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Two weeks before Gill’s arrival for the Christmas holidays, I worried that she would have to be told some sad news: that Dad, the patriarch of my indoor canary flock,had succumbed to old age. He was listless, spending a lot of time on the floor of his cage (either he’d fallen off his perch or decided it was easier on the floor than having to use his somewhat crippled feet to clutch the perch) and didn’t seem to be eating much. It has been some time since he graced the room with his lovely songs (a true sign of old age in a bird). Even the addition of L’il Sis’s new canary Chi Chi, a spritely young flirt, didn’t arouse his interest — or anything else (if that happens in birds!). All the other males were competing for her attentions with ever more elaborate serenades but Dad cared not a whit for her.

In the natural world, Dad likely would have let the elements take him to the great palm trees in the sky (he is tropical, after all) but his roommates (the other canaries , most of them his offspring) and Mrs. Beeton were urging him to stay strong. (Well, Mrs. Beeton may actually have been menacing him as she sat on his cage–it’s hard to tell her intentions, but I choose to think the best of her.) I considered  taking him to the vet to have him put down, but that would have been unnecessarily stressful and frightening for him. He deserved to have a dignified, calm demise.

So, hoping he’d revive and also trying to spare Gill the news of the death of her favorite canary, I tried the usual restorative technique: I put Dad in the bathroom, turned on the hot shower to steam the room, and let Dad settle in for a spa day. He perked right up. He began to eat more and, since I provided an extra dish of water on the floor of his cage, he even reinstated his daily bathing ritual. Dad always cared about his appearance and his personal hygiene was beyond reproach. It was thrilling to see him bathing again. We were on a roll so I dared present him with a tasty plate (a small plastic lid) of fresh arugula. He devoured it! I walked into the room to find him knee deep in the leaves and his beak green with the remains of his snack.

Things were definitely looking up by the time Gill arrived. But one spa day expanded to two, then three, then a week and before we knew it, Dad had taken up permanent residence in the bathroom, aka The Spa. He appeared to be loving his ‘palliative care’. Gill was soon taking baths in the tub in his bathroom, carrying on conversations with him as he twittered at her. It seems he liked company in his spa. When L’il Sis and her fiance came to stay, they too provided him with company as they bathed. Dad was like the prince receiving supplicants in his palace. He was seemingly in much better health, so then my dilemma was whether to leave him in his spa for the time I’d be in Mexico or return him to the canary room to fend for himself.

The real problem was that I didn’t quite know how to explain to the neighbor who would kindly be looking after the flock that “Dad loves a spa and he requires daily rations of arugula — rinsed so there’s a bit of water left on it so it’s extra refreshing for him. And if you feel like having a bath or shower with his in the bathroom, do please avail yourself. He’s a bit chatty, don’t mind him. And tuck him in with blankets over his cage at night so he doesn’t catch a child.” Is that in any way weird??!!!

Not in our world!

I am happy to report now, into February, that Dad is still with us.Weak but still alive. I think at this point, he’s staying alive to spite us…although, having been treated to several massages in the spa in Mexico, I sympathize with him. Being in a spa day after day is THE way to live and enjoy life!

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