Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Quest for Strider's Friend

As you know, Mr. Strider will be getting a buddy at some point in the (hopefully) near future. That is, a male budgie friend!

Try as he may, he has not convinced me that a girlfriend should be in his future.

And, indeed I had my eye on a very beautiful little boy.

As near as I could determine, not being a genetics expert, he was a dominant pied, single factor violet, sky blue male. An exceptionally active and playful little man, he caught my eye immediately and stood out from the other birds. He was also much older. The others were clearly babies, still with their baby bars. This little boy looked closer to a year old.

But I hesitated. And, we know what happens to the bird (or person) that hesitates?
The quest continues.

Today, I went back to the pet store today, and my little boy gone. Unfortunately, this was not the only bad news of the day.

I approached the bird area where there was a cage with a conure, two cages with finches and canaries, and two cages with budgies. In one of the budgie cages there was 1 bird; in the other there were 12 budgies.

The lone bird was in fairly bad shape. Psittacosis is my guess. Conjunctivitis was apparent, the young bird was having some labored breathing, and could not keep its eyes open.

In the cage of 12 birds: 2 of them were on the ground with their eyes closed. I was disappointed to see pelleted bedding material being used. Pelleted bedding and other such materials are quite absorbent, creating the perfect conditions for the growth of the aspergillosis bacteria, a nasty fungal infection. This was sad to see.

2 budgies were hanging on the bars farthest from me, and the remaining 8 were sitting on two perches, 4 on each side.

I stood and watched the birds for 10 minutes. All 13 birds sat motionless, including those on the bars of the cage and on the bottom, not moving a muscle, not making a chirp - nothing. My whistles and other birdie noises went unnoticed. They kept their eyes closed most of the time, and were completely unresponsive. 4 of them showed an obvious bobbing of the tail and other signs of labored breathing. One of the two hanging on the cage bars was having even greater difficulty breathing, its chest heaving with each breath. One of the 8 sitting on the perch I was expecting to fall any second as its tail was perfectly horizontal with the floor of the cage. The only positive thing was I could see no obvious signs of scaley mites.

Ten minutes into my visit, no employee approaching me, and no change in the birds' behaviors, I briefly left the cage area to find someone. Snagging the first employee I could find one aisle away, I asked him if he knew anything about the birds and could answer questions. He said yes - he took care of the birds (hang on to this thought), and we walked back to the birds.

As we approached, the birds remained in the same positions as when I had left a moment earlier. I went to great efforts to be low key, not accusatory or confrontational. I was soft and laid back in my approach, and began by inquiring when the birds had arrived in the store, and if he had noticed they were not very active.

He said he had noticed, and they had arrived yesterday morning. He also stated they are usually noisier in the morning than in the afternoon, but they were not noisy or active this morning either.

He then asked me what I thought might be wrong or if I thought there might be a problem with them.

WELL, since you asked.... (apply big smiley face here)...

Again, while remaining low key, I began to systematically move from bird to bird, pointing out the signs of labored breathing, conjunctivitis, perch position, and the fact that they were neither moving, chirping, nor opening their eyes. One by one, I evaluated each of the 13 birds for him.

His demeanor was one of being interested in learning the new information he was hearing. Other than noticing they were not very active, I think the other symptoms had either escaped him, or he had not taken the time to observe them closely.

He agreed and acknowledged that they certainly didn't look good at all. In fact, he said, "the one in the back (as in the back of the store away from the customers) looks even worse than these."

What?! Wow...

Even if they had been healthy, there were none that really caught my eye. But knowing the store and cages are contaminated with something - I will never be able to buy a bird at this particular store.

The birds were all quite young, and of course their immune systems are tender. I had no intention of making a scene, always able to attract more with honey than vinegar, but I needed to feel satisfied that I had conveyed an appropriate sense of urgency.

I also wanted to instill confidence that he could rely on my assessment of the birds' condition (that is, if the pink, watery eyes, lethargic puffed up appearance, and labored breathing did not speak for themselves).

He thanked me several times for passing along the information, and stated he would be sure to inform the store manager. I respected
that he admitted there was a sick bird in the back room.

He ended the conversation by saying he was really the "fish guy". I found this of interest as initially he presented himself as able to help me with the birds and answer questions. So perhaps when the question was more than "how much do these things cost", and "do they eat a lot of food", he suddenly became the fish guy.

I will also compliment him for his attentiveness, his statement of previously noting their inactivity, and his interest in learning about the signs and symptoms of illness. All in all, the fish guy gets a solid 'B' grade.

Oops - wait:

I forgot something about the fish guy.

I told him I was looking for a friend for Mr. Strider, my budgie, and I would have to come back at a different time when they had healthy budgies. (Oh, yeah - um - right.... like, not).

At that point, he suggested I consider purchasing the $219.99 conure as a friend for Mr. Strider.

Nice try. Let's see: your budgies (and other birds, see below) are in my estimation quite sick. I come into your store looking for a budgie, and I should go home with a $219.99 conure for my budgie?

Now 20 minutes into the process, still not a single chirp, no movement, no preening, no interaction with each other. The sad thing is contemplating that some birds may have already been sold, and even perhaps as "exceptionally tame" because they were too sick to move, and three of them unable to perch.

But, I was not yet out of the woods (or out of the store) quite yet.

Now, I had a different dilemma on my hands.

Do I now give him my run down on what is wrong with all the canaries and finches?

Same deal - they looked horrible for the most part. There were a couple that appeared healthy and fairly active, but it was probably only a matter of time for them. The budgie cages were fairly clean, but the finch and canary cages were a complete disaster. The bowl of food was way too large, so one of the finches was sleeping in it. There was one bowl for about 25 finches. The perches and other cage acoutrements were very soiled. More than what can occur during one day.

Now, I felt I may be on the edge of the annoyance meter, so I decided to end with a generalized statement about the birds' conditions, and being encouraged that the manager would not only look into it, but get the birds treated for their illness. Oh, and that the cages and all bird areas needed to be thoroughly cleaned to rid them of viruses, bacteria and fungi many of which are airborne.

While I will never be able to buy a bird at this store, you know I will be back there checking on the birds. I will not be able to help myself.

I have not been successful in locating any budgies in my area that are in need of rescue, but I will continue to look. I would prefer to find a bird from a private home or rescue, one that is around Strider's age, that is in need of a forever home. It is important to find a good fit for Strider, a high energy boy like him, full of love and playful.

I have 3 cages ready for quarantine. (I was only thinking about getting Strider 1 friend, but it never hurts to be extra prepared, right?!)

So alas, no friend for Strider today. It is only a matter of time before I find the perfect little buddy for my most fabulous boy. Who would have thought when I climbed that tree, (without first considering I am a bit too old to be pulling such a stunt), I would be blessed with such a loving boy, a beautiful singer, active, playful and friendly? I love this little guy!



Goldielover said...

Grrrr.... I really hope they get those little guys some vet attention and don't just return them to the bird mill as "defective". Shame the one you wanted didn't work out - lets just hope he went to his new home before the sick birds arrived. I'd be inclined to not even get any supplies or food at that store for awhile. I'm hoping you do eventually find a small breeder or rescue in your area. I take it being in a largely rural area that pet stores are few and far between. I'm sure that eventually you will find that special friend (or three) for Strider.

Robin said...

... I failed to mention that despite not even touching the cage bars at the store, when I got home I threw all my clothes and shoes in the washer and took a shower. Perhaps unnecessary, but I saw no need to take any chances! I feel the same as you, Goldie, about buying supplies there. While I have a different store where I buy my bird supplies, I feel even stronger about that choice now.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I don't even know where to begin except for thanks a million for the information. I am starting to dislike pet shops and have come to figure out taht while some animals may be cheap the way in which they are kept poses a great health risk and therefore I don't mind spending a bit more money a pet shops taking good care of their birds. One shop in my city is pretty expensive but I've noticed that when an animal doesn't sell, they don't get rid of it or place it in the back, in fact it almost seems like the employees adopt the little guys and play with them as often as possible at the pet store. I have been following your blogs closely and getting more and more information and making the needed changes as I go. I will absolutley keep a more attentive eye on what goes in Tweety's foraging area!

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