It was the morning of May 20th, 2011 that Buddy died. He was 3 months shy of 12 years old and I loved him dearly. Buddy was a wild bird, a Cedar Waxwing.
Some people may say that he was “just a bird” , but to me, he was more than that. He was a friend, a companion and a member of my family.
It was a warm and sunny August day in 1999 that Buddy came into my life. There had been a hurricane down south and we were getting the residual winds and rain here in New Hampshire. The sun had finally come out and my neighbor Pete, had come over on his riding mower to mow the lawn for me. I had just come back from a walk with my two dogs, Pepper and Patches, when Patches started sniffing the ground underneath the tree in the front yard. Pete was just about to mow that section and Patches would not move! He stood there until Pete and I came over to see what was going on. There on the ground were two baby birds! They must have fallen out of the nest in the tree and Patches seemed to be guarding them. I picked up both of them and brought them into the house so that Pete could continue mowing.
One of the baby birds had all his feathers and the other had hardly any. He probably just hatched not too long ago. I placed some soft fabric in the bottom of a fish tank, gave them some birdseed and water, and then went outside to see if I could find the mother bird. There on one of the branches of the front tree, was a Cedar Waxwing who seemed frantic, like it was looking for something! I felt that she was probably the mother so I went inside, brought the babies out and put them perched on the front tree. With much interest, I stood back and observed. She was indeed the mother bird and proceeded to feed the one with the feathers and totally ignored the one without. I was surprised that this mother bird did not give any attention to her other baby. Suddenly the mother and the older sibling flew off and left the other baby sitting on the tree all alone. This little bird could not fly, as he did not have his flying feathers grown in as yet. I just couldn’t leave him sitting there as prey, so I brought him back into the house.
The following weeks were good ones. This little bird proceeded to grow and started looking like a Cedar Waxwing. I would go out looking for worms, bugs and berries for him to eat. Then came the day when I felt it was time for him to leave as they normally would migrate south for the winter.
I took him outside and threw him up in the air and caught him. I did this a few times and it seemed the more we practiced, the more he understood what he was supposed to do in order to fly. He would start flapping his wings on the way down. It took a few days but he finally learned how to fly. He got it!
The day came when I was going to say goodbye to him. I had only had him for 2 weeks at this point and had gotten rather attached, however, I knew he was wild and needed to be free. I took him outside before I left for work, threw him up in the air and he took his maiden flight to a tree in the backyard. I whispered ”God Speed” and left the house.
On my way home, I was thinking of that little bird that I had nurtured and let go and was happy, but sad at the same time. The weather had changed during the day and the air was cold, damp and raining. I got home, walked out on my deck and there was that little bird shivering underneath my deck chair! I walked over to him, picked him up and put him back in the fish tank for the night.
The next day, I did the same thing. Let him go and went to work. This went on for 5 days! He would not leave! It was then that I decided he was going to live with me and because he had been my buddy for a few weeks, that was how he got his name.
My dogs, Pepper and Patches, accepted him graciously into our home and made him part of the family. The dogs would lay like bookends on the couch and Buddy would hop back and forth between each dog falling asleep on their heads while they slept. Buddy had free run of the house and would stay only on the main floor. We have a center staircase so he was able to fly around in a big circle for exercise. His favorite perch was on top of the cabinet over the refrigerator. If I didn’t know where he was, that would be the first place I’d look and would always find him.
When it was feeding time, the dog bowls would be put out in the sunroom and they would start to eat. I would normally find Buddy sitting on the rim of their bowls pecking at their food , and they allowed it! It was then that I started to think Buddy might be lacking in some nutrition so I took the moist dog food and chopped it up and gave him some every day. He loved it! This has been his basic food for most of his life. He also loved, berries (any kind) , vegetables (softened and chopped) and most of all he loved orange juice! He would hear me shaking the juice container and get all excited as he knew that whenever I poured myself a glass, I would give him some. He would sometimes sit at the edge of my glass and bob up and down to take a drink. It was fun watching him do this.
There were things that I remember him doing that were so human-like that he made you forget that he was a bird. He was a bird that acted like a dog that thought he was human!
One time, during the following summer, I was watching TV at night and had not put Buddy to bed as yet. He had been sitting on my shoulder and it got very dark. When I decided to go to bed, I realized that Buddy was still on my shoulder but he had gone inside the top of my shirt and had fallen asleep next to my neck! It was only after I had turned off the television that I realized he was there. I heard this almost cooing like he was snoring. It was so charming and wonderful to know that this little wild bird trusted me enough to fall asleep on my body. This was such a joyful moment for me.
There was another time when I could not find Buddy at all! He had been flying around the house and was not in any of the usual places. I then told Pepper and Patches to go find Buddy and they immediately went downstairs. They ended up laying down right in front of one of the bedroom doors and there was Buddy sitting on top of the door. It was the first and last time that he ventured off the main floor of the house.
There was something that Buddy did on a regular basis. He would take a deep breath, stick out his chest and ruffle his feathers. I know that all birds usually do this to let air get into their feathers, but when Buddy did this, I would call him” Fluffy Bird”! It got to the point whenever I wanted to see him do this, I would say “do Fluffy Bird” and he would! It seemed that he always responded logically to what I was saying to him which made me think that he did understand exactly what I was saying.
There was a weekend back in 2004 when my Dad came up to visit from New York. He sat down to read the paper in my sunroom and his friend, Buddy, flew in there to sit with him. Buddy ended up sitting on the top edge of the paper while Dad was reading. When Dad went to turn the page, Buddy would land on his shoulder. I actually took a picture of Buddy on his shoulder and it looks like he was whispering a secret into Dad’s ear.
As the years went by, we lost Pepper and Patches both to illness and it was just Buddy and Me. A few years later, I adopted a female Boxer name Dawn from the local kennel and she immediately saw Buddy in his cage and went into this attack mode stare! I knew that I needed to set her straight right away. It was something that she did pick up quickly and then I knew that she realized Buddy was part of this family just like her. From that moment, there was peace with these two. Dawn would lay on the floor right next to Buddy’s cage and ignore him. He was older and I no longer was able to let him out as he was flying into walls! After all, he was going on 8 years old when Dawn came into the house.
Buddy continued to be my friend, my companion, my muse. It was a good day when he ate his food, drank his water and took joy in splashing around in his bird bath. I would take him out of his cage and put him in the kitchen sink and let him splash around. As more time went by and he continued to live, I was amazed that he was still here. I now know that it was my love and care and his knowing that I cared about him, that kept him with me so long. Everyday, when I would take the cover off his cage, I would sing “good morning to you, good morning to you, good morning dear Bud-Bud, good morning to you!” He would then start to chirp and know that a new day was starting.
Since he was much older at this point, I had to take the perches out of his cage as he kept falling off of them and I worried that he would hurt himself. So his food, water and some flannel bedding were all on the bottom of his cage and he would hop around, still chirp and sing and respond to me every time I would walk into the room. I made sure he was clean, fed and happy.
On May20th,2011 I was getting ready for work and about to leave. Buddy suddenly started to screech. It was a sound that I had never heard from him before. I went over to him, picked him up and in seconds, he was gone!
Buddy was buried in the front yard underneath a weeping cherry tree with a granite brick that marks his final resting place. Inside the container I put a note: Dear Buddy, I will meet you at the Rainbow Bridge when it is my time. We will see each other again. Love you always.
This whole experience with Buddy has made me realize how very smart birds are and I have developed a new appreciation for them in our world. He may have only been “just a bird”, but he was truly my friend.