Change is hard

He’s an old man now.

His feet are puffy and red. The skin on his face is thin. His feathers, however, are still vibrant green.

Three weeks ago, I walked into my small macaw’s room and flipped the light in the dark, looking for something or other. One of his eyes stayed shut. I wondered if I’d caught him half asleep. I turned off the light.

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A day or so later, I took him outside on his perch and set him near the edge of the pool. I lowered myself into the water, making our faces level. I noticed the redness in his eye. An infection? Or did he just poke himself. I should really cut his nails..

It seemed to clear up on its own until, two weeks later, I found him with an eye glued shut again. “Oh no, Bird bird!” I put warm water on a paper towel and gently touched it to his eye. It opened.

I thought about cancelling my vacation. This vacation I have been preparing for since I bought my ticket in February (and probably even before). Bird bird has been with me since I was 4, and he was a year old. That makes him 22. That makes him old. Could I live with myself if the combination of this illness or infection and his loneliness from missing me combined to cause his death? Birds are known to die of heartbreak. And colds.

I took a shower with him. He gratefully leaned into the warm mist. He does not usually like to be touched with fingers (4-year-olds aren’t the greatest at teaching birds to enjoy petting) but he let me gently rub his face with one of mine, oh so carefully wipe away the gunk in his eye. He is finally starting to trust me, to really trust me.

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Ultimately, I decided I couldn’t make a decision without more information. I scheduled a visit to the vet. I prepared a box lined with towels in the passenger seat next to me. He made sounds of fright, and so he rode the 20 minutes on my shoulder. He hasn’t been in a car since we moved to San Diego.

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I don’t know how I know he’s grouchy. His noises change. He gets nippy. He doesn’t want to be moved. The car ride made him grouchy. But he’s a good bird and weighing him at the vet office was easy enough. 145 grams. (I am so desperately in love with a being that weighs just 145 grams.)

The vet said his feet are perhaps just puffy because they are “old man feet.” She trimmed his nails. She suggested a soft rope perch. And he probably has conjunctivitis. For her opinion and a tiny tube of ointment, I willingly pay $110. I go home with hope that I did the best I can. Not hope about his lifespan.

I know he will die someday. I didn’t realize, however, I would recognize him growing old. I thought that, like many birds, he would die suddenly after having hid a simple cold from me. By the time you find them on the bottom of their cages, it is often too late.

His feet are strong enough to cling to his perches. They are strong enough to climb on top of the shower rail. Yet, nails trimmed, he could not cling so strongly to my fingers. Not like when he was young.

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