“Oh, Gill,” I moaned over the phone. “One of the canaries is ill.”
“Oh, Ma, I’m so sorry. Which one is it?”
“It’s ‘Slick’…you know, the….”
“Enough! Say no more. That’s ‘Killer’! She’s the bitch responsible for the death of her sister. I can’t believe you have any sympathy for her.”
“That’s a bit cruel, though I understand your feelings. But she’s still one of our lovely homegrown babies. I, having to continue to feed, water, and care for the bird, have come to terms with her evil streak. She was simply doing what her natural instincts told her to do…”
“I see. So if I were responsible for the demise of L’il Sis or Crazy D, you’d give me a pass?”
“No, of course not! The bird is just a bird. You’re a person capable of reasoning, empathy, intelligent thought…well, some of the time.”
I thought it best to move on to another topic. But with Gill due to arrive home, I’ll be able to fill her in on the canary saga. And it IS a continuing saga…worthy of “Dynasty” or “Dallas” in their heydays.
Our regular readers will recall that my ‘bird hobby’ began innocently enough with one white canary sporting a rakish looking, scruffy grey feathery toupee. In her singles cage, she looked, to my unschooled eye, lonely. I acquired for her the pet store equivalent of a mail order groom. It was lust at first sight. A dozen canary babies later, my bird room was overrun. The cutoff point came two summers ago when one broody female (aka Slick) killed her equally broody sister by not allowing her to eat from the common food dish. Gill (no surprise here) was the one to name her The ‘Bitch’ or ‘The Killer’.
This summer, before I realized what was happening, lust was again in the air. And here’s where the story begins to read like a bad episode of Dynasty or Dallas (were there ever any GOOD episodes?). We had lust in the afternoon, unwed mothers, abortions, unrequited love and incest. A certain male canary, who happened to be The Killer’s brother, took a fancy to his fetching sister. Since their cages were side by side, he began ‘courting’ her. ( Incest alert.) Since the bars of their cages acted effectively as chastity belts, no physical hanky panky actually happened. But that doesn’t mean there were no consequences.
I, fool that I was, thought:”What lovely trilling. The male canary’s singing (aka courting ritual) brightens the whole house. I feel like I’m living in a tropical rain forest. Sing on, dear boy!”
‘Killer’ admired his manly melodies and became so enamored of her brother that she did the only sensible thing she could to show her love…she laid eggs. Four of them. But I guess that nobody had ever explained ‘the birds and bees’ to her…which sounds at the very least, redundant.
The eggs were not fertilized and were thus doomed to fail. And they did. After two weeks of faithfully sitting on them, she performed her own ‘abortion’ by pitching them overboard to smash on the floor of the cage. Not about to admit that life as a single mother was a poor life choice, she started all over again. Two more eggs. Two weeks later, ‘Killer’ was seen again throwing the eggs over the ‘cliff’.
I, being the ‘sensible’ one in the house and the Keeper of The Moral Code, had had enough. I separated the lovers. He stopped singing. She looked crushed. The tension in the air was palpable. After two days, I broke. I was not going to be the one blamed for unrequited love and heartbreak. I moved the male back beside ‘Killer’. It was Romeo and Juliet, Pyramus and Thisbe, Liz and Dick. If birds have pheromones, the room was rife with them.
I have been down the road of birth control with the birds before. When I informed Gill of the birth control shots for the canaries, she was livid:”Ma, it isn’t enough that you try to foist all your nasty hormones and birth control pills on us, your daughters, you’re now playing doctor with the poor defenseless birds! Have you no shame?”
“But it’s what the vet recommended! The birds will wear themselves out, even kill themselves trying to have babies if I don’t! I’m simply saving themselves from themselves.”
“Ma, I’ve always had my doubts about your generation and its ‘pop a pill’ fixation on drugs as the solution to everything…”
The canary anti-birth program involves a series of shots which may or may not work. It all depends on how determined they are to be mothers. Personally, I could give the ladies enough horror stories about the profession to scare them senseless, but the shots are quicker.
But this time, ‘Killer’ may have done herself in. In a final effort to become a mother, she laid an egg that broke and lay splattered all over the bottom of her cage. Scrambled egg a la carte. I suspected she may have injured herself in the process. I have also been down this road before — having a bird with what amounts to a prolapsed uterus, rushing to the vet to have her stitched up, only to lose the bird shortly thereafter. I decided this time to simply make the bird as comfortable as possible (in the maternity suite), fill her with vitamins and good food, and hope she will heal on her own. She is old and it may be that pushing the envelope in terms of reproducing will prove her undoing. (Humans, are you listening?)
All of this drama precipitated the call to Gill. I like to keep her up to date on the canary doings…so she’ll know who is still left when she returns home… a census of sorts. Plus, we have to prepare for the interment of the mounting avian corpses in the freezer (and I don’t mean last week’s chicken special). Stay tuned for medical updates…