On January 26, I came home from work to find my little sweetheart Pippin had died. It looked as if she had passed very gently – no sign of struggle or injury – and for that I’m grateful. She was a little over 10 years old. The life span of lovebirds in captivity can be 10-15 years, so she died on the young side of her span. My doctor performed a necropsy, and he found no sign of disease or indication of why she died. Pippin had definitely slowed down in the last year. I figure that she just ran out of heartbeats in that tiny big heart she had.
Pippin came into my life as a nearly-weaned hatchling who was full of life and joy. Chipper, our cockatiel, quickly became her hero and she learned several phrases from him: “Chipper!”, “Whatcha doing, Pippin?!”, “Chipper-choo,” and the frequently-heard “You be!” (This was shorthand for “You be good!” which she could also say, but often didn’t have time in the moment to say the whole phrase.)
Here she is being prompted to say “Chipper-choo!”
As our flock increased, she became the self-appointed conscience of the group, always putting everyone in their proper place by a well-timed pip of consternation, or a vigorous “You be!” She was fearless and had strong likes and dislikes, which she made known. But her corrections were always well-timed and spot-on, including the ones she directed at me! I began jokingly calling Pippin “the knower of all things.” You could never fool Pippin.
When Charlie came into my house, Chipper and he bonded well and became a tight unit, and his affection for Pippin seemed to disappear. Chipper was more involved in impressing Charlie, I think, but he never really forgot Pippin, as Chipper would sometimes say, “Goodnight, Pippin,” or “What, Pippin?” Fortunately, Charlie absolutely loved Pippin and his daily morning routine would be to hop in front of her cage on a cotton rope perch and sing to her. She loved his attentions and would often just sit and listen to his music.
As I mentioned, Pippin was fearless in approaching new things and checking them out. In a moment of distraction, when she was outside of her cage, she flew on top of Sam’s cage and he lunged, out of instinct, and tore off half of her upper beak. I was devastated and nearly drove like a banshee, top speed, to my avian vet 40 minutes away. Even through her pain and bleeding, she gave me an encouraging chirp that I always described as a “Pippin giggle.” She often did this any time I made something special for her or made an extra effort to make things good for her.
Fortunately, her beak began to regrow, though never to her original point. I ended up needing to bring her into the vet each Friday for a lower beak trim so that the lower beak – which grew much faster than the top still-healing beak – would not grow over the upper beak, making it hard for her to eat.
I would place Pippin into the Wingabago shown here, place it on top of a box in the passenger seat so that she could have a good view out the window, and then strap her in. She always eagerly looked forward to these trips. She hated the moments spent in the vet’s hands, but she dearly loved sitting on top of the perch, watching the world go by during the 90-minute round trip through beautiful countryside full of interesting sights: hills, pines, meadows, raptors and blackbirds, people, etc. During the 2 1/2 years we made this weekly trip, we bonded so closely that it’s hard to really describe it. We spent two years watching the seasons pass, sharing the rhythms of our lives, growing in mutual understanding. Sometimes I’d just chat with her and she’d respond. Or we’d travel in silence, both of us seemingly caught up in our own thoughts. But somehow, we always seemed to be in sync with each other, understanding each other.
The beak trims were always stressful for her, but she never held it against anybody, and would quickly recover to return to her cockatiel “boys” at home, where she most loved to be next to.
It’s hard to believe how such a tiny creature can have such a huge impact on a person, but she had a heart many times larger than her real one.
Pippin was a little being of light and joy and wisdom, and my heart is full of gratitude for the 10 short years she came to be in my life.