There is nothing like a good scare and a lot of blood to jolt your perspective into the present moment.
It is 1 a.m. and we just got home from the emergency animal clinic. Barney, our 18-year-old African grey parrot, took a nose dive off the top of his cage. I was going over to pick him up, and he scuttled away from me, startled, and fell straight to the ground.
Periodically he does fall - usually, he just gets ruffled feathers. I scooped him up and carried him over to his other perch, then went back into the kitchen, where Sabrina and I were heating up leftovers for a late dinner. I happened to glance down at my hand, and saw blood. At first, I thought it was from me - then I said out loud, "Barney!" and we both raced into the other room.
The fall had cracked the tip of his beak. He was bleeding profusely. Sabrina held him in her lap, applying pressure with a towel, while he screamed wildly. I ran for the phone, and started calling clinics. First I called Pet Care, the 24-hour clinic in Santa Rosa. They did not have a bird vet on duty. So I called Memorial Beach in Healdsburg (Barney's regular vet) and another vet in Rohnert Park. At both numbers, I got answering machines referring me to Pet Care. When I called the emergency clinic in Rohnert Park, they said they had no one available, and gave me a number for a clinic in Marin, nearly a two hour drive from here. I tried to find personal phone numbers of vets, but no luck. I called a couple of friends, to see if they had emergency vet numbers. No. So I called Pet Care again, near panic. Sabrina's hands were covered in blood, and the towel was getting saturated. Losing too much blood is a real fear with birds.
I convinced Pet Care to see him, regardless. Right after that phone call, the bleeding stopped. But we weren't sure how long that would last. We took care of all the other animals, grabbed a carrier and an extra towel, and headed out the door. At the clinic, the vet on duty had called the animal specialty unit in Davis to get advice. He examined Barney, gave him a shot with an analgesic, and prescribed anti-inflammatory medicine, telling us to check in with our regular vet tomorrow to see what else might need to be done. We drove the long hour home, momentarily relieved and breathing easier.
And then he started bleeding, again. I got on the phone, talked once more to the vet tech. She said there was nothing she could do - we just needed to keep applying pressure, and keep him as calm as possible. Fortunately, it was less severe this second time, and the blood flow stopped fairly quickly. He is now in his carrier for the night, covered, calm, and for the time being, safe.
In the six years that Sabrina and I have been together, we have been to the emergency room once for me, twice for her, three times for Barney, once for Dozer the cat (rattlesnake bite), and once for another cat, Ziggy, who did not survive a dog attack. Nothing brings home what is important in life more than those tense car trips to the ER, with someone you love in pain at your side.
It's not a pleasant way to wake up - but it works.