Stumpy - Epilogue


Friday I was having a wonderful day.  My yardwork in preparation for a family gathering on Saturday was nearly done and I had just gone on a nice 2+ mile walk with a couple friends.  The weather was perfect.  There was nothing to complain about.

Then I came in from my walk, sat down at my computer and found an email from my mom:

"a picture for you Stumpy"

That is the default subject when mom uses picasa to send a picture, except for the "Stumpy" part, she added that.  Stumpy was my mom's bird that I wrote about 2 years ago:

Years ago my mom saw a cat in her backyard, she was trying to chase it away and it dropped something from its mouth. She went to check what it was and it was a grey, featherless baby bird, probably fresh from the egg.

It was alive and undamaged so she decided she had to hand feed it, to keep it alive, or at least to give it the best chance she could. So she called me and told me her dilemma, knowing that I had the recipe for feeding baby birds (btw, canned dog food or meat baby food, spinach or baby vegs & peanut butter, pureed together & fed with a needleless syringe). She began caring for him and all was going well. She kept him in a kleenex box lined with soft fluff and fed him continually, even taking him to the kingdom hall with her and keeping him in the restroom. Then she had to go to California to take care of her dad and left the birdy in my care. I thought "Great - he can die while I'm taking care of him!" Well, he didn't, he just kept eating and growing.

He just kept on that way, tough little bird. But he began to have problems with his feet, they kept getting infections and bleeding. Mom was afraid to take him to the vet for fear that they'd tell her that he was a wild animal and needed something more than she could give him, hence removing him from her care and possibly "destroying" him "for his own good" ("he won't be able to care for himself in the wild"). So she treated him as best she could but he did lose one foot in the process and became at that point - "Stumpy".

So Stumpy became a real pet. The cat knew not to mess with the little birdy. And he loved Mom so much, she would stick her pinky in the cage and he would chirp and peck excitedly.

Well, they decided to move to Hawaii about 5 years ago. That meant he'd have to have clearance to be brought into the state. She found a sympathetic vet who called him a "canary" and did all the necessary processes to get the OK for the move. (after years of being unable to identify what he is I finally found a picture of the exact same bird - a house finch, I didn't know they sing so beautifully)

When mom finally took off for Hawaii she had packed up the house and stuck it all on a boat, as well as the car. Then she, the cat and Stumpy got clearance to get on the plane, the cat would ride in the assigned pet area in the cargo but Stumpy would be allowed in the cabin with Mom. Until she got to the gate, then they said the bird would have to go in the pet area as well. She did her usual insistent bit and got them to allow the bird in the cabin as she was promised when making the arrangements. Kinda sounds like Sylvester & Tweetie with their little old lady, huh?

So Stumpy made the big move to Hawaii. He has been living outside his cage, free in the house most of the time he's been here in the islands. There have been a few close calls, at least twice he got stuck in piles of junk for days and was found and rescued and survived, hungry, dehydrated, but OK. Then he had a bad eye infection that a vet had to repair, he got through that well also. At that time Mom was informed that he'd already far exceeded his life expectancy. Next month he'll be 9, another year past his expected time on this earth.

With him flying free in the house, they currently live in a "bird cage" but neither seem to mind too much, it's worth it for a one-in-a-million pet like Stumpy.

To add one more chapter to his saga, last year the folks attended the International Convention of Jehovah's Witnesses on Oahu.  Since all their friends were also going to Oahu to attend the convention, there was no one who could watch Stumpy.  So the little yellow birdy with white facial feathers got to go on another plane trip.  He went to Oahu, stayed in the hotel with the folks and while they were at the convention he stayed in his travel cage in the car (in the shade).  I'm sure he got plenty attention from the friends, I mean, who takes their birdy traveling with them?


It was a short email and managed to completely ruin my previously glorious day.  Stumpy was gone.  His affection for mom and insistence on always being close to her finally cost him his life.  He had run underneath her foot when it was too late for her to avert her step.

Mom seems to be handling it well, at least from my vantage point, which is very limited.  The few positive things about how his adorably feathery life ended:

  • he died at home, there was no disappearing act
  • he died fast, no long, drawn-out illness
  • he had a remarkably long happy life, nearly double the best-case-scenario life expectancy of a common yellow house finch
When you lose a loved one, even a pet, it hurts and this is certainly no exception.  Stumpy (this link is a bedtime ritual that went on for a while) will be missed by many, many people.

1 cats hacked up hairballs:

Maggie May 17, 2010 at 7:47 PM  

Very good Suzie. You write so well. I'm forwarding this to my friends since you do such a good job telling the story. And with pictures. You are spot on about those points at the end. He was just doing his usual happy things and in an instant it stopped and he doesn’t know anything more. There wasn't a speck of suffering. So I'm relieved but we miss him. Luv, Ma and Pa

About Me

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After 2 unsuccessful marriages I spent 12 years as a divorcee, only to fall prey to another man's wiles. We had a fun 5 years together and then he decided he wanted more freedom so once again I'm single.

So I'm freshly divorced at 57 and have 5 great kids and now 7 grandkids. My kids are still a major part of my life but I'm busy helping my aging parents on Kauai.

I've lived in California, Hawaii and Oklahoma before finally settling here in Washington. I love Washington and come back to visit family, friends and take care of my garden often but will be temporarily a resident of Kauai.

I've moved 30 times in my life (no, my parents weren't in the service, at least not since I was about 2) and finally planted roots when I got my little house that I've owned since '91.

My family are Jehovah's Witnesses, I've been one since '72.