I do not blog about the parrots a lot on here because they are about as un-green a pet as one can imagine. They have demanding and diverse dietary and housing needs and they are a huge drain on the sacred budget. What can I say? Oh well. Love is what love is and it all began with Baby.
Baby came to us through a high school friend back in the days when I was still a rabid facebook user. I had posted a drum set on line for sale. She wanted the drum set for her daughter. My friend had recently lost her husband and their family was in turmoil. She knew Fred and I had rescued our fair share of animals and she asked if we would be interested in a parrot.
“A parrot?” I though.
Wow, they are load of work and on top of that this one had just suffered a huge trauma. I did not know. I told her I would have to talk to Fred but the more I thought about it the more I knew this was not one of those animals to which I would be able to say no. I called our vet, told her what I was thinking. She told me to bring in the bird as soon as I got it and we would go from there.
“What’s her name?” I asked my friend.
“Baby.” She said. OH GREAT. What a name.
Later that week I went to get Baby and all of her paraphernalia. She had a gigantic cage, loads of toys, a book of instructions and a bad attitude. She was also pitiful looking. What few feathers she had left were chewed and shredded and her abdomen and legs were mostly bare. She looked like a plucked chicken with a tiny green parrot head.
As soon as we got in the car she shrieked at me in the piercing way that only a macaw can and then she screamed “WHERE ARE WE GOING?!” I thought oh sweet heaven what have I gotten into. She continued to scream the entire way home alternating between ear piercing shrieks and bellowed questions and commands. I considered how painful my death would be when Fred finally decided to murder me after this latest acquisition. At least my friend said she would take her back if we could not handle her.
I need not have worried about a return policy. Fred fell madly in love with her at first sight. Within a week she begun to call him Daddy kiss him goodnight in the evenings, goodbye in the mornings and pepper him with questions throughout the day. She was 143 grams of pure personality.
She was mostly healthy but she needed some dietary changes and an antibiotic to combat a persistent crop infection. I cannot begin to describe for you how unpleasant it is to medicate a bird. Those first few weeks my fingers were covered in bites and welts and at one point she even bit me on the end of the nose punctuated with a loving “SHUT UP!” It is humiliating to be yelled at by a bird.
That was two years ago.
We grew into each other and together as a family. Baby goes everywhere with us. She goes camping, on vacation, to the drive-in, to the Dairy Queen, etc. She is our darling and obnoxious toddler with a can opener on her face. Hahn’s macaws as a breed can be nippy but they are loving and clever and oh so smart and Baby is the perfect specimen.
Eventually Baby stopped picking her feathers and became even more loving and endearing. We began to consider a feathered companion for her and when our vet offered us a quiet and unassuming Senegal in need of a home we snatched up Simon Peter. I would not say SP and Baby are the best of friends but they are much like any other brother and sister duo. And of course you know, from several blogs ago how Trinity joined our flock.
A few weeks ago we notice that Baby had begun to indulge in some feather picking again. Not horrible just a couple little spots but we took her to Dr. Stephenson anyway. She was pronounced healthy. We thought maybe she begun to pick again because of Trinity’s arrival and her severe picking issues. We wrote it off and kept watch over her.
Monday of this week Baby’s picking got worse. We took her back to the vet where they ran all kinds of tests and again could find nothing wrong. We took home a five day antibiotic just to be safe. Thursday morning when I went to clean the cages I noticed a bloody protrusion from Baby’s vent. I rushed her back to the vet. They ran a bunch more tests, did blood work, took an x-ray, still no obvious cause.
Friday Baby and I drove three hours to a specialist. He did not think Baby was a candidate for surgery and agreed there was no obvious cause for her distress. We came home with more medications and instructions to watch her closely.
Today she is worse.
She is lethargic, barely talking, she has fluffed her feathers and acts unsteady on her feet. She is still eating and drinking. In addition to her meds, via the specialists orders, we are giving her pedialite, honey in milk and yogurt. We have raise the temperature in her cage to 82 degrees. Her abdomen is swollen and there is a slightly hard spot in it. We are praying that is an egg. If this is all just an egg we will be so thrilled, especially if she passes it normally.
All we can ask for now is your prayer. Please, if you have a moment, lift up a prayer for Baby’s healing. I know some people believe it is silly or selfish to request prayer for an animal but I do not. Baby is a small feathered child to us, she is part of our family and even if she were not she is still one of God’s creatures and he loves her. We love her desperately. Pray for her. Pray for Fred and me, pray that God heals Baby and pray for wisdom and grace for us and the doctors. Thank you.
Saturday morning Baby seemed to take a turn for the worse. She was listless and not talking and she acted as though it pained her to climb around her cage. After consulting with Dr. Mohan (the specialist mentioned earlier in the post) he said he would meet us Sunday morning at the clinic in Columbus. He said it was very important that we get the temperature in her cage up to eighty-five degrees before then and that we monitor her closely. We wrapped her cage on three sides with sheets placed a heating pad and thermometer inside and a heater and heat lamp near by.
This meant that Baby was confined to her cage for the rest of the day and night. Baby's cage is humongous, it would be quite suitable for a much larger bird, but still she is in no way used to being confined and was extremely unhappy with us. It was for her own safety and well being, though. We could not have her climb out and fall, nor could be keep the temperature in the whole house at eight-five. We were already boiling (goodbye electric budget).
We got up before dawn Sunday morning and packed the car. The threat of snow was imminent and we had borrowed my dad's little Sion for the long trip. Our Honda is very old and our truck would have cost a bazillion dollars to drive all the way to Columbus. We were nervous about the road conditions and built an extra hour into our drive time just to be safe. Dad's car is great on gas, not so great in snow. Although our worry was for naught, we had beautiful weather all weekend.
We bundled Baby up in her travel carrier and loaded the car with her camping cage, food, medicine, toys and water. I had packed an overnight bag for ourselves. Dr. Mohan had warned Baby would probably need to be hospitalized but at this point we were still hoping for an obvious and easy solution.
Baby, who normally likes to "go" was leery of us and another car ride so close on the heels of Friday's long and strenuous journey. She seemed to be acting somewhat better. Still straining a little when she went to the bathroom but without the horrible crying that had accompanied it for the last few days. She still wasn't her normal gregarious self but she did talk to us a little on the trip.
We got to the clinic about thirty minutes early. We beat the doctor there and so we had to wait. The doctor arrived shortly after we did and we rushed Baby in to start an immediate plan of care/intervention. (I cannot say enough nice things about Dr. Mohan and the staff at the Avian Health Clinic. They are wonderful people who met us on a Sunday to do their best and save our feathered child. They are kind and caring and patient. If you are in need of avian care outside your normal vet's skill set please make the trip they are worth it.)
They put Baby in an incubator, which looks something akin to a microwave with a sliding glass door, and gave her medications and vitamins. Fred and I spent most of our time alternating between the lobby and the sick room until it was time to leave, then we spent one very long night pacing the hotel room floor. We drove past the clinic several times that evening, even though we could not be with Baby we wanted to be close to her.
Monday morning Fred had to take an emergency vacation day from work and we went back to the clinic bright and early. The plan for the day was to give Baby barium in the morning and then take a series of x-rays through the day to see if there was an obstruction in her GI tract. I will not lie. It was terrible. I know it was a horrible experience for Baby but it was almost as traumatic for Fred and me. I will not go into the details of just exactly what has to happen to a bird so that she might have an x-ray but I will say it is unpleasant and there was much crying on both her side and mine.
The tests took all day. The upside was that we were allowed to stay with her at the clinic and that in between tests and incubator time we were allowed to hold her and comfort her (and us).
The test showed no obstruction in her GI tract, upper or lower. Dr. Mohan said based on that he did not want to do an endoscopy. She had not presented blood in her droppings or shown the prolapse in 24 hours so he did not want to further traumatize her vent area. He believed that her problem may be originating from a hormonal source. Even though she had not passed an egg and did not have an egg internally he thought all her symptoms probably originated hormonally and then led to irritation which led to infection and became a cycle of worsening pain and bleeding.
She was given a hormonal implant subcutaneously on her back (Norplant for birds!) and we are to continue the medication regimen for several more days. We got home late last night. The three of us are mentally, emotionally and physically drained. Baby's cage still looks like a birdy hospital ward and it will for a few more days. Since she is so weak and beat up from all the medications and procedures we have to keep her extra warm and confined for a few more days.
We are not out of the woods yet. If she worsens or her symptoms return we will find ourselves back to the road and back at the clinic.
We are so thankful to have Baby home and hopefully on the road to recovery. We give praise to God and we thank you all for your prayers. Please if you think of us, and our non-human family, continue to remember us in your prayers.
Much love and feathered kisses ~a