He was the best of birds.
He was the worst of birds.
Louie was a beautiful, common grey cockatiel, who would trustingly step onto my hand as I reached into his cage, with a look in his eye that said, “Let’s go!”
He would share my bowl of Mr. Noodles soup with relish. He would sit on my shoulder with glee as we walked around the house doing chores or making supper.
He would inspect my paperwork with sincere interest as I worked.
He would fly about the house like a miniature angel, leaving wafts of wind in the wake of his wings.
And yet he also chewed the window and door trim to shreds.
He would have his way with the wooden ceiling fan in the bedroom, leaving gnawed markings along the edge of the leaf-design.
As he was inspecting my paperwork as I worked, he would also comment by shredding much of that paper, happily chewing it to pieces with his beak, and leaving piles of bits of paper behind.
Once, he landed on the wiring of the dining room chandelier. The next thing I saw was a flash and a spark. He had chewed the live electrical wire – and had very nearly turned into a Kentucky Fried Louie!
He and I originally became acquainted on Thanksgiving weekend 2006.
I had just been separated the week before.
The house was so empty. So quiet. Not another heartbeat to be heard.
So, I thought a bird would do the trick. Fill the void.
I searched a local paper and saw a pair of cockatiels needed to be rehomed.
They came with a cage and everything.
It was love at first sight.
He, origially named Lucious, was a lovely, grey colour with the typical cockatiel bright orange cheeks. He looked cheeky enough.
He was paired with a beautiful yellow female named Cora.
Their owners delivered them to my house the next day, cage and all.
It was so large it filled an entire wall in the kitchen.
Cora was not so sociable. She always looked like she wanted to bite me. But she seemed to love her partner, and she was always grooming him.
I chose to rename him Louie, not liking the name Lucious too much. And he seemed not to mind.
He immediately began wolf whistling, and making other beautiful calls. If I was in the kitchen doing some cleaning or cooking, he would call out his wolf whistle, and I would say “Thank you, Louie!” It became our game.
I enjoyed Louie and Cora so much, I wound up adopting two more cockatiels. But we never bonded so much as Louie and I.
Louie would constantly eye me up and down, and I only recently learned that birds can see colours. He no doubt was assessing my chosen wardrobe of the day, silently offering his approval.
I also noticed that whenever I had him out on my shoulder, he would constantly eye the skylight in the kitchen. It was as if he was keeping watch for predatory owls or hawks or something.
He had even taken to the odd habit of cleaning my teeth. As disgusting as that sounds, and I don’t remember how it even started, he would pop his head right inside my mouth and proceed to inspect my molars and pick around for any last food that had become lodged in between them.
In hindsight, I have since learned that birds and humans have very different bacteria. Something to do with gram positives and negatives or some such thing. While their bacteria is not harmful to us humans, our bacteria can be quite harmful to them.
Louie was not quite two years old when he came to me.
He left this earth about six years later.
I came home from work one evening around 8 o’clock. I noticed he was teetering on his perch slightly.
I took him out immediately, and he never left my hand.
He began shaking and vibrating uncontrollably.
Three hours later, he was dead.
His final gasp was in the palm of my hand, gripping it as he had what appeared to be some kind of heart attack.
I was in shock and sadness beyond belief.
My lovely Louie, was dead.
I left him there, in my hand, his wings spread out over the side as if hugging me, for hours.
I couldn’t believe he was gone.
I was inconsolable.
As an animal lover, I know it is a rare thing to have a deep connection with any sort of creature.
Louie and I had that deep connection.
And now he was gone.
I didn’t want to let him go.
Didn’t want to take him out of my hand.
He looked as though he would spring back to life at any second.
His beautiful dark eyes were open.
He was still warm.
My heart was broken.
He and I had a bond, I believe.
He trusted me, and I loved him unconditionally, even though he wreaked havoc on the woodwork throughout the house.
But I could forgive all that.
He was my winged buddy, my little flying angel.
I finally, carefully, wrapped him on a bright, blue cloth napkin.
I laid him there overnight, until I could bury him in the yard the next day.
He will always remain in my heart, as our pets who have passed on do.
I still hope and think he is looking down on me in some way.
And I see his spirit in every bird.
The spirit of lovely, little Louie.
He was the best of birds.