THROW AWAY BIRD
 By Lorrie Kinney
  A True Story

he little bird awoke in his shell. Instinct told him it was time. With much effort, he emerged into a warm sterile world. A machine had hatched him. Instinct told him there should have been more. Exhausted from his efforts, he dozed. His little lungs filled with warm moist air as he dried. A sudden noise started him awake and cold rough hands picked him up. Frightened, he didn't take notice of the cold air as he was transported to somewhere else. He peeped with uncertainty but no one answered. In this new place, there was light and warmth. He heard the peeping of others like him but he couldn't feel them. He peeped back. Still tired, he slept a dreamless sleep.
After a time, instinct told him he was hungry. He struggled to sit up, stretching his neck and peeping. But there was no one there. He kept peeping. Instinct told him something would happen but nothing did. Once again he was exhausted and he slept. After a time, gentler hands picked him up. A soft voice rumbled near him and he took some comfort from the sensation. Fingers pressing against the sides of his beak awoke instinct again and he begged to be fed. Warm fluid filled his beak and crop as he chugged on the stone-hard vessel which fed him. He wasn't sure it was but instinct told him it should have been something more.
Time went on and feeding came and went. Days went by and the little bird grew and grew. Soon he was placed with other like him. How comforting to feel the soft warm flesh of clutch mates. All the little birds cuddled together, contented by the presence of others. Feedings came and went.
Days went by and all the little birds grew and grew. One day the feeder came. The little bird sat up, stretching his neck as high as it would go, trying to out-cheap the other babies so he would be fed first. As the feeder approached, he saw her for the first time. She smiled at him and cooed, "Look who's eyes have opened today. Come on, step up." She picked up the little bird and talked softly to him as she fed him. Once full she quickly placed him back in the tub and turned her attentions to the other babies. Instinct told him there should have been more attention.
The days went by and the little birds feathered. Instinct told them many things. They practiced flapping their heavily laden wings to gain flight muscles. They sampled and played with the hard dry food which was placed in their tub daily. They tried perching on the little stick which was placed in their tub. Curiosity caused them to play with the brightly colored rings which had been slipped onto their legs. Days passed. The feeders came less often.
One day, a man came and took the babies out of their nice warm tub where they had been safe and secure. He put them in a cool airy cage. The babies looked around, unsure of what to do. But soon they realized there was much more room. They stretched and flapped, chirping with glee. The explored their new surroundings and tested everything with their beaks. Soon instinct told them it was time to fly.
One day when the feeder had the cage door open, the oldest baby slipped out of the cage and beat his wings as hard as he could. The little body lifted with ease and the baby flew around the little room with glee. "That'll be enough of that!" the feeder exclaimed. She quickly retrieved the baby and restrained him in her hand. She called for the man who quickly came in. The little bird watched as the two people clipped the baby's wings. The pitiful little squeaks from the older baby scared the little bird. He didn't know what was going on. A little ruffled and shaken up, the oldest baby was placed back in the cage as another baby was pulled and subjected to the same treatment. The little bird quaked with terror and hid in the darkest corner. But soon he was snatched and restrained. One wing was unceremoniously pulled out. Snip went the scissors. The man had such a tight grip around the little bird's body that it was hard for him to breathe. The other wing was pulled out. Snip. The little bird was thrust back in the cage, dazed. After a little while he tested out his new wings. It felt different. Instinct told him he couldn't fly now.
Many days passed. The feeders came even less. Instead of the warm fluid food, the feeders put bowls of hard food and water in the cage for the babies. Once a day, they also put a bowl of soft warm food for them to eat. Pretty soon, the feeders didn't give them warm fluid anymore. The little birds kind of missed that but instinct told them not to worry.
Much time passed. The feeders came by periodically and taught the little bird to "step up" onto their hands. The little birds were happy and content in their cage and their way of life. One day, the man came and put the babies in tiny wooden boxes with a screen on one end. Each baby was placed in a different box. The little bird was scared. He could no longer see or feel his clutch mates. The boxes were placed in a truck with many boxes with many different birds. The little bird looked in amazement at all the other birds. Some were bigger, some more colorful. But the little bird was still scared, as were the other birds. There was the air of apprehension amongst this large flock. Instinct told him to beware, something bad was happening. Doors closed with a rusty squeak and the flock found itself in darkness. Nothing to do now but sleep. The truck rumbled. The thrumming sound became comforting to the birds. When it stopped, they all became silently alert, waiting for the bad thing to happen.
After much time, the truck stopped. The doors were opened and boxes were taken out. The doors closed. The truck rumbled. The flock waited for the next bad thing to happen. Several more times the truck stopped and boxes were removed. The little bird watched with fear as terrified birds disappeared. The little bird wondered when he would disappear.
Before long, the truck stopped and the doors opened. The little bird saw the man look down at him and he knew he was about to disappear. The man grabbed the box the little bird was in and whisked him into a building along with several other boxes. The little bird looked out into a brightly-lit building with many colorful things. Another man looked in on the little bird. "He'll do," the new man said. Other things were said but the little bird was too afraid to pay attention.
After a short time, the box was opened and the little bird was dumped into a plastic box with a few holes on the top for air. The little bird looked through the plastic at the new man who returned his gaze., "You should go quickly," smiled the man and he left. The little bird looked around. There were wood chips all over the bottom of the box. There was a little wooden ladder propped up against one side of the box. There was a bowl of seeds and a bowl of water. The little bird scampered over to the ladder and perched on the bottom rung. He looked sadly around. He was alone. There were no other birds for him to snuggle with and be comforted. The little bird fluffed his feathers and nestled his bill in his back. Dejected and depressed, he slept.
Everyday people would come by and look at him. Children would press their noses up against the plastic. Some would hit the plastic trying to scare the little bird. Sometimes people would take him out and pass him to the other people.
Many, many days passed. The little bird would sample the lettuce but instinct told him it still wasn't enough. One day, there was a man and women who looked in on him. "He's so pretty." The woman said. The man said, "Are you sure you want a bird?" "I think a bird would be the easiest pet for us to take care with our schedule. And the cheapest....they don't need medical care." the woman replied. "Okay." the man replied doubtfully. The man told one of store people that he wanted the little bird.
They helped the people picked out a small cage for the bird with bowls for water and food. The people picked up a big bag of seed and put it in the cart with the cage. The store person took the little bird out of the cage and stuffed him into a tiny cardboard box with tiny little air holes, "You're finally going home." the store person smiled. The little bird peered out of the air holes watching where he was going. He was scared but a little excited about going somewhere new. The little bird was taken to an apartment. His new cage was set up with a wooden dowel perch and bowls of seed and water. The people opened the box and dumped the little bird into the new cage. He looked around and climbed up onto the perch. He peered out at the two people looking at him and smiling. "Do you have a name for him yet?' the man asked." Hmmm, I really haven't thought about it." the woman replied. "Well, you'll need to call him something." The people walked off and left the little bird alone. He fluffed his feathers and buried his beak in his back.
The little bird felt the cage shake as the woman opened the door and hesitantly put her hand in the opening. "Come on out, baby." she coaxed. The little bird just looked at her unsure of what to do. As the hand approached, he put his beak out to touch the hand. The woman quickly withdrew her hand squealing, "Don't bite me!" The little bird was puzzled by her reaction. She looked at him sternly and shook her finger at him. Now the little bird put his beak out to take hold of the hand so he could step onto it. The woman quickly jerked her hand out to of the cage and slammed the door shut. "BAD BIRD!" she yelled and stomped off. The little bird was bewildered. He didn't understand.
This happened several times over the next few days. Periodically, the man would look in on the bird and say a word or two. The little bird heard the man tell the woman, "What good is having a pet if you can't pick it up?" "Baby is just scared. He'll straighten up in a few days." she replied huffily. The man shook his head and walked away. The little bird watched and didn't understand.
After many days, the woman finally had enough courage to let the little bird take hold of her finger with his beak. He grabbed a hold and started to put one of his feet on her finger when she flinched. Afraid of falling, the little bird hung onto the finger a little harder. The woman shrieked and yanked her hand out of the cage with the little bird attached. The harder the woman shook her hand, the handler the little bird clung afraid of falling. Finally, the woman shook her hand so hard the little bird when skidding across the floor. The man came running into the room. "What happened?" "That little monster bit me!" screamed the woman and she examined her bruised finger. "That's it, the bird is going back." the man stated. The woman looked at him and then at the little bird and nodded her agreement. The man took a towel and threw it over the bewildered little bird. He lifted him and placed him back in the cage. The little bird sat forlornly on his perch, fluffed and disheartened.
The next day, the man took the little bird back to the store. "The bird is nasty and vicious." the man told the storeowner. "We can't handle him." The storeowner peered into the cage at the little bird with a disgusted look. More words were said and the little bird soon found himself in the same plastic box he had been in before.
Days and days passed. People came and went. He was poked and prodded, grabbled and jostled. The little bird soon learned that if he did bite people they would leave him alone. The store people began calling him "Tyson" because he bit everyone. The little bird was sad and despondent. It seemed that no one understood him.
One day, he heard a soft voice call to him. He stirred from his slumber. Looking out, he saw a bearded man who smiled at him. A woman stood next to him also staring at the little bird. For some reason, he liked the woman. "He's a little Meyer's Parrot." the man said. The woman smiled tolerantly and said, "He IS pretty but we already have enough birds. Besides, we never planned on getting a Meyer's." "But he's so lonely in there. He needs a home. Look, they're feeding him seeds." the man whined jokingly. The woman laughed and pulled the man away. "We said we'd never buy a bird from a pet store. Besides they want too much money for him." The little bird watched the woman leave. He whistled and chirped to draw her attention but she just walked away. The little bird watched her leave and heaved a sigh of depression.
Days passed and the couple returned a few more times. Each time smiling and talking softly to the little bird. When the woman bent close to his box he would climb down off the ladder and get as close to her as possible. Often he would bow his head down for her to scratch it not realizing she couldn't reach through the plexiglass. The woman eyes sparkled with delight each time she watched him but she always left without him.
Then one day, several children came running up to his box and pressed their squealing, excited faces up against the plexiglass. The bird was startled right off his little ladder. He looked up at a mean looking woman, who pointed a finger at the bird and said, "Is that the one you want?" The children screamed in unison, "Yes!" The woman grabbed one of the store people and said, "We'll take that little bird." The store people helped her get a cage and some seed. The little bird peered at them with apprehension. Soon he was grabbed and thrust into a little cardboard box. He knew something bad was about to happen.
In his new cage he watched with apprehension as the squealing, screeching children crowded around his cage. Their chubby dirty fingers poked at him through the bars. The little bird was scared. He didn't like this place. The mean looking woman came over screaming, "Alright leave the bird alone! It's time for dinner." The little bird sighed with relief as the pack of squirming children left reluctantly. A little while later, the children returned, yelling and carrying on as they played near his cage. The bird watched with dread as the kids teased and tormented him. They rough-housed, sometimes jostling his cage. After a time, the bird's foreboding was well founded as the rambunctious children knocked his cage over. The little bird screeched with terror as his world tumbled from the table, seeds, and water going everywhere. The woman came running into the room yelling at the suddenly quiet children. "LOOK WHAT YOU'VE DONE! LOOK AT THE MESS! WHO'S GOING TO CLEAN THIS UP?!?!?!" The children slunk away like wounded puppies. The woman snatched the cage and set it back on the table, unaware that she had caused the little bird to fall off his perch again. She chased after the children as the little bird cowered at the bottom of his cage.
After a few moments, the furor died down and the woman and kids disappeared to the furthest part of the house. The little bird finally came out of his catatonic state and climbed up onto his perch. He shivered. He didn't feel well. He smoothed down some of his broken feathers and fluffed up, half closing his eyes. He was traumatized. The woman returned a little later and grumbled as she vacuumed up the mess. The little bird was too despondent to even notice. A man came into the room. "What's this?" "Some kind of bird." the woman snapped back. The lights were turned out and the little bird fell into an uneasy sleep.
Over the next few days, the children were more careful around his cage but they continued to tease and torment him. The man would sit near his cage and smoke while he watched TV.
Soon the little bird began whistling and chirping as the kids played nearby. The louder the kids got, the louder the bird got. The louder the bird got, the louder the man turned up the TV. And so it continued daily. Finally one evening, the man beat his hand against the cage startling the little bird. "SHUT UP! I can't hear the TV!" The little bird looked at the man with puzzlement. Soon he was vocalizing with the rest of the "flock". The man struck his cage and yelled, "SHUT UP!" The little bird was quiet. But soon the squeals of the children got him whistling again. Exasperated, the man roughly grabbed the cage and stormed off with it. The little bird quickly found himself in a dark bedroom away from the family. He sat sullenly in the dark as he listened to the distant noise of his "flock."
The next day, the man took the little bird back to the store. "He's too noisy." the man grumbled at the store manager who looked at the little bird with disgust. Once again, the little bird found himself back in the plastic box.
Days and days passed. People came and went. The little bird didn't pay attention anymore. If anyone tried to touch him or pick him up, he would bite them. The store people still called him "Tyson."
One day a soft voice called to him. As if from a dream the little bird barely heard the voice. The voice was more persistent. The little bird cracked open an eye. There in front of his face was the woman with the sparkling eyes. The little bird immediately bowed his head down for her to scratch it. The woman laughed. The bearded man teasingly said, "He really needs a home." The woman just laughed, "Yeah right!" "Maybe we can get someone to let us hold him." the man looked around. A store person came up quickly and opened the box. "He bites." the store person warned.
The woman confidently put her hand out and commanded, "step up." Without hesitation, the little bird stepped up onto the woman's hand. She pulled him close and scratched his head and cheeks. The little bird closed his eyes in delight. The man came up and tried to pick up the little bird but he nipped the man. He wanted to say with the woman. The store person pointed to another bird and said, "This one's friendlier." The woman shook her head and continued to pet the little bird. "We can see whose bird he's going to be!" the man joked. The woman stopped scratching the little bird's head and replied sternly, "We don't need another bird." While she stood there, the little bird began dancing around on her finger, turning his back to her and dropping his wings trying to entice her. The woman whispered in amazement, "I think he's doing a mating dance." The man laughed, "Alright." the woman said, "We have to go." She placed the little bird back in the box and the store person locked it saying, "He's been here a while." The woman looked at the little bird with pity as she left. The little bird watched her. When he could no longer see her, he fluffed up and slumped back into his melancholy.
Many days passed and the woman did not return. The little bird waited and watched for her but she didn't come. He was sad and depressed. He slept most of the time. No one really talked to him or touched him. He was alone. One day turned into the next.
"So how's my little Goober?" a voice called out from the fog. The little bird's beak was buried in his back. "Hey Goobie, it's me." The bird warily opened an eye. It was the woman! He could hardly believe it! And she was calling him by a name! Goobie looked at her as the store person opened his box and attempted to pick him up. The woman said, "Here, let me do that. Step up!" He stepped onto her hand as she pulled him from the box. The woman scratched his head and cheeks. Goobie closed his eyes in ecstasy. The bearded man looked at him and put his hand out, telling him to step up. Sensing that today was different, Goobie stepped onto the man's large hand and let him scratch his head.
The woman turned to the store person and said, "We'll take him." The store person started telling the woman about Goobie's life - why they named him Tyson, how he had been sold twice and brought back for being bitey and noisy. The woman shook her head in disbelief at the ignorance of people. This time when Goobie was thrust into the box, he didn't mind. He clung to the side of the box looking out and whistling with glee. The woman peered back at him and smiled.

When they got into the car, the woman took him out of the box and let him watch while they drove home. He continued to whistle and dance for the woman, who giggled with delight. When they reached home, the woman put Goobie back in the box and took him into the house. He heard the sound of other birds as he was whisked into a brightly-lit spare bedroom. The woman opened the box and placed the bird in a cage with brightly color toys, natural branch perches, a water bottle and food bowl. Goobie's eyes focused with excitement as he perused all the new and wonderful things for him to play with. He checked out the food bowl and noticed the seeds he was used to seeing but there were also other things in the bowl which he vaguely remembered. Pellets! Goobie grabbed a brightly colored pellet and began crunching on it. Instinct told him that he would be alright now. The woman and man smiled at Goobie. "You'll have to stay in here for a while until the vet checks you out and we make sure you're alright. Then you'll be able to join the rest of the flock." Goobie, contented, chomped on his pellet and listened to the woman's soft voice. They left him alone for a while and he explored his new and entertaining surroundings.
After a short time, the woman returned and told him, "Good night, little one." She covered his cage with a sheet and turned the lights out. Goobie settled onto a high perch and ground his bill as he drifted off into a pleasant sleep.
Days passed and the man and woman spent much time with the little bird. They took him to the vet who gave him a proper check up. It was a little uncomfortable but Goobie didn't mind because the woman cuddled him afterwards. He actively played with his toys and ate his pellets. He was given an array of legumes, vegetables, and fruit daily that he relished greatly and looked forward to every morning.
Days passed and passed. One day, the woman came in and told him, "Okay, Goobie. It's finally time to meet the rest of the family." She took him out of his cage and took him into another much larger room. There the little bird saw many different birds, some larger than him, some more colorful. The woman took him to each cage and introduced him to the occupants. Then she walked over to a large spacious cage, which was empty. "This is your new cage." the woman told him. Goobie excitedly stepped into the cage. There were lots of new toys, all different sizes, and shapes. He didn't know what to play with first! But soon he was lost amidst the jungle of wood, leather and plastic, biting this and chewing that. The man and woman sat and watched him and the rest of the flock. The sounds of avian contentment murmured through the room and the people were content.
As bedtime approached, the woman took Goobie out of his cage and scratched his head and cheeks. He closed his eyes and basked in the woman's adoration. She put him to bed, promising to let him out on his new play-perch the next day. As she covered his cage, Goobie climbed up to the highest corner perch and settled in for the night. He lifted one leg into his slightly fluffed up feathers and ground his bill in contentment.
Finally, at last, Goobie was home for good.
[The story of Goobie is mostly true. He came to live with my husband and me this past year. He was about 2 years old when we got him and he had been sold and returned several times for being too noisy and bitey. The pet store where we bought him did name him "Tyson" because he bit everyone. But in the proper hands, Goobie has become an absolutely delightful companion bird! He constantly amazes me with his antics and intelligence. He's even learned to say his name! As for noisy, those people who returned him have obviously never heard an Eleanora Cockatoo in full "play mode!"]
If anyone would like to reprint this just give credit to Lorrie Kinney along with her email address dragonet@anv.net

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