After seven years with us, we have made the horribly painful decision to find Zoe a new home. When we first rescued Zoe he was sad, dirty, and quite frankly a bit of a monster to deal with. Over the course of many years of patient affection, Zoe has become the sweet bird I think he always wanted to be. However, during this time he and Gandhi, our conure whom we adopted before Zoe came into the picture, clashed many times. A few of those events required medical assistance.
This week Zoe and Gandhi again managed to get past me and fight again, even though we separate them and stick to a very careful routine in the house. Zoe and Gandhi just aren’t compatible, even after all this time, and we can no longer risk their safety. The pain and worry sat with me one last time in the vet’s office as Gandhi was treated for his latest battle wounds (he’s fine and bounced back hours later) but I cannot do this anymore. I can’t risk my baby’s safety, even if it means seeing my other baby off to a place more suited to handle his particular needs.
And those needs are many. Zoe is my beautiful baby who just a few years ago would viciously attack and bite anyone for any reason because of his improper socialization and whatever traumas he faced in his life. We still do not know much about his past other than that he was shuffled from house to house, having been neglected for some time and finally ending up in foster care before we rescued him and brought him home. The last seven years have seen him make friends with multiple people and calm down into a sweet baby who spends hours a day on my shoulder. However, this new, intense bonding meant that Zoe regarded the other living creatures in his home—Alex and Gandhi—as competition for my affection. For years he has lashed out at Alex who has been such a good sport, loving his sweet Zoe even though he has only managed to hold him for more than a few seconds a handful of times. No longer can we draw an imaginary line down the middle of our home trying to appease two sides. No longer will my baby Zoe live with a family that cannot give him exactly what he needs.
I have spent the last two days crying. Nobody is dying or (seriously) injured, but I truly feel like death. At this point I’m not convinced I will ever be okay, but the most important thing is that both Zoe and Gandhi live their fullest lives in safety and joy.
I will miss my baby who greets me in the morning with sweet sounds from his cage. I will miss his sweet breath after eating techina and nigella snacks. I will miss sharing my bagels with him. I will miss his ways of saying “I love you” as only parrots can. I will miss finding molted feathers in my bed and in my shoes. I will miss his screams and his tantrums. I will miss his sweet “woohoo” that breaks my heart and fills me with love every time he looks at me from his cage with those big, beautiful brown eyes. I will miss whistling back and forth all day. I will miss watching his eyes flutter as he naps on his perch in the shower until it’s his turn to go under the water, flapping his wings and bowing forward, enjoying (and sometimes hating) his personal waterfall.
I will miss the weight on my shoulder. Two hundred and ninety grams. I will miss the way he chews the collar from my shirts and the way he can decimate a seam in seconds. I will miss his kisses. The way he preens my beard and licks my cheek. I will miss singing with him and playing games and getting louder and louder until Alex and I burst out in laughter and hurry to calm him down before the neighbors complain. Ninety decibels of screaming I will miss. Ringing bells and chewing toys I will miss.
I will miss his sweet little feet, how they are so warm and the perfect size to wrap around your fingers when you’re sad. I will miss the way he licks tears from my face and how he lays his beak on my nose. I will miss feeding him almonds and singing “Einayim Yerukot,” the song we play every night as he goes to bed. I will miss covering him before he closes his eyes and waking him with a, “Good morning, babies!” as I enter the room.
Now I will begin my morning with the singular, “baby.” I will wake Gandhi every morning and love him as much as I loved two birds. I will dream of Zoe—probably mostly nightmares at first—and miss him every single day. This pain will never subside.
We realized months ago that we would never be approved to adopt a baby with our special-needs bird in the house. He’s capable of such damage, and if you’ve seen my hands, you know that skin-piercing bites are a regular occurrence with an Amazon parrot, even when he likes you. Rather than encounter the inevitability of a more painful future separation, we have decided that now is the time. Zoe is a well-adjusted, happy bird, so different than the sad, damaged baby we met years ago. We just didn’t know at the time that Zoe’s place in our home was that of a foster bird. And now he’s ready for his next home and his next journey.
I love Zoe with a love that will never not hurt. I feel so broken and while I know this is the right decision for Zoe (and all of us) I cannot help but feel that I failed the baby I rescued in the first place. I struggle to look him in the eyes without bawling. I am jealous of the life he will live with his next flock. And I am comforted by the knowledge that this bird who has become the loving Zoe I know will be loved by everyone he meets.
In the next couple of weeks Zoe will leave us. Until then I will continue to slowly fall apart. And I will remember this love forever.