Thursday, April 07, 2011

miracle on 17th Street

My idiotic parrot is home, safe and sound!

Last Saturday, in the late afternoon, the Sober Husband and I were working in our postage-stamp sized garden, replanting things which had been temporarily moved due to the neighbors' construction project, weeding, and cleaning. My not-very bright African grey, Pigwidgeon, freaked out during this and flew crazily off, up over a neighbor's roof and out of sight. We went in pursuit, and until it was too late to bother people, we went into as many yards as we could on our block. I told every dogwalker I saw and asked them to keep an eye out.

We made a poster and put it up around the neighborhood. I put Piggle's cage outside, to help her find our yard. Lola and I stayed up until nearly 3 AM, periodically calling Piggle. The next day we searched more yards and talked to more neighbors, and I posted a $500 reward on Craigslist.

The children and I were concerned that we didn't have good enough pictures of Pigwidgeon, but the Sober Husband scoffed. Noting that all African greys look alike, he picked a photo off the web for our "LOST PARROT" poster. I followed the same strategy with my Craigslist ad. I did find a blurry picture of Pigwidgeon standing next to my laptop as I typed, and I held on to it to use as evidence of ownership if she did turn up somewhere.

On Monday, after the children went off to school and the Sober Husband off to work, I spent the entire day crying. "I feel like such a fuckup," I confided in various friends and the Sober Husband. "I lost my parrot. All my life I wanted a parrot, and I lost her." I quickly gave up on calling for Piggle during the day. PG&E is replacing all the gas lines in our neighborhood, and on top of that, the city was replacing all the water meters, which involved digging into the cement in front of each and every house on our block. If Piggle were out somewhere, she wouldn't be able to hear me in all that hellish construction racket.

The Sober Husband came home early from work, and we went on another parrot search once all that construction had stopped for the day, expanding our area and combing yet more yards. We stopped when it got dark, as I had learned from a "Parrot911" volunteer that there is no point in looking for a lost bird in the dark, as they hunker down and will remain silent, even if they hear a beloved owner's voice ("Parrot911" is a charity existing to help reunite lost parrots with their owners, and they contacted me after seeing my Craigslist ad. Parrot911 gave me some useful information, such as that lost parrots usually double back on their tracks and are therefore typically found in the opposite direction from where they were last seen and that African greys in particular are usually found within a 1-2 mile radius of their home. The Parrots911 people also kindly cross-posted my information to a variety of other lost-animal resources online).

Tuesday was a cold and windy day. Early in the day I decided that I'd make a last, gala search, but as the day wore on, cold and windy, I gave up. It had gotten down below 50 degrees the night before, and rationally there was no point in searching outside. I was in tears all day again. There were no sightings of the bird. Then late at night, I got an email from someone whose friend had found a tame gray bird. "Oh my God, Piggle may be alive!" I told Lola (in all the sorrow, bedtimes had been completely ignored and everyone was living off junk food from a convenience store run). We ran up to tell Iris. I talked more rationally to the Sober Husband. "Either someone has an African grey, or they want to mug me for my reward money," I said.

On Wednesday I was REALLY riveted to the phone, but no call came in. Finally just as it was time to go pick up the children, a friend of the person who'd found the bird called. The bird's finder was having cellphone troubles (it later emerged that his cellphone had been cut off that day). After emails and calls after I got the children, the finder's friend arranged that I would go see the found bird after 9:30. My heart sank when I heard the address, which was in the Mission. The Sober Husband also felt it was unlikely to be our bird, but as far as I could tell, no one else in the city had lost an African grey (African greys had gone missing in Gilroy and Oakland since ours had, but not in San Francisco).

The Sober Husband cynically suggested that we take whatever parrot we were offered, "since it will cost twice as much as the reward to get a new one, and we need another one." Later, after thinking it over, he changed his mind and cautioned me not to take a parrot if I weren't sure it was mine. "We won't know anything about its personality." He was highly skeptical that I'd be able to recognize my own parrot. "All those African greys look exactly alike, how are you going to be able to tell?" "I will know my bird, and my bird will know me," I said confidently.

We hung out in the Mission (the children at home with a beloved babysitter) until it was time. I had a longish chat with the owner of a used bookstore about Philip Zimbardo's findings on institutionalized evil and Victor Frankl. This was interrupted by a very tall and slightly dazed looking young man, who informed us that "at the concentration camps, there were four or six people who could heal themselves with the power of their minds. Whatever was done to them, like cutting them up, they could just use their mind to heal it." He demonstrated by holding out one of his arms and staring at it meaningfully. "Afterwards they came to California to show people." The bookstore owner and I, nonplussed, were silent for a moment. Then the owner went back to showing me a fascinating and obscure study of behavior in concentration camps, written by a Dutch psychologist who was himself imprisoned in a concentration camp and then wrote the book afterward. The book was spellbinding, but I couldn't bear the idea of reading something so depressing in my Piggle-mourning state of mind, so I just paid for my not-that-much-cheerier books about horrific invasions of personal privacy by the U.S. government and the nature of evil.

When the time came, we walked over to see the parrot. I felt very fragile, and the Sober Husband was preparing me for the worst. "I don't think this can be her," he said. "It's just too far." A friendly man came to the door and showed us in. He'd put a piece of paper labeled "BIRD" on the bathroom door to warn his roommates. There on the shower rail was Piggle. She stepped right up on my hand. She made her familiar chirps that sound like a smoke detector with an expired battery, and she bent her head over for me to scratch her neck. "It's Piggle, it's Piggle," I said over and over again. The Sober Husband looked skeptical. The bird's finder showed us in to the kitchen, which, very studentlike, had a large number of liquor bottles standing about. When Pig did this very peculiar thing she often does where she holds my fingers in her beak while frantically whipping her head up and down, the Sober Husband reached for my checkbook to write a reward check. Even he had to admit that it was easy to tell that this was the very same bird we'd lost.

Somehow she survived a night outdoors and made her way down through the Castro, over Dolores Park, and into the Mission. Our good Samaritan saw her outdoors. "She was obviously exhausted, I think that's how I could catch her," he said. She nipped him, but without breaking the skin, and luckily for her she had been found by a persistent and kind person who didn't give up until he'd brought her home. "It was hard finding something she'd like to eat," he said. "She's kind of fickle."

Once we got the parrot home, I woke up the children to see her. They were ecstatic. Piggle ducked into her cage quickly for a snack but didn't want to be caged, so we brought both the parrots upstairs for the night. The green parrot had been very noisy and needy during the grey bird's absence, and they settled down nicely on the parrot tree together.

This morning the Sober Husband expressed a new concern that she'd sneak out again. "I'd like to think she learned a lesson," I said, "but probably what she learned was that if you get lost, someone takes care of you and you have a big adventure and then go home again."


Jane Lebak said...

I'm so, so happy for you. I really hoped you'd have her home again.

Heather said...

Welcome home Piggle! I'm so happy and relieved for all of you. Congrats on your happy ending!

Carroll said...

Oh, YAY!!! I missed the first installment of this scary saga, Carole. Relieved to hear that all is now well. Three cheers for honorable parrot finders!

KnittyBron said...

I'm a new follower and I'm SO relieved to see your happy ending!

BTW, you didn't "F-up"... birds do that sometimes... as a former owner of several, I've experienced the same thing!

Yay for you!

Claire M. Johnson said...


Emma-Louise said...

I am so happy for you and so relieved. I had a massive cry after reading that Piggle was lost. I know what it is like to want something your whole life long, as I always desperately wanted a small fluffy dog. Mine was hit by a taxi when she was 9 weeks old after running under my gate while I was distracted for what was literally enough time to let my eyes skip from her to a visitor. I will never, never, NEVER forget the sight of her lying on the road, fluffy legs splayed, teddy bear face in anguish staring right at me and opening and shutting her mouth without sound coming out. I jumped over my fence and went to her, and by some miracle stroke, she was actually alright. This was a dog you could have sitting upright and comfortable on one hand, the runt of a maltese jack russell litter, and so unbearably small and lovely, and the tire of the taxi did indeed go right over her. I don't know how she managed to escape with nothing more than bruising, she weighed less than a pound. She's now a very spoilt 10 month old dog, and a much more appropriate size, though still smaller than most cats. I think we paid close to $600 for her, which is ridiculous for the kind of dog she is, but I swear it seemed like we didn't have a say in the matter when we met. I'm glad for that.
On another topic altogether, just while I'm rambling away, I had a dream last night wherein I was YOU, and I had to pick up Iris from a swimming class she had been expelled from. I had been thinking about both swimming and Iris' math class (I was a very similar child to Iris. I remember so much about my childhood in your stories about her.) before going to bed, and this is what my fabulous brain decided to throw at me :
I was you, and had been asked to collect Iris from a swimming class; she was outraged that she had been put in a mixed ability class where "some of us could enter the olympics, and some of us are still peeing in the shallow end!" and had begun to mock the young male swimming teacher relentlessly, making fun of his swimming shorts, his chiselled physique, calling him a METroSEXual in a singsong voice, and at one point told him "put a shirt on! I thought this was a swimming class, not a nipple parade!"
at which point my partner rang the doorbell as he had forgotten his keys, and I got quite cranky that he had interrupted what I thought would have to be one of my top 10 in realistic (I use the word loosely) dreams.

NonymousGoatsePants said...

Ummm... You're NOT supposed to pee in the shallow end?

Silliyak said...

Of COURSE NOT" ! You pee in the DEEP end. (better dissolution) Whic reminds me of a T-shirt I have heard about, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate"

Dread Pirate Davi said...

So glad this all had a happy ending! When we lived in Puerto Rico, my great-aunt gave two beautiful lovebirds to my sister. My dad would on occasion sit the cage outside so they could get some sun. One day, and army brat (we lived in Ft Buchanan) who was known for animal abuse (and was probably abused himself) came by and, for no reason that was ever given, released the birds from their cage. We never saw them again, but from time to time my sister swore she could hear them singing at our school, which was just up the road from us.

Anonymous said...

This is really awesome that you found Pigle! I'm so happy for you all!

Caroline said...

A happy ending! Hurrah!

Caroline said...

Oh, and Nigerians hijacked my FB account, and closed it out on me. I have to refriend everyone, but I can't find you. Can you try to friend me? Then you will have had TWO happy reunions!!!!
Caroline Collins Siecke

Yvette said...

I love happy endings.