Richard's Night Out
by Carol Sapp
(Fairview Heights, IL)
Senegal, Richard, eating granola in the kitchen
Richard is a five year old male Senegal parrot, a little parrot considering what most people think of as a parrot. This little parrot patched a heart that was hemmorhaging, after the sudden death of my first Senegal, Angus, who left me so broken hearted that I thought I would not survive.
Richard came to me 10 months ago, through a bird rescue organization, and that sounds strange to me since Richard rescued me more than I rescued him. His name was Smokey, and all I knew about him was that his previous owner gave him up because of a biting problem. After a trip to the vet, I incorporated him into our home very quickly, and gave him a new name.
Although he is virtually identical in appearance to my first Senegal, his behavior is so different. Richard did have some difficulty with biting in the beginning, and in fact launched himself at my face and bit me hard enough to draw blood, and make my husband scream. With patience, love, attention, and his favorite treat of carrot sticks and ice cubes, he has become a sweet tempered bird and companion.
He is quiet, chatty, loves to sit with me no matter what I am doing, lays in the palm of my hand for a belly rub, and loves my singing. On October 3rd, he flew out of my patio door, and out of my sight, sending me on a frantic hunt.
October 3rd was a warm day, and my lawn man was mowing my yard. I was in the kitchen cooking breakfast for my birds, with Richard on my shoulder, when the yard man came to the patio door for his check. I slid the screen door open, gave John his check, and when I tried to silde the door shut, it stuck. When John stepped forward to help me, Richard got spooked, and took off through the narrow opening.
Richard is clipped, and has never flown since I knew him, but he maintained a height of about four feet as he disappeared around the corner of my house.
I ran after him, but he was nowhere to be seen. I live in a subdivision that is full of trees, and he could have been anywhere. I called him and walked the street, and then ran into the house for binocculars. I resumed calling and looking for him for hours. I stopped anyone who would listen, and told them to keep an eye out. Finally I had to go pick up my grandkids from school. On my way to get them I sobbed and tried to find someone who could go have fliers printed for me.
When I got home with the kids, my mom showed up, and took the flyer I had printed and had 200 copies made for me, while my grandkids and I walked the streets looking for this little parrot that is perfectly matched to the color of the landscape. I used his words to call him, and prayed and cried in between.
When my mom got back, we put flyers on the telephone poles, and stuffed every mailbox in a three block radius of my house. Finally it got dark. I took the kids in, fed them, cried, gave them showers, cried, cleaned up the kitchen, went outside and called, and cried. I put the kids to bed, and cried, went outside some more, cried some more, put the other birds to bed, and cried. I tried to sleep myself, but I couldn't. All this time I kept telling myself that I would find him in the morning. I also told myself I'd never see him again, but I tried not to believe that.
Finally it was daybreak. I took Richard's cooked food dish and a spoon, and went outside. He loves his food, and besides pelleted food, I cook breakfast and dinner for them. His favorite sound is the spoon hitting the dish as I serve the food. I walked the street, calling his name and tapping the dish.
Half a block from my house, in the quiet 49 degree air, I heard his squak, the sound he makes when he gets spooked. I tapped and called, and he squaked once more. I knew I was heading in the right direction. For about 20 more minutes I tried to locate where the squak came from, he wasn't making any more noise. I was standing in the middle of the street, looking at one driveway, certain that the sound came from there, when from behind me I heard "hey baby"!
I turned around and said his name and tapped the dish, and I heard "where's my kiss"? I ran to this huge clump of two old grown-together pine trees, with all sorts of overgrown bushes growing in the middle of it. I pushed as far into the trees as I could, but I couldn't see him. I went around the thicket, reaching in and shaking branches. Finally, he squaked and fell right through my hands. I tore away what I could, making a bloody mess of my hands, and found him!!! I shoved him down the front of my hoodie and took him home. He was cold and damp and half starved. He did take off before breakfast, and missed dinner, too.
My grandkids were thrilled, my mom was thrilled, my lawn man was thrilled, so were my husband and sisters. Everyone was amazed that I found him, but I could feel him close by. I felt he was out there.
It's been three weeks today, and although his routine is back to normal, he does test me every night, I think to be sure I come when he squaks. He does it every night, when I turn down the lights to put them to bed. As soon as I leave the room with dirty dishes, or to get the mop and broom, he squaks. He settles down when I return to the room. He is doing it less and less each night.
This bird is such a part of me, as are my other birds. This one rescued me from a terminaly broken heart, ,10 months ago, and we have bonded so quickly. He does seem to be a one person bird, he doesn't care much for being held by anyone else. He lets the parakeets run all over his playground, and he seems to like my cockatiel.
He meows like the cat and then laughs. He sneezes like I do in the morning. He sits on my shoulder and gives me kisses till I have to put him down. He uses different tones of voice for different purposes, and has made up a few words of his own, and taught them to me.
I can not imagine giving up a bird, his previous owner did so when Richard was five. I only hope his prior owner did not feel the agony I did when he flew out the door. Birds aren't for just anyone, and I respect the person who goes to a bird rescue to surrender one, rather than to just let one go, or try to sell one to just anyone.
Thanks to the previous owner, Richard is with me, and I could not be more grateful. I didn't just find him once, I found him twice.
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