I got an email the other day from a friend informing me of the death of his scarlet macaw, Lola. It is a tragic ending to an already sad story.
My friend, Mark, rescued Lola from a dingy pet store basement in Michigan about 7 years ago. She was in horrible shape when he took her in. She was grossly underweight and suffering from malnutrition. Her beak was horribly deformed. She had pressure sores on both feet and could barely get around. Not a single toy embellished her cockatiel sized cage, though there was no room for her to stretch her wings as it was. So broken was her spirit, that she just sat quietly in the basement as if waiting to die.
When Mark heard through a friend of the suffering of this majestic bird, he decided to take action. Years earlier, Mark had endured the horror of watching his wife succumb to cancer. The hardest part of the ordeal for him was his feeling of helplessness to stop her pain and suffering. Saving Lola was a situation that allowed movement on his part and gave him a measure of control. In healing this broken bird, he was healing himself. Mark worked with Lola diligently to restore her health and repair her soul.
I remember the videos he sent to me and some others of this beautiful, (and still fully feathered) new bird. The vets had seen her through many of her health problems. Her beak had been repaired and her feet were on the mend. Though she was in a huge cage now adorned with all kinds of toys and activities, she was disinterested in everything around her. Although, she would occasionally watch the squirrels play outside her huge window with some curiosity, which lifted our spirits if not hers, because we knew that something was able catch her eye. Her depression was intense.
We pooled our thoughts and decided that Lola’s diet needed to take precedence over all else, and we put together a game plan. Step by slow, painful step, each goal set for Lola was met, and exceeded, and we would move on to another issue. This bird was truly, finally, on her way.
The years went by and Lola and Mark became inseparable. She would often accompany Mark on trips to the store. On this day, they were headed for the outdoor weekend farmer’s market in the parking lot of a strip mall nearby. He went there every Saturday, where both he and Lola were anticipated by everyone. Lola was always the center of attention, and Mark would beam with pride. She was healed. She was finally happy.
During the ride to the marketplace, Lola was sitting on her window perch in the car when it was broad-sided in an intersection. Mark was unhurt and got out of the car. He saw the broken window which held the perch Lola was occupying and panicked thinking that she had flown out. A few minutes later her found her body, neck broken, on the floor of the car.
Needless to say, Mark is devastated by the loss of Lola. We talked for a long time and he confided in me that Lola had healed him more than he had healed her. He was forthcoming in saying that while the end of this story is a crushing blow, he is forever grateful for the privilege of this experience and is humbled by having been a part of Lola’s story.
Mark asked me to share this story with all of you in the hopes that we can learn something valuable. In the midst of his grief, he asks that we NOT take risky chances with the lives of our birds by allowing them to travel outside of a carrier in a vehicle. Had Lola been secured inside a carrier, which would then have been secured by seat belts, she would have likely survived the crash.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.