In­cred­i­ble jour­ney

Maryland Independent - - Sports - Jamie Drake

Grow­ing up on a small farm, we had quite a menagerie of pets over the years.

Horses were our main in­ter­est and my par­ents al­ways had a few dogs. But my sis­ter and I kept a ver­i­ta­ble zoo of small pets than ran the gamut from kit­tens to kil­li­fish, para­keets to pythons and her­mit crabs to ham­sters.

One of our first farm pets was a rab­bit we bought at a live­stock auc­tion in Char­lotte Hall. The Amish man who sold him to us as­sured us he was male. “Peter” had ba­bies a few weeks later and thus started a long and pros­per­ous line of rab­bit prog­eny that kept us busy for many, many years.

And to­day, al­though we don’t live on a farm, I try to give my kids the same kind of fun and un­con­ven­tional up­bring­ing. We’ve had our fair share of pets over the years, and our friends know that if there’s a guinea pig that needs a home or a class­room aquar­ium that needs tend­ing dur­ing the sum­mer, there’s a pretty good chance we can help out.

That’s how we got in­ter­ested in birds. One was en­dowed to us when friends of a friend got di­vorced. An­other lost his lus­ter as a new pet and was no longer wanted. The learn­ing curve was steep with cock­atiels. As we learned the hard way, those lit­tle twisty ties that come on a loaf of bread can be very im­por­tant tools for keep­ing birds in — and squir­rels out — of their cages.

We’ve been pretty suc­cess­ful bird keep­ers the past few years, un­til just last month. Our pre­co­cious cock­atiel “Chives” had some­how got­ten out­side. We searched the yard for him, walked all the roads in our neigh­bor­hood call­ing his name and put his cage on the porch to beckon him back.

It’s hard to find a nee­dle in a haystack. It might be even harder to find a pet bird in the wild be­cause a haystack is a lot smaller area to search. Luck­ily our bird ab­sconded dur­ing a warm spell. Tem­per­a­tures neared 90 de­grees the first two days he was gone. I was wor­ried about him get­ting de­hy­drated. The rain­storms that rolled through later in the week fixed that, but brought with them cooler tem­per­a­tures that were just too low for a house-kept cock­atiel.

We hung posters all over the neigh­bor­hood hop­ing some­one would spot him, al­though my hus­band in­di­cated more than once that he doubted the posters would help. He thought Chives was pretty smart for a bird, but chances were one-in-a-mil­lion we’d see him again. It was a somber mood as I called the vet of­fices in the area and the lo­cal an­i­mal shel­ter to leave miss­ing pet re­ports.

I started to worry that the hawk that vis­its our bird­feeder look­ing for an easy meal or one of the many blue­jays or crows in our back­yard had al­ready dis­patched of Chives be­fore we had even no­ticed that he was gone. One night was so cold that by the next morn­ing, I had given up hope.

A few days later, ex­actly one week from when he dis­ap­peared, I re­ceived a text from a nice lady who sent the mes­sage, “I think I found your bird.”

She had been driv­ing in our neigh­bor­hood over the week­end and had seen one of the signs we posted. A few days later, a cock­atiel landed next to her on some play­ground equip­ment at the preschool where she works. She quickly rec­og­nized him from his photo on the poster, since not too many cock­atiels are roam­ing around Leonard­town. He stepped up into her hand and she put him in a con­tainer. Once she got him safely in­side, she called the vet’s of­fice and they gave her my phone num­ber.

Chives, nor­mally quite out­spo­ken, didn’t have much to say when we were re­united. He’d flown nearly 10 miles from home and I thought maybe he’d have some good sto­ries to tell about his ad­ven­ture, but he had other things on his mind. Look­ing like he’d lost a sig­nif­i­cant chunk of body weight,

he was surely glad to see his food and wa­ter dishes again. His feet were so tired from hang­ing on for dear life out in the ele­ments that he slept on the bot­tom of his cage for sev­eral days as he re­cov­ered from his in­cred­i­ble jour­ney.

The nice lady, Ge­or­gia, didn’t want to take the re­ward money we of­fered, and as I was driv­ing home with Chives once again at my side, a one-in-a-mil­lion mir­a­cle, I pon­dered what I could do to re­pay her kind­ness. The op­por­tu­nity pre­sented it­self the next day.

It hap­pened to be Elec­tion Day, and my kids ac­com­pa­nied me to the polling sta­tion while I voted. We had stashed our fish­ing poles and a cooler in my trunk and were plan­ning to head to Hugh­esville to do some fish­ing on their day off from school. Driv­ing out of the neigh­bor­hood, we stopped to take down the re­main­ing miss­ing bird signs that were still hang­ing.

Down one of the side streets, I nearly ran over an adult cedar waxwing stand­ing in the street. It didn’t move when we ap­proached it, which made me think it had pos­si­bly flown into a car and been in­jured. So I did what any re­spon­si­ble par­ent would do — I left my 10-year-old in the street with my cell phone (in case of an emer­gency) and told her to guard the bird from cars un­til I re­turned with a box and gloves.

It took about three min­utes and I was back with the proper equip­ment. The bird didn’t move when we gen­tly placed it in the shoe­box. Some­thing was def­i­nitely wrong and we knew where it would get the help it needed.

The Or­phaned Wildlife Rescue Cen­ter in Lusby is teem­ing with birds, rac­coons and other or­phaned or in­jured crea­tures in the spring­time that are raised or re­ha­bil­i­tated so they can be re­leased back in the wild. As it turns out, the cedar waxwing had a bro­ken wing. I knew he would be in good hands.

So Ge­or­gia, thank you for your kind­ness to our bird and help­ing us get him back. There are four happy chil­dren and a cock­atiel who very much ap­pre­ci­ate your quick think­ing. And I made good on that re­ward and do­nated it to OWRC. And also my hus­band has changed his mind and thinks those posters were a good idea af­ter all.

jamiedrake­out­doors@out­look.com

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