Tara, the Bride



Baby Dillon

Good-bye Joey

Sam's Story



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Designed by Carol Highfill ---- Last update: October 20, 1997

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Tara, the Bride
By Terri Leinneweber

Three year old Tara, Yellow-collared macaw, came to live with my flock in February 1996; on Valentine's Day she and Rafferty were "married" by the leader of the Big Apple Bird Association. A song was written for the occasion. The wedding, with 100 guests, was the social event of the "bird season" and was covered by both German and US television. On September 2, 1996, a short 6 months later, I woke to find my sweet bride dead on the floor of her cage. There had been no symptoms prior to death.

Bonding Song for the Wedding of Rafferty and Tara

Many's the night I've
Dreamed of your face.
This is the time now.
This is the place.
Wingtip to wingtip
Beak to beak
Eyes dark and shiny
Feathers so sleek.

May our lives move in
Rhythm and rhyme.
Green downy babies
Maybe in time.
Wingtip to wingtip
Beak to beak.
Like all the others
We are unique.

(words by Antonia Stampfel)

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Baby Dillon
By Terri Leinneweber

I loved the very first Senegal I ever saw. I waited for 2 years before giving in. Dillon, my beautiful baby, was born in the spring of 1991. He was the sweetest bird I have ever met. He loved everyone, from the youngest child to the oldest granny. He would sit quietly nestled in my hair as long as I would let him stay. When he played, he was a wonderful acrobatic little clown. Dillon only wanted to live and love.

On September 10, 1996, I awoke to find Dillon convulsively ripping feathers from his abdomen. I had to literally hold his head to stop him. He was rushed to the vet, where every test known to man was done. He was put in a collar. On September 17, 1996, I woke to find Dillon in severe seizures. He died in my hands on the way to the vet's office.

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By Terri Leinneweber

Rafferty, yellow-collared macaw, came to my heart in the fall of 1990. He was my "body bird", never off my body for any long period of time. He refused to wean; I hand-fed him by his choice until he was nine months old. He earned his nickname, Slime, by flirting with others until they came near enough for the "bite."

Tara, the Bride, came to live with Slime and keep him company in his old age. When he married Tara, he promised lots of things, but refused to promise to share his pine nuts, since he felt he deserved them all.

My darling Rafferty died on August 1, 1997 of PDD, taking my heart with him to the grave.

Wedding Vows

As birds of the 90's, Tara and Rafferty have written their personal vows.

If any now present, bird or human, know of any impediment to this union, squawk now or forever hold your peace.

Tara, do you promise to:
Work on Slime until he cleans up his act.
Share Mom's left shoulder with Slime.
Keep cage up to Slime's standards.
Faithfully tend any eggs and subsequent little "slimes" and make sure they don't grow up to be big "Slimes."
Love Slime and the rest of the flock forever.

Slime, do you promise to:
Let Tara turn you into the bird you should be
Make strong efforts to redirect your affections from Mom to Tara, and share Mom with Tara, even though you want Mom all to yourself.
Cheerfully share your food with Tara - except your pinenuts.
Be a diligent and loving father to any little "slimes" that might result from you union.
Love Tara and try to love the rest of the flock forever.

By the power invested in me by the Big Apple Bird Association, I pronounce you husbird and henwife.

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By Valerie Rae Wixen

I lost my Timneh, Mocha, to this dreadful incurable disease in early June. Quality of life was poor and would just get worse so I had to put him to sleep. I had only had him since Feb. 27. His previous owners (he was an older bird) had abused him and he didn't know what it was to be loved until he met me. He had just started to let me scritch him when I found out about the probability of his having PDD.

A week and a half later it was confirmed that Mocha had the disease and he went to sleep for the last time. Mocha's greatest Memorial was The Grey Poopon Challenge. It brought in over $5000 for PDD research and was the catalyst for the awareness of PDD on the internet..

PDD = Proventricular Dilitation Disease. It is also known as Macaw's Wasting Disease as it was first noticed in Macaws...however it isn't relegated to only Macaws. 50 species of birds have been diagnosed with it. The bird wastes away from the inside so it is always hungry. It has to do with the digestive system.

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Good-bye Joey
By Monica Morris

Good-bye my little one, my little sunshine, momma's angel. I just hope you know how much you have meant to us. Your love was unconditional. I look back on other family members, human or pets who have passed on and I always come up with the same guilty feelings. Why didn't I spend more time with them? I should have played more, helped more, given more. I'm sure most people feel that way. But my little love, when I think of you, I feel no guilt. You my sweetheart filled a place in my heart that I had been afraid to open. To love unconditionally! You filled my life with such joy! Oh how I love You my little Peanut.

I truly feel God brought you to your daddy and me to help us through this last year. As you knew, it was a difficult one. Your presence gave us hope. I bet you didn't know that. You made us smile when we thought we couldn't. You made us laugh when we wanted to cry. You gave me a companionship I thought I lost when my sister moved away. You my precious, helped me find that true love in my heart again that I was so afraid to find. You were my Guardian Angel, Joseph

I'm glad now that you never learned how to say "Momma" or "I Love You". This I couldn't bear not hearing again. Your little voice is planted on my brain and embedded in my heart always. Thank you for your happy tunes and screams of joy. Thank you for the hours of cuddles and coos. You were my baby. I'm left now with a hole in my heart.

I pray to God that there is a Heaven for animals because I know you had a soul. I wouldn't want to go to my final resting place where there weren't animals or where I would never be able to see my beloved again. Fly with the eagles baby! Fly free and have fun. You were so brave baby. Mommy is so proud of you. Look for us Joey because we will never stop looking for you. I wait for the day we will be reunited and I can hold my baby again. God bless your precious soul.

Good-bye my angel. I love you with all my heart.


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By Jean Pattison - The African Queen

Early on in my "career" I started with two hen Blue Crown Conures. I knew the breeder and he was very reputable, and still is. I bought these two hens, knowing I would have no problem finding males. When the pairs finally went to nest, I had DIS (dead in shell babies).

Both males appeared to not be doing well, and were eating tremendous amounts of food. After much vet work and expense, both males died. Nothing conclusive on histopath was reported. The hens were checked for everything known at the time, and were found to be in perfect health. I found two more males for my lonely hens.

Breeding season came and I had at that time decided to sell these and concentrate exclusively on the African species. I had received an African grey from a woman who had just passed away. I knew her and her husband well.

This grey, named "Harley", was a not too tame import. He was quarantined and finally became a near member of the family, but breeding was his destiny and I kept him in our partially enclosed garage.

I had a buyer for the Blue Crowns but they had decided (thankfully) to go to nest. One of the males started acting off and eating a lot of food. I took him into the vet and he subsequently died, again histo revealed nothing. Once again the chicks died in the shell.

About this time we decided we might be dealing with chlamydia, so I started them on vibromyacin orally. Once I was well into treatment I knew the birds would no longer be shedding, and since we were getting a cold snap in Florida, I knew the stress of catching them twice daily would be a lot for them to deal with. I decided to move them into new cages in the far side of the garage for warmth.

One evening after medicating the Blue Crowns I walked past Harley's cage and noticed his water bowl had been tipped, and he was out of water. I grabbed his water bowl, filled it, and replaced it. I thought about the Blue Crowns chlamydia, but knew they were well beyond the shedding stage.

(This scene will haunt me for the rest of my life).

I had been put in touch with Jack Gaskin regarding my Blue Crowns and after reading all my notes to him on the phone, he speculated the Blue Crowns could very well have "macaw wasting disease" (now know as PDD).

My one remaining male was now eating a tremendous amount of food, and seemed to be doing fine, but the whole seeds in his droppings combined with everything else made Dr. Gaskin very sure I was dealing with "macaw wasting".

I made arrangements to take the birds up to Dr.Gaskin the following week. I would donate them for his studies. Up I went with three birds and nest boxes in hand.

What I learned about "macaw wasting" in that one afternoon was more than I wanted to know. Dr. Gaskin never had a live chick and it was maybe three years before one of the hens died and was confirmed as having PDD. Upon researching the hens history, the previous owner had also lost the first two males, cause unknown.

About 7 months later I noticed Harley's droppings getting very watery and I "knew".

I put Harley outside for the summer in a huge flight, under an oak tree. He was the picture of health, except for the watery droppings, and his weight was stable.

I was able to visit and interact with him on a daily basis. We had a special bond. I knew his destiny had changed, and he would never be a breeder, and it was only time. He knew I loved him, he never knew the "thing" I had painfully buried deep in my heart.

Harley had a glorious summer and fall, he played hard with his toys and called and whistled all day. Winter is mild in Florida and I watched for any signs of discomfort, knowing he would be miserable in the garage, if I needed to bring him in.

Spring slowly moved in, and I found Harley especially enjoyed spending the mornings basking in the sun. I changed my schedule so I could spend more morning time with him.

With summer coming on I noticed a slowness about him, much like someone who stops to think of the things around them, and absorbing all that life has to give.

It was wonderful sharing quiet times like this with him, it was almost like it wasn't happening, the "thing" I knew. He still played some and could make tears stream down my cheeks with laughter, at some of his antics.

But, reality has a way of slapping you in the face. There were now whole seeds in his droppings, and the "thing" I knew was ever so much closer. No matter what I fed his weight was dropping, and I was torn between moving him inside, making him miserable, or leaving him outside. I had many perches, and some a lot lower so he wouldn't have to work to get up on perches.

One afternoon as I walked passed his cage, he hollered for me to come visit. I went over and took him out, and we sat under the Oak tree together for a few hours. We loved and scritched and just talked.

He wasn't debilitated and he still played pretty well. After a time he walked over to his flight and stood there wanting me to put him back.

I tenderly placed him back into his cage, and gave him a kiss. He went over and started playing with his ball. Just before dark I went back out to check on him, and there he was with his ball, in his favorite corner, for the last time. The "thing" I knew, had come.

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By Kit Kolenda

Finnigan was 3 years old when PDD reared its ugly head. This picture is of Finnigan when she was still being hand fed, playing on the kitchen floor and attacking her Kong toy.

Sometime in May - I saw Finnigan having some difficulty on the top perch of her cage. She bopped her tail on her dish and regained her balance. I thought nothing of it. A few minutes later saw her in distress, holding onto the corner of her cage while trying to get hold of her perch with her beak. She couldn't get hold of the perch with her left foot. I reached in and put my hand under her chest and took her out of the cage. We sat on the floor and I noticed her left foot curled shut. I opened her toes and gently pressed her foot to the floor, but she just curled her toes up again with a slight left bend to her 'ankle'. Like it was useless. I put her on the back of the couch, but she couldn't walk.

She kept acting startled, raising her crown feathers and jerking her head in a startled manner. I kept her quiet and she slowly returned to normal, but stayed quiet. She returned to normal by the next day.

July 1st - Came home from work mid afternoon to find Finnigan climbing down the side of her cage. She didn't seem normal and acted startled. I took her out of the cage and she jumped around and flopped to the floor. I sat on the floor and held her under her wings. She kept acting startled and it seemed like she couldn't see out of her left eye. I cuddled her in the crook of my right arm and she faced to the right but turned her head completely backwards and watched me. She was very quiet when she came out of it.

About 3 or 4 hours later I had her out of her cage with me at the dinner table. She was going onto my son's arm. I noticed her demeanor changing and remarked that she was going into another episode. I took her immediately into the next room and sat on the floor with her. Both her feet were curled and she just sat on my lap without using her feet. I held her and began to move my left forefinger in front of her left eye. I made like I was going to touch the eye ball and wiggled my finger back and forth towards her eye. She didn't blink and seemed like she couldn't see it. I then proceeded to move the finger from left to right around her face. As soon as she could see my finger with her right eye she would get startled, jerk and raise her crown. When she got startled she, would try to jump away. I had my husband walk around her and she did the same thing. I timed this episode from start to finish - 10 minutes. She was quiet afterwards.

July 2nd - Had blood tests and gram stain. Normal. The vet feels Finnigan may be epileptic and doesn't feel she needs to be medicated at this point. About 2 weeks before, Finnigan had been checked by the vet, having lost a lot of blood from a broken blood feather. She said Finnigan was fine. I mentioned Finnegan's balancing problem episode to her. All she offered was that the bird may have had a cramp. Also mentioned to this vet (who is very young and inexperienced) that Finnigan had regurgitated a lot of brown stuff. I thought it was some cooked black beans that may have fermented and disagreed with her.) Finnigan returns to acting normal and eating well. Feces are normal all the time.

July 9th - Small seizure in mid-afternoon. Finnigan was on her hanging perch on the porch. I took her off. She had problems with her left foot. She couldn't hold onto my shoulder. I sat with her and she played with my watch band and seemed fine, only very quiet. I gave her to my son and after awhile she became playful. Everything returns to normal until...

July 13th - Small seizure in mid morning, left side only. Her left eye doesn't blink when threatened. Very calm, except when she catches something going from left eye to right eye sight area. As she comes out of the episode she nibbles on fingers, etc. When out of it she just wanted to be cuddled and hide under clothing. Back to normal when we're around. Don't know how she is when we're at work.

July 15th - Apparently found Finnigan at the end of a seizure. She was setting on her porch swing, her left foot dangling, in a useless position, holding on with the right foot and beak. I had a hard time getting her off. She reached down to sit on my arm. She seemed to be slowly coming out of the same type of seizure. I took her outside and she wanted to be playful. Later she got noisy.

July 23 - I went for a second opinion. The vet was unsure about epilepsy since seizures are localized. He feels we should watch for another month. A CT scan would probably show a tumor if there was one, but nothing could really be done about it. A liver bile test could be done also. When I asked him if these could be just a fluke - he said it could be. Not enough is known about bird seizures.

Sept 27th - before 7am - Finnigan regurgitated a large amount of brown fluid. It was tossed all over - on her, her toys, inside the cage, floor of the cage, walls and floor. She didn't feel good and wanted to be cuddled. I gave her a small amount of food that I felt she could possibly keep down. Some of it was rice, but she regurgitated that too. That evening she seemed a little better, but couldn't hold anything down - even water. After while I gave her some Malto meal with yogurt and she was able to keep small amounts down every time I gave it to her. She seemed to be getting better. She ate and played normally.

Sept 29th - In the afternoon I let her eat a peanut. She normally didn't like peanuts, but thought it would be okay for her to eat one. She regurgitated it later. She cried. She was not one for crying. I gave her Malto meal again, with honey and yogurt and she ate some.

Around 6 I took her from her cage and gave her to my husband to play with while I was busy doing something else. He brought her into the family room and put her on the playpen. Rover (one of two red loreds) wanted his attention too. She got on the table and was feeling the plastic cloth with her feet. She wanted to climb on my husband again but he had Rover. He gave her to me and I noticed her crop peaking out through an area that had molted and new feathers hadn't grown in yet. I touched her crop. Thinking back I suspect it was impacted. A couple of seconds later she got weak and wanted to climb onto my shoulder. She had trouble getting on my shoulder, so I pushed her up. I sat down and got her off my shoulder because she was in such distress and held her in my hands. She acted like she was fainting. She seemed to have problems breathing. We didn't know what to do. We were helpless. She acted like she was choking and struggled for breath. I put her beak in my mouth and gave a good breath. But it wouldn't work. It couldn't have taken more than half a minute and she was dead.

We brought her to the vet's office. They checked for a heartbeat...none. We left her there for a necropsy.

The vet did the necropsy 3 days later and came to the conclusion that she had PROVENTRICULAR DILATATION. This is something that cockatoos get, he said. It can be genetic. He said her stomach was unusually large without any muscle control. He said she aspirated but her lungs were clear. He said that there was nothing anyone could have done. He said it wasn't contagious. I requested a report in layman's terms so I could present it to GLAS (bird club). He said he would.

Oct. 3 - Searched the web and came up with 3 reports on Proventricular Dilatation Disease. "This is a contagious disease..."

Oct. 4 - I dropped off 3 reports gleaned from the Web to the vet with a cover letter asking him to contact me. I needed to ask him if he did a histopathology. If he didn't, then how would he know it wasn't contagious.

Oct. 14 - I stopped in person at the vets' office and had an almost hour long talk with him. He said Finnigan did have PDD and hemorrhaged. He has spoken with the virologist at MSU and was preparing a report for me.

Nov. 14 - Received letter, necropsy report and two photocopied reports on PDD from the vet.

I've emailed Dr. Christopher Gregory and received information and good advice. Throw out anything you can't bleach. Bleach cages. Disinfect. He said I should wait an additional six months (it's been 4) and disinfect the house again.

My memorial to Finnigan is to support PDD research and to help educate.

She was a sweet little bird. She was playful, cuddly, naughty, noisy...everything you'd want in an umbrella cockatoo. She was my velcro bird. She was my Finnigan.

Kit Kolenda - DKolenda@bigfoot.com

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Sambird's Story
By Patricia Golden

Exactly one year ago this week, my good friend, a vet tech, approached me with the fact that she needed to find a loving home for a male Timneh African Grey named Sam. The history behind this bird may not be accurate, but she told me that he had been originally purchased at pet store by a single young man. He had been told that Sam was a male. Perhaps Sam was an impulse purchase at the time. This bird was now about 3 years old, lived in a small cockatiel cage on mostly a sunflower seed and peanut diet. I was told that Sam was rarely taken out of the cage, had no toys and hardly handled. She added that Sam's cage was so filthy that the poop collecting in the bottom was almost up to the level of the grating in the bottom. The young man was engaged to be married, and had no time or use for the bird anymore. I agreed to meet the bird. Sam was brought to me in a small pet carrier and upon opening the carrier, Sam stepped out onto my hand while vocalizing the cutest "ooooOOOOoooohhhh" sound. It was love at first sight. What a sweet bird, somewhat thin but in beautiful feather I might add.

I immediately hauled out the spare cage, loaded it with toys, and put Sam on a healthier diet. Sam loved to be held and have her head tickled. Since I was already owned by the amazing Gallagher, (eight year old female wild caught Congo African Grey), I felt concerned about bringing in a new bird. I made an appointment with our avian vet to get Sam checked out with a well bird exam, give Gallagher her annual exam and have both birds vaccinated for Polyomavirus and during the same visit, have Sam DNA checked for gender determination. Turns out that Sam was a confirmed female. Shortly thereafter, Gallagher began to call her Sambird.

My home is one of those typical split level types, very open so to speak. Although Sam and Gallagher's respectable cages are on different levels, they still shared the same air in the house. I spend much time on my computer, on the lower level and Gallagher's evening perch/stand is next to me, it is across the room from Sam's cage. Except from this, the two birds did not have physical contact with one another. Separate cages, stands, toys, bowls, etc.

Within about 30 days, I noticed that Sam seemed lethargic. Sleeping too much, eating less, playing less, vocalizing less. I had also noticed that Sam seemed to eat only every other day. To make a long story shorter, for the last year, Sam has been taken to our avian vet on numerous occasions with the same symptoms and complaints and unknowingly to me, only to be misdiagnosed each time. Vitamin deficient this visit, calcium deficient next visit, high WBC another visit and on and on. Each visit to the vet with vitamin shots or oral medications would perk Sam up for 3 or 4 days and then right back to the same symptoms she would go.

Two weeks ago, Sam began to regurgitate for no apparent reason. I contacted a new avian vet. First, blood tests to rule out kidney/liver problems. Next, an x-ray and there it was, a distended proventriculus. (RED FLAG) Next day, barium x-rays. The vet said she had never seen a bird take so long to pass material through its system as Sam was experiencing. She suspected PDD. The next day, surgery to remove a section of crop tissue to send off to the pathologist for PDD confirmation. A week later, the results were back POSITIVE. This explained the eating only every other day. Sam thought she was full. Actually, she was. It took food two days to pass through her system when it should have only taken two to four hours. Sam slept for more hours than she was awake. She seemed weak. Although she had no trouble perching, she never seemed to grip very tight with her feet. She was painfully thin. I knew that her time was limited.

My heart was broken. I couldn't risk bringing Sam home from the hospital and possibly infecting Gallagher. I made arrangements to take Gallagher to UGA (University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia). This is where Dr. Branson Ritchie is doing his research to combat PDD. Fortunately, I only live about an hour away and my wonderful new avian vet made immediate arrangements for Gallagher to go for a fecal test using electron microscopy. This deadly virus is so fragile, that Dr. Richie has trouble keeping it alive outside of the host. This is why sending a poop sample overnight express won't even give an accurate reading. They wanted Gallagher to poop RIGHT THERE for them. I do have one other bird, a red factor canary named Canardly Containhimself. I took him along for the same test just to be sure.

By this time I am almost a basket case. The only way I can safely bring my dear little Sambird home is to have the doctors tell me that Gallagher is also shedding the dreaded PDD virus.

Good News: Gallagher and Canardly show no signs of PDD virus in their stools.

Bad News: I don't dare risk bringing Sam home from the vet's office. After much agonizing and talking to as many informed doctors and avian experts as well as my bird friends, I made the decision to put an end to my sweet little friends' suffering.

Yesterday, July 27, 1998, Sambird was allowed to cross over the Rainbow Bridge without further suffering. Sam was the most gentle, sweet bird I'd ever met. Perhaps this was due to her illness, but nevertheless, she could win any heart in an instant. My heart has a big hole where a little bird used to be.

Sambird, I miss you.

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