THE LITTLE YELLOW BOWL, page-13

my abilities. I used a sharp pair of human toenail clippers for all trimming. I
never trimmed Byrd's beak to the point that it bled; but if it did, the beak tip
would have to be cauterized. In this case, I would have needed to hold Byrd's
head still, his beak between my fingers. The inclination to bite the match or
incense stick in self-defense could have resulted in Byrd burning his tongue
42
or the interior of his beak.
Other unfortunate incidents occurred because Byrd liked to follow
close to my feet, particularly in the kitchen while I was preoccupied with
making meals. On occasion, I accidentally kicked him, not realizing when he
had ventured so close. His resulting little squeaks as his slight body hurriedly
waddled away into another room were enough to make my heart sink.
Sometimes, he just stepped back and looked up at me with big, questioning
eyes. I usually gave him a morsel of food after an accidental kick so that both
of us felt better. Afterward, when I placed my hand near his feet in an effort
to move him out of harm's way, he always returned to that dangerous area.
Maybe the reward for being at my feet was worth the risk of getting kicked.
I also stepped on his toes a few times. He would hobble away after
a sharp squeak in painful retreat as his tail brushed along the floor. I'd
chase after him with a piece of his favorite food. He always healed quickly,
and the next day would return to the kitchen, under my feet again. At least
twice—and again, in the kitchen—I stepped on his foot and severely injured
it. He was in so much pain that I was able to grab him as he limped away. A
slight abscess oozed from major joints in his foot. I took him to the kitchen
sink and ran cold water over his foot and leg as I held him firmly. He squirmed
and cried, but settled within moments, probably feeling some relief. I carefully
extended his toes, gently massaging them. He seemed to understand my
intentions and stood still. Amazingly enough, he only had a slight limp the
next day. The following day, he had no limp at all. In spite of the limited
accidents at my feet, he kept close to them for his entire life.
I was always careful when moving wheeled chairs at my desk and
kitchen table. The weight and pressure could instantly smash his foot to pulp,
probably disabling him and subjecting him to pain for the rest of his life. I
could never forgive myself if such an incident would occur and was aware of
his location before I shifted. Byrd consistently sat at my feet, whether I was
at my desk, kitchen table or anywhere else.
I also gave Byrd the wrong toy, which could have killed him. After
noticing that Byrd liked to peck at objects suspended from a string, I bought
43
a cat toy for him. The toy was comprised of a blue, cloth ball tethered from
a wand via a red string. He liked to chase that dangling ball so much that I
suspended it in his cage. As I worked at my computer, he chased the ball as
it bobbed and circled in response to his pecks.
Days later, upon my return from work, Byrd was clinging to the upper
side of his cage beneath the cat toy. I sauntered to the cage, wondering
what Byrd was doing. After opening the door and expecting him to bullet out,
he stayed cemented to the side bars, eyes twitching and breath labored. I
pivoted to observe him closely. The cat toy string was wrapped around his
body.I bounded for a pair of scissors. After cutting the string at the top of the
wand, I took a very tired bird into my hand. The string crisscrossed his chest,
even winding around his neck. I cut the string repeatedly, withdrawing it in
individual sections. I dripped a little water from my fingertip into his beak and
set him on the floor of his cage to recover. He may have clung to the cage
side for hours. If I had to work overtime or got stuck in traffic, I may have
returned to Byrd's dead body dangling from a string. Again, I would never
have forgiven myself for such thoughtlessness. As I began dinner, he flew
to the table. What a recovery! We celebrated his life by sharing a strand of
pasta.
The worst incident occurred when I accidentally surprised him. I
spread out a newspaper on the living room floor in front of the television and
began to read. Always tagging along, Byrd hopped onto my open newspaper.
He nestled as I tried to read around him. I opened the bottom door of the
television cabinet, hoping to lure him with a good perch only a few feet away.
After I turned a page on top of him, Byrd took the hint. He scratched his way
from beneath the newspaper, then lit atop the television cabinet door. He
began to preen his chest feathers in the mid-day sun. As I continued to read,
a story disturbed me, and in response, I snapped the newspaper article with
my finger. At that moment, Byrd tumbled from the door to the carpeted floor.
He had no resistance to gravity, falling as if struck by sudden death. As he
lay on his side, his beak was pressed closely to his chest. I immediately
cradled him. My heart was racing—what happened? His eyes were open. A
44
soft whimper. He was alive! I instinctively picked up his still body and gently
brushed his chest feathers away from his beak. Was his neck broken?
Byrd's entire lower beak, the entire lower mandible, was embedded in
the skin of his chest! While preening his chest feathers, the paper snap must
have startled him as he preened in a downward direction. What had I done?
There wasn't time to further scorn myself. Immediate action had to be taken.
I gripped the exposed portion of his upper beak, and millimeter by millimeter,
worked his beak straight upward. His neck, already tight from the stress,
had to be under intense pressure. Bright scarlet glistened from the beak
being pushed from his chest tissue. Byrd was silent as I worked firmly, but
ever so slowly. After a minute or so, the final portion of his blood-smeared,
lower beak slid from his chest. He straightened his neck, then stilled. After
I kissed him repeatedly and petted him with my free hand, I set him on the
floor carpet. He stood perfectly still, as if in shock. I let him be, not knowing
what to expect.
Should I disinfect the wound? Stroud's book recommended to leave
open wounds alone. A bird's high body temperature kills most bacteria or
does not provide a fertile breeding ground. I reasoned that further handling
and the application of peroxide may also increase the shock of the incident.