Mama Bird's Final Journey, October 26, 2009-December 18, 2009
Page 2, December 21, 2009 -December 29, 2009 Click Here

  Mama awoke on Tuesday, October 26, 2009 and was having trouble using his left foot to perch and climb. His avian vet was on vacation so my daughter and I took Mama in to see a different one the next day. Foreboding black clouds and pouring rain cast a gloomy outlook for the day, before even entering the vet's office. The vet's findings were as somber as well.  Sudden lameness for a 15 year male bird can have several causes, but the most common 2 causes are tumors on one of the kidneys or testicles. As the tumor grows, it presses on the nerves that control the use of foot and leg. Because of Mama's age, the tumor can not be surgically removed. The avian vet said that tumors are much more common in older birds, in lutinos, in overweight birds, birds on poor diets and in diluted color mutations. She also said that tumors are often linked to genetic background and they can be the result of in-breeding. According to the avian vet, Mama may live for a few days, a few weeks or a few months. Now, 5 days later, Mama is having difficulty walking. He's dragging his foot behind him and pulling himself along the cage bars with his beak. He can no longer lift his foot to perch on my hand without losing his balance and falling.  It's breaking my heart because I can only comfort him while he's in his cage. Mama also has to receive most of his scritches and kisses while he's still inside of his cage. I spoke to the avian vet who saw him on Wednesday again and she has prescribed an anti-inflammatory medication that can be put into his soft foods. Mama took his first dose of Metacam mixed in with a tiny amount of peanut butter, his new favorite food. At this stage of his life, "A healthy diet" is no longer an issue. I'm praying that the medicine works and brings down some of the inflammation of the tumor so Mama can re-gain some of the use of his foot. The perches in his cage have been removed and a 4 inch thick sheet of foam rubber has been put over the grate then covered with several layers of white paper towels. Cage papers have to be changed several times a day so he doesn't step in his droppings or get his tail feathers dirty. All of his toys have been lowered so he can play with them and I also purchased some smaller size versions of his favorite ones, like Bird Kabobs. It's easier for him to shred smaller toys now that he's confined to the bottom of his cage.  My prayers are for his remaining weeks to be painless , as comfortable as possible and enjoyable. Please pray for my little angel. .

Sunday November 8, 2009  Each day goes by so fast because I want to spend as much time as possible being with Mama. I'm trying to keep a cheerful disposition, so life seems as normal as possible for Mama. Each day is so much different from the day before. Each hour is so much different from the hour before. One hour/day is good and the next hour/day is bad. I go from thinking that he only has a few more days, to he may have a few more months. Mama is still hanging in there and he's in God's hands now. He seems to be comfortable and free from physical pain. I'm sure he's suffering mental pain since he doesn't understand why his life has changed like this. I can tell that he's frightened by the little cricket sounds he makes. We are enjoying a LOT of quality time together and Mama is still playing with his toys. He loves to chew paper so he gets a different color each day to rip apart. He also enjoys playing with feathers that have molted. Since I've saved most of his longer wing and tail feathers, he gets a new one each day and shreds it until the feather looks like pieces of hay.  I am very grateful that Mama is still enjoying his life. I spend most of the day, sitting by his cage, petting, talking, and whistling to him his favorite songs. He doesn't sing too much and sometimes he still taps on his food dish and I tap back on the kitchen table. We both received an unexpected blessing. As I was changing cage papers last night, he climbed up onto my hand and he was able to balance for a short time. He did the same thing this morning so I cupped the palms of my 2 hands together and he was able to balance fairly well. Poor little guy fell over onto his right wing when he tried to step off. Hopefully, he is learning how to compensate for the loss of his right foot so he can come out of the cage more often. He's still not eating much, just a few pellets, some broccoli, celery and millet seed, bird bread. I'm wondering if his poor appetite is related to him being depressed over the sudden changes in his life. I'm offering him different foods all day long, hoping he will eat more. Today he's not having a very good day. He doesn't want me to pet him, he's not very interested in his mirror or his toys and he only had a few nibbles of an Avicake, a piece of egg biscuit and some millet. Still, by tonight, he may be a completely different bird. I have a small picture of the Guardian Angel attached to the upper bars of his cage and a cute little fabric, country angel hanging on the outside of his cage. I heard on TV a few days ago, that there is a program called "Preaching for Pups." Folks bring in their pets and they are taught how to love and take care of them. The minister said that "When there is love between a person and a pet, God is involved". I already knew this in my heart, but hearing it from somebody else made me feel better. I know that when our pets pass away, we will see them again when we cross that final bridge in life. I keep telling Mama not to be afraid to cross that bridge if he needs to and that we will see each other again someday.

Thursday November 19, 2009, I had to start administering Mama's medication, directly into his beak last week because he was eating around the tiny drop of Metacam. This is very stressful for him because I have to put my hand over his back and pry open his beak. The medicine actually tastes good because it's sweet. Yes, I did taste it first before giving him the first dose a few weeks ago. His appetite has not improved but he's still eating. On Saturday, Mama started passing bright red blood, and tiny dark blood clots in his droppings. There's no mistake when determining the difference between a food related color change in droppings and blood. Blood in droppings on white paper towels look exactly the same as if you cut your finger and blotted the blood with a paper towel. The dark blood clots are also bright red, like human blood, if you take a toothpick and break them apart. Mama's droppings change each day, mostly normal, but sometimes with blood. I spoke to the avian vet yesterday and she thinks the bleeding is related to the tumor, since tumors also have blood vessels. The most serious complication associated with passing blood in droppings is that Mama may become anemic and very weak. I asked the doctor what death would be like for a bird with this type of tumor. Thankfully, Mama should not go into convulsions, which was something I was very worried about. However, he may become too weak to breath so he may have difficulty breathing the last few days of his life. The vet now thinks it' only a matter of a few weeks before Mama leaves this world. We're no longer looking at months. The vet also said Mama no longer has to have the Metacam, which should make his life much less stressful. I'll only use it if it's very obvious that he's in pain and suffering. My sweet little angel started singing his heart out while I was talking to his doctor. Whenever I cry, Mama always sings to me and this time was no exception. I'm taking Mama out of the cage at least once a day and placing him on a soft pillow case to help make his life more enjoyable. (photo with the pumpkin) When he was out yesterday he wanted me to pet his cheeks and neck for 2 hours.

Sunday November 21, 2009, Yesterday Mama took a turn for the worst. He was passing blood in almost every dropping--just a little ,but even a little loss of blood all day, is too much for a bird. I had my coffee with him like usual, but instead of him coming out onto the kitchen table, I placed one of the mugs that he loves so much, inside of his cage. The warmth of hot coffee  must feel good against his little head. We've been sharing a "mug" for 15 years.  Mama is next to a mug in so many of the photos I have taken of him over the years. He just loves to see his reflection in the glossy finish.To be able to share this with him again today was a blessing. By noon he became very weak and he was sleeping almost all day. I spent 12 hours sitting next to his cage, stroking his crest and cheeks. He left his mirror and hobbled over to my face and put his little head in the palm of my hand. He was so weak he was falling over on his right side. I had to hold my other hand against his right side, so he wouldn't fall over. His breathing became labored and he stayed cradled between my 2 hands sleeping for several hours.  He woke up about 5 PM and I made him a fresh batch of brown rice. He ate quite a bit along and some millet seeds. I defrosted a homemade corn muffin and gave him a piece the size of a sugar cube. He devoured it and ate 2 more pieces,  more brown rice and millet seed late last night. Mama loves safflower seeds so I hand fed them to him one at a time--he must have eaten at least a dozen. He seemed stronger after eating and his breathing returned to normal. He still wants to be close to me, so my head was inside of his cage all evening. Tonight he was resting his chest and head up against his mirror, sort of using it like a pillow. I'll probably be up with him all night. At the moment he's sleeping with his head tucked under his wing--seems like my love and home cooking/baking have temporarily brought him back from the brink of death. I'm taking pictures of him so I can always remember that Mama truly knew how much I loved him. This is a blessing. After 15 years he has gained so much trust in me that he allows both of my hands to be inside of his cage to comfort him.  I also feel blessed because he walked away from his mirror and chose to be close to me during his last days on earth. I'm praying that he passes away tonight while he's sleeping. I don't think he can survive more than a day or two like this, but at least I know his stomach doesn't hurt and he didn't go to sleep being hungry. When he doesn't want to eat, I can't eat either.

Tuesday December 1, 2009, Mama's health has continued to deteriorate and the amount of blood being passed in his droppings has also increased. Mama now looks very thin and his keel bone is visible, making his chest have the appearance of a V. He has lost 20 grams over the past month and now weighs only 80 grams. His appetite is poor and he's only eating seeds, bird bread, Avicakes and some cooked brown rice. I was so grateful that he was still with me for Thanksgiving. I rolled out the dough for apple pies right next to his cage while he nibbled on a thin apple slice. I noticed that he did not make any droppings Friday night. When I picked him up, I could see that there was an enormous mass of dried droppings, caked over his vent and all of the surrounding feathers, even though his papers are changed several times a day. I know when he makes a dropping because he hobbles to the left and right, taking small steps and his papers are changed immediately. I picked off as much as I could and tried to clean him with wet gauze, wet paper towels as well as wet Q-Tips. It wasn't working. I had to put my poor baby's tail under the faucet with warm water running, to remove the mess. I also plucked out a dozen tiny down feathers in the process, that's how matted and crusted the droppings were. After cleaning him, he started passing huge, loose, blackish dark moss green droppings--it looked like tar but the color was moss green, not black. I had to keep cleaning his vent and feathers until all of that dark liquid came out of him. He has been sleeping most of the day since last Friday. Mama is now very weak and he has reached the stage where he trusts me so much that he no longer puts up a struggle if I try to pick him up. He has come to realize that my hands will bring him comfort. I brought my rocking chair into the kitchen and placed it near his cage.  I picked him up and rested him on my chest, so he could nuzzle under my chin, then slowly rocked him. He seemed to find comfort in this, because he nuzzled his head against my hand and dozed as I stroked his cheeks. Tonight Mama hobbled to the back corner of his cage, near his early Christmas present that I made, a birdie Christmas tree with red and green munch balls and a red bell. He chewed on the munch ball, ate a piece of bird bread then fell asleep in the corner. I noticed that he did not make very many droppings this evening. I'm praying that he's not covered with another mass of that has to be removed again in the morning.

Thursday Dec.3, 2009, Mama's vent has stayed clean, with no build up of dried droppings and his droppings returned to normal, no more blood. He's still hanging in tough and fighting to the end. Birds have a very strong instinct to survive. Perhaps this is because they are so small and  they are such easy targets for predators. If a bird doesn't eat for 48 hours, he becomes very hungry and will usually start eating anything that is offered. Even though Mama is skinny, weak and sleeping all day, his will to survive is still strong. Mama has been eating well now in the evenings, for the past few days, with snacks throughout the day and night--cooked sweet potatoes, lots of pellets, Beak Appétit, mixed seeds, bird bread, a nibble of pumpkin and apple pie,  graham crackers. He loves pumpkin pie so it warmed my heart to see him enjoying it again this year. Last night I sat down next to his cage to eat my dinner with him. He hobbled close to my face. This means one and only one thing--"I want your food from your mouth and I want it now" and I always say no--here's your own little plate, but not this time.  He ate pasta with tomato sauce from my lips even though he has refused to eat pasta in any shape or form, for 15 years now. Mouth feeding is a big no no with birds, because of the harmful bacteria in our mouths, including bacteria related to any bacterial infections that we may be coming down with. Bacteria from the mouth can make birds sick. So instead of mouth feeding, I mashed the pasta with a fork and put it on my lips--not inside of my mouth,  for him to eat. He wanted "mouth to beak" feedings and wouldn't eat the pieces that fell onto the white paper towels. When I woke up this morning he was still asleep and he stayed asleep even when the lights were turned on and I said good morning to him. He opened his eyes when he saw me bringing the roll of paper towels near his cage. He's very smart and now he hobbles to the other corner of the cage, so I can change the white paper towels without having to pick him up.  To make changing papers faster, there are 12 layers of paper towels on the bottom of his cage--12 layers in each of the 4 corners--so 48 sheets. To change papers, 3 sheets are removed in the corner that needs it. Afterwards, he looked at the little calico fabric angel that has been hanging on the outside of his cage for a few weeks. He pulled some of the yarn through the cage bars and was chewing on them. I believe Mama was giving his Guardian Angel a few good hair yanks and asking, "Hey, did you forget about me?"

Friday Dec. 4, 2009. Mama has now been sleeping for the past 24 hours in the back corner of his cage, next to his Christmas toy. When I woke up this morning and said good morning to him, he opened his eyes for a few seconds, then tucked his head back under his wing to go back to sleep. Even though I stroked his head and cheeks, he remained asleep. I thought it would be better for him if I did not disturb him, so he continued to sleep all day long. I sat by his cage throughout the day, whispering to him and stroking his crest. Sometimes he allowed me to touch him and other times he would snap at me. In the evening I offered him all of his favorite foods, but he just went back to sleep. I took him out of the cage and gently rocked him in my rocking chair for an hour or so. He did enjoy this and found  comfort by being held securely so he couldn't fall over on his side. He nuzzled his little head up against my chin as I stroked his beautiful face. Then he would go back to sleep. Around midnight I sat down next to his cage again to say goodnight and started whispering, "Shhhhh, sweet little baby, sweet" over and over. He woke up and hobbled to the front of the cage to be close to my face. He kept moving closer and closer until he was too near the edge of the cage. He needed my hand to rest his head against. I thought that he might have been asking me to rock him again, and I was right. I rocked him for another hour, stroking his crest, cheeks and under his beak. He would sleep a little, then wake up and look at me. I tried offering him seeds, pellets, corn muffin, crushed graham crackers, crushed egg biscuits and other foods. He took a few nibbles of the corn muffin then went back to sleep. After putting him back inside of his cage, I made a fresh batch of rice for him, but by the time it was ready, he was in the back corner of his cage, sound asleep. He hasn't eaten in over 24 hours and this is breaking my heart. It's now 3 AM Saturday and I want to be with him if he passes away tonight. I'm wondering if the angels heard Mama yesterday when he tugged on the fabric angels hair and if they are trying to guide him back home. now

Saturday Dec. 5, 2009-The angels did not hear Mama's call and he's still with me sleeping soundly.  He woke up at noon and took a sip of water then went back to sleep. Around 2:00 PM-Mama woke up and ate a few grains of cooked rice and some crushed egg biscuits. He ate a few seeds then hobbled up to the front of the cage again, which I now know means he wants to come out and be rocked. I sat in my rocking chair and Mama slept for 3 hours. I thought I heard him make the death rattle sound, a gurgling in the throat, moments before death, but he rested comfortably on my chest, nuzzled under my chin, breathing normally.  I had to put him back inside of his cages because my back was aching terribly. As soon as I placed him in his cage, he drank 2 more sips of water then retreated to the back corner, only to fall over on his side. I picked him up and he hobbled back to the front corner where his mirror is. He has more support there because his right side is being supported and held up by a cuttlebone that's against the cage bars.  He tried to eat pellets but kept dropping them. So I put the pellets in the food processor and crushed them. He started eating the little crumbs immediately. When he was finished, I took a pillow case and rolled it into a small "baby crib style bumper" and placed it next to his left side so he could lean on it for support. He tucked his head into his neck and went back to sleep. About an hour later he started banging his bell toy---obviously telling the that the bumper was annoying him. I removed it and he hobbled back to his dish of crushed pellets and ate a little more. Thank God he ate something today. Knowing that the baby you love is hungry, is a horrible feeling. A few hours later he was back at the open front door. Because I was making Mama and Cookie's dinner, I had to close his door so he wouldn't fall out of the cage. He started crying and I knew what that meant--another 2 hour rocking session. His use of body language  simply amazes me. I rocked him on and off until after midnight, each time he came to the front of the cage door so I knew he wanted to be held. As I held him with one hand, he nibbled his crushed pellet and seeds from the little crock that I held in the other hand. The last thing he ate before I put him back inside of his cage, was a teaspoon of mashed peach pie, served from my lips--lips to beak feeding. Tomorrow I'll make him homemade noodles from flour and eggs, and I'll add his crushed pellets to the mixture before cooking.

Monday Dec. 7, 2009-This photo was taken yesterday and yes, Mama did enjoy the homemade pasta. Mama now runs to the edge of his cage door as soon as it's opened. You can see how his paralyzed right foot curls into a ball. Mama's spirit and determination have not been broken. He is learning how to adjust and compensate for his disability and he surprised me by accomplishing the seemingly impossible around midnight. Mama has been trying to climb up to my shoulder and perch on to my hand for a month now. My precious, strong willed little fighter managed to climb up to my shoulder while I was rocking him. There was a pillow in back of my head so he had something to lean against. He also climbed onto the palm of my hand, with a little help from me, moving his lame leg. He was able to balance in my palm and rest as long as he wanted to.  I kept my other hand near him in case he lost his balance, but my hands were more shaky then he was. After rocking him most of the day, I  carried him over to my kitchen chair where the computer is. He rested in the palm of my hand, looking re-vitalized, healthy and so alive. He did not want to go to sleep last night. Each time I put him back inside of his cage, he would eat more crushed pellets then "run" to the cage door. If I opened the door, he kept bending his head to be pet and he would perch in my hand again. I guess it was a magical night for both of us and he didn't want it to end.  Eventually I took him into the family room and laid down on the sofa for 30 minutes. He rested  his head on top of my chin. His feathers felt so soft and warm next to my skin. I could feel his warm breath on my chin with each breath that he took. I also thanked God again and again, for this special time with Mama and for  giving me the wisdom to have chosen the smallest bird in the clutch, 15 years ago. I had a long conversation with Mama as well. I talked and he answered by looking up to me with bright eyes that were wide open, tilting his head from side. He looked the way a baby bird looks when looking up to his/her mother. I thanked Mama for letting me share love and closeness with him for 15 years. I also thanked Mama for letting me know that he forgave me for any of the mistakes I made during his life and apologized to him for not always taking him out of his cage when he was climbing on the cage bars begging to come out. Even though my tears were flowing, yesterday may have been one of the happiest days that Mama and I have ever had together. Just knowing that he wanted to be with me and that he wanted me to pet his beak, under his beak, his neck and cheeks, brought much needed peace, contentment and joy to my heart. Mama felt this too because he was grating his beak. We were up until 4 AM. If I hadn't pushed myself over the brink of physical and emotional exhaustion this morning, I would have  never had those 4 precious hours with Mama.  I learned one very important lesson about the opinions of some veterinarians. By one vet's standards, Mama lost his quality of life 2 weeks ago and should have been euthanized. However, the vet did not take into consideration the qualities of peace and happiness in death that are equally important. The early morning hours with Mama were a blessing for both of us. I ordered Mama more Christmas presents last night. He will get them by Friday if he's still here with me to enjoy them.

Tuesday, Dec.9 2009-This picture was taken last night when Mama was resting in the palm of my hand. My husband startled Mama with the camera and Mama moved one leg onto my shirt for a tighter grip. Mama has been sleeping on and off for the past 36 hours,  being rocked in my rocking chair for several hours and into the early morning hours. I know when he's hungry because he comes to the front of the cage and cries if I open the refrigerator door. I made him mashed potatoes last night, which he enjoyed and ate off of a little plate in his cage. Mama had some crushed pellets, a piece of a graham cracker moistened in water and some scrambled eggs early this morning. I'm now making a small kettle of birdie stew for Mama. The stew had 1 pound of sirloin steak cubes, carrots, celery, turnip, sweet potatoes, kale, fresh tomatoes and fresh corn (frozen from last Summer) as well as barley, brown rice, pecans, raisins, millet seeds, 2 cinnamon sticks and a touch of sugar. When the vegetables were soft, I drained off the liquid then pureed the food in a mini food processor. Individual portions were frozen in ice cube trays,  then popped out of the trays for freezer storage in a Ziploc Bags. I can defrost a few cubes each day in the microwave when he's hungry. I hope Mama enjoys his stew. I keep trying to think of different foods to prepare for him that are nutritious. Since he seems to love anything soft, moist and warm, I think he just may enjoy his special stew. Yes!!! We have a winner and Mama ate his birdie stew. It really tasted very good--of course I tasted it and I even ate some to show Mama that it was food. I think he would have preferred it without the millet seeds because he kept spitting them out and eating around them. Mama also ate more mashed potatoes and more scrambled eggs. He chewed on his cuttlebone, cleaned his beak and then he played with his new toys. Later on in the evening, Mama started making a new type of cry. I thought he sounded like he me may have been in pain. I looked into his cage and saw that his foot was stuck in a coil of wicker that he had chewed off of his munch ball toy. He slept for awhile then was wide awake at midnight. He ate cooked brown rice, sunflower seeds and graham crackers. He looked so alive and alert and he walked back to his mirror, admiring his reflection. I sang to him and whistled his favorite songs and he started to chirp. I took him out of the cage and he kept trying to run up to my shoulder--not a good idea. He seemed much stronger tonight and was putting up a good fight when I tried to hold him--he was feeling good and he did not want to be rocked.  He let me pet his head for a long time, then he went to the back his cage to play with his toys. He loves his birdie Christmas tree that I made and he spent more time chewing on the red and green munch balls, before he started grinding his beak and falling back to sleep at 4 AM. Mama had a good day!

Wednesday December 8, 2009-This photo was taken in early October, when Mama flew to my mom and landed on her shoulder. My mom is the only other person in the family who EVER pays attention to Mama. So I chose this photo for today's update. Mama woke up at 5 AM and couldn't get back to sleep. The wind outside was howling and making the doors to our fireplace rattle. Along with the high winds was a torrential downpouring of rain. Dawn's early hours were not creating a peaceful home atmosphere.  Mama's crest was in high alert mode. He never had much of a crest, just 3 long feathers but this morning, for the first time in 15 years, I saw that he had a beautiful, thick crest. Mama was never fond of crest scritches. He preferred having the back of his neck stroked instead. Because he has been letting me pet the top of his head over the past several week, all of the keratin coating on pin feathers have been removed and the full glory of his crown was now visible. Mama's also started crying a different cry than when he's hungry. I wasn't sure if the cause was fear of the storm or pain. I sat with him stroking his cheeks and crest all night until 8 AM. He was still crying so I gave him a dose of Metacam in case he was in pain.  Mama fell asleep about an hour later when the rain stopped. My morning wasn't great either. Because Mama has been so close to my face for over a month now, my asthma started up. Each time the asthma subsided, being near Mama's feathers caused another attack. I took an anti-histamine, used my inhaler and an hour later I was back in business with Mama snuggling under my chin.  Since Mama had been awake all night, he slept all day. I used this time to make pierogi for Christmas Eve dinner. Taking a tip from the Amish, I rolled out the leftover dough into 1/8 inch strips, boiled the noodles and froze individual portions for Mama. I think Mama may enjoy warm noodles with soup, tomato sauce or applesauce. Mama woke up about 8 PM and ate scrambled eggs and some seeds. He was still hungry but he didn't find any of the foods offered to him appealing. Since he loves  homemade pierogi, I gave him some potato, cottage cheese filling and he ate all of it. After eating he played with his toys and at midnight he was hungry again. Another pot of brown rice was cooked and Mama ate a teaspoon and a half of the rice mixed with my homemade applesauce. After eating and cleaning his beak on his cuttebone, Mama was ready for some cuddling. Mama was rocked in my rocking chair as I stroked his cheeks, crest and neck until 2AM. I was able to check his vent area when holding him and it was clean. Much to my relief, Mama had been preening and he removed the tiny traces of dried droppings. When I returned him to  his cage, he started grinding his beak then fell asleep. So it seems like the cause of his crying last night was fear. When I woke up Thursday morning, Mama was asleep. So I made more Christmas presents for him with mini munch balls and other natural fibers while he slept.

Thursday, December 10, 2009, Mama slept all day an didn't wake up until late in the evening. He didn't want anything to eat, even though I offered him all of his favorite foods. Mama did not look well and I did not think he would still be here by morning. I gave him the Christmas presents that I made for him, a Christmas wreath made out of wicker vines, a Christmas star with strands of beads and munch balls dangling from the points of the star and a small paper toy, wooden balls wrapped in acid free colored paper so they look like taffy.  By 10 PM, Mama became too weak to stand and he was falling over onto his side. I picked him up and rocked him, but he kept sliding down my chest. He  started passing huge, black, tar like droppings.  I took a small, fleece throw, folded it in half, then wrapped Mama so both of his sides and head were supported and to keep him warm. Even though the heat in our home was set at 72 F, it was windy and the house felt chilly. After getting Mama wrapped in his blanket, he seemed very comfortable and content. I rocked him until midnight but by then, my right foot was swollen from spending so much time in a rocking chair over the past week, I had no other choice but to lay down on the sofa. I brought Mama with me and placed his little cradle on my chest. He slept peacefully with no trouble breathing. Since he hadn't eaten anything in 24 hours, I did not want him to become dehydrated so started giving him water with a little sugar from a hand feeding syringe, every 4 hours during the night. I also gave him another dose of Metacam, even though Mama did not show any signs of being in pain. When Mama woke up Friday morning, I put his little fleece cradle inside of a large, oval basket. His little fabric angels and his Christmas toys were placed in the back. Mama slept in his basket as I worked on editing new photos that I took of him today  Mama also gave me a Christmas present to remember him by today. (I often purchase gifts for my birds to give to me at Christmas, it makes the gift very special to me.) I opened the box from Mama and showed him the beautiful, sterling silver egg shaped pendant, coated with red resin, (making it resemble an egg shaped candle apple,) and tiny hearts made out of pave CZs.  Mama licked the red egg so I think he was pleased. When Mama woke up this afternoon, I showed him his Christmas toys again, and he tried to nibble on the green cording. Fresh kale and broccoli florets were washed and chopped for him and he ate some broccoli from my hand. Mama was also offered crumbled bird bread from my hand and he ate a teaspoon of the crumbs before going back to sleep. About an hour later when he woke up, Mama tried climbing out of his basket. I took him out, wrapped him in a cotton cloth and carried him against my chest while making him scrambled eggs. Mama ate the eggs, struggled to get away from me, then slowly started walking towards his cage. After putting him back inside of his cage, he went to the back and nibbled on his cuttlebone. Later on, when we had dinner, Mama enjoyed a dish of brown rice with applesauce then played with one of his new Christmas toys. For the past 24 hours, I've been haunted with thoughts of euthanasia for a bird who is weak and disabled but still comfortable at home, surrounded by love. As I watch him now sleeping in his cage, with his head tucked under his wing, my heart tells me that I've made the right choice, to allow Mama to at least try and pass away at home where he feels secure and loved.

Friday Evening, December 11, 2009. Although taking care of a sick bird is heartbreaking, it's amazing how there are moments of unexpected joy. This picture was taken late Friday afternoon after Mama tried climbing out of his basket and started  to eat and walk again. I think the most difficult aspects of caring for a sick bird, besides coping with the worry and sorry, are giving medication directly into the beak and trying to get a sick bird to eat. Late Friday night, Mama was making the crying sound that I have now come to recognize as a sign of hunger. I boiled a potato in the microwave, mashed it and added half of a grated apple as well as a little apple juice for moisture. I knew that  Mama wanted to come out of his cage to eat because he was at the edge of his cage and trying to climb onto my hand. I took Mama out of his cage and placed him on the kitchen table, where he ate his apple potato mix. There should be a book on creative cooking for birds. It sure would be helpful when you're trying to think of nutritious foods to feed a sick bird. After Mama finished his potatoes, he walked over to my computer, where he has played for years. Since bird foods and supplies are now scattered all over my kitchen counter and kitchen table for fast and easy access when I need them for Mama, he walked over to a bag of millet seed. Mama hasn't touched millet seed in days. So I took some of the loose millet seeds from the bottom of the bag and offered them to Mama from my hand. He ate at least a teaspoon of seeds. Seeing Mama walk on the kitchen table and eating made me feel as if God had restored my little angel's health, at least for last night. Mama enjoyed his freedom from the cage and freedom from being wrapped in a blanket, and strolled around the table, foraging for food. After putting Mama back inside of his cage, he played with his toys and ate 2 cubes of bird bread, another food that he hasn't touched for days then at midnight, another cry for food. He ate more apple potato mixture and pellets. I'm may finally get a full night's sleep tonight. My little one is not crying and he's content,  grinding his beak.

Saturday, December 12, 2009-Mama woke up this morning hungry and thirsty. After his usual 2 sips of water, he ate an Avicake and some pellets. Mama was awake for most of the day so I put up the Nativity scene with the Holy Family and just the animals. I wasn't going display it this Christmas because Mama was so sick. However, his remarkable recovery of strength yesterday gave me the much needed inspiration to do so. I also put a tiny Nativity scene on top of Mama's cage.  Mama became hungry again in the early evening. I made him a scrambled egg, more potato apple mixture and took him out of the cage so he could eat on the kitchen table. He took a few nibbles, walked away from his food dish then stared up at the ceiling light. One of the toenails on his bad foot was too long and it was getting caught on the white paper towels lining the cage bottom. Since Mama's right foot and toes seem to be numb, I was able to hold his toe and trim the nail, by placing one hand over his back. I also gave him some sugar water and another dose of Metacam which he didn't swallow, resulting in a second dose having to be administered. Mama became visibly upset and when I returned him to his cage he could no longer walk. I felt guilty and thought that perhaps I had caused this sudden loss of mobility. On a happier note, two of the Christmas toys that I ordered for Mama arrived today, a big candy cane made out of green munch balls and red, wooden discs and another paper taffy toy similar to the one that I made. Later that evening, Mama managed to walk towards the front of the cage to inspect his Candy Cane and to play with the Christmas star toy that I made for him. By late evening, Mama's breathing became labored. I sat next to his cage to talk to him and he dragged himself up to the front door by using his beak to grasp onto the paper towels. By midnight he was wrapped in his blanket and resting on my chest again on the sofa. Mama snuggled his head so closely against my cheek, like a new born baby. When he finally relaxed, his breathing became easier. I stayed with him all night long but  drifted off into sleep now and then. I had the most terrifying nightmares and all of them were about Mama. In one dream Mama was suffocating and aspirating in a bag of pancake batter. In another dream, rats had gotten into his cage while he was sleeping with me and destroyed his perches and papers. Since I was sleeping with him, another big NO with birds, one nightmare was about me falling on top of him and crushing him to death. My husband kept coming into the room to wake me up because he said that I was screaming in my sleep. I put Mama back inside of his cage at 9 AM Sunday morning and he drank some water. I broke down sobbing to my husband. Mama is truly like a human infant, now more than ever. I always knew how much I loved Mama and he has given me much more love and happiness then I deserve. Now this little baby has taken possession of the inner depths of my mind, heart and soul unlike any human being has ever been able to do. Maybe this place in the heart is reserved for mothers who have sick children or children with grave medical conditions, for mothers who live each day with special needs children and for women who are the loving caretakers of another ill loved one. It's a gift from God that helps women to care for their children and loved ones so selflessly despite being so weary. Maybe God also gives this gift to those who love their pets as if they were children too. This is truly the death of one of my children. Mama is my precious baby and I'm losing him. If anybody had the audacity to say to me, "It's just a bird", I would  slap them in the face. Sometimes ignorance can not be ignored and for lack of better words, "Actions speak louder than words."

Sunday December 13, 2009-Although Mama is disabled and sleeping all day long, his will to survive continues to be strong. He woke up on Sunday morning, drank water, then he slept all day. He only woke up once and that was for more water. Mama did not want me to interact with me today and he did not cry for my attention. I gave him a few kisses on his head and stroked the back of his neck, but my affection went unnoticed by Mama. Mama just tucked his head under his wing and went back to sleep. At this stage of his illness sleep is a blessing. I discontinued administering Metacam  as well as the sugar water to Mama today. Restraining him and prying open his beak were too upsetting for him. He doesn't need the additional stress now that his breathing has returned to normal. Around 9 PM Sunday night, Mama woke to drink more water and to eat. I offered him mashed potatoes with apple juice. After taking a few nibbles, Mama went back to sleep. A brief 10 minute nap gave him the energy he needed to eat more of the potato mixture. Mama continued sleeping then waking up and eating until 3 AM Monday morning. He ate quite a bit because he had now gone without food for 24 hour. Mama ate red and white loose millet seeds, safflower seeds, pellets and bird bread that contains fruit flavored pellets, sweet potatoes and apple juice. After eating, Mama dragged his tired little body to his new candy cane toy and chewed on the green munch balls. I'm so glad that Mama is enjoying all of his new toys and glad that I ordered them for him even though he's sick. I want him to enjoy each day of his life. When I see him enjoying his food and toys I can celebrate each day of my precious baby's life with him until the very end. After playing with his candy cane toy, (part of the toy can be seen next to his plate) Mama wanted to come out to be with me. I lifted him gently and he rested in the palm of my hand. As I stroked the back of his neck and kissed his head he fell asleep. Since it was almost 3:30 AM, I gently placed Mama back inside of his cage next to his toys and he slept through the night until noon the next day.

 Monday December 14, 2009, Today was actually a fairly good day for Mama. He continued the same behavior pattern as last night, napping and eating throughout the day. His preference for foods today included crumbled bird bread, pellets, millet seeds, some broccoli and the homemade noodles that I made for him last week in homemade chicken soup. Mama's mobility has continued to worsen.  Because of his lame right foot he was now having trouble resting. He didn't like the folded pillow case bumper that I gave him last week so I needed to find another option to support his right side. Then I remembered my son's tooth fairy pillow that was purchased at a craft show 30 years ago but never used. Since I'm very sentimental and know where most of my keepsakes are, bingo, Mama had a little yellow pillow to lean against for support. Mama wanted to come out of his cage today and he napped in the palm of my hand which was cupped. As I was holding my baby, all I could focus on was how to help him gain some mobility by using a different type of cage liner that he wouldn't slip on. His right leg was extending sideways like a chick with splayed legs. This caused him to slide, lose his balance and topple onto his side when he tried to walk. I remembered what my avian vet had said when I asked him what was the best nesting substrate for a nest box to prevent splayed legs in chicks. White paper towels are usually recommended, but if the parents won't accept the paper towels, he said a non-slip Rubbermaid type bath tub mat could be used instead. Besides being non-slip, mats were economical since they could be sterilized in the washing machine with bleach.  I always purchase items that I like in multiples before they are discontinued. I pulled out a brand new bath mat from under one of the beds, cut it to fit the bottom of Mama's cage and Mama was able to stand and hobble again without sliding. The bath mat gave him enough traction to prevent his leg from sliding to the side like an airplane. The only problem encountered was that a rubber mat does not absorb moisture from droppings. I folded 1 paper towel into quarters and put a piece where he sleeps. Mama's disability has caused another problem. He wasn't able to stand high enough to eat out of his food cups. By using a tiny saucer he was able to reach his food. Accommodating Mama's disability has been a real challenge but so far, very manageable. After eating dinner, Mama rested then dozed off in the palm of my hand for an hour. I wish he could have stayed in my hand all night because it's so much easier for him to rest. He can just relax and sleep without having to make such an effort to maintain his balance. By 1  AM, I returned him to his cage where he's safer. My little one fell asleep against his yellow pillow after grinding his beak. So today was a fairly good day for both of us and both of our lives became a little bit easier.

Tuesday December 15, 2009-  Mama has learned that sleeping with me is easier and more comfortable. He woke up a half hour after he had just been placed back in his cage, at 1:30 AM, and wanted to be out with me again. He rested his tired little legs and feet in the palm of my hand and fell asleep. After laying down on the sofa, I wrapped Mama in his blanket and placed him on my collarbone. Mama rested his little head on my cheek and slept peacefully. Even though my baby is sick, feeling his soft, fluffy feathers and the warmth of his breathing against my skin is so comforting to me. I slept too but woke up periodically to make sure he was still comfortably supported and to give him little kisses. I returned him to his cage for breakfast at 9:30 AM. Even though Mama's appetite has improved, he's still very thin and weak. He has been eating his pellets, seeds, crumbled bird bread and other foods that he enjoys. Since Mama is so sleepy, he eats small portions, naps, then wakes up to eat more. Later in the afternoon, I checked Mama's vent again which was clean, but another mass of dried droppings had matted onto surrounding feathers. Mama had to be placed in a shallow baking dish filled with warm water to soften the hard droppings. After soaking him, the droppings had to be gently removed by hand and then his abdomen and tail feathers had to be rinsed under the faucet. Mama did not have the strength to struggle but he tried his best. He tried to bite me but the force of his beak had the strength of an infant without teeth. After bathing, Mama's  breathing became very labored again. Without a doubt this was my fault but the accumulation of droppings had to be removed. I told Mama about Cookie's bath time frolics and wished that he could have enjoyed the same pleasure when bathing too. Mama always preferred a light misting instead. After wrapping Mama in a small, thick hand towel to dry, he fell asleep while I held him against my chest. Mama was then wrapped in his blanket and placed on the kitchen table. I asked my husband to sit next to Mama and pet him while I ladled our soup into bowls for dinner and prepared Mama's brown rice. This is the first time in my husband's life that he has ever touched a bird. If Mama wasn't so weak and sleepy my husband would have also experienced his first painful bite. Mama loves people but the only person who he had complete trust in has always been me.  However, Mama adores my husband and I wish so much that he had interacted with and loved Mama too. I know that Mama had to have felt rejected by him and this has saddened me for 15 years now. As we sat down for dinner, I woke Mama up and offered him brown rice and noodles with chicken broth. He was very hungry and ate both. Mama slept for the remainder of the evening and his breathing became more relaxed. Since Mama became sick, I've lost 12 pounds. If my baby can't eat, neither can I. So at midnight I defrosted a blueberry muffin for myself. Mama woke up as soon as he heard the microwave beep and he ate a large piece of crumbled muffin. Cookie knew somebody had food and food is Cookie's greatest passion in life. So Cookie woke up and had a midnight snack too. Both birds fell asleep after eating and a lovely duet of beak grinding. Nothing is more comforting and soothing to this soul than the sound of my babies grinding their beaks with contentment.

Friday December 18, 2009-Mama's condition has remained stable  with no significant changes since Tuesday. Keeping his vent area clean has remained a challenge so his tail feathers have to be wiped with a soft Kleenex throughout the day. This doesn't seem to be helping much and droppings keep clinging to his feathers. The muscles controlling the vent may have  become weakened so he is unable to completely expel them now. On Tuesday I noticed that Mama's pretty light gray feathers have turned almost  black and the color change seems to have happened overnight. In this picture the color change is obvious, compared with other photos on this page. This specific type of color change in feathers is usually associated with malnourishment or an underlying pathology. There's not much holiday spirit in my home this year. Even our 2 Christmas trees and our balsam wreath remain out on the deck. Since Mama loves the peanut butter and spritz cookies that I make each Christmas, I baked a few batches of cookies not a dozen different varieties, and they were only baked because Mama loves them so much. Mama enjoyed almost a entire vanilla almond spritz cookie with a candied cherry in the center this evening. Around midnight he ate a piece of a peanut butter cookie after eating his seeds, an Avicake and scrambled eggs. My baby, like most cockatiels, loves junk food, especially sweets, red licorice being his favorite. Mama never gets junk food and he  hasn't had red licorice in a decade. Cookie came out of his cage and joined us for a midnight snack again too. Cookie usually loves his sleep time and he becomes very agitated, squawking if disturbed, but Cookie loves food more than sleep. Mama has been sleeping with me for about 6 hours each night so he his little legs and feet can have a rest from trying to stand all day. I'm exhausted too and feel like a mom who has been up all night giving a newborn infant night time feedings or taking car of a sick child. I remember those years well and thought they were over. Now, 30 years later, I'm doing the exact same things for my cherished feathered baby. Peeling potatoes for mashed potatoes, cooking brown rice or scrambling eggs at 3 AM have now become a daily routine. I'm sure it's the food that has given Mama the strength to stay alive this long. For years I had prayed asking God for 3rd child but never thought he would answer my prayers now, as I approach my golden years. There's much credibility in that old saying "Be careful for what you wish for or you just might get it."

Mama's Final Journey, Page 2
December 21, 2009 & Updates Click Here
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