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Critter Chat - Chatham Star Tribune: Opinion

Critter Chat

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Posted: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 10:07 am

It is really difficult to believe that it has been 15 years since I made a terrible mistake that cost my beloved cockatiel, Gracey, his life. In the summer of 1999, Gracey came to live with me. He was a beautiful ordinary gray cockatiel with bright orange cheeks and yellow feathers on his head. He entered my heart and my home at the exact same moment.

I had no idea so much personality and intelligence could be contained in such a small body. Gracey very quickly learned to whistle several songs, including (but not limited to) “Pop Goes the Weasel,” “Over Hill Over Dale,” the Andy Griffith theme song, and a couple of hymns. There is something especially endearing about hearing a little bird whistle “All Creatures of Our God and King” with all his might.

As Gracey aged, his colors became more vibrant and his official name became Mr. Gracey. He took great delight in imitating sounds he heard, and many times I walked to the microwave before realizing he was the one that had beeped, not the microwave.

Gracey went to work with me every day. He would very willingly enter his travel cage and serenaded my dog, Katey, and me on the way to work. He loved my dog, terrorized my cat, and sang and danced his way through his days.

Even though I felt bad about doing it, I kept his wings clipped a little so he could only fly short distances. But the last time his wings were clipped, he went into shock and started convulsing. I thought he was dying and, in fact, it took several hours for him to recover. Against my better judgment, I delayed having his wings clipped. In late September 2002, he flew from the top of his cage and went out a shelter door that had been opened for a few seconds. The only thing I could say was a very heartbroken, “Oh, no,” because in an instant, I knew the chance of Gracey surviving or being returned was very small.

For almost two hours, we could hear him in the trees behind the shelter. I called and called to him, begging him to fly to me. But, even though cockatiels are the strongest fliers of the Australian birds, they do not have navigational skills. Pet birds do not know what their homes look like from the outside, so very few of them come home again. Gracey circled overhead and then flew further away.

Friends and I offered a reward, put his picture in three newspapers, posted fliers, and went door-to-door in a neighborhood where he may have been spotted. But Gracey was gone. I was saddened by the thoughts of my poor Gracey being lost and afraid. If someone picked him up, I hope he has spent the last 15 years with lots of toys and treats and time out of his cage. If he is dead, I hope his death was a quick and painless one.

I have always been grateful for the lessons my little Gracey bird taught me. He taught me how wonderful birds are. I also learned through that horrible experience that tragedies happen, sometimes because someone made a mistake that they desperately wish they could erase.

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