“If you love something, set it free; if it comes back, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was”: a quote attributed to Richard Bach, author of Jonathon Livingston Seagull. It’s a melodramatic sentiment that pulled me through several youthful heartbreaks.
Recently however, the quote seemed apropos for an entirely different setting.
Our cockatiel, Buddy, went walkabout for 2 nights.
Indulge me while I backtrack a little. Buddy joined our family 7 years ago. “Santa” found Buddy on craigslist: bird-cage $35, comes with free bird.
And so, Buddy moved in. All was going well, and then, Buddy started laying eggs(!) Imagine our surprise! We didn’t know Buddy was a girl! AND she didn’t have a mate.
My next purchase was Cockatiels For Dummies.
Over the years we have had many funny/annoying/endearing/interesting experiences with Buddy. And admittedly there have been times when I regretted getting Buddy…cleaning up bird poop, taking her for birth control shots since she is hell-bent on repopulating the world singlehandedly with [dud] eggs, incessant squawking etc. But, she is beautiful and the best watch dog we’ve ever had–no one sneaks up on our house. In fact, she alerts Frankie [the dog] who’s a lover not a watch dog. Truly she is a sweet bird and a real member of our family.
Back to present time…
Last week Meg and I arrived home after a month in Canada. Our trip back was awful (thank you United Airlines). After spending 7 hours in San Francisco airport, lugging 3 bags + a violin around, 5 gate changes and delayed luggage, I was maxxed out. When we landed however, we learned that our Buddy had escaped!
So, at 7pm we all went out to look for her: Me with my addled, travel weary brain; Dennis with compromised hearing due to a baseball injury, Meg with limited vision; Frankie [the dog] who’s a lover not a hunter…and quelle surprise! We did not find her. Darkness descended and we reluctantly abandoned our search.
The next morning I sprang into action. I uploaded her photo on craigslist, Facebook and Nextdoor.com (per their website: Nextdoor is the private social network for you, your neighbors and your community. It’s the easiest way for you and your neighbors to talk online and make all of your lives better in the real world.) I received many thoughtful and encouraging responses from all these venues. But alas, no Buddy sightings.
That afternoon we went out to look for her again. We whistled and listened–Buddy responds to our whistle with a very distinctive squawk. Eventually Meg heard Buddy’s answering call! AND then we spotted her. Check out the pic to the left: If you squint your eyes and tip your head to the left you can see her WAY WAY WAY up in the giant eucalyptus trees behind our house. We whistled back and forth for quite some time. Our friends Alison and Kyle came to help us get her back. We brought out her cage with all her favorite treats in full view. But Buddy would not come down. I entertained (not really) the notion of calling the fire department with their long long ladder. I also considered climbing 60′ up that tree to get her. But before we knew it, she was in full flight making huge circles in the sky…eventually settling high in a eucalyptus in another neighborhood. Miraculously we located her again! But as twilight turned into night, she stayed in that tree and would not come down.
Now, here’s where we circle back to Bach’s quote…
We returned home, without our bird and feeling low. And then I had an epiphany. Buddy was making a choice. She had the ability to fly. She knew where we were. She could see her cage and her treats. I had to “release” her…I had to set her free–emotionally. While I would miss her very much, she had chosen to stay in the wild. I was still sad, but really, it was ok.
The next morning I received a call from Peggy (Nextdoor.com neighbor). She had Buddy in her living room! It turns out that Peggy and her husband are avid birders. They had read my plea for help. While working at home she recognized that cockatiel squawk. Investigating the source, she discovered Buddy sitting on an RV! Approaching her first with a stick and then with her proffered finger, Buddy hopped up and went in the house with Peggy!
I hurried over to Peggy’s home and was relieved to find Buddy in excellent shape and happy to see me! She easily went into her cage and started noshing on her beloved millet. What a homecoming! It was a Christmas miracle come early! All of us were thrilled to see her again. She was quiet and slept a lot the first few days back. She hoovered food and water, but overall, none the worse for her adventures. Buddy has settled back into family life: squawking, guarding our house, and behaving like nothing ever happened.
Perhaps by “setting her free”, she proved that she was ours by coming back…
P.S. Thank you Peggy and Nextdoor.com!