I took no further action, but kept Byrd under supervision. After perhaps
ten minutes, he hopped into the shadow beneath my desk. I rushed to the
refrigerator, searching for some of Byrd's favorite foods. He would not take
any. Apparently, he was still in an altered state of mind. I left Byrd alone for
the rest of the evening, periodically checking on him and dripping a little
fresh water on the side of his beak in order to prevent dehydration. The next
day, he was hopping and singing as if nothing had ever happened. A resilient
little bird.
I also retaliated against Byrd in a situation that he remembered for
the rest of his life. Byrd liked to watch over me, even in the shower. He would
perch on the shower head, enjoying the steam. Every now and then, he
would crap on me. One day, frustrated with his droppings, I filled my mouth
with water and shot him back. He bounded to the shower curtain rod. I shot
him again. He flew off, never to return to either place.
At first, it seemed like a good idea. He was no longer upsetting me as
I showered. But after a few days, I missed his presence. He cared enough to
watch over me. Did I cause him to feel rejection? Did he experience fear or
loneliness without my presence? Did he feel an absence of stimulation or an
absence of the joy that comes from the presence of someone loved? When
in the shower, it was easy enough for me to rinse off. Quick anger and pride
made me scare Byrd away. He was there for pure reasons, whatever they
were. If I could take back those moments, I would.
Of all these situations, I feel the most regret over the day that I forgot
to feed Byrd. Eating was always such a joy for him, particularly as a young,
growing bird. When I brought him to the kitchen table, his eyes lit up and he
squeaked for joy. My focused attention added to his thrill. When he could eat
from his yellow bowl, his beak would knife into it and he would throw his food
in all directions. He scooped up the scattered morsels minutes or even hours
later. Byrd continued to do this in his old age, even though he had difficulty
finding food outside of his bowl.
I barely recall the day, but I clearly remember the hollow feeling of
that day. I left for work in the dark of morning. The drive from Ravenna to
Cleveland was 60 to 75 minutes. Upon my return 10 hours later, Byrd was
not the jubilant featherball that I always experienced. He was not hopping
from perch to perch. He was still as a statue. Very few droppings were
on his paper. Then, the glaring absence struck me: no little, yellow food
bowl. I neglected to move his yellow bowl of soft, mynah bird chow from
the refrigerator into his cage before I left for work. Although I rushed to the
refrigerator, grabbed his bowl, dumped the excess water, stirred the now
waterlogged mush and shuffled the bowl into his cage, Byrd remained stiff
upon his perch. He refused to accept my food. I quickly diced fresh food for
him. He refused to eat that, too. Byrd must have been famished, but a feeling
stronger than the pain of hunger was roiling inside of him.
I neglected him. I neglected him and he knew it. In response, he was
angry, disappointed and confused. I always took care of him; but that day, I
didn't. What did he do to warrant such treatment? Byrd couldn't have realized
the extent of my work commute. Even as I whispered my daily “Goodbye,
Byrd. I love you,” only inches from his ear, he couldn't have realized that
the darkness of early morning blurred my vision to the absence of his little,
yellow bowl. He couldn't have realized that at times I forgot to take my own
lunch to work. Byrd only knew that he was hungry, expecting the satisfaction
of his hunger and the secure feeling of food in his bowl during his long wait
until my return. Satisfaction and security were missing that day. Byrd knew
only that food wasn't in his cage. I hadn't given it to him.
Regardless of those feelings, he forgave me the next day. I added
extra greens and fruit to sweeten his food mix, and Byrd indulged himself.
This next day forgiveness seemed to be Byrd's pattern. He remembered
transgressions, slept upon them and then moved on. Anger was only worth
the price of a day. A good philosophy to live by.
After my mishap, I permanently changed. I immediately began to soak
Byrd's food in a separate bowl. I placed a translucent coffee can lid on top
of that bowl and set it in the refrigerator overnight to soften in water. That
way, I could keep Byrd's little yellow bowl in the same, prominent corner of
my kitchen counter top—a yellow beacon that I would notice before I left the
apartment. That way, I was always reminded to transfer his food from the
refrigerator bowl to his little yellow bowl. That way, I never forgot to feed him
I talked to him soothingly, comforting him by repeating “It's alright, Byrd. I love you, sweetie.
It's alright, Byrd.” I kissed his soft back feathers. He was a baby again.
Man Plus Byrd
Since Byrd's fourth year of life, I worked a great deal of time from my home
office. In that time, I soaked up Byrd's affection, joined him in play and grew
to enjoy his odd habits. Perhaps, we were born with kindred spirits. Most
likely, good food, a big cage, my attention and the freedom to fly opened his
Enjoying a bath. Photo taken in fall 2004.
Byrd had his ways of showing affection, and those changed during
his maturation. In his very early birdhood, he allowed me to kiss and nuzzle
him. That fluffy down… Those big, brown eyes… Short beak with a squiggly
mouth line… Stubby wings… Tiny tail feathers… I kissed him from head to
tail, nuzzling him the entire time. Byrd just settled in my hand, soaking up
the attention as he closed his eyes. After months of maturation, he began to
squirm. Weeks later, he gently grabbed my nose, tugging back-and-forth with
his lengthening beak. Finally, he began to peck at my lips. Safe administration
of kisses and nuzzling were now reserved for his back. Even then, I kept my
eyes shut in order to avoid a possible peck to the eye.