I was in the midst of a Select Board meeting on Tuesday evening when a text from my husband, Charlie, popped onto my screen: I lost Bodhi. I’m going into the woods to look for him. Apparently, Bodhi flew off Charlie’s shoulder when he opened the door to let in our dog.
This was bad. Bodhi is our 20-month-old Dusky-Headed Conure, a small green parrot with the outsized personality of a professional comedian. He loves to cuddle and laugh, take showers and dance, and, before we let his flight feathers grow out, perch on Charlie’s shoulder while he worked outside. Note above: flight feathers grown out.
Heartbroken, I raced home from the meeting to find the place empty. No Charlie. No Fred (the basset hound). No Bodhi. It was getting dark and the woods behind us, which dip into a deep ravine, were already pitch black. A little voice suggested I hop in the car with the sunroof down, and head to the dirt road that parallels the creek in the ravine. Maybe Bodhi had flown down to the water or maybe Charlie needed help.
But all I saw on the road was my neighbor running and a few people sitting out. I was tempted to stop and tell them about our bird, but decided to plow on. I passed the spot on the other side of the creek behind our house and that’s when I heard him calling. He knew the sound of my car.
This was not surprising. Bodhi starts cawing as soon as he hears Charlie’s motorcycle coming down the driveway. He is very attached to us; more, I realize now, than I originally thought.
I parked the car at my neighbor’s and crossed the stream, calling to him constantly. He was right nearby, but invisible because it was so dark. Clawing up the damp hillside, I kept a running conversation with him. He sounded panicked and frightened as he hopped above my head from branch to branch, eventually arriving at the edge of our abutting field.
And that’s when he took off, shooting across the gray sky and landing way high on a mountain ash by our stone wall. Then he went dead silent, either from exhaustion or fear – for night had fallen.
Charlie was so devastated that he slept in the bed of the pickup truck by Bodhi’s landing spot just to make sure no owl or some other raptor got any funny ideas. The next morning we called to him and he called back. He was on an uppermost branch, more than 40-feet high, with no way to get down, though we could see him trying, swinging around branches and biting off leaves.
We had to go to work. Charlie brought down the cage and put it in the field. Both of us came back around lunch to check. Charlie climbed a tall ladder, then shimmied up the tree like a teenager. (He’s not.) My pulse raced. One lost bird; one dead husband.
Still, Bodhi remained just barely, frustratingly out of reach.
That evening, I had hopes that he would take the same chance he did around dusk the night before and fly. But still he wouldn’t budge. Minding advice found on the interwebs, we went back to the house and back to business as usual. Charlie mowed the lawn; I cleaned the grill. Bodhi called to us constantly and we called back, encouraging him to fly.
It was getting dark again and I was worried. Thunderstorms were predicted for the next day along with a temperature drop. Conures are tropical birds and susceptible to colds that could kill them. Charlie went down to the tree line and attempted to convince Bodhi one last time to give it a go before nightfall. Lots of chatter.
Discouraged, my poor husband trudged back to the house and that’s when the miracle began: Bodhi took off and headed toward the house. Unused to flying, he looked as if he might make it to the road – which would be very bad. Instead, he landed on a leafy tree right off the deck.
I stood underneath him as he carefully made his way down branch by branch until he was hanging about ten feet above my head. “Do it!” Charlie and I shouted.
And he did, dropping into my arms and fluttering so madly he bounced out and landed on the ground. I picked him up, hugged him to my chest and took him inside.
You would expect that a little bird who was dehydrated and hungry would go straight for water or seed. But all he wanted to do was go back and forth between Charlie and me, cuddling under our chins, in our shirts, clucking about his drama. He was so happy to see us, to be with us and us with him, that it was unreal to think all this boundless joy came from a little green bird.
At last he drank his fill of water and polished off a saucer of seed before going back to the cuddling, nuzzling, nestling
chattering. When he started laughing, we knew he was all right.
We put him in his cage and he went straight to his little sleeping loft, murmuring to himself and us. That night, the coyotes howled and though they cannot climb trees, I was glad Bodhi was safely home.
Of course, Fred is back to whining if we pet the bird and not him.
So what do we do now? The flight harness we have is too bulky; Bodhi hates it. Do we clip his flight feathers even though birds with clipped wings are not as happy, apparently as those with unclipped wings?
All I know is that I never ever want to go through that again. Because unconditional love – even from a small parrot – is too wonderful to lose.