I just had my hair dyed yesterday. I got rid of all of my grey roots. I had finally found a colour that I liked and my hair was still at that stage where it looked like I’d been to a human hairdresser rather than to a lorikeet frizzathon. I had chocolate in the house and no one needed me to do anything. I had no assignments due and I had at least 10 minutes to myself. Only two birds were awake and they were contentedly munching on a breakfast of pellets in their respective cages. So I made myself a lovely cup of hot coffee and sat down to enjoy it. Life was good.
My Blue and Gold Macaw has two types of agitated pacing. The first type of pacing says: “Let me out of the cage, I see you have coffee and I want to pull your hair and stop you drinking it.” That gets kind of annoying and I’m pretty good at ignoring it.
Then there is the second type of agitated pacing. As I sipped my coffee I became aware that this was the type of pacing that I was currently ignoring. This pacing says: “The world is ending, I am dying. HELP!” It’s a real mood killer that chocolate can’t fix. I put down my coffee. Something was very wrong with Fid.
The pacing was agitated and combined with him bobbing his head up and down. He was making a strangled gargling noise and holding his beak open. Every now and again he’d stop and scratch at his nostrils. Fid was choking and he had already reached the stage of panicking about it. A panicky bird is a bitey bird. A bitey macaw is no laughing matter.
This wasn’t the first time I’d been through this with Fid. He’d once had a piece of walnut shell stuck at the back of his beak that I couldn’t dislodge. So I knew the signs. That time I had to rush him to the vet but fortunately my awesome driving skills (ability to find every bump in the road) helped him dislodge it on the way. There was also the time I thought he’d swallowed a nut that had been helping hold his aviary together until he removed it. (He hadn’t – he’d just thrown the nut at the lorikeets and it took me a few hours to find it.)
Like a small human child, Fid can’t be trusted with anything small enough to choke on. The thing was, I was pretty sure I’d choke-proofed his cage and toys. I had no idea what I was dealing with this time.
I got Fid out of his cage and forced him into the bathroom with me. I turned the shower hot tap on full and slammed the shower door shut. It meant the shower was filling the room with steam. Not fast enough for my liking so I hauled out my hand held steam cleaner; I grabbed tape out of my first aid kit, and taped the on trigger in to the on position. I left the machine pumping steam, sitting it out of the way in the empty bathtub. I then turned my attention to Fid, who was on the ground still clawing at his face.
Prying his beak open, I peered down into his mouth. I could see he had a pellet lodged at the back. Sticking my little finger down after it. It took a couple of goes but I managed to catch the pellet with the tip of my nail and flicked the now very slimy pellet free. Fid immediately crunched my finger as reward for my effort. (Who needs a little finger anyway – right?) Mucus from Fid’s mouth (he’d been regurgitating trying to dislodge the pellet) and the steamy room had helped soften the pellet just enough to help me get it out.
Fid’s breathing was still far from normal. He had a horrible crackling wheeze. So we sat in the steam filled room for about 15 minutes while his breathing gradually calmed. He was doing the whole sooky “the pellet tried to kill me” routine. Fluffing out his face feathers at me as he sat in my arms. Luckily his breathing did normalise. I knew he was ok when the box of hair ties I had sitting on the bench caught his eye. All hair ties must die. I can’t tell you what a relief that was.
So now I have this awesome steamy moisture induced frizzy hair style complete with some new grey hairs, a cold cup of coffee and a parrot that I need to keep an eye on for respiratory symptoms for the next few days. Fid meanwhile is chanting: “Are you alright? I’m alright. Are you alright?” over and over while intermittently roaring with laughter. The temptation to wrap him in bubble wrap and duct tape him to a perch seems to get stronger every day. It’s like he knows today is the vet’s day off and so this is a day when he must be more accident-prone? I’ve got to say that situation was 100 times more scary knowing that I couldn’t run to the vet as a plan B. At least my latest grey hairs will keep my hairdresser in a job and I still have chocolate. Or I would have if my mother hadn’t found my stash. For the record, this sort of morning is how chocolate wars start…
Mel Vincent works as an animal rehabilitator out of Australia.