It’s been over a decade since my step-father called to tell us about his new garage sale bargain. That’s right. Sparky, a beautiful cockatiel, was the purchased at a garage sale – his cage and all – for $30. It’s certainly not your everyday garage sale item.
We already had two cats and a dog, so we actually thought he would be the perfect gift for my grandmother, who loves birds. She, of course, said no way. She didn’t want the mess of having a bird in the house. And I can attest, Sparky certainly was a bit messy. He especially liked to spit his seeds everywhere within landing distance.
We took him in anyway, and soon he became part of our family. Of course, he was a little homesick at first. He didn’t sing much when we first got him, and I worried that he wouldn’t make it past the first few days since he looked so sad.
My mom told me about the first time she got him out of his cage. I was at school, and she locked the cats away. She left our dog at the time, a miniature schnauzer named Trixie, out though. She told me that Sparky squawked at her and freaked her out. We made sure to keep the dog locked up from then on.
It became my responsibility to feed. Every night, I made sure to clean out his bowl and replenish it with new food. I later took over the responsibility of making sure he had fresh water, and I made sure to cover him each night as well. So, each night, I would spend a little time with him before I went to bed, telling him he was a pretty bird. Sometimes he would repeat what I said. I’d also whistle to him. His favorite tunes were “I Wish I Was in Dixie Land” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” He also liked the “Three’s Company” theme song. He came us to already knowing how to say “Pretty BIrd,” but I taught him how to say “Pretty Handsome Bird.” Sometimes, he would try to say my step-father’s name, “Leroy” as well, because my mom called it so often.
Sparky didn’t get out of his cage often, mainly because of the other animals. I felt bad and wish we could have gotten him out more often, but I was also afraid he would get hurt. We had such high ceiling fans when we moved into our new house. We were worried he would fly up and we’d never get him down. There were a few times he flew up on a ceiling fan and we struggled to get him down. There were a few times he flew behind the television too. He’s a very lucky bird to not have hurt himself.
Sparky saw animals come and go in our zoo of a house. He outlived our cat, Buttons and our dog, Trixie. He also was there to greet both of our current dogs, Micah and Buddy. Plus, my sister’s stinker of a cat, Tinkerbell. He survived Tinkerbell trying to get to his cage on a few occasions, since she wasn’t as oblivious to him as our other animals.
Sparky was our watch bird. In fact, he was a more reliable watch pet than either of our current dogs. Usually, when they’re barking, it’s because of a squirrel or a rabbit. Sparky generally only chirped when someone was in the drive way. However, there were some occasions that he chirped before someone was in the driveway – like when my mom was down the street. He was a smart bird, and he’ll be forever missed.
The reality is, losing a pet is one of the hardest things in the world. It might even be harder than losing a person. Generally speaking, pets have a shorter lifespan than humans, so we know when they come into our lives we’re going to have to say goodbye to them at some point. We’re just never prepared for that moment.
Sparky was a great bird, and I’ll miss him.