The silence is profound and eerie. Spike the Budgie sings no more. Typical of a prey animal, he hid his illness to the end, and sang his heart out to cover his fear. The cockatiels, Vincent and Jorge, shrieked with his song, trying to alert me to his plight, but I did not see the signs soon enough. Now he is gone, and so is his ridiculous, ubiquitous chatter.
Years ago, I had a handicapped sparrow who grew up to the incessant conversation of earlier rescue budgies closely resembling their namesakes, Jake and Ellwood. Minus the sunglasses. Of indeterminate age, they eventually passed on, one, then the other over the course of several months. Like now, the silence was oppressive. But it was more so, because the sparrow stopped singing, and over time, stopped eating or caring about anything. I was supply shopping at PetCo and the “Ask about our adoptable bird” sign on the budgie cage intrigued me. It is PetCo policy that once a bird has been treated for illness, it can’t go back out for sale with the others. It must be adopted out directly from their “back room.” He was a dandy little parakeet, friendly and gentle, a spunky sprite that looked me in the eye, fearless. At the checkout counter I filled out his paperwork, and where they asked for his name I wrote “Spike.”
Spike started singing, the sparrow started eating and we were good for a few more years. Spike turned out to be a small but devilishly quick bird. For a while I kept his wings clipped, but he usually behaved himself and I eventually let him fly. I set up a bird playpen in the living room so he could watch tv with us, or maybe just admire himself in his tiny mirror. When he got bored, he would make a beeline for the open door of his cage, flitting through the dining room, taking a hard right at the kitchen, negotiating potted orchids and miscellaneous appliances on his way home. Unlike other birds I have had, he never dropped out of sight behind bookcases, hid from us high up on beams or hunkered into the folds of curtains. He did some hiking, which is dangerous when you are 3″ tall and the carpet is Persian camo. Most of his trekking was limited to the under-coffee-table area, with its chrome legs and unlimited supply of crumbs.
This tiny green demon could be a monster, though. Pirate the handicapped dove also likes to watch tv with us, and he would perch on her basket and stare until she protested. His big cage door also opened to the cockatiel cage, and he liked to clamber up and terrorize the bigger birds, taking over the favorite swing, everyone screeching in protest. Sometimes he would visit The Pirate’s cage, making a note of her food dish contents. Worse, he was an obnoxious neighbor. I finally put up a sign to block his view of The Pirate. The sign reads: “WARNING noise hazard level B ear plugs required”
Mostly, though, we miss his singing. He is featured as background in many of Dobby’s videos.
We marveled at Spike’s ability to sound like dozens of birds carrying on conversations with each other at the same time. He was chatty and cheerful to the end, when I wish he had instead communicated his illness. But that is not the way with prey animals, and he hid it well. Too well.
Farewell, sweet, silly Spike.