Al by Ursie Lucas


When I was 16 years old my husband Andy (boyfriend at the time), parents brought home a bird, Al. I can’t even remember where they got him from. Al & Andy’s dad (Keith) bonded from the get go, anytime you saw Keith, you saw Al. In 2001 Keith was killed in a mining explosion, Andy’s mom (Diane) could not handle hearing Al talk, it was just too much for her at the time to handle, he had many voices, one being mine but the main voice he used the most was Keith’s. She asked us to take him back to NC, made me promise if she ever wanted him back that we wouldn’t object. So we brought Al home, I knew absolutely nothing about parrots, I did have two cockatiels for several years until my grandmother fell head over heals for them when she came to visit me, the only time she ever traveled actually. The more I thought about it, I knew my grandmother would care for them as children plus she was retired so the next visit I made I took her the two little tiels. She had them for several years after me so they did live a long life. I have looked back on their life with me and see all the mistakes I made.. I don’t even know if Facebook was around back then, if it was I knew nothing about it, I only wanted one tiel when I first got them but the boy screamed his head off so I at least had enough sense to take them both. I bought a round cage, I thought it was pretty.. I didn’t know any better.

So when Al came to live with us I knew he needed a bigger cage, the cage he was in wasn’t tiny but I had enough common sense to know he needed a bigger house, I bought him a really nice house & I did keep him stocked with toys, I knew nothing about diet. Al was always on a walmart seed diet & people food his whole life. I cringe now over it, trust me. I used every chemical cleaner, plug-ins, sprays etc. I didn’t know, I didn’t have the sense to research African Greys. I worked 12-16 hours a day, we would open Al’s door to let him come out, he usually just perched at the top of his cage chattering away. I loved him very much, we all did. One thing I have learned over the past few years is love isn’t all they need. They need so much more. We had Al for a little over 4 years when Andy’s mom asked for him back. I cried like a baby, I said my goodbyes to him before she got to NC because I couldn’t watch her take him. I knew him since I was 16 but once he became apart of my every day life, I had a really hard time letting him go. When I did start learning about parrot care I would talk with Andy’s mom about toxins in the home, diet, and finding an avian vet. I never did get anywhere, she thought Al was fine, he lived this long was her answer. A couple of years ago I got a call from her, she said Al wasn’t acting right, I got online to find an avian vet, I found a lady who “claimed” she was avian in Charleston Wv, I gave Diane her number, she made an appointment and took him the next day. Following day I received a call, the news wasn’t good & sounded like the vet didn’t know what to do for him. I packed a bag & off I went. When I got there (4 hours later) the moment I saw Al my heart-felt like it quit beating. He was so sick, Diane had no idea what to do, Al always tried to nip her in the past so she was afraid to do anything with him. I stayed up that night spoon-feeding him water, he wouldn’t eat but wouldn’t turn down water, by 9am I was on the phone with the clinic in Charleston, they agreed for us to bring him back in for some blood work, we take the trip and I was horrified with this lady who said she was an avian vet. To make a long story short, she didn’t like me & I didn’t like her, I asked, more like begged Diane if I could take him back to NC with me so I could get him help, she agreed. I didn’t want to make the trip back that day, Al was so sick & I knew that trip just to Charleston & back really was hard on him. I stayed up again that night to spoon feed him water, he did eat a few bites of baby food that I picked up. The next day I packed him up and off we went. The trip was long, I had to stop several times to give him water & try to get him to eat. I will never forget the last stop i made, as I was driving back on the road I said “It’s going to be okay Al”, not even 30 seconds after I said that he repeated my words in my voice. ️

We arrived to my vet, they knew we were on our way so they had an incubator ready for him. It was a Thursday, my vet at the time took one look at Al and tears started swelling , I knew he was in bad shape but at that moment I really feared the worse. I will say he did everything he could. Al passed the following Sunday. By Saturday we really had hope, he was being hand fed but was eating a few pellets on his own. A necropsy was preformed & then I wanted him cremated so we could place him with Keith. Necropsy showed many things, what killed him was a parasite but he had fatty liver disease from a dreadful diet. Vet said the parasite wouldn’t have killed him if his immune system was strong, his liver was double the size it should have been. I share this story to show three important things, learning is so important. Al would be alive today if the people who cared for him had done their research, so I am guilty as well, he lived with me for 4 years. The second important thing is with any parrot, diet, and the third important thing is to have an avian vet, someone you trust.. Having a relationship with a vet is so important. If Al would have had regular check ups, he would still be alive. Not by that twit in Charleston. I remember asking my cat/dog vet one time if they treated birds, they said no and didn’t know of any around. I never looked for one, the whole time we had him he acted fine, little did I know birds hide their illnesses until it is too late. I have made several mistakes by not knowing, by ignorance. I will always have guilt in my heart over Al, we failed him. So the point of my story is, I may look fanatical posting recipes or my blabbing about things I learn but honestly I do it because of the one bird I let down. I do it because I don’t want anyone to ever go thru watching a bird suffer due to not knowing. I don’t have all the answers, none of us do but I am so grateful for the many that I have learned from.

I see so often on the news feed people ranting about some idiot didn’t know this or this idiot is doing that, I was that idiot once upon a time. Sometimes I feel people forget everyone has to learn somewhere, why not help someone learn then tear them down. Al passed in October so I always get emotional leading up to the days. I know the guilt will never go away, I won’t let it. I don’t know much but I so wish I knew then what I know now. Facebook can be a very cruel place for people trying to learn, it’s important to remember helping someone is far better for the bird then pointing fingers. I hope by my story it can help someone in whatever way that might be.

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