Monday, December 17, 2012

A life too short, an impact so great.

It is with a heavy heart that I write this blog today and I apologize in advance for putting a damper on the festive mood of the season. But, since so many of you know the tale of Thump, the bird I rescued last March, I felt compelled to let everyone know that he passed away this past Wednesday.

To say that I am devastated is an understatement and I have been in a major funk since. I have pondered with my closest friends why I have been so deeply affected by one little bird. I have certainly lost pets before. We all go through it. But before I spend more time on why this little bird had such a great impact let me share more about what happened.

I have to say that I was not completely surprised when I discovered his body but I had convinced myself that the health issues Thump had been having were manageable and that he would overcome them like he had beaten the odds from the beginning. Thump had been having seizures for the past several weeks and essentially I could not find a vet who would look at him.

When he had his first seizure I heard the commotion in his cage and ran into the room, took him out of the cage and held him being not quite sure what was going on. He was clearly having a seizure but I had no idea why and he came out of it almost as quickly as it had come on. The next morning I started looking for a vet who knew birds to at least consult with. I started with the Wild Animal Park here in San Diego and after several calls I was told by a very pleasant vet tech that they only treat exotic birds that are housed at the zoo or the park but she referred me to Project Wildlife.

I had had one previous, not so fruitful experience with Project Wildlife in the past so I didn't give it much hope but I tried anyway. After wading through a maze of automated messages that rivals any credit card company I was referred to their website. Their website referred me back to their phone number but did list several vets that they work with so I started calling. The first vet was retired (now that is some up-to-date info on their website!) and the second was a vet hospital not too far away from me. When I called I explained the symptoms Thump was having and a very nice tech went to inquire as to whether I should bring him in. From the start of our conversation I had explained that Thump was a European Starling which I had rescued after being pushed out of his nest.

After coming back to the phone the tech explained that I could bring him in but that since it was illegal in the state of California to possess a wild animal that they would not be able to give him back to me. I asked, what they would do with him. (thinking that maybe they would treat him and then house him in a bird rehab - a naive me.) She then told me very plainly that they would euthanize him because Starlings are considered pests in California. Really, did she not just hear that I had raised him by hand and was pretty much his Mother.

I felt like saying, well you know quite a few teenagers can be pests and you don't see their mothers euthanizing them! Needless to say I was appalled but I politely said Thank You and hung up the phone. I hoped that maybe the seizures were a passing event and everything would be OK. But a few days later he had another one so this time I was determined to get through to someone at Project Wildlife thinking that they had to be willing to help. After all their mission is supposed to be about helping wildlife.

Well boy did I get a rude awakening. After several tries I did get through to an actual human being (I use that term loosely) and was told that they don't rehabilitate or treat Starlings because they are pests. Really, so your mission to help wildlife only applies to the ones you like! Really. I contained my disdain and said thank you vowing that this organization would never again get a dime of my charitable funds. (I had donated to them in the past.)

Thumps seizures continued sporadically although he seemed fine in between them but I was still concerned that something bigger was brewing. I called several vets that treat domesticated birds and was told they don't treat wild animals. Poor Thump was clearly like a man without a country and was certainly a bird without any veterinarian willing to treat him.

Now the reality of the situation is that there was very little that a vet could have done for him anyway. In researching the issue on the Internet, most information said seizures in birds were not uncommon but very difficult to diagnose the source and even more difficult to treat. So I deluded myself in thinking that if I just loved him enough and kept a close eye on him that he would be OK.

In trying to console me my equine vet, who is also a dear, dear friend, said that probably what happened was that he may have incurred some brain trauma when he fell from the nest which would leave scare tissue in the brain and this sclerosis became more and more of a problem as he grew. He must of had one final seizure in the night or even a brain bleed that killed him. The day before he died he had been his usual, precocious self, spending much of the day in the flight cage outside and sitting on my shoulder after I brought him into the house. Although I had had this nagging worry since the seizures had begun I just kept hoping I was being a worry wort.

All of my friends have said very kind things like "he would never have had a life without you" and "you gave him a 100 years worth of love in the short time he was with you." In my head I know that this is true but in my heart I just miss him. Never has one little bird had so great an impact. Never has so little a creature so completely monopilized my time and taken over my daily life. I know that I am blessed to have had him at all. I will miss him forever and my household will never be the same without him.

But I don't want to end this blog on a sad note but a positive one. I always try to look for the lesson and meaning in things and I think that for Thump it is this. If one little bird can bring such joy and happiness, so too can we and if one little bird can leave such a lasting impression then we should live everyday to do the same.

I realize that the average person would think I was a candidate for the loony bin but I know the readers of this blog would understand.

Rest in Peace my little Thump.


C.E. Wolfe said...

I don't understand why many people find it strange to be concerned about ALL animals. (and not just certain ones.) I was explaining to somebody how I've been catching mice in my attic using a humane trap, and found a dead one only 48 hours after setting the trap, so now I put a lot of food plus a container of water in the trap so they don't dehydrate before I release them... and yeah, I should have known better, cause they thought I was nuts. I thought people love to think that humans are special because we alone have the capacity for empathy (snort). Anyways...

Thanks for caring for Thump and giving him such a happy life. I am sad that he passed away, but your post reminded me that there are special,caring people in the world, and what with everything that's been going on lately, I really needed that. Thanks.

Horseyhabit said...

It doesn't matter that he was a starling, he was part of your family, & I am very sorry for your loss. :(


Martha Seaman McKee said...

We do understand. It's so hard to lose these small lives that cross paths with our own. I am so sorry you lost Thump so soon.

jenj said...

Sometimes the small lives that are with us for the shortest time leave the biggest holes. Hugs to you and your family for your loss.

Anonymous said...

I had a similar attachment to a scrub jay that I rescued from my cat. When he was gone, I missed him desperately and finally I bought a small hand raised parrot. I had never liked birds before, but now I'm living with my third bird friend and would not consider life without one to be complete.

Camryn said...

Bless your heart for caring so much. Crying shame no one wanted to help you with him. Vets office I used to work out we Techs always did our best no matter the species. Luckily Doc humored us, couldn't always save them but, we did try! Which is as it should've been for you and Thump.

Laura Crum said...

Oh Terri, I am so sorry. I know how much Thump meant to you from your previous posts. And how could he not, after all you went through together. I, too, saved a young starling once (broken leg) and no one would help with him (same reasons). Sadly this little bird died in just two short days, probably from residual effects of whatever trauma caused the broken leg.

The most painful animal losses I have experienced have been with young animals. Its just so heartbreaking. I wish there was something I could say that would help...I know how sad you must feel. You did all you could do for him, and he had a happy life. I hope you can rest a little in that. Thank you for sharing him and the touching story of your life together. Sending you wishes for peace and healing.

Alison said...

A pox on all those vets and techs who wouldn't give you and Thumper the time of day!

As always your post move me. (This one to tears.)

Goodbye little Thump.

Terri Rocovich said...

C.E. Wolfe

Thank you so much for your comment and we are obviously kindred spirits. I believe that humans are just one of many species on this planet and not necessarily the superior ones. I know that horrible things happen in the animal world put you never hear of an animal killing without reason or for sport. Hmmmm. Now who is the more advanced species. I wish you the most wonderful of Holidays.

Terri Rocovich said...

Thank you Jamie, Martha and Jenj, he was a part of my family and there is a big hole that that little bird occupied.

And Anonymous, I am considering getting another bird. I have a love bird named Chance that I rescued nearly 10 years ago. He was content to be on his own before Thump came into our lives but I think he misses him too. And miss the closeness I had with Thump. Chance does not really like to be handled or even come out of his cage but Thump always wanted to be with me and loved to sit on top of my head or shoulder or arm and just hang out. I am going to see if I still feel the same after the Holidays and if I do I think I will contact some bird rescues to see what my options are.

Terri Rocovich said...

Thank you Laura, Alison and Camryn:

I so appreciate and take comfort in your comments. As we all know time will ease the grief. My other 4-legged family members have sensed my somber mood and have been particularly attentive. Even my cats (who would have probably eaten Thump given the chance) have been clowning around and "redecorating" my Christmas tree as if to try to lift my spirits. I rode Uiver later the morning that Thump died and he was even more perfect than normal. He knew I was sad and giving him a big, long hug definetly helped. You have my warmest wishes for a blessed and happy holiday.

irish horse said...

I'm so sorry, he was so pretty. And I'm so mad at the uncaring people who said he was "just" a starling. He was a piece of your heart, now missing. Any creature, great or small, can leave a big impact. Fly free Thump.

Terri Rocovich said...

Thank you so much Irish Horse. Your words are very poetic and very much appreciated. I heard a bird outside yesterday that was chirping loudly even when it was raining. I went outside but could not see where the bird was. I thought to my self, maybe it is Thump, come back to tell me he is OK and flying free. Have a Blessed Holiday.

RiderWriter said...

The hardest part about reading other people's blogs is that I get very attached to their animals. I know the pain of losing a dearly-loved furry or feathered friend, so when one of you is suffering it just makes me so sad. At least you have the comfort of knowing your readers completely understand - no "it's just a (fill in the blank)" people here!

I am disgusted that you were able to find no one who would even see Thump. Having worked as a tech myself, I know vets can have rules with which we definitely don't agree...

Every little life is valuable, every life means something. Thump certainly enriched yours and you were a wonderful mom to him. My deepest sympathy for your loss.

Hywela Lyn said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, and all the pain and worry you've been through trying to save this little bird. No matter whether it's a bird, a dog or a horse, each life is precious and leaves a huge gap when we lose them. You did everything you could fcr him and I'm sure you made his short life a happy one. RIP Thump. I'll think of you when I'm feeding the starlings in my garden (Here in the UK they're considered an endangered species believe it or not,even though there always seem to be hundreds of the little things flying around!)

If you believe our beloved pets wait for us at the Rainbow Bridge, you'll be reunited with him one day!