned myself to the fact that I had a new pet, at least until he could fly and wanted to go back home or to stay for good if he didn’t. Mom answered back “Maybe let it sit on your head while you walk/run. That should help give it incentive to move. By now it should at least need water.” It was starting to worry me that he hadn’t eaten or drank.
I checked my phone to see if my vet friend had answered back. Not yet. I knew she worked many jobs, so she was always very busy and hard to reach. While we were waiting, we Skyped my boyfriend while I showed off how cute Creedence was. I held him up close to my laptop camera so he could see Creedence’s cute little feathery wisps. While I talked to my boyfriend to finish telling him the story from last night after they had gotten off Skype to go back to their movie, Creedence just sat on my head, occasionally poking his head up over mine to check out the scene.
It was time for my morning run, so Creedence and I went upstairs so I could change into running clothes. But he was on my shoulder and wouldn’t let go of my sports bra strap. I took it off and he just hung onto it until I put the bra on my bed, then he ran up my arm and got back on my shoulder. I fastened the hooks on my running bra and he only budged just enough out of the way so I could raise the strap to my shoulder and then he moved back on top of it. I was realizing that everything was a little slower and more deliberate with a living being on a body part at all times. But I was secretly enjoying the heck out of it and far too quickly getting very, very used to it.
By now, it was time for my…uh…morning bodily functions. Creedence wasn’t going anywhere, so into the bathroom with me he came. He did, however, decide to make another attempt at flight while I was sitting there, the sink counter apparently too temptingly close. Flap flap flap splat. He faceplanted into the sink cabinet door and fell to the ground and then scooted himself into the corner under the sink, always seeking out the tiniest space when he wasn’t on me. “Good try, Creedence! You’re lookin’ really good there!” I said encouragingly as I scooped him back up.
I then texted Mom with a picture of us and said “Creedence and I are stretching to go run. Very hard to eat, change clothes, or do anything w/ a bird always attached to a hand, arm, shoulder, or head (head makes it easier).”
While we were stretching, I heard back from my friend the veterinarian. She said it was a European Starling and that they make excellent pets. I smiled widely when I saw that. I really wasn’t sure since I don’t know anything about birds. I was truly learning as I went along with Creedence. So to hear that from an experienced professional was good news. She further said that it can’t fly yet and needs hand feeding. She said to go to Petco and told me exactly what to buy and then how to feed it once I got the hand feeding powder and small mealworms. She said to make him a little nest-like box (ha!) and allow him to see daylight and dark. I was already planning to go to Petco right after my run and was so glad to just know what kind of bird I had so I could look it up and study everything about it. But then she said “If you do what I tell you, it still might not live only because sometimes they have a birth defect or head injury you can’t tell they have.” What? Why on earth was she saying this?!? He was fine and full of life! He had no apparent injuries and functioned normally except for his lousy sense of balance and being oddly attached to yours truly. I thanked her for all the info and said that I hadn’t wanted a pet but now that one literally fell into my life, I planned to spoil it rotten, so I’d go to Petco right away and get all that stuff and hand feed it with a straw until I could get a syringe. Then she said “Give him some water or Gatorade if you have that. Just don’t get upset if he kicks the bucket.” Jesus. He was fine. Stop saying that. I get it. So overly dramatic!
I got a straw from my pantry and pulled out some water and Gatorade. I started with water since I figured that’s the basic wellspring of life for everything. I held a few drops in a straw and then stuck the straw in Creedence’s face. He kept turning away. “Come on, Creedence. You need this.” I kept poking it at him around his beak, then stuck the end of the straw on the end of his beak. After a few times, he finally got it and opened his mouth wide. I slowly let the water drip out. He drank it right up. Great! I got a few more drops and still had to coax him, but he took it eagerly once he opened his mouth. He even then tried to eat the straw since he thought that was food. We played around for a few minutes until he pooped, which I figured was a good sign, and then I fed him a little Gatorade since I figured by now he also needed some vitamins and calories.
I still thought he may want to come with me on my run so he could try to fly, so we headed downstairs. I took a few slow jogging steps in the parking lot, and he kept sliding off the top of my head. It was a bit windy out, but he didn’t seem to want any part of flying or riding along on my run, so I took him back upstairs.
My building maintenance guy came up with us so he could look to see where Creedence had gotten in. I told him about the time years ago when a bird got in and showed him where I thought Creedence had gotten in. But he knew right away. He said they had made a nest just under the point in the roof and showed me on the first floor balcony where there was a concentration of poop that had fallen from their nest. He said there must be a hole there that led into my wall and that Creedence fell from there. It did make a bit more sense given the location. He said he’d go up to the roof and put something there to cover the hole so other birds wouldn’t fall in. I fed Creedence a little more, and since he seemed perfect and had now finally taken some sustenance, I took the opportunity to put him in his new bigger box (since he kept hopping out of the one I tried last night). I put some more water and crumbs in it in case he had figured it out by now and then went for a quick run.
On my run, I thought back on the past half day since we had cut Creedence out of my wall. I hadn’t wanted a pet. Don’t get me wrong – I love animals and think most of them are painfully cute. I had adopted a sloth named Sid Wiggy while in Costa Rica and wished I could take him home with me but knew he was better off with the experts at the sloth sanctuary there. We had dogs when I was very young, and I loved having them around and missed the camaraderie in my life, but I didn’t have any pets now for many reasons. I was allergic to a lot of them. I’m obsessive/compulsive, especially about the cleanliness of my condo. And I have white carpet in most rooms. Not really an ideal formula for owning a pet. But, just as my mom was shocked at how I seemed perfectly okay with Creedence pooping on the back of my neck, I had now become perfectly okay in no time at all of just cleaning up after him, and really the cleaning was minimal with such a small thing. I still had no idea what it would be like once he started flying. Oh yeah. There was that. I decided that if he was able to fly and kept looking longingly out my windows, I’d have to let him go. So I accepted the fact that I at least had a temporary pet if not a long-term pet. I wasn’t just sort of okay with the situation only because I begrudgingly had to be. I truly loved the idea of having Creedence in my life. I wondered, after just one night together, what all there was in store for us. If he stayed with me, would he like to come flying with me (like in my plane, I mean)? I wanted to share that with him since it was so special to me. I also looked forward to showing him off more in front of friends and neighbors. I liked seeing others’ reactions to his cuteness. And while the irony was not lost on me that I had a plane that for the past month couldn’t fly and now had a bird that couldn’t yet fly or maybe just couldn’t fly at all, I thought it was funny that Erin the pilot had a pet with wings. Because if a pet had to literally fall into my life, what else would the universe send but a bird? It seemed the perfect fit for something I had never known I wanted or needed. And now I was sure I both wanted and needed him.
I got back from my run and found him squished into a corner of the box, as he always liked to do. I scooped him up and gave him a little more water and took a quick shower. After all the hubbub of the morning and trying to get Creedence all situated, I knew I’d be late for work since I still had to go to Petco. I quickly emailed my boss, luckily a very nice and understanding lady. I also don’t make a habit of being late, which she knows, and I told her I’d be 15-20 minutes late and that I’d tell her later why. I said “If I tell you now, you’ll think it’s the world’s worst and most contrived ‘why I’m late for work’ story you’ve ever heard!”
I drove over to Petco to get the food my vet friend had said to get. I also wanted to get him a little something to keep him company in his box when I had to go out. He seemed so desperate for company the way he clung so closely to me all the time. I looked at the rack of stuff I was pretty sure was for dogs, but one hit me right away since it was so perfect for him and us. It was a small bird with a big beak and a pirate hat and eye patch. My mom called little toys like this “lovies”, and I knew he needed a lovey for when I was gone. I grabbed Creedence’s new lovey and rushed back home to give him all this cool new stuff.
I mixed up the handfeeding formula and put the worms in my refrigerator for later. I scooped him up out of the corner of the box and did the ritual with the straw to get him to open his beak and eat. He kept turning away. I tried and tried but he wouldn’t have it. Maybe I fed him too much earlier? I’ll let him rest a little while I log onto work and try again later. I got a small towel to put on my desk next to my work laptop and sat him down in it next to me so he could “help” me work. He seemed very uncomfortable since he kept shifting around, so I put him in my lap. But he kept doing the same thing, so I thought maybe he was trying to sleep and my quiet typing was keeping him awake. I made a little nest out of the towel and sat him down in it.
He wasn’t acting right and I started to worry. He would splay out his wings and tilt his head way back so that it was almost upside down. I texted my friend the vet. Was he dying? I really wasn’t sure. I wasn’t sure what a dying bird looked like. But he looked very uncomfortable and started twitching oddly. I quietly called his name. I didn’t want to bother him since he looked so miserable. I was in the middle of writing the email to my boss and coworkers (since I thought they’d get a laugh out of my late excuse, too) when I realized he really was dying. I tried to call my friend the vet. She was working and didn’t answer. I was panicking. What could I do? He looked awful. It looked so painful whatever he was going through. I didn’t want to touch him and make it worse. He finally stopped moving in what looked like a very uncomfortable position. “Creedence?” I begged with fear in my voice. “Creedence?” I wanted so badly for him to move. Maybe he was just sick, I kept thinking. Maybe he’d snap out of it and everything would be okay. By now, my boss, having not heard my late excuse, was wondering what had happened and sent me an instant message: “So what’s the story?” I wasn’t sure what to say now. “Um…you may need to give me a little while again. There was a long story to it, but the bird that literally fell into my life 24 hours ago I think just died. Started acting funny when I got back from getting food for him at Petco. Now not moving. Was fine before. Thought I had a new pet.” She said they’d give me time. I gently picked up Creedence to see if I could feel him breathing. I couldn’t. I poked him. “Creedence?” I kept willing him to snap back to life. He couldn’t possibly be dead! He was fine just a couple of hours ago! “Pretty sure it’s dead in my hand. Not sure how to tell.” I texted my friend the vet again. I really wasn’t sure and didn’t want to accept that he was dead. It was the first time I had ever watched something die. It looked so horribly painful, and I had felt so utterly helpless. I still didn’t want to accept it, but a long time had passed and he hadn’t moved or breathed. I started crying. My tears fell on him and slid off his plume. I kept calling his name.
I still didn’t want to bury him in case he came back to life. He would come back to life, wouldn’t he? But I knew I had to. I would bury him under my window so he could still be close. I got my small garden shovel and went downstairs. My building maintenance guy, who had met Creedence that morning on my failed attempt to take him running with me, was on the phone and thought I was bringing him to show him off again. I mouthed “He’s dead”, but I could tell he didn’t understand me because he kept smiling at Creedence in my hand. He hung up and walked over to me. “He’s dead” I said, crying. He put his hand on my back and tried to comfort me, but I was crying uncontrollably. I walked away towards where I planned to bury him. I sat in the grass and looked up at my window above. He had fallen into a wall in my condo above just about 24 hours before.
I will never forget how sad that little hole I dug for him looked and how much I didn’t want to have to put him in it. I wondered if any of his family saw me doing this. I buried him with one of my tears still sitting on his wing. And I’ve now cried for much longer than I actually knew him. He never got to fly.
I suppose I should say that the joy he brought me in such a short time far outweighs the sadness I’ve experienced since he left me, but sometimes it’s hard to say that even when I see how happy I looked in our pictures together. I just keep thinking “He never got to fly. He never got to see the views that I have come to cherish as part of my life.” Friends, we should never take for granted the gift of flight because it is truly a gift.