the hat, her small chest heaving. As I walked to her, she lost her grip and fell
backwards. In a frenzy, Pinky pumped her wings, only propelling herself with
greater velocity toward the hardwood floor. She couldn't right herself. The
back of her head struck the floor first. Still on her back, she convulsed. Then
froze. She died before I could pick her up.
In an effort to substitute my attention for Byrd's company, I chased
her to exhaustion and to death. I cursed myself for not jumping to stop
her fall, for my absentmindedness, for my stupidity. Then, I wept out of
frustration and compassion. Did she ever feel loved? Did she die fearful and
broken-hearted? Pinky never cared much for me; however, she really liked
Byrd. He reciprocated by attacking her. Byrd's attacks on a parakeet as
vulnerable as Pinky were nothing short of sickening. But I had erred, forcing
a relationship between her and Byrd when it was highly improbable. My
intention at the time of Pinky's purchase was to eventually move her into
Byrd's cage. We would be a sweet interspecies family. I naively estimated
the powers of nature and upbringing.
I set her body in a sitting position on the chair next to Byrd's cage.
The next day, I buried her in a six-inch deep hole beneath the lilac bush in a
landscaped corner of my parent's back yard. Byrd didn't seem to notice that
she was missing. She was with us for under a year. Regardless, she had
some influence on him. He occasionally slept with his beak tucked under his
wing, just like she did. Byrd never practiced this habit before. His beak was
too long to make this sleeping position entirely natural.
I couldn't help but to feel a distance from Byrd. Memories  of him
crouching on top of his cage, waiting for her to fly—daring her to fly—as
he plotted to yank out her feathers in mid-air, left me conflicted. This happy,
passionate bird of mine still had the intent to kill—not for food—but for territory,
sport or to have me to himself. In retrospect, many have been surprised by
the violent actions of their own cats and dogs. Many more are surprised
by the violent actions that humans inflict upon our own species. We all are
capable of killing for territory, sport or passion.
In order for life to continue normally, forgiveness was in order. I had
to forgive myself not only for accidentally killing Pinky, but for bringing her
into our home in the first place. Perhaps, a wild bird is to be the only bird
in a household. I also had to forgive Byrd for his attacks upon her, whether
natural or not. And maybe, Byrd had to forgive me for bringing another bird
into his home and into my life. He wanted to be the only one to protect me;
the only one to watch over me.
The only time that I held Byrd was when I trimmed his toenails. He fussed during those moments
of restraint. No fuss today.
Someone to Watch Over Me
From the time that I first entered Byrd's life, the role of all individuals important
to him became mine. In turn, he became my protector, a guardian angel. He
became a someone to watch over me.
Byrd on the front room windowsill—one eye on me, one eye outdoors. Approximately 1996.
Perhaps, I encountered Byrd before he fully imprinted upon his
mother, father and siblings. Since he now depended upon me for regular
feeding and companionship, I became Byrd's everything. If a menacing crow
or hawk glided by the window, Byrd darted beneath my feet. When he was
mischievous, he pecked my toes and I would playfully chase him. When
hungry, Byrd made demanding squeaks while he stood beside my feet.
When he was amorous, he would jump on one of my feet and wiggle. I truly
became Byrd's everything.
In turn, he took it upon himself to watch over me. Like a faithful
watchdog, he followed me around the house. If I was in the kitchen, he
watched from a vantage point atop an open cabinet door or from below while
crouched at my feet. When I was on the toilet, Byrd kept guard from the sink,
from my knee or from a perch upon the waistband of the pants bunched
around my ankles. (And yes… sometimes he crapped in my pants.) When
I worked at my desk, he monitored me from my lap or shoulder, from inside
or on top of his cage, the back or legs of my chair, the nearby windowsill or
while snuggled at my feet.
Byrd kept a tab on me from a variety of odd vantage points. During
my yoga stretches, Byrd waited until I laid on my back and brought my feet
to touch the floor over my head. Then, he'd regularly fly from the top of his
cage to perch on my butt, staring at me from between my legs. One day, as I
practiced guitar, the bass strings suddenly muted. As I turned from my sheet
music, I found Byrd perched on the guitar neck. His claws were lopped over
the strings, deadening them. Byrd observed me from open cabinet doors, the
top of the lampshade, picture frames, my music stand, the light bar above
the bathroom mirror. If he could comfortably wrap his claws around any point
with me in an elevated line-of-sight, he perched there.
Duties didn't stop at night. Byrd began to sit atop my bedroom door
as I slept. He was my guardian angel, a vigilant sentinel warding off the evils
of night. His stalwart shadow was the last sight of my day. At first, he was
calm throughout the evening. I would wake at first light to him flying to the
windowsill beside my bed. He quietly waited there until I left the bed.
After a few calm nights, I startled to Byrd circling in a crazed,
blabbering flight over my bed. After turning a light on, he settled back atop
the door. After two more consecutive nights of these startles, I turned the
light off before going to bed and placed my hand at Byrd's feet. Since Byrd
never flew at night—most birds do not—he always willingly climbed onto my
hand in the dark. The best place for Byrd—and for me—was to have him in
his cage at night, even if the cage door was left open. I don't know why Byrd
awoke from his door top perch. Any of my nocturnal shifting may have woke
him. On the other hand, I regularly heard Byrd hop from his cage perch to