Recently, I was given reason to consider how I define “My Home”. It came up shortly after the loss of the longest surviving member of our flock, a nearly 13 year old Green-cheek Conure we called TidBit. And you can probably guess that I was still a bit raw emotionally.
But I was moved by the surprising reality of my thoughts on “Home”. I asked myself … What is home? Where is home? Where am I when I feel at home? Why is it home?
All of my answers to each of these questions pointed to the same thing. Absolutely, distinctly, and unquestionably, “My Home” is My Flock. And on that train of thought, I was taken directly to the clarification of why I was so bewildered by TidBit’s passing.
TidBit’s passing was sudden; and by “sudden” I mean he was gone within 2 hours of the first visible sign of distress. We are very fortunate to have our flock under the care of an experienced, Board Certified Avian Veterinarian who makes himself personally available in emergency situations such as the one we found ourselves in with TidBit. I had phoned him at the first sign of trouble at 9:30 that evening. I got TidBit set up in his hospital cage following Dr B’s instructions to keep a close eye on him through the night with an appointment set for first thing in the morning; and if he started to crash to call back.
I did call back in just about an hour. I was on the phone with my vet as TidBit passed. We were both speechless. Neither of us could believe what had just happened. Neither of us had a clue as to why. Consequently, I brought TidBit to the State Dept of Agriculture Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory where the examiner is an Avian Pathologist. Our immediate concern was that there might have been something infectious at work that could possibly be a threat to the rest of the flock, and that we needed to know as soon as possible!
After having a necropsy performed, problems with TidBit’s liver and kidneys were revealed, and the conditions could possibly have been congenital. There was nothing environmental or nutritional that I had done or not done that could have affected or impacted the outcome without having known about the condition earlier. And that is the point of this discussion.
The question becomes: How DO we deal with issues that are a part of our birds’ physical makeup, that we have no way of knowing about? The answer: We find out. We do that, hopefully, by realizing through the experience of others, like TidBit and this flock, how very critical qualified, regular veterinary care is to their health and our well-being. I have to own up to having been a Parrot Companion who treated her birds pretty much like I treat myself, as needed. Obviously, that was not sufficient for TidBit’s well-being.
Just as the human medical community drives home the importance of regular checkups and preventative care for ourselves and our family members, it is that much more important in the care of a creature whose body is so much smaller than the human body that hours can make the difference between life and death. It starts with what most Avian Veterinarians and Companion Parrot Advocates refer to as a Well Bird Check. At least once a year, it is so overwhelmingly useful to have a complete exam that includes not only a physical exam but also bloodwork, a fecal gram stain, and (depending on you and your Avian Veterinarian’s opinion) vaccines. Do you know that only about 16% of Companion Parrots are seen by vets for any kind of annual exam??? [According to APPA, the American Pet Products Association.]
My Avian Vet has repeatedly emphasized the usefulness of a yearly radiograph as well. There are so many instances in which a change in the physical structure of a bird can be the determining factor in an accurate diagnosis and treatment of a condition! But how are either of you to know that a change has occurred without a baseline x-ray? Or baseline bloodwork? Or a baseline hands on physical exam? I had never even had x-rays suggested as a part of the yearly exam, let alone had a vet who was so emphatic about the usefulness of annual exams in keeping my birds healthy and diagnosing problems that would arise (and they can arise). And that’s how I justified only bringing my birds to the vet when they needed treatment for something. After all, why invest in an exam that will tell me my bird is doing fine and is healthy, when I can see that for myself?
Now I know enough to ask, “But what CAN’T I see that might be wrong?" The lesions on TidBit’s liver might have been detected at a much earlier point, and possibly treated. And how do I KNOW if I never looked at his overall condition before?
So, if it is true that “My Home” – my heart, my passion, my raison d’être – IS my flock, then why on EARTH has it taken 19 years (the length of time birds have been a part of the family) to realize the value of their health care and getting my guys to their Avian Vet regularly? I don’t know that I can answer that particular question the way it was asked. What I can say is, having realized the full impact of NOT doing it, I have already changed my ways.
As a bit of a postscript, I understand as well as anyone the financial impact of the kind of care I’m endorsing here. We have, at this point in time, 15 birds in the flock. Believe me, I DO get it! And we are a middle income household. My husband and I have simply made the decision that the care and wellbeing of our flock has been placed squarely on our shoulders; and we do for them as we would have done for our human children. Our Companion Parrots are no less dependent on us for their needs, and deserve to be our priority no less. It is a choice. A critical one. Make it sooner rather than later for their good, and for your good. I will most certainly be looking after “My Home”, my heart, my flock, much more diligently from here on out