Gabriel: April 15, 1984-Feb 2 2011
Gabriel was a cockatiel. He died today, sometime during the day. I went to check him just before supper this evening and he was lying on the bottom of his cage, gone, cold and stiff, so he must have died quite sometime before. My husband checked him this morning and he was OK, but mostly quiet. He was acting quite frail the last few days, so this was not unexpected, but he didn't seem acutely ill. He was old but, still, it hurts.
In 1984, I got it into my head that I wanted a bird. I was still in college and I thought a bird would work as a dorm/apartment pet. I got Gabriel from one of my father's junior high students who raised cockatiels. I had thought I wanted a conure, but since Dad had a bird connection I ended up with a male cockatiel. He was grey--not a fancy bird at all. I got him sight unseen and he was about 3 months old when I got him. The receipt said he hatched in April (I arbitrarily assigned Tax Day as his birthday.), clutched by Long John, a male with one leg, out of Clinger.
I was taking Summer School Organic Chemistry when I got my new pal and was also housesitting for a professor and his family who were away. They had a large house and a menagerie of animals, so Gabe (or "Reeb" as I came to call him) fit right in. He was standoffish when I got him, but I spent a lot of time with him including studying with his cage by me every afternoon, so we bonded. He wanted me and only me, most of his life. It is flattering to have a critter show such preference. It really is--especially one so wonderful as Gabriel.
He never really "spoke" in the true sense. More rather, he sang words and phrases. He said his name (Gabriel), c'mere! (come here), a noise that sounded like "coyleap!", meowed like a cat made a sneeze noise when I sneezed, copied the sound when I snapped my fingers, made a high pitched chicken like "buck buck ba-KAWK" noise, a couple of odd trills, a little whispered noise like "geeba geeba geeba geeba!", a purr noise, a cardinal bird whistle, some tooth sucking noises that copied me, a hunter's call and a BAD rambling version of "Pop Goes the Weasel" that was recognizable, but only barely. There were other random noises he made and he liked to talk.
He hated most men except one male roommate in 1986 and my husband, whom he took to right away. He could be crabby and bratty and loved, as a young bird, to walk around and bite holes in my textbooks like a conductor punching a ticket. I kept his wings unclipped and he like to fly around the room and to wherever I was, greet me and then stroll around biting books and papers. He was small for a cockatiel and quite skinny all of his life. I tried feeding him well, but he chose to subsist on vitamin fortified seed--the Big Mac of the bird world.
He was a healthy little critter until he was 23 when he began to have eye infections that seemed to clear up once I started adding extra vitamins to his water. Really I tried to push a better diet on him early on, but he rejected most fresh food. I worried about this, but he lived to be almost 27 years old, so I guess I did alright by him. When he went to the vet (for the first time ever at 23) and I told her how old he was she blinked and said she had never treated a cockatiel over 12 years old.
I will miss the way he would shift his eyes from the side to the front-- his "I am an eagle" look. I will miss how his beak made him always look like he was smiling. I will miss how he talked to himself. I will miss how he would talk when I covered his cage as if he were saying: "just one more minute, Mom!" I will miss his relentless curiosity. I will miss how he would bite my glasses, try to pick at my teeth or unhook my earrings--anything shiny was fun! I will miss how he begged to have his head and jaw rubbed. I will miss how he would whistle along with the T.V. when someone would sing or whistle. I will miss watching him play in the shower and how he loved to be sprayed with water and blown dry after ( on the cool setting, of course!). I will miss that he loved to talk to my feet as if they were his peers--they were more his size. And I will miss most that he really showed that he loved me, and wanted nothing more than to hang out with me.
He was a great little companion and I loved him dearly. His passing will leave a HUGE hole in my life, since I had him for the bulk of my adult life. I had almost convinced myself that he would last forever considering how long he lived. I am not planning on getting another bird. I can't imagine a better winged critter than Gabriel. He was a really cute, affectionate and clever creature with an enormous personality. Goodbye my little friend. I will miss you!!