Navajo and Sweetie: a Budgie Love Story

This happened a few years ago, but I thought it might be relevant to a question EmAnJ asked in the euthanasia thread – about whether it’s a good idea to let one’s other pets view the body of a pet who has passed on. It doesn’t involve a euthanasia decision, so I didn’t want to hijack that thread.

You have to understand, this is an epic love story.

Navajo was the last pet we ever bought in a store, before we became fully conscious of the need to rescue and re-home. He was a little blue budgie boy, purchased to keep our solitary hen, Perty, company. Perty hated us and was intensely lonely.

Well, Perty tolerated Navajo, but that was it. She’d let him preen her sometimes, but she never returned the favor, and she never really bonded with him. When she eventually went to live with our friends (long story, but she did not hate them, it turns out, just us, and was much happier there). So then Navajo was alone.

Soon we learned of a little cream-and-pastel-colored budgie who was being kept alone by someone who didn’t interact with her much and wanted to get rid of her. We agreed to take this Sweetie into our house. Perhaps they would hit it off.

Quarantine required them to be kept in separate rooms for a while, but Navajo was electrified the moment he heard her. Over the course of a few weeks, he chattered and sang constantly to tell her he was near, but they did not get to meet.

Finally we ended the quarantine (perhaps a little early!) and brought Sweetie’s cage into Navajo’s view.

From that moment they were inseparable – Navajo even clung to the side of his cage closest to her until we let him out.

Sweetie never really adapted to being a pet – she was always frightened of people, so much so that even being allowed free time out of her cage was a bad idea – she’d fly straight into a corner and huddle on the floor.

But Navajo was her contact with the world. Poor, mistreated, dominated Navajo blossomed into a confident caretaker who not only doted on his mate, but became captain of the bird room and looked after all the other birds.

We could leave their cage open (in the dedicated bird room) and he’d come and go while she stayed inside. When we served fresh cooked food, he’d bring it to her and feed her. When she was laying eggs, he’d shuffle up to her and crowd her against the mineral block, then chatter at her and even peck her until she ate some minerals. He watched over her if she bathed; he preened her all the time; he snuggled against her at night. Once, when she flew out and fell down behind a piece of furniture and got stuck, he frantically flew from me to where she was trapped, over and over, and yelled at me until I found her and retrieved her. Did you know a budgie can yell? I swear he was frustrated at my stupidity until I finally caught on.

When she got sick, we tried to take care of her, but he was the one who stood watch over her ceaselessly. She got worse and worse, and a trip to the avian vet confirmed what we already knew (it was believed to be tumors; pet store budgies are notoriously inbred and often get tumors fairly young – but it was possible that it was an infection she could fight off). We gave her antibiotics and pain meds and brought her back home to see if she could make it.

When she finally died, we didn’t know what to do. But somebody would have to tell Navajo – we couldn’t just disappear her.

So my wife set Sweetie’s tiny pastel body gently on the playstand, in full view. Navajo swooped over and perched above her, calling with increasing urgency.

Then he flew down and touched her. He walked around the body in silence, then flew up to the perch above it, and began to talk. Not human words (he never spoke human), but clicking, chittering, whistling budgie chatter. He talked and sang to her for a long time, quietly, and we closed the door and left him alone.

Later that night he went back to his cage, alone, and we took her body.

For some time afterward, perhaps a year, Navajo still ran the bird room, watching out for all the other birds, even the larger ones, and scolding us if we waited too long to uncover his flock in the morning, or stayed up too late, or let the water get dirty. But he was getting old too, for a pet-store budgie.

They are together now, as they have always been from that first moment he heard her from the other room and called to her.

Navajo and Sweetie

sniff

What a sweet story. Now I’m sitting here at work all teary!

…scuse me, I have something in my eye…(furtively wipes at the corners)

That was a lovely story.

Now I have tears in my eyes. What a sweet story.