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Charlie Checks Out

Sunday, September 30, 2007

I got a call not long ago I'd been waiting for, ever since taking Charlie for his first veterinarian visit in--eep--18 years? I got Charlie in Connecticut in 1986. Connecticut's a hotbed for birdkeeping, with a strong Italian and Latin American birdkeeping tradition running through much of the populace. Charlie had a wonderful avian veterinarian in Dr. Robert Giddings, and we saw him often. On moving to Ohio, I found the nearest avian veterinarian to be 2 1/2 hours away, outside Columbus. And so most of the questions that arose I handled with phone consultations to Dr. Giddings. And truthfully, nothing's happened that I couldn't handle. I trim toenails and beaks, broken blood feathers, and deal with the occasional insect sting. When Sherri (of Raven's Haven exotic bird rescue and Magic the Hummingbird fame) told me she was hosting a bird wellness clinic at a Marietta hotel, featuring Columbus avian veterinarian Dr. Mohan, I leapt at the chance to have Charles seen.

Charlie: Please, may I see your finger? You could use a little exam yourself.

There are precious few veterinarians who see exclusively birds, and only one that I know of in Ohio: R. Mohan, DVM, MS, PhD. Needless to say Dr. Mohan goes through a lot of towels, since that's the way you restrain birds who can bite your finger off. He's really good with a towel.

Charlie had bloodwork done; he had a gram stain and a fecal exam. He had feather follicle biopsies taken, to see if there's any organic cause for his featherpicking. I knew that I had a healthy bird; at 386 grams he's a hefty little chestnut-fronted macaw. I knew he eats wonderfully, a varied and healthy diet, and that he gets plenty of love. Although it's hard to give parrots, who spend their lives monogamously paired, as much love as they need. But it was nice to hear Dr. Mohan say he tested out fine in every way for a bird his age (21). His flora and blood counts are normal. I'm especially grateful, having heard recently that Alex the African grey parrot, subject of years of language acquisition studies, died suddenly. What a shock, and tragedy, to lose such a learned, beloved and Very Useful bird at only 31. His last words to Dr. Irene Pepperberg: "Good night. Be good. I love you. See you in the morning."

So we're giving Charlie extra kisses and bits of ribeye steak,
and we're thankful to have his greenness in our lives. He gives me a bird's perspective on things from his perch on my shoulder as I paint and write. He breathes in my ear and makes sure my eyebrows are on straight. I'm thankful to have a macaw I can trust to sit on my son's chestand preen my daughter's cheek with his odd, rubbery tongue. He's even made room in his little parrot heart for that interloper, Chet Baker, and he's just as sweet and playful with Bacon as he is with us. What a guy. It'd be easier (and more characteristic of many parrots) for him to be cranky, but Charlie goes toward the light.

On these lovely autumn evenings we bring Charlie outside to sit with us in the slanting light. When it gets cold he climbs down our shirtfronts and chuckles in the warm darkness next to our hearts.


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