Our house is quieter today than it has been in a long time. There is no chirping, sweet voice in the background, calling out, "Hello?" whenever the phone rings. There is no scolding "No!" when the dogs misbehave. There are no happy little tunes, fragments of songs, accompanied by impromptu dance solos.
We lost our parrot, Barney, today. He was twenty-two years old, young in parrot years. Just Sunday, he was his cheerful, wonderful, mischievous self. And now, suddenly, he is gone.
Sunday afternoon, we noticed an odd little sac underneath his beak, that looked like it was filled with fluid. There are no avian vets available on nights and weekends. He seemed OK, so we waited until the next day. At our regular vet's on Monday, they checked him out and put him on antibiotics. Yes, there was some bacterial infection there. They didn't know what had caused it. An injury, perhaps? They sent us home with medicine, and we hoped for the best.
On Tuesday morning, Sabrina left early for work, at 4 a.m. When I was getting ready to leave at 9 a.m., I checked on him. He was clearly very weak. Our regular vet was not available. We arranged to meet another vet in Santa Rosa, and the two of us met up there at 11:30 a.m. By that point, Barney was dehydrated, frail, barely moving, unable to hold onto the perch. The vet guessed maybe a cat scratch was the culprit, since the bacteria from a cat's claw can be lethal to birds. They put him in an incubator, rehydrated him, started tube feeding and antibiotics, and told us it would be a couple of days before we would know anything.
At 4:30 p.m., we got the phone call that he was gone. Just like that. The worst part for both of us, I think, is that we weren't there with him. You have to understand. Barney is like a small human, a little person. He mimics the way we walk, apes our language, says, "Ahhhh," when we kiss each other. He loves to cuddle. He has a huge, Barney personality that has framed our whole household.
And now, we have an empty cage sitting in the corner of the living room. Every time I walk by it, I turn to look at him, to say something to him, out of habit, only to remember once again that he is not there.
He would have wanted to be held. He would have wanted to lie against Sabrina's chest, feeling the beat of her heart. He would have wanted to coo softly to us one last time.
Ah, the hurt of loss! The price of love.