This crazed, eight-dollar bird changed my life - I don't expect you to understand this unless you're into animals.  If you're not, I have to say you're missing a depth of emotion that can change how you look at the world...

I never understood pets.

Until I met Little Guy.

Whenever I would see somebody walking their dog, paying $100 for cat food or shopping for the best bowl for a fish - I thought they were crazy.

They're animals, they don't need us to take care of them, their supposed to be in the wild, and if you have to clean up after them, give them special showers and be careful what food you leave lying around - then how is that different from babysitting?

Well there is one big difference; you get paid to baby sit.

I know ignorant all this would seem to animal lovers, but it's the truth - that's just how I felt.

I didn't it.

Then for my birthday one year I was going to get a shark, basically because they look cool.  I had several fish when I was younger, but they ended up overeating (or I fed them too much) and they all died.

Years later I tried raising several Bonsai Trees, they all ended up dying.  I later found out that they are among the toughest plants to grow.

I bought them because I loved - and still do - they way they looked.

So I did have some experience with animals/pets/plants.

So on my birthday I thought I was getting a shark, but the tank - which cost a small fortune itself - had a delay in shipping so I wasn't going to be able to get it by my birthday.

I was mildly disappointed and voiced this to anybody within ear shot.

So on the day of my birthday, I got a parakeet as a gift.

I tried to be nice.

I was appreciative of the thought but wondered how anybody could deduce that a parakeet would be a suitable substitute for a shark.

As it turns out the parakeet was equally unimpressed by me.

He bit at me, lounged at me, would go wildly berserk if I tried to lay a finger in his cage.

He was a nut - a crazy little guy - so I started calling Crazy Little Guy - when he (and I) became more sane the eventual name became Little Guy.

Later I would find out that Little Guy was a female, but we still kept the name.

Little Guy.

Since I wasn't allowed to touch her, touch the cage or barely look at her I left her alone about ten feet from my desk in the doorway - this way we could get a better view of ourselves ignoring each other.

I have a neighbor with some little girls and so I thought that after a few days maybe I could give Little Guy to them, they would probably be a much better fit.

But over the next few days something happened...

I felt bad for Little Guy and started thinking about how uncomfortably she must be so I played some audios online of other parakeets, as soon as she heard them she started chirping away - chirp, chirp, chirp - she was excited.

So I tested something, I would stop the audios and then whistle and see how she responded to me.

She started chirping back.

I would chirp a rhythm, like Queens' We Will Rock You - and she would chirp back in proper cadence.

It was fun.

I still wasn't allowed to touch her, but I could get closer to the cage, eventually I could touch and grab the cage - and even move it - without her going nuts.

I ended up putting her on my desk and we would 'talk' back and forth, anytime I would leave she would throw a tantrum and chirp for me to come back.

When I say tantrums, I mean like Exorcist-type tantrums, she would scream, fly, bite her cage - just total chaos - and I felt so bad that I would stay.

But I had to leave sometimes, right?

She didn't think so.

I had to take her everywhere with me - yes everywhere.

Gas stations, grocery stores, Wal-Mart, next to the treadmill - even in the bathroom - everywhere, or she would completely flip out.

Eventually I could pet her - but only a few times a day - more than that and I got a warning chirp followed by a striking pinch, sometimes those pinches drew blood.

I had boundaries, and she never let me forget it.

She was a fighter.

Everyday she grew on me more and more - her feelings toward me kind of hit a plateau after a few days - but mine never did.

I started to see, for the first time in my life, why people treat/love animals as children.  I understood the motivations behind animal lovers, and it was a revolution to me.

Over the next few months I got her a companion, began to become a burden to her and my petting privileges revoked to once a day.  She wasn't as tolerant of me once she had a friend.

Strange isn't it?  That somebody with so much spite, and even hatred, towards you can invoke a gradually deeper feeling of compassion from you.  Maybe that says something about me... or maybe not.

Because of my experience with Little Guy, I decided to 'upgrade' and adopt some parrots - that is completely different story but that experience has made me an even crazier 'animal nut' - and my 'Big Guys' actually love me back!

Either way I love Little Guy, so when I found out she had tumors I could have been happier - and I was once I found out that a majority of parakeets have them and they are generally harmless.

But slowly things got worse.

She flew less and less.

After a few months she almost never flew.

We gave her medicine, set appointments for her, tried cleaning her beak and stomach with 'washes' - everything we could think of.

Next to her cage was a large bookshelf, about 20 feet high, and Little Guy used to hang out up there quite a bit before she got sick.  It had been months since she had been able to get back up there.

One Monday afternoon, I saw her up there.

I was thrilled!

This must have meant she was feeling better, right?

I thought so.

She was up there chirping, biting the wood and not happy to see me - so everything was normal...

That night as we were getting ready to put her sickness behind us, she collapsed from her cage.

She hit the bottom.

We picked her up and she could hardly stand.

I set out a sheet for her in the family room and put her on it, there she squirmed and tried to regain her footing - I could hear her breathing heavier and looking at me as her chest expanded and contracted like air pump on a balloon.

She was dying.

I called the emergency vet because I didn't think she would make the trip and I was hoping they had some ideas that I could use right now...

I tried to help her, but even in death Little Guy would accept my help to stand and then nip at me as if to say "I'm fine, now get your hands of me!"

I told you, she was a fighter.

All the way to the end.

After 10-15 minutes of stumbling over and dragging herself back to her feet, she stumbled over one last time.

There on her back, with her eyes fixed on the bookshelf, she died.

I spent some money (several times the price of Little Guy) for an official autopsy, and although it isn't conclusive they have determined it was not the cancer that killed her.

It was more likely some bacteria that we did not treat/diagnosed effectively.

That makes it even worse.

When we get to the bottom of this, I'll let you know, hell even if I help you save just one animals' life it would be worth it, right?

Right!

It's funny the things you remember when you look back, because what I remember and admire most about her was her fighting spirit - she knew she was dying and as a final act of defiance she refused to stay in the cage on her last day - she gave it everything she had and flew to the top of that bookshelf.

Bravo Little Guy.

An amazing attitude.

I can only hope and pray that I face death with such a 'pair'.

If you have a similar story, I'd love to hear it...

Azam

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