By Linda Greeson

I was delighted when I saw three lovely sky blue Budgies emerge from their nest to try their wings. Knowing that there had been four babies, I checked inside the nest box.

I found the fourth baby, still being fed by the parents, but resting flat in the nest, a leg protruding from each side.

Although this was a drab little bird, much smaller than its clutchmates, I brought her into the house to try my home remedies on her legs. I soon realized that this was more than an ordinary case of spraddle legs and that there was nothing I could do for this pathetic little budgie.

She had only spent a short time in her box in my kitchen before I knew that hers was a congenital defect. During this time she demonstrated such an endearing personality I could not help but grow fond of the mousy little bird I had named Minnie. When ever I approached she used her wings to bob her body up and down and uttered excited little chirps in her squeaky voice. She loved to be held and cuddled, enjoying to the fullest any little attention I gave her.

I was torn with mixed feelings. I saw no future for this bird who would never even be able to stand on a perch. but how could I bring myself to put down such a tiny little bundle of love and affection?

A visit from Bill, a bird loving friend, solved my dilemma. He immediately fell in love with Minnie and was horrified at the thought of her being destroyed, Bill himself, as the result of a long illness, was unable to walk more than a step or two and was confined to a wheelchair. Perhaps because of this, his heart went out to poor Minnie. Off he went in his wheel chair, Minnie peeping out from a nest of tissues in his shirt pocket. He was determined that he would help Minnie regain the use of her legs, just as determined as he was to regain the use of his own,.

A visit to his Avian Vet confirmed that this was indeed a congenital deformity. The Vet could only suggest that euthanasia was the kindest thing to do, but Bill could not accept this. He placed Minnie in a cage in the bedroom he had reserved for his five pet parrots, but there she only huddled in a corner at the bottom of the cage. She showed none of her usual animation until he carried her out of range of the other birds. He realized that although Minnie had not the slightest fear of people, she was terrified by birds.

Her instincts must have told her that if left to their mercy in her state she would be destroyed. She seemed to know that her fate depended on the compassion of humans.

When Bill moved Minnie's cage downstairs to the family room her good spirits revived. She again greeted him by bobbing up and down excitedly and delighted in his attentions. She shared his breakfast toast and ate vegetables from his plate in the evening. She went everywhere with him in the safety of his shirt pocket. They became devoted companions.

Knowing that birds are happiest when able to perch high in their cages, Bill devised a step like series of little platforms for Minnie. With his considerable help and encouragement she was soon able to work herself up to the top most platform on her own. There she spent most of her time when in her cage. From this high point, food and water within reach and brightly colored toys suspended over her head, she chattered and played happily.

Minnie still seemed fearful at night, and reluctant to sleep in this exposed place. A cardboard tube from a roll of toilet tissue placed at the bottom of the cage provided a solution. She was so tiny this provided what she decided was a safe and comfortable place for her to sleep. It did not take long for her to learn to work her way into and out of this "bed" without assistance.

Bill would not give up on his efforts to strengthen Minnie's legs. Each evening, after his own series of exercises were completed, he held Minnie upside down in the palm of one hand and gently exercised her weak little legs with the other. She rested there with her head back, eyes closed, blissfully enjoying his attentions.

Minnie was wisely reluctant to attempt flight, knowing that her landing could well end in disaster. With endless patience Bill developed her confidence. He held her at arm's length in the palm of his hand and with a gentle upward motion lifted her into the air. She soon was enjoying flight around the room in an ever increasing number of circles, returning safely to his outstretched cupped hands. In response to the question "Do you want to fly Minnie?" she bobbed up and down with an excited babble of chirps. Bill insisted that she was saying "Fly! Fly!". To me those words were not very clear, but her delight was very obvious.

I am happy to say that over the years Bill's persistent hard work was effective for himself. His leg muscles strengthened so that he gradually progressed from the wheelchair to crutches, then to a cane, and finally to walking unassisted. He now takes pride in mowing his own lawn, and no riding mower for him.

Minnie never achieved even the ability to stand, but the quality of life for her could not have been better. She is still drab and small, but the happiest and most cheerful little bird that ever lived. Bill has finally given up on her leg exercises, contenting himself with giving her several flights a day. She enjoys the lawn mowing from her place in his shirt pocket as much as Bill does.



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