I was a country girl when I was a kid. We had horses, some great barn cats and various dogs through the years – a great one, a mischevious one, two brainless ones and one who died much too soon. I went off to college, and then to my various apartments as a single girl. I really wanted a pet but my lifestyle was not dog friendly, I am allergic to cats and fish aren’t very snuggly.
A few days before Christmas 1994, my Mom and Dad took me out for dinner. We then stopped at a little business, and my Mom told me that she had picked out a bird for me. She had researched birds a lot, and determined the right breed and breeder to go with. We went into the shop and I met a young hand-fed Cockatiel. I also learned that a cage was already set up back home and all the toys and food were there too.
We took him back to my parent’s house for the Christmas holiday and we all took care of him there, but then I took back to my apartment. Much like having a baby for the first time, it was a bit nerve-wracking learning how to take care of the little bird. I asked myself:
- Is he eating well?
- He’s not eating vegetables, he’s supposed to eat vegetables. Why won’t he eat vegetables?
- I’m gone a lot, is he lonely?
- What should I name him?
- Why does he keep pooping on me?
It took weeks to name him, and finally the name came to me, “Louie.” At the same time my boyfriend dumped me, I was working as a waitress for less than minimum wage with a Bachelor’s degree, and to be truthful, my roommate was scary.
Louie was my savior at that time. He was a crabby little bundle of feathers, but we grew to understand each other. He could talk a little (“Good Morning, Louie.”), he could whistle a lot, and he loved to look at his reflection in the mirror. We took afternoon naps together before I would head to my work shift at five pm. He sat on my shoulder as I watched reruns of Dougie Howser, MD.
Louie was there through relationship drama, several roommates, meeting the love of my life, planning my wedding, moving far from home, buying a house and having kids. During all of that time I was his person. He hissed at my husband and children, he tolerated my Mom only when I wasn’t around, and would occasionally sit on my Dad’s head (where I am sure he had plans to go to the bathroom if I hadn’t quickly picked him up).
My son liked Louie, even though Louie would have bitten him if given the chance. He talked to Louie, tried to feed him and wished that he could pet him. They were starting to make some headway, but then in the Spring of 2010 Louie began to show his age with weakening and confusion. While his door was always open, he never left his cage any longer. One morning in July of that year he flew over to me to scratch his head. When he flew back to return to his cage he didn’t make it. I picked him up and he was gasping for breath. I held him for just a moment before he died in my hands. My then four-year-old son asked if he could finally pet Louie. I let him hold his limp body and he gently scratched Louie’s ear as he had seen me do so many times before.
Louie was a one of a kind chap who was there with me through some of the most significant moments of my life. I will probably never get another bird, but I so appreciate the 16 years he was here and he will always hold a special spot in my heart.