BECAUSE I DO MOST OF MY MOURNING BEFORE THE FACT ONCE THE CLOCK STARTS TICKING..…
This is my beautiful little Blue Fronted Amazon, Polly. I’m told she was an import which could mean just about anything but it has been clear to me over the years she was not hand fed – knows nothing of any hand feeding instruments and though very gentle is not a hands-on kind of bird. We know her to be at least 30 years old but aren’t really sure of her age.
Before her past 18 years with me she was kept in an old fashioned 2’ round bird cage with one 1” dowel as her only perch and an old chain that held some kind of stone as her only toy. Her entire diet back then was seeds, mostly sunflower and an occasional Cheerio as a treat.
Polly came to me as bird #2 shortly after my baby umbrella, who was on 3 feedings a day. She was also the beginning of my flocking. I looked at her in her little round cage and then at the umbrella’s 4’ cage and just decided to move her over. They grew to take good care of each other over the years!
Polly went through many, many diet changes over her years with me the first one being to pellets. Initially she would only eat an occasional red or green thing. She was always very quiet and shy – often turning her back for privacy.
The consequences of her prior diet became apparent after a few years when her feet started becoming very stiff until they did not move at all. She completely lost her ability to grip. They remained in the 1” position of her old dowel for the longest time until eventually flattening out a little from the larger perches I offered. Back then I clipped everyone but decided she needed her wings or else she’d fall and crack her head. So, Polly learned to fly.
Over the years different birds joined our home and were also flocked. Polly was the Queen but a quiet one. I normally only heard her noise when she decided that one of the youngsters needed a talking to. I’m not sure what exactly she said but it was clear she was laying down the rights and wrongs – lots of warbling sounds and wing flapping and before long the other bird was slightly lowering their head! It wasn’t till recent years that Polly actually discovered her inner Amazon. She learned to eat very well and occasionally even had to be scolded for her noise. She even went through a period of picking on one of the softer-spoken Greys in the house and when I scolded her she actually gave me lip service in return!
She was never the sharpest knife in the drawer but we can blame that on the lack of enrichment in her formative years. We always took the flock outside as often as we could but I’m proud to have built the aviary for them. Polly was able to spend hours and hours outside even with the macaw babies. She was such a good flier that she could easily fly off if one of them even glanced her way. She was able to enjoy NJ monsoons and beating sun.
A few weeks ago, I noticed she had a real stink smell in her mouth – I have a hound dog nose and have learned with the babies to always smell their breath. I kind of thought maybe yeast mixed with amazon smell could be it so treated accordingly but the smell mostly remained. I had also been treating her with milk thistle for the liver every day. So, I was in her mouth a lot. One day, out of seemingly nowhere, I saw something big and white in her throat. I took a good look and saw two large growths. OH NO! This can’t be good. We went to the doctor the next day. She poked it a little with the q-tip and things loosened and were a little bloody. She was able to gently, without any resistance, remove a few big callous growths and a couple bony pieces.
Results of biopsy: Squamous Cell CARCINOMA! Caused by chronic hypovitaminosis A. And what is this caused by everyone??? Her prior SEED DIET!
She has been permanently pulled from the community cage as she does not have the strength to be there any longer but she is positioned right across from the flock. The first night she fussed and wanted to roost with everyone else but now she is settled in. When she has the strength, I allow her to fly out and sit out. I give her her regular food and some extra soft food so that she can decide what she can handle. I have a good supply of Metacam for her. Right now, I’m just giving it in the evening. I want her to be comfy but not unnecessarily drugged. I will keep her as comfortable as I can until I can’t any longer. I want to do what is right for her not me. I want her to die with some dignity. I’m already a little concerned about “that” day. She is not a hands-on bird. I will offer to hold or comfort her in some way but if she’s not comfortable with that then that is not what we will do. She may very well just want her usual chit chat and eye contact. We will play it by ear.
In the meantime, we take advantage of this time we have. We expect this to take her quickly but for now she’s not looking so bad. The other night when she is normally fast asleep she came down to chat with me. We discussed her life – eye to eye. I know I gave her the longest life possible given where we started from.
PLEASE people, feed your birds right! Don’t give them things they shouldn’t have. Some things that people feed are so surrounded by controversy. If nothing else why give them food that is questionable? There are so many good options available. Be a strong flock leader. Focus on improvement.