Monday, January 09, 2012

Goodbye Stan, Sexually Ambiguous Cockatiel

My childhood pet bird, Stan, died while I was home for the holidays. He was a cockatiel and lived to be 23 years old--probably much longer than most of his colleagues would ever dream of! While he was more like my mother's pet (I never had much emotional attachment, as he was no fun to play with) Stan always lived in the living room, listening to me play piano and squawk when the music got really intense. A few times he squawked so much that I had to take his cage into another room so I could concentrate. But mostly he was pretty inconspicuous. He'd take a flight around the house about once a day, and everyone in the family would duck as he flew around.

Toward the last years of his life, Stan's flying became erratic and he was more like a dive-bombing bird- he'd fly right into a corner of the room, slide down the wall unharmed, and then toddle out on the floor looking around, waiting for someone to come pick his disoriented bird self up and put him back on his cage. The last few months of his life were less flight-bound, mostly shivery and sneezing to himself, a little bird flu.

Around New Years, Stan took one last daring flight and landed behind a heavy bookcase cabinet and my mom and I looked everywhere for him, unable to find him hiding under a chair or in a corner, or perhaps in a potted plant. I finally located him because of his old-age bird-wheezing, and managed to pry the bookcase away from the corner. I've come to think that this was Stan's last flight of honor, wanting to die in peace and quiet, like some animals who find a hiding place to put their heads down to take a final rest. But what do you know, my mom and I had to go make a dramatic Intervention out of it and tell Stan that he still had so much more life to live!

Stan's best quality should have been his mellifluous chirp. Stan was originally bought thinking he'd be a beautiful singing or talking bird, which the male cockatiels are especially good at. We didn't know why he didn't learn to repeat anything we said; he would only hiss loudly like a cat when anyone approached, and did a sort of bark when a car came in the driveway- our very own watchbird. But after owning Stan for twelve years, he laid an egg. Stan was technically a girl. We tried briefly to call her 'Stanette', and use female pronouns, but to no avail--Stan remained Stan. The gender dysphoria and sexless life without a bird companion could have been enough to drive Stan to madness, but he didn't seem to mind.

Stan's faithfulness to our family will always be remembered. Sometimes we'd accidentally leave the door open in the summer, and Stan would never fly out to greet his cardinal and blue jay friends. Thanks for stickin' around as long as you did.

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