Sunday, February 28, 2010

Last Trailer on the Right

As promised, I'm going to write today about my pet cockatiel, Vegas (that's her, left, on a particularly bad "hair" day!).  I read recently that if you want to increase your readership, you must never, EVER discuss your pets in your blog. "Who really cares about your dogs, cats, and lizards besides YOU, anyway?" they tell us. But I truly hope you'll humor me and read this anyway. Because Vegas' story is actually quite touching, and a lovely example of the amazing kindness of strangers.  I think you'll enjoy it...

Vegas' tale actually begins with that of her predecessor, my male cockatiel, Opie.  On Easter Sunday, a few years back, Alan was working in the kitchen while Opie sat on his shoulder (ALL animals, birds, and insects love my husband, that's discussed here.).

Just then, my father, who had just arrived for Easter dinner along with my mother, rang the doorbell and let himself in (he does this ALL the time!  I guess the doorbell part is just to "announce" that he's already coming in!).   The ringing doorbell, my father's loud "Hello!" and Trixie's subsequent barking all created the "perfect storm" to startle poor Opie.  In a millisecond, he jumped off Alan's shoulder and promptly flew over Dad's head and out the door.

I was panicked.  Opie had done this before, startled, then flew up on the curtain rod or on top of the cupboards.  He would always land there, then, still scared,  sit and wait for me to step on a chair, reach up, and get him.  He never seemed to figure out how to fly back to me, I always had to go and get him.

So, I knew I had to try and get him once again, impossible and daunting as the task appeared.  That entire day, I combed the streets of our neighborhood, scanning trees and whistling "Beautiful Dreamer."  This was the song he had learned to sing through a "cockatiel training" CD I had once purchased for him.  I was hoping he'd recognize the tune, respond and give away his location. Soon, I was on my bike, boom box secured in the front basket, blaring his "Beautiful Dreamer" whistling CD. I pedaled down every street, around every pond, scanning every tree and rooftop.  For days.  Nothing.

I was a mess.  The thought of my sweet, defenseless bird, scared to death, clinging to a tree branch and waiting for me to come for him, was maddening.  I just couldn't find him.  I put up signs with his picture on lamp posts, park benches, even our local gas station and grocery store. Surely SOMEONE had seen him. Still, nothing

I took out an ad in the paper:  "Lost: Male Cockatiel.  Grey with yellow head.  Sings 'Beautiful Dreamer.' Please help us find him."  The ad ran for two weeks, and we heard nothing.

Finally, Alan gently told me it was time to let go.  Tearfully, I agreed.  My only hope was that Opie was rescued by someone who decided to keep him, and if that was the case, I prayed his new owners were kind and loving to him.  If he did, in fact, meet with his death out there, then I prayed he was now happily residing on Grandma Simmons' shoulder, waiting with her for me to join them and scratch his cute head once again someday.  But, I truly missed him.

A short time later, I came home to this message on our machine:  "Hello my name's Cindy. I saw your ad in the paper, and I haven't seen your bird.  But I do know what it's like to lose one, and I wanted you to know how sorry I am.  Also, my husband and I breed cockatiels and we have a new clutch of babies that just hatched.  We'd love for you to have one, as a gift."

Before the message had ended, I was weeping.  I couldn't comprehend that so much compassion and generosity was being so lovingly offered by a complete stranger.  I can't tell you how much it soothed my sad, mournful heart!

I called Cindy back, started crying again, and told her I'd really love to come and see the new babies.  She gave me her address and told me to stop by any time.  The next day after work I pulled out the paper with her address and began to follow the directions she had given.  As I got closer, I realized the address was that of a trailer park.  Cindy and her husband lived in a cute, neat unit at the end of the row, on the right.  The tiny yard was beautifully decorated with flowers, bird baths, and feeders. A vintage, mint condition Harley Davidson motorcycle was parked out front.

As I pulled up, a middle-aged couple walked through the door of their screened-in porch and waved.  The man, probably in his early fifties, could easily have served as an extra in any biker movie.  He wore a red bandana tied over his head, thick, mutton chop sideburns, leather vest, and a silver hoop earring inserted through his pierced ear.  Cindy stood next to him in denim shorts and black t-shirt, hair pulled back in a pony tail.  Both of them were smiling.  I loved them immediately.   I walked up, introduced myself, shook their hands, and thanked them again for their kindness.  They explained that they had lost a bird of their own in a similar fashion, they understood how devastating it felt, and they wanted to help.

We talked there in the garden for a few minutes.  Cindy and John had married young and had two children of whom they were very proud. Their youngest had just left the nest, so they decided to move into this trailer park community and start breeding birds to supplement their income.

Cindy liked to paint (later she would show me the exquisite murals she had created on the walls of their tiny home) and John loved working on his Harley and taking care of his birds. After a while, John turned to me and asked, "Well, do you want to come pick yourself out a baby?"  I hugged myself and replied emphatically, "YES!!"

We stepped into the screened-in porch and I immediately became aware that I was standing in an aviary wonderland!  Cindy had painted a lovely tropical scene on the wall, and a giant cage, with plenty of room for flying, sat floor to ceiling in the corner. Dozens of colorful, happy, birds sat on perches, preened themselves, and chirped away inside. In another, smaller cage, huddling together for warmth, were five tiny, partially featherless babies.  I have often said that bird babies fall into the category of "so ugly they're cute," and these were certainly no exception.  John carefully lifted the latch on the cage and encouraged me to choose one and pick it up, assuring me it was OK.

I reached in, grabbed this baby pictured to the right, and fell immediately in love (who wouldn't? LOOK at that FACE!!).  I never held another.  She seemed content in the warmth of my hand and settled in contentedly while I scratched her prickly head.  I held her to my cheek, smiled at John, and said, "This one!"

I visited Cindy and John once, maybe twice a week after that, checking in on my baby bird, anxiously awaiting the day she was fully weaned and ready to come home with me.  Finally, the big day arrived.  I brought my carrying cage along with a sappy but heartfelt thank you note and gift (they flatly refused all of my many attempts to pay them).  It was a colorful wind chime to add to her collection hanging from her porch.  Cindy opened it, gushed and gasped and told me she loved it.  It seemed like such an uneven trade.  I gave her a noisy piece of metal to hang from her roof, she gave me a new member of my family and the solid reassurance that human compassion and selfless giving still exist.

I hugged them both, promised to stay in touch, tearfully thanked them for the thousandth time, then placed my new little girl in the car and drove her to her new home.  I sat her in Opie's old, recently scrubbed-down cage and stood back to let her get used to her new surroundings.  I stared at her for hours, trying to decide on a name.  She has this larger than normal cluster of head feathers, much taller than the ones you'd see of cockatiels shown in pictures and books.  I thought she resembled a show girl with a beautiful headdress and decided to call her Vegas.  She seemed to like it!

I learned later that Vegas' tall head feathers are actually considered a deformity in the cockatiel breeding community.  If I were to "show" her (yes, they have bird shows, just like dog shows!  Can you believe it?), she would be immediately disqualified for her gross abnormality.

But if you ask me, this plain, deformed little ball of feathers is the grandest, most beautiful creature on God's green earth.  She is the tonic for my aching heart, the answer to a prayer, and a constant reminder that kindness, generosity, and compassion still exist in this cold, hard world.  You'll  find them at that last trailer on the right...

Thanks for Reading!!

57 comments:

GregoryJ said...

That's a beautiful story. I like pet stories (with happy endings)
Such a wonderful couple that you met. Nice to hear they still exist.

lifeshighway said...

A wonderful story of the warmth and kindness of strangers. I like Vega's extravagant head dress. Every household needs a Deva.

THE OLD GEEZER said...

What a great way to start out my Sunday morning.
Your detailed description of your visit to the home where you picked up Vegas made me feel like I was on the trip with you.

Tell Alan bugs and insects love me too, especially fleas.
Mrs. Geezer says it's because I eat to much sugar and they like my sweet blood.

Thanks for sharing a great pet story.

Ron

Evonne said...

What a great story about how you got Vegas! And a great reminder that there are good people in this world.

Bossy Betty said...

Sweet story and what a cutie! I love pet stories on blogs! My cat "took over" my blog for four days once and she got more readership than I normally do!

Rachel said...

Umm... who said not to talk about your pets? (I'd get disqualified for mentioning my four-legged beast and the recent emergency dismount? hah)

Loved this story... selfless generosity is a beautiful thing - especially because it stemmed from understanding your loss. So glad you shared this story!

(And there's a whole 'nother lesson in the "being different is considered a deformity" part... I think Vegas is beautiful!)

Sylvia K said...

What a beautiful story!! It's so wonderful to know that there truly are people like Cindy and John! And what a beauty Vegas is! I love her "Vegas head dress"! Great way to start the day! Thanks! Hope your day is perfect!

Sylvia

Allison said...

She is such a pretty bird!

Eva Gallant said...

That was a cute story! Glad you have Vegas for comfort. Sorry for you loss of Opie.

Gucci Mama said...

I thought this was a lovely pet story! And this is in spite of a deep, perhaps irrational but very real, paralyzing fear of birds. Crazy, right?

Putz said...

you should never tell a story in a blog about a pet if you want any real readership, has anyone told you that beforee??????????????i like stephanie up above have an irrational fear of birds, did you ever see hitchcocks BIRDS????????the gucci mana is correcy and is not crazy, there are twoof us,i still would like to meet your dad to see if a naked man can really fit into any type of clothes like you say

Jaime said...

that was a great pet story. love vegas' funky hair.

Kellyansapansa said...

Another beautiful story! Pets are the most amazing friends in the world. To be honest, I'd rather read about pets than kids any time!

KathyB said...

You did such a fantastic job of writing out this story, Joan!!!! So beautifully told. Makes me love Vegas all over again. :)

Lynn Irwin Stewart said...

Well, if writing about my pets is a no-no, I'm doomed...

Along with our five dogs and chinchilla, we also have a Blue-crowned Conure...

B Sparkly said...

I've got a award for you at my blog:)
Anat

Natalie A. said...

This is a great story although I am very sorry to hear about your other bird! I can't imagine how that felt for you to never find him! I'm glad you have a new bird now! Keep up the pets stories! I love them!
Have a great Sunday!
Thanks for stopping by my blog as well today! :D You gave me a smile!

Green-Eyed Momster said...

Wow! I'm all teary eyed. That is quite a story of how you lost a bird but gained friends and a new pet! Somehow I can't find the words right now to describe how warm and fuzzy your story made me today.

Congrats and hugs!!

marylea said...

Such a great story! That is the cutest baby bird I've ever seen! How on earth did such a creature come into being!?? I had to do a double take because I thought it was a cartoon! I'm so happy for you that you have this new bird, and appreciate this heartwarming story of kindness. Thanks so much for sharing it here.

Shan said...

So sweet! And compelling! You almost had me running out to find a bird to add to our family... until I pondered my allergies. Are you still in touch with Cindy and John?
Oh, and I'm with the other commenters on wondering who the heck made up the no pet rule.

Melanie's Randomness said...

Ohhhh isn't she precious!!! =) awww what a sweet story. Sorry to hear about Opie. Life works in weird ways. Thats so awesome that the lady Cindy was so thoughtful & giving. Vegas is adorable. I love birds. Thank you for sharing this cute story!! =)

Thank you too girl for all your comments lately! Everything is doing much better! *hugs*

Kakka said...

Yeah you lost me blogging about pets - NOT. But could you please put a "you are going to cry' warning at the start of the post - LOL. We had 2 cats (separate times) just go missing and I know what a heartache that can be. They are part of your family and to feel you have failed them in some way is just heartbreaking. I love Vegas. How wonderful to find people like Cindy and John exists in this world - should give us all a little hope. Thanks for sharing xxx

Being Me said...

Beautiful story! I'm so sorry you lost your Opie. But look at the many gifts his leaving gave you. Reminds me of the saying "where God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window." xoxo

citymouse said...

Well, I don't know who "they" are, but I think you should write about whatever is on your heart and clearly Vegas is! This is an awesome story. It's so nice to hear something positive when everything else you hear is so doom and gloom. Thanks for sharing.

RN Mama said...

First of all, I admit that I hate reading people's pet stories.

However, you had me at "last trailer on the right." I just had to read on!

I loved it! I am extremely afraid of pet birds though. I used to work for Hospice, and one of my patients had 2 cockatiels. Those things would dive bomb me every single time I came in the door! Ironically, that lady lived in a trailer too:)

iheartbowheads.blogspot.com said...

oh I loved that story!!!!!!!!

Erin said...

This is such a WONDERFUL story! And who says pet stories suck and no one wants to read them??! I LOVE pet and animal stories!

Vegas is adorable! It is so touching that those kind people would have seen your ad and called you up like that. It is so nice to be reminded that there are people in the world that will do things completely out of the kindness of their heart, with no hidden agendas. This story made me smile and want to do something really nice for someone! : )

The way the story was told was eloquent : )

christy rose said...

What a beautiful story. I loved it! She is a very pretty bird!!

Dimes2Vines said...

That is such a sweet story!
I'm a new follower from fri follow!
Love to have you stop by and follow me!
http://dimes2vines.com

Mary@Holy Mackerel said...

What a great story! Very touching.

I've wanted to get a cockatiel for the longest time. Still might... :o)

Alice in Wonderland said...

Loved this story! I used to have a cockatiel, but then I gave him away because he was driving me up the wall by imitating the telephone ringing ALL the time!

Chell... said...

aaawww! What a fantastic thing for that couple to do! They sounded like a very awesome set of folks!

We had our Cockatiel for years...loved the little girl so much. There were so many times all the kids would be sitting around the kitchen table and we would start to laugh...silly thing learned to laugh with us. The best thing ever when the parents would get into a little argument and in the awkward silence "Baby" would startle my dad with it's laughter. hee hee!!!

Your Vegas is a cutie!!! :)

WhisperingWriter said...

What a sweet story.

You have a pretty bird there.

blueviolet said...

Awwwww...now I think you got the cream of the crop with that one!

The Dish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sinful Southern Sweets said...

No, I love this post. So glad you shared it. I really enjoyed it. It is hard to remember sometimes in our harsh world that there are still good people.

Darlene said...

I love seeing pets on people's blog and mine show up on my blog quite often. I LOVE your beautiful cockatiel named Vegas....so sweet. There are so many WONDERFUL people in this world and you definitely met two of them. Very heartwarming this early morning.♥

Kristin said...

Not talking about your pets?? Crazy talk! It think those who read your blog love to read about anything that you love...including fur babies. Meg posted about her kitties once and our readers were all over it!

Shrinky said...

What a beautifully written and heart-warming tale, I do firmly believe there are more good people in this world than there are bad. Vegas is adorable!

"And so our stories go..." said...

I love pet stories and well written. It made me miss my cat, Bumper.
Mary

Taylor-Made Wife said...

I love reading about other's pets. So take that blogging know it alls :) What a sweet story. I'll be honest- Im not a huge fan of birds as pets, but your story actually made me think "maybe it wouldn't be so bad". Vegas is adorable.

MindyMom said...

Cute story. Do you keep in touch with the couple?

Heatherlyn said...

It's a beautiful story. I love it when people reach out to strangers in compassion and love. AND I think the feathers on top are cute! :)

AB HOME Interiors said...

Aww what a great story. And I can SO relate to the bad hair days.

pixie13 said...

I think every one should blog about their pets, especially if there is a story like this involved. How wonderful that there are people like this in this world. And I think your Vegas is beautiful. Big hair is in, right? :)

Six Feet Under Blog said...

I always talk about my pets. Oh boy, I guess Ive been doing it wrong. Cute birds!!

Teresa Evangeline said...

So glad I found this. Love it. I enjoyed reading several back posts, also....

Deborah Ann said...

Oh, I so enjoyed your story! I never had a bird for a pet, but I would like to. What a blessing to be given a cockatiel from this compassionate couple! That makes this new family member extra special!

Iva said...

such a super story!!!

Yankee Girl said...

I loved reading your story! I don't write about my dog much, but I love reading animal stories.

Why is it okay to write about your kids but not your pets? I don't get it.

"Julie" said...

So sweet! I talk/blog about my puppy constantly, she's pretty much a human! Vegas is presh!

Sistertex said...

There are some very kind and compassionate people out there. I am so glad you connected.

Getting My Words Out said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE this story.
:D

Krista said...

This is so sweet. I'm having a hard time typing past this... gigantic... lump in my throat...

Lynne said...

Whoever said people shouldn't blog about their animals mustn't have read a story like yours. Loved it!

Helena said...

I feel that you really have a deep gift and love for your fellow human beings and animals. Not to mention that you can express it so beautifully!

Rebecca D said...

I love this story... as I read it tears were forming... so sweet and reassuring... It is a cold hearted person that would tell you not to write about pets... especially such a poignant, heartfelt story as this one. Thank you for sharing it.

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