The namesake of this blog is an umbrella cockatoo named Junior. Junior picked me back in June of 1998, and we spent 15 years being best friends. But, when the baby came, Junior changed his mind and asked for a new home. Now he’s gone, off to seek new fortune, searching for a home he thinks he can be happy at. And I think he’s not wrong to seek that elsewhere, even if it does leave this blog with no mascot as well as no story.
When I got Junior, I lived with a woman who loved parrots and her two birds; but shortly Junior and I found ourselves on our own. That time surely started with some troubles — for the first three months it was just the two of us, Junior wouldn’t come out of his cage to me. He clearly missed his first mom at first, but soon we bonded and were hardly apart thereafter. For the next dozen years, I worked mostly for myself and was at home all day long most days; Junior helped me at my work, hanging out on my shoulder or roosting on my lap as I typed. Sometimes, for a break, he’d perch on a wall and caw back at the crows, or up and walk down then driveway and say hello to neighbors as they walked past:
It continued outside of the daytime, too. For fifteen years there was hardly a dinner I didn’t cook with Junior on my shoulder, looking on, or a pile of dishes I didn’t wash without the same kind of assistance. He’d stomp around the bed every morning as I got dressed, and, before that, perch on top of the shower door as I washed.
Yes, he loved to play with a q-tip, he’d run it through his beak, hold it in his claw, and delicately remove the cotton.
And, of course, there were tons of cuddles: there’s little a cockatoo loves as much as being held closely and stroked softly. He’d make little clacking noises with his beak and whisper sweet words like “good” and “pretty bird” and “gimme a kiss”
The story obviously is: we spent a ton of time together, which a super-social, attention-hungry bird would love. And we were blissfully happy. He fell in love with my bride from the first time he met her, and he even loved her little pup (sadly, not reciprocated). When we got married, the new family suited him well.
But then I got a new job, full-time at an office, and we got a new pup to be friends with the first one. Maybe, in retrospect, I can see Junior getting a little less happy back then. There were a few cranky mornings when he didn’t want to come out and help me shave and brush my teeth, and a few evenings when he just would rather be in his cage than feed the dogs or do the dishes. I didn’t think of it at the time, but I also didn’t find any extra time for the bird.
Nonetheless, when we moved to the new place, we seemed happy. The whole house was in some disarray for a couple of weeks after we started the move — a very last-minute thing undertaken with an 8-months-pregnant wife, as we belatedly concluded that our little bungalow wouldn’t fit a family of three — so the bird actually boarded for about three weeks around the move. With everything barely under control, I’ll admit to having had some nerves picking him up: Junior is a high-maintenance animal and I was worried that a brand-new schedule in a brand-new home would hardly accommodate him.
But he came home, and I thought we’d fallen in love again. I couldn’t believe how happy I was when we hung out, and he seemed to have good times too. Unfortunately, the honeymoon was short: soon the baby came along and I began to neglect everything except him and his mother. (In fairness to myself, I’d anticipated this and took delivery of a wide variety of new toys for him, to try to keep him happy until I figured out this kid thing and made him a priority again.)
Sometime in that, Junior stopped eating. You could tell he was sad: almost every day he seemed to want to be left alone. I’d coax him out of his cage, and we’d hang out, but rarely was it party time like it had been before. For six weeks I neglected him; then I suddenly noticed how skinny he’d become. And then I changed my ways. Every night we hung out, watched a TV show just us two, alone from the family. I made sure he joined me in every dishwash and every cook. We’d cuddle again and again. Even his days alone got fuller as I discovered that he loved Nick Jr. (I’d tried some “just for parrots” DVDs on him before and he’d hated them; I figured he didn’t like TV. Boy was I wrong!)
These were great times. The cuddles were adorable and Junior seemed happier. But he still wouldn’t eat. So we gave him fruit galore; a banana treat with one of us was fun, or a bite of apple, but a half an apple left in his cage would sit untouched until the flies found it. And he got skinnier, until you could feel his keel bone. That’s how you tell a parrot is skinny — if the keel bone sticks out. Never in 15 years had I felt Junior’s keel bone, but now it felt like a blade as I touched his belly.
One Thursday morning I noticed him shivering in what was already a warm day. He was clearly too skinny, and he was only getting skinnier. It was time to do something, to put him in a safe situation in which he might eat more and, at the very least, wouldn’t starve to death. We made plans to send him to a safe home. My lovely wife took responsibility for the baby for the weekend, and I was able to make those days all about Junior and me. We hung out constantly and did everything — washed the cage, took showers, had dance parties, did all the things. And then we were done; there was nothing more special that I could do to make the most of the time we had together. We’d done it all, and we had for fifteen years. It was time for him to go live someplace new, someplace great.
So we drove up to his vet, Blue Cross Pet Hospital in Pacific Palisades, and dropped him off in a nice big cage in a pretty room with a window. The Sammy Foundation is taking care of him now, and he’s put on plenty of weight and is doing great. He’s looking for his forever home I wished I could give him but didn’t. If you are thinking of a bird, or know someone who is, they couldn’t ever do better than this guy, my best buddy, Junior Bird.
Obviously, with no Junior Bird there can be no juniorbird.com. As I said earlier, the story has changed; and now maybe the site has changed too. This will be the last story here, ever. It’s a sad goodbye for the site, to go with the sad goodbye for the bird. But this plot line is done, and fortunately there is a new one to go on to. I’ll be back in a bit with a new site, about new stories. See you then, I hope!