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Pet Stories: In Your Own Words

Humbug

By: Joan Saxe

For sixteen years, I was the privileged companion of a Grey-cheeked Parakeet, four inches of small green bird with the spirit of an Eagle. He arrived at Christmas time and was named Humbug. I was his as much as he was mine. Early on I gave up trying to discipline him for inappropriate behavior and resigned myself to the fact that I was the one in training. If I arrived too slowly with the desired piece of food, he bit me first and then graciously accepted the offering. I got the message. He had moods just like we all do. Sometimes he just plain woke up cranky and I had the good sense to keep my distance until his particular style of whistling told me the coast was clear. He was affectionate beyond belief and was as proud of me as if I had been sporting green feathers and spoke better "bird". We didn't need language, however. We understood each other perfectly.

Each evening when I got home from work and opened his cage, he dove under my shirt and spent the evening with his head tucked against my shoulder until time for him to have a snack and retire. When I put the blanket around his cage, he followed it and pulled the edges down the way he liked it. Then I'd put the top on and he would chortle happy sounds for about five minutes while I called "Good night Humbug. Good night."

The day before he died was an exceptionally happy day for him. He loved oatmeal so I had given him his own "bowlful" in a Sake dish. Nothing was more fun for him than eating until he had mush all over his face and then, with a quick flip of his head, sending a spray of food all over the kitchen wall. That was highly satisfying.

That night I had a dream. I am in a room with some other people that I didn't know. Birds are flying all around, one of which is a white one. We all know that it is a "spirit" bird. Someone says, "these must be Hummingbirds because they are so small". I finally catch the spirit bird and put it in it's cage where it will be safe. A man comes over, someone for whom I feel great affection. Hard as I try to keep the bird in, he lets it escape. He says "oh, I'm sorry, we lost him". I am devastated because I have tried so hard to keep him safe. Suddenly he flies back to my cupped hands and says to me nonverbally "I love you and I will be with you forever".

The next day when I got up, Humbug was unusually quiet and went right back to sleep. I immediately made an appointment with the Vet for later in the day. I hovered over him while I waited and just watched him sleep. As we drove into town, I got with two blocks of the Clinic and Humbug sagged off of his perch and fell. I stopped the car, scooped him out and held him in my cupped hand next to my chest as I drove the last two blocks. I ran in the door and saw Rocky, my friend and Veterinarian, in the hall. Humbug was struggling to breathe. I called out and he ran over immediately and took Humbug off to give him oxygen. A minute or so later, he came back and said "I'm so sorry. We lost him."

There is no doubt in my mind that Humbug came to say goodbye to me the night before he died. There was no reason for me to connect the dream with him until later because he was in perfect health at the time.

Humbug's spirit was huge. Brave and loving far beyond his size. I will miss him and love him forever.

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