It was August 23, 1992, the day Boogey (a black headed Caique) arrived from California at DFW airport, and my husband and I had driven to the airport to get our baby bird. The first time I saw him he was in a “birdie box” marked Fragile, Live Bird, This Side Up. I can still see his little black head bobbing around trying to peer out the top of the box. Shortly after moving into our house he took over our hearts. Last year, while we were on vacation, Boogey passed away. My husband picked him up from “Camp Summertree” and brought Boogey home for the last time. He was once again in a box, but there was no little black head bobbing around trying to peer out. Instead, he lay motionless, silent, and cool to the touch.
The years with Boogey will live with me all of my life. During these 18 years, there were the moments when he lived up to his breed’s reputation and was truly “a toot on the loose”. These moments were counterbalanced by the hours upon hours of pure joy when he was the sunshine of our lives.
I remember those early days when Boogey was on a self designated mission to explore everything in his new home. I was forever “on watch” and constantly asking this clumsy baby bird, “What are you doing, baby?”. Time passed, and one day I was in the kitchen noisily cleaning out a cabinet and Boogey clattered out of his cage and demanded of me, “What are you doing, baby?”. This was the first time I realized he could talk! He learned to say Boogey, good boy, good Boogey bird, good Boogey baby, Boogey you’re a baby, and to laugh and wolf whistle. Pretty good for a bird with a reputation for not being a good talker. (And if it sounds like I’m bragging, it is because, well, I am.)
Over the years he continued to amaze, surprise, and most of all, make me laugh. Even though my husband and I took proactive steps to thwart many of Boogey’s antics, I still have to laugh as I remember him sliding down the side of the refrigerator, climbing the curtains and hanging upside down from the curtain rod, shoving the telephone off of the hook, and throwing my car key into a flower pot for evidently being in his space. (Do you have any idea how hard it is to find car keys when they are in a flower pot?)
Just as his antics made me laugh, at times they made my heart stop and sent us rushing him to the vet’s office. An injection to control the swelling in his foot after he knocked over a towel rack, emergency surgery to repair a ruptured lung sack (to this day I have no idea how this happened), and three days in the hospital after he took an unauthorized road trip to the back of the house to “taste-test” the Damp Rid crystals. I still feel guilty about that one. Lesson learned.
For 18 years he had semi-annual well bird exams and his test results were always “clean”. He was a healthy bird. Then, one day I noticed he was slightly favoring his right foot. Within about three weeks he couldn’t put any weight on his left foot. Extensive tests and two sets of X-Rays indicated nothing directly wrong with his leg or foot. His vet suspected a tumor in his kidney was pressing on the nerve to his leg and foot. There was nothing that could be done to eradicate the tumor; the only thing that could be done was to give him anti-inflammatories to reduce swelling and control any pain.
Once on anti-inflammatories, Boogey’s foot improved considerably. In fact, on many days he seemed almost back to normal. For a year, we managed to convince ourselves that it was “just arthritis” and probably had not shown up in the X-Rays. When we left him for boarding at the vet’s while we were in Hawaii, we thought he would be much better when we return. Unfortunately, that was not to be the case.
After the fact, it took very little research to realize Boogey’s foot condition read like a text book example of avian kidney cancer. Though not confirmed by a necropsy, (I could not stand the thought of our beautiful bird being cut up like a chicken), his vet said that he, too, strongly suspected it was cancer.
Was there something I could have done to prevent, or even delay the cancer? Did I feed him the wrong pellet food? Was his diet too much pellet food and not enough fruit and veggies? Should I have been more diligent to be sure his fruits and veggies were all organic? Maybe I shouldn’t have cooked the veggies in the microwave. Or, maybe it was simply his time to go. I don’t know.
What I do know is losing Boogey is emotionally like having my heart ripped out, stomped on and put through a meat grinder. I know my husband was so upset when he went to get Boogey for the last time that he put his pants on backwards. Things have not been the same in our house without Boogey. During this time friends and co-workers have been wonderfully supportive. “Camp Summertree” sent a sympathy card, and the doctors and staff all took the time to write personal notes inside the card.
At some level, I will always miss Boogey. What I hope for myself is to get to the point where instead of crying every time I think, talk, or write about Boogey I remember all of the wonderful, happy, and fun times I had with him and re-experience this joy.
And what about Boogey? Is it all over for him? My heart tells me no, it isn’t. An inscription I saw in Hawaii expresses my hopes for Boogey. It read:
Still is the form,
Cool is the footprint.
It is now your time
Arise - Know you are forever loved
and fly sacred to the new dawn.