This week a sad goodbye was said to a wonderful friend of 28 years; Arco our Timneh African Grey parrot died suddenly. The lessons this bird taught me were significant.
28 years ago I adopted a little grey bird that was afraid of everything. Her previous home was a tiny cage for a bird her size in a house that didn’t seem to care much about her, her previous home to that was Africa. Our little bird was a wild bird someone trapped and sent to the U.S. to be sold as a pet.
With love and patience, this scared little bird became a dominant force in this household. She was a ferocious guard dog, she was a non-stop comedian. She never trusted other people (just us), and she never trusted a hand getting close to her. We happily accepted her quirks and she accepted ours.
Tuesday, rather suddenly, Arco became a pile of feathers in the bottom of her cage. Even though we knew it was a risk (from the stress), we gathered our little girl up and took her to the vet. She made it there, but she was crashing. She got out one growl and that was about it. After her passing, our vet asked if he could perform a quick autopsy. He is a true scientist and is always wanting to learn. An autopsy helps him (veterinarians) with future diagnosis. We agreed and waited for her. From that autopsy we learned our girl had a disease that was unheard of in her circumstances. She had a disease that is only transmitted bird to bird – yet she has only been exposed to one other bird, our other bird – for the past 18 years. A disease that would have killed any other bird quickly, our vet believes she lived with for at least 18 years – perhaps her whole life.
And then came the tough question – our vet asked for her body to send to a research scientist studying this very disease.
That was a hard decision. Part of me wanted to say no and take my little girl home and bury her. But the other part of me wanted to help other birds. We agreed but agreed on our terms. Her tissues will go for research, her body came home with us.
I cannot explain how grateful I am to have a veterinarian (Dr. Joel Murphy) that pushed to autopsy. To know why, to know what Arco was dealing with and what took her from us – gave us comfort.
My heart is still aching, but I will never forget the life lessons this little bird taught me. Never give up, make compromises only with people that earn your trust, and fearlessly fight for what you believe in.
I so hope her death can save others. She was one determined little bird – I think she just might.