The Bird Word
- Created: Thursday, 29 January 2009 06:00
There is a PVC perch in my bathroom held to the back of the shower wall by a pair of suction cups.
This morning I took Malachi in and put him on the perch and proceeded to prepare for a shower myself. After hearing the loud clunking sound, I looked up, and then down, to find that one of the suction cups had come loose, the perch now slanted sideways causing Malachi to fall into the tub below.
On the way down he managed to pull down a nearly full 32 oz. pump bottle of shampoo.
While I tried to gain a sense of what was happening, Malachi squawked and shimmied and worked himself free of the shampoo only to have the companion bottle of conditioner fall on top of him seconds later. I didn’t think the bottle hit his body, but it did pin down his tail and wing feathers that were now outstretched on the bottom of the tub. He let out a scream that hit my like a brick, "AAACCCKKKK!" this was clearly an angry communication from him that I understood him to be a stressful combination of "Help! DO something!" and "What the heck is happening!"
I didn’t respond vocally to the shampoo bottle falling, but I found myself screaming with him when the conditioner fell - a loud primal, "Aaahhhhhhh!" Perhaps I was too panicked to form with words, or maybe it was the stress of watching helplessly while another living being struggled in what he thought was a mortal battle in an unlikely setting - either way I surprised myself with my unnatural response. I typically don’t scream in moments of crisis, but the rapid succession of falling objects over which I had little control left me feeling completely powerless and yelling, "aaahhhhhhh!" was all I could do. I felt like it was some way of letting Malachi know that I was with him, but the logic and the words weren’t available to me. It was a very weird thing to hear myself respond so out of character in this way.
I wanted to reach into the tub and help Malachi get the heavy rolling bottles off him, but it seemed that reaching around him might make things worse or cause him even more panic. So I waited a few seconds, until he got himself free of the bottles; then watched as he struggled to get out to the tub, but his beak couldn’t get a grip on the porcelain side. As I saw him start to relax when he realized nothing else was falling I offered him my forearm and brought him up to stand on the side of the tub.
My trainer brain took over… I didn’t want him to associate the tub or the bathroom with terror, so I let him stand on his own but gave him comfort and scratched his head while he started to regain his confidence and realized that the worst was over, or so I thought.
Then I saw it… the blood flowing down his left wing and looking frighteningly bright against his blue-green feathers. There was stark contrast against the white tub and the small red pool that was forming.
My thoughts went wild: Oh, no! Would he be okay? Should I take him to the vet? It’s Sunday, that means the emergency vet? Would they have an avian specialist on staff? Is it possible our regular vet would be on duty this weekend? She sometimes works at the emergency clinic. I’ll have to warm up the car (it’s winter in Minnesota); will I have time for a shower? Atleast brush my teeth. Maybe it’s not that bad. Perhaps I could call a friend to come over and towel him for me while I look at his wing. Maybe it’s just a broken feather. That’s a lot of blood. Who could I call to hold him? Would they come? Would it cause him more stress? Hasn’t he already had enough trauma for one day?
While this crazy stream of brain chatter continued, I wet the end of the bath towel and to my surprise Malachi let me wipe his wing. The white towel turned scarlet. "That seems like a lot of blood!" I thought. As I continued to wipe and open his wing gently I watched him carefully for signs of pain, and saw none.
As I focused on him, he focused on me and the world around us seemed to fall away so that it was only we two souls. Face-to-face. Eye-to-eye. Connected. He seemed to understand that I was looking to help, if I could; and that if I could understand how he was injured and why he was bleeding it would mean a lot to me. There was a depth and a closeness that I hadn’t felt with him before. Soon it appeared the bleeding had stopped. I still don’t know where the blood was coming from, but I was grateful it stopped. His wing opened and closed without pause, so I concluded it wasn’t broken.
In an attempt to get a different vantage point I moved to sit next to him on the edge of the tub, suddenly the shower curtain fell with the rod coming down on my head, but fortunately my body shielded Malachi from one more sky-is-falling event! He startled a little, as did I, but the calmness we had slowly built between us remained intact.
Again I didn’t want the bathroom to become a fearful place so I decided I had to stay with him longer following the curtain rod fall. I filled the plant mister with water and let him shower on the side of the bathtub. The warm water washed over him and I could see the rest of his stress just wash away.
Now, back in his cage, he seems to be doing just fine. Thank goodness!