musings from Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington ... home of The Write Spot

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

eulogy for a feathered friend...

Jazz the lineolated parakeet came into my life nearly fifteen years ago – a tiny handful of green feathers with a big personality. From day one, I was his person. No other humans need apply. He would tolerate women visitors, especially those who came bearing food, but the men in my life were invariably treated to a ruthless demonstration of The Mighty Beak.

With me, though, Jazz was all cuddles and kisses. He would tuck himself under my chin while I read, perch on my shoulder to 'groom' my earrings as I typed, or chase my pen across the page as I wrote. We shared many a shower over the years, too. He loved hanging upside down, wings spread to catch every lovely drop of spray, and then snuggling in a warm towel to dry off.

During our first months together, Jazz insisted on sleeping in my room at night. He'd scramble happily into his little travel cage for the short trip down the hall and would be sound asleep with his head tucked under his wing before lights-out. Not a peep would he make until morning when, as birds do, he'd wake with the dawn. Jazz was generous about letting me sleep, but only as long as I stayed perfectly still. One yawn or stretch or even an eyebrow twitch and he’d launch into his best imitation of an alarm clock – "beep-beep-beep!"

Our sleep routine changed abruptly a few days after Sam the Cat joined our little family. I don't think any of us got much rest those first nights as Sam prowled the apartment, learning his new territory. The night he decided to join us in the bedroom, I fell asleep happy, with a warm cat curled at my feet and a sleepy bird in his usual spot atop the bedside dresser. Later, in the darkest hour, I woke to loud purring, interrupted by the sound of an irritated and extremely scoldy bird. I groped for the bedside lamp and struggled to focus…

There was Sam, lounging in comfort on top of the little cage. And there was Jazz, scolding and flapping and pecking at the catly undercarriage. I tried correcting and redirecting but that tiny birdcage was like a magnet to Sam. None of us slept. After three restless nights, Jazz decided he'd had enough and chose to stay in his big cage in the living room. It was all good. He had a comfy tent to cozy up in and no cat to disturb his slumber.

In time, Jazz and Sam became best of friends – an odd couple, true, but good company for each other when I was away at the day job. I'd arrive home to find Jazz snoozing in his cage and Sam asleep on the easy chair beside him. Once in a while I'd catch them at play, Sam dangling his paw between the bars and Jazz head-bobbing and muttering, "hello, sweetie" in his quiet, linnie-bird accent while nibbling on the proffered paw.

Some lineolated parakeets (linnies) are excellent mimics but Jazz was more of a mumbler. His human vocabulary was limited to four phrases: hello sweetie, pretty boy, up-up, and what'cha doin'? He was certainly no competition for Disco the Parakeet in that department (although he did love watching Disco's videos).

Jazz, always fascinated by Disco the Parakeet.

Jazz had his own unique claim to fame, thanks to mystery author Barbara Colley, whose fictional sleuth had a parakeet named Sweety Boy. I worked with Barb at the time and had been sharing tales of Jazz's antics since the day he came home. Some of those antics were adapted for Sweety Boy and, as a result, Jazz was mentioned on the acknowledgements page of Death Tidies Up.* He was thrilled! (Okay, I was thrilled by the mention. Jazz loved the extra head rubs it earned him.)

Jazz, ready to help me write.

Most sources I've found say a typical linnie lifespan is from ten to fifteen years, so my sweet Jazz was definitely an elder gentleman. In recent years he was troubled by arthritis in his feet, but still managed to climb around his cage like a youngster thanks to that mighty beak of his. Then, one Friday night in July, Jazz fell from his perch. Falls had been happening more frequently since the onset of his arthritis, so I always kept the cage bottom heaped full of shredded paper to ensure a nice soft landing. He’d shake himself off and scramble back up, wearing a distinctly, "meant-to-do-that" expression. But that Friday, Jazz didn't scramble. He shuffled once, then again, and then waited for me to help him. We had a good long snuggle and he seemed to rally a bit, enjoying a few of his favourite green pea treats and a long drink of water before taking himself to bed.

Next morning, he woke with me as usual and slowly made his way to his water dish. He drank, then stepped into his shredded paper, turned around to make a nest, and went to sleep for the last time.

We are still bereft, Samcat and I. Home seems much too quiet without our wee friend's happy chirps and mumbles.

R.I.P. little Jazz, my writing buddy, cat's companion, and wake-up beeper for close to fifteen years. Sure will miss your welcome home chirps when my key turns in the lock.

Jazz, a bird
December 15, 2000 – July 18, 2015
Good-bye, sweetie. Pretty boy.
One of my favourite photos of Jazz,in one of his favourite spots.

* Barbara Colley's cozy mysteries are set in New Orleans. They feature Charlotte LaRue, maid for hire and amateur sleuth, along with the loveable Sweety Boy, Jazz's literary alter ego. Find them here.

Read more about lineolated parakeets here.


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At 11:52 am, Blogger Sandy Cody said...

Love this story, especially the idea of the cat and the bird becoming friends. I had no idea birds could to 15 years. Sounds like Jazz had the perfect life.

At 4:28 pm, Blogger Colleen Story said...

This story made me tear up, Cheryl! What a pretty little bird and sounds like he had so much personality. He was a lucky guy having you for an owner. Thanks for sharing his story. :O)

At 5:07 pm, Blogger Loretta C. Rogers said...

Our animal family members are just as precious as our human family members. This is such a bitter sweet story. Thank you for sharing.

At 6:16 pm, Blogger Heidi said...

Cheryl, I am so very sorry for your loss. I had no idea that birds could be so intelligent and personable. Big hugs to you!

At 6:17 pm, Blogger Cheryl said...

Sandy, Colleen, and Loretta - thank you all for stopping by to share my memories of Jazz. He was a real little character and a dear soul, and I'm glad I had a chance to share his story.

At 6:18 pm, Blogger Cheryl said...

Thanks, Heidi. Hugs appreciated!

At 8:54 pm, Anonymous Susan McNicoll said...

I am so very sorry Cheryl. I know Jazz was a big part of your household and I know it will take some time for you and Sam to adjust to the quiet. A brilliantly written eulogy, worthy of your special boy. It made me laugh and, yes, it also brought tears to my eyes. What wild stories and it made me feel as though I knew Jazz. I love the image of him in the shower with you. I really think you have a book in here somewhere. Give Same an extra rub from me.

At 9:25 pm, Blogger Cheryl said...

Thank you, Susan. I'm glad Jazz's story made you laugh - he was quite the character.

At 9:54 pm, Blogger Sheila Seabrook said...

Cheryl, I'm so sorry for the loss of your sweet Jazz. His eulogy is truly beautiful and shows what a special place he had in your household. I'm sending you and Sam comforting hugs.

At 8:23 am, Blogger Cheryl said...

Thank you, Sheila. He may have been tiny but he had a BIG place in our lives.

At 12:41 pm, Anonymous Victoria M. Johnson said...

Hi Cheryl--
What a very special friend you had. Jazz will live on through your memories.


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