Thursday, April 28, 2005


I have an English Budgie named Galileo. For those of you that are saying "What the hell is an English Budgie?" It is a large parakeet, twice the size of a regular parakeet. She is the second bird I have had. I've had her for a year and a half. I know that she is a female because she has laid 2 clutches of unfertilized eggs. What a good mother she was to them too.

Budgies are little birds with BIG personalities. They don't realize how small they are and will take on the big bad kitties or humans that they dwell with. They're smart too. Everyone thinks that African Greys are smart because they are such great talkers, but it's actually a parakeet that holds the world record for the largest vocabulary - over 1700 words. They are a low maintenance, inexpensive bird that bring loads of enjoyment to my life.

I love my pets. They are part of my family. I have two cats named Tabitha and Cuddles. I also reside with a Leopard Gecko named Apollo and an Albino Corn Snake called Cerberus. Welcome to my zoo. My son named the Gecko, snake and bird. He was studying Greek God's when we obtained the Gecko and snake, hence the names.

I had a cat named Shotgun that had to be put to sleep in 1998, he was 21 years old. He was my Boo Boo kitty. He had been with me through most of my adult life. That was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. He was diabetic and weighed all of 6 pounds at the end. He was a beautiful black and white angora. When he couldn't make it to the litter box anymore, I knew it was time. It was my responsibility to end his suffering. I did what had to be done no matter how much it broke my heart. Today, I find myself in that position once again, and it fucking sucks.

A few months ago I noticed a growth peeking from beneath the feathers of Galileo's backside. A tumor. A trip to the vet and $200 later, they could not confirm if it was cancerous or not. They could operate, to the tune of $400 and no guarantee that they would get it all or that the bird would even live through the surgery. I do love my pets, but.....I couldn't justify in my head spending $400 on a $50 bird and such a risky surgery. I opted to just take her home and deal with things as they happened. If it was cancerous, she would become very sick and either die or I would make another trip to the vet to end her suffering. If it wasn't cancer, then she would live her life with an ugly lump on her ass.

Galileo shows absolutely no signs of being in pain or suffering. She is her energetic sassy self. Demanding attention and loudly shouting when ignored. She shakes the cage door a chirps when she wants to be let out. She becomes so excited when I come through the door each night. She likes to be held up so close to my mouth that her feathers tickle my nose when she is finally free of her cage and she says her hellos. She whistles and talks and wants to interact with me. A few minutes of wolf whistles, "Hi babies" and "You're such a pretty bird"'s and she is off to explore and get into trouble. My windowsills are chewed to pieces and she'll attack you if you interrupt her work. She loves to bathe under the running faucet in a plastic chicken tray from the grocery store. She swims through the water and splashes with much exuberance. She bobs her head up and down when she plays with my fingers. She really is loads of fun.

The problem has become the size of the tumor. It's about the size of a ping pong ball now. It hangs from her left hind quarter and drags when she walks. It has become so large that it almost blocks her vent (read: poopchute). It has come to the point where I have to hold her under the faucet daily and wash the tumor of the fecal matter that becomes stuck to it to prevent an abscess from forming.

Now I know that you're probably thinking "It's a stupid bird, put it down", but it's not that simple. I adore this bird, and she adores me. Do I end her life because she isn't financially worth the risk of surgery? If she was a $12,000 Hyacinth Macaw it would be a no brainer, and the surgery would have been performed months ago. I don't have a lot of financial investment in her, but what of the emotional investment? If I could afford a $12,000 Hyacinth Macaw then $400 wouldn't be an issue. What if it's noncancerous and $400 would seem like nothing if she lived her lifespan of 10 years. Am I just being selfish because I don't want to feel the pain? Am I being selfish because I don't think she is worth risking $400 on an iffy surgery? Am I just postponing the inevitable?

This may read like a shitty post. I'm not doing a draft, I'm not editing myself. I'm just letting it out and posting it. Obviously I'm conflicted about this and trying to find the right answer within myself. Sometimes, I really hate playing the grownup and I want to be a kid again so I won't have to make these impossibly difficult decisions. This sucks.


Magazine Man said...

Not a shitty post at all (was that some dark humor there? My pun detector went off, but it could be a false reading, given the serious nature of the post).

As you know, I went through a similar ordeal with The Dog. Yeah, it's a lot of money for something that may be nothing, but I think it boils down to asking yourself: What is my peace of mind worth? For myself, I know that the longer I waited on my dog's procedure, the more it weighed on me as a Thing Undone. It finally got to the point where, even if the cyst we had removed was malignant, at least we KNEW, as opposed to letting it sit there and wondering about it.

I dunno if that helps or not.
Boy, how useless am I?

You have my sympathy and support. Let us know what you decide to do!

Sharfa said...

Yes, dark humor. It seems to be the only way I can handle tough shit like this.
Useless? Are you kidding me?It helps, trust me.I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I've been thinking so much about her, especially when I have to hold her under the faucet and wash her off. I'm taking her to the vet. I think if it was cancerous she'd be dead by now. If they can just remove the large sack portion of the tumor, I'll do it - no matter what the cost.
She adds so much to my daily life, I cannot betray the unconditional love she gives by placing a monetary value on hers.
Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

sharfa- I have been searching all over the internet to try and get some info on my parakeets health problems and found your site. The problems with your bird are so similar to my little Bellas. I was wondering how things are with your bird now. Any advice would help.
She has a large ping pong ball size lump around her vent area and I too am having to wash her all the time. Other then that she seems to be happy and eating well.
Please let me know what you found out. Thanks Kirsten

judy said...

My little budgie developed a tumour about a month ago - pea side on the outside of her wing. Now it is quite large - but today it started to leak liquid and it is now a flatter piece of a hanging tumour. I took her to the vet last month when I discovered the tumour - the vet said surgery would be too risky - 50/50 chance and the bird would be too stressed out so she suggested the bird go home and live out her natural life. I am worried about suffering though. How do I know if she is suffering?
I hope your bird is okay. I too have searched the net in hopes of finding some information. It is quite scanty. Parakeets are notorious for tumours, though, from what I could gather.

Sharfa said...

Judy - Have you been in touch with a vet that specializes in avian care? Your vet doesn't sound very sympathetic to me. Maybe a second opinion with an avian vet could help ease your mind a bit, it couldn't hurt.
The biggest problem mine was worried about was having enough healthy tissue to close the incision with after removing the tumor. Galileo is doing wonderful and very healthy now, sassy as ever & jealous as hell of my new dog.
Surgery is risky for birds because they have to work to exhale and anesthesia suppresses breathing.
As long as your budgie is eating and chirping/whistling/communicating and there are no changes in her behavior, I would say she isn't suffering. The odds are in her favor as far as it being a benign tumor - so keep your chin up! Please let me know what happens.