It is with a heavy heart that I write this blog today and I apologize in advance for putting a damper on the festive mood of the season. But, since so many of you know the tale of Thump, the bird I rescued last March, I felt compelled to let everyone know that he passed away this past Wednesday.
To say that I am devastated is an understatement and I have been in a major funk since. I have pondered with my closest friends why I have been so deeply affected by one little bird. I have certainly lost pets before. We all go through it. But before I spend more time on why this little bird had such a great impact let me share more about what happened.
I have to say that I was not completely surprised when I discovered his body but I had convinced myself that the health issues Thump had been having were manageable and that he would overcome them like he had beaten the odds from the beginning. Thump had been having seizures for the past several weeks and essentially I could not find a vet who would look at him.
When he had his first seizure I heard the commotion in his cage and ran into the room, took him out of the cage and held him being not quite sure what was going on. He was clearly having a seizure but I had no idea why and he came out of it almost as quickly as it had come on. The next morning I started looking for a vet who knew birds to at least consult with. I started with the Wild Animal Park here in San Diego and after several calls I was told by a very pleasant vet tech that they only treat exotic birds that are housed at the zoo or the park but she referred me to Project Wildlife.
I had had one previous, not so fruitful experience with Project Wildlife in the past so I didn't give it much hope but I tried anyway. After wading through a maze of automated messages that rivals any credit card company I was referred to their website. Their website referred me back to their phone number but did list several vets that they work with so I started calling. The first vet was retired (now that is some up-to-date info on their website!) and the second was a vet hospital not too far away from me. When I called I explained the symptoms Thump was having and a very nice tech went to inquire as to whether I should bring him in. From the start of our conversation I had explained that Thump was a European Starling which I had rescued after being pushed out of his nest.
After coming back to the phone the tech explained that I could bring him in but that since it was illegal in the state of California to possess a wild animal that they would not be able to give him back to me. I asked, what they would do with him. (thinking that maybe they would treat him and then house him in a bird rehab - a naive me.) She then told me very plainly that they would euthanize him because Starlings are considered pests in California. Really, did she not just hear that I had raised him by hand and was pretty much his Mother.
I felt like saying, well you know quite a few teenagers can be pests and you don't see their mothers euthanizing them! Needless to say I was appalled but I politely said Thank You and hung up the phone. I hoped that maybe the seizures were a passing event and everything would be OK. But a few days later he had another one so this time I was determined to get through to someone at Project Wildlife thinking that they had to be willing to help. After all their mission is supposed to be about helping wildlife.
Well boy did I get a rude awakening. After several tries I did get through to an actual human being (I use that term loosely) and was told that they don't rehabilitate or treat Starlings because they are pests. Really, so your mission to help wildlife only applies to the ones you like! Really. I contained my disdain and said thank you vowing that this organization would never again get a dime of my charitable funds. (I had donated to them in the past.)
Thumps seizures continued sporadically although he seemed fine in between them but I was still concerned that something bigger was brewing. I called several vets that treat domesticated birds and was told they don't treat wild animals. Poor Thump was clearly like a man without a country and was certainly a bird without any veterinarian willing to treat him.
Now the reality of the situation is that there was very little that a vet could have done for him anyway. In researching the issue on the Internet, most information said seizures in birds were not uncommon but very difficult to diagnose the source and even more difficult to treat. So I deluded myself in thinking that if I just loved him enough and kept a close eye on him that he would be OK.
In trying to console me my equine vet, who is also a dear, dear friend, said that probably what happened was that he may have incurred some brain trauma when he fell from the nest which would leave scare tissue in the brain and this sclerosis became more and more of a problem as he grew. He must of had one final seizure in the night or even a brain bleed that killed him. The day before he died he had been his usual, precocious self, spending much of the day in the flight cage outside and sitting on my shoulder after I brought him into the house. Although I had had this nagging worry since the seizures had begun I just kept hoping I was being a worry wort.
I realize that the average person would think I was a candidate for the loony bin but I know the readers of this blog would understand.