Sunday, December 23, 2007

Paulie D., the Christmas Bird

We’ve all heard the Christmas songs about animals:
“Chrissy, the Christmas Mouse,” who lives in the bottom of Santa’s house. “Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer,” who guided Santa on that foggy Christmas Eve, and “Dominick the Donkey,” who can climb the hills of Italy. That’s just a few.

I have a story about a Christmas bird, named Paulie D. (not to be confused with the actor, please). Paulie D. bird is a mitred conure that was hatched on July 15, 1999 at a bird ranch in Colorado. We named him “Paulie” because he is almost the same type of conure that starred in the movie “Paulie” (although that bird had a blue head). The movie was about a “talking bird” that was searching for his owner who he was separated from when she was a child. Never mind, let’s not get into that now. The “D” comes from a famous actor. Anyway, my Paulie D was transported for sale to the PETCO at Union Square in New York City some time during the fall of 1999 and was living in a cage with about 10 other birds where he aggressively ruled the feathered flock.

In mid December of that year one Friday evening while on our way to the Park Avenue Café, we went into the PETCO in Union Square and visited the aviary section. We noticed “Paulie D” and thought he was a good-looking bird (he is – see photo). He was mostly green with cherry red patch on his forecrown, lores, cheeks and sides of the neck. He had a little dusting of red speckles on his green chest, and dark green, shiny wings. Since I love birds, my companion asked if I wanted him. I said, “no.”

On December 23 and one week later, Paulie D. was hand-delivered in a cardboard box with holes punched out all over it. “Paulie’s in the box.” And he was. We set up his cage, and then played Frank Sinatra songs while the bird sang—well, not really.

I kept Paulie D. with me until Memorial Day, when we transported him to my friend’s house, which was much larger then my tiny apartment. Since I was there virtually every weekend, I saw Paulie D. constantly and played with him all the time. His cage was in the kitchen, and he liked watching me cook and I always enjoyed giving him fresh peppers, snow peas, or peanuts (the bird, that is).

Then almost one year later, on the Saturday morning after Thanksgiving, the bird started flapping his wings profusely and trying to fly “in the cage.” He then fell to the bottom of the cage and was stilled in a “stargazing” stance. He looked almost paralyzed. Since we couldn’t figure it out, we decided to bring him to a local vet. Local vets in my town don’t typically treat “exotic” birds. That’s what Paulie D is considered. Exotic? Like the actor? The vet couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the bird, and suggested that we take him to the Animal Medical Center in New York City, the largest animal hospital in the U.S.

So we brought Paulie D. to the hospital in New York. After a series of tests and extracting blood from him (and more than $400 later), the doctor prescribed a medication that we picked up at the pet pharmacy at the hospital.

Twice every day, Paulie D. was wrapped in a blanket and fed via a bottle just like a baby. As the week progressed, his condition became worse.

Then on the morning of Christmas Eve, Paulie D was lying on the bottom of his cage. We thought it was over. We moved him out of his cage into his carrying case and brought him to the back bedroom so he could “rest.” We left that afternoon for a Christmas Eve dinner and thought that when we returned, he would be dead.

After we arrived home later that evening, we walked into the back room and heard noises coming from the case. Paulie D. was moving around, eating seeds, and drinking water. Later, we moved him back into his cage and, although he was still a bit week, he was alive. Ah, the miracle of Christmas. Since he was a Christmas gift and his colors are red and green, he will always be the “Christmas Bird” (also known as Paulie D)

Eight years later, he is still alive and doing very well! He likes to scream, chirp, bark (yes, bark—dogs live in the apartment downstairs), and loves doo whop music. Also, he still sings to Frank Sinatra songs—not really.

Merry Christmas to all the Christmas animals!

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