Pern’s Big Adventure

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Ben and Jacqui were lobbying hard for a pet they could play with, as fish are no fun at all. They did research on birds (something I might not be allergic to) and even talked with friends of ours who handrears wild birds. They worked on me for several months; we finally went to the bird store in April and adopted our little guy when he was about 12 weeks old. He was a Millennium egg, and we’re calling his birthday Jan 2, 2000. He’s adorable, and we named him Pern, because he leaped onto Ben’s shoulder immediately after Ben got to the bird store. (Pern is a planet from a sci fi story where the dragons (also raptor like) bond with humans immediately after birth).

Anyway, we had quite the adventure with him this last weekend. I was on call and my weekend was really busy and tiring. I had little 25 week twins that kept me hopping, and then on Sunday morning, Dan let Pern escape outside the house. Pern always stays on Dan’s shoulders, and almost (the operative word here) never flies off of him. Dan has taken him outside briefly to get the mail and the paper on other occasions, despite my objections. Anyway, Dan was getting the paper Sun morning and had Pern in his usual place. The minute Dan stepped onto our front steps, Pern took off. He flew around the outside of the house twice with Dan chasing, before he lost him. Jacq was hysterically sobbing by the time they called me. Apparently they had searched the immediate area for over ½ hour with no luck. They had to leave for Jacq’s last soccer game and her end of the season dinner following the game. Jacq didn’t really want to go, but felt she should.

I was still at the hospital for another 1 ½ hours with my little ones before I could go home. I wandered the neighborhood, walking in concentric circles around our house, for over an hour, calling “Hellllooooo” (he responds to our calls with his own versions of our words. He can even imitate a phone ringing, then says ’hello’!). I called neighbors on my cell phone and recruited a few to help me. I called the bird store where we bought him; they had some advice and were very supportive and reassuring about his survival. Cockatiels get hungry and want their necks scratched so there was a good chance he’d fly to us if he could see us, or anything familiar. Unfortunately, they can fly for miles if they get high enough. I knew his pin feathers were not that long, as we keep his wings clipped (obviously they’d grown some!). I thought that he couldn’t get more than 10-14 feet up (if cockatiels get up to 60 feet, they can fly miles off the thermals), so I was hopeful that he was still in the neighborhood. I was listening so hard for his calls. There are a million birds outside, and I realized I was trying to sort out all their calls!

At one point I saw a black and white cat streaking across my path with something in his mouth! I was horrified that this might be my little baby. As I dashed after the cat, I thought I heard Pern’s distinctive cry. I was so relieved to hear it coming from a direction other than the cat’s! I ran across the street and into a neighbor’s back yard when I saw my sweet bird in the bushes in the back of the yard. He was squawking up a storm, scolding me for taking so long to find him. I ran to rescue him, and of course, startled him in the process, leading him to take off, flying over the fence between two yards and up to the lower roof of the house next door. Sigh. I sprinted around the yard, all the way around the fence in the yard until I could find the gate and tore over the back yard until I was under the slanted roof where I’d seen him. He was still there, sitting and preening his feathers in the sunshine, apparently without a care in the world.

Of course, the owners of that house weren’t home (I was banging on their window) so I called Dan (now at the restaurant for the soccer party) and urged him to come home as quickly as possible and get our extension ladder. I’d tried stacking the neighbor’s patio furniture, but I’m just too short to reach the roof that way! Of course, as I was waiting, Pern decided that he hated being on a slant. He kept looking at and through the slats of the railings of the porch above the living room. He sidled over to that area and then slipped through the railings. I lost sight of him, so quickly dashed to the side yard and clambered to the top of their wooden playset. I was standing on top of the highest 4X4’s in order to see him!

I called one of my neighbors with my cell phone from my precarious perch, and begged her to bring my extension ladder. She recruited another neighbor, who brought his step ladder. My neighbor asked if Pern would go to him, but I didn’t think so, so I climbed up. Of course, I’m so short that even standing on the top of the step ladder, I could just reach the top of the porch railing. I managed to hoist myself up and over, and then slowly walked to where Pern was nestled at the side of the house. I called “up!” when I got there, with my finger extended, and true to form, he clambered up to my finger. I quickly covered his wings with my hands so he couldn’t fly, then walked back over to the ladder. I handed Pern to my neighbor, swung myself back over the porch railing without looking to see where the ladder was first! I heard my neighbor saying, “a little further back!” and then felt for the top of the step ladder. Luckily my feet found it, or I’d still be dangling off the porch railing 20 feet off the ground!

I managed to climb down safely and took Pern from my neighbor’s hands. As I was walking down the street to our house, I saw Dan’s car driving towards me. He parked and hugged the bird and I together, as we went into the house. The kids of the neighbor who helped in the rescue all piled in the house to see the bird their dad had helped rescue! Very cute. I didn’t fall apart until after he was home safely, but I had a good cry at that point. Then off to Jacq’s soccer dinner, where I got a standing ovation!

So that was my rescue story and Pern’s Big Adventure. Jacq kept hugging me all night and calling me her hero. I’m just happy our little one is safe and sound. I kept imagining predators (cats, dogs, hawks, sea gulls) after him the whole time he was outside. Amazing anectdote hunh? Of course, our little guy’s wings were soon clipped by the bird store, and there will no longer be open windows or doors in his life…