Jeanie The Three-Legged Dog Saves Family Cockatiel From Predatory Hawk Attack
Our family has a 3-legged rescue dog and an elderly cockatiel we inherited. They may be curious about one another at times, but as a rule, they don’t interact.
That was the case, anyway, until recently, when we discovered that sometimes, pets with special needs need each other.
Petie, the cockatiel, was born sometime in the early ‘90’s. He originally belonged to a family member who died in 1998, then to another who died prematurely in 2007.
It was after the funeral of Petie’s last caretaker that he was offered to our then-teenage daughter, who gleefully accepted.
My husband and I knew nothing of this arrangement until we were about to leave, when our daughter broke the news … “Guess what, Mom? They’re giving us the bird!”
The decision for Petie to come to live with us wasn’t exactly unanimous. Our daughter’s vote was, “Oh cool, a pet bird.” But my husband wasn’t completely sold on the idea. Still, he wanted to keep the bird in the family simply because it was his mother’s pet.
I voted no. I did not want the bird. It was nothing personal; it’s just that birds are loud and extremely messy, and we already had our fair share of messes with two dogs and a teenager.
Although Petie had no opinion on the matter, he did lay down a ground rule that still applies today: Any and all objects, including fingers, placed within the confines of the cage are fair game and will be bitten. Hard.
Another issue that hindered the bird’s smooth transition into our home was the matter of the cage. We live on a lake, and one of our favorite things to do is sit on our back porch and bird watch. As exciting as that sounds, it’s not as if we set out on bird watching escapades. We simply watch the birds in our back yard … ducks, purple martins, hummingbirds, pelicans and many others, including a particularly large brown bird who looks like a crane and whom we call Norman.
It pained us to see Petie confined to an extremely small area. But there wasn’t much we could do about that. A cage is all he had ever known. And it’s not as if we had a built-in bird sanctuary in our home.
We had never owned a bird before and we weren’t sure what to expect, but finally we agreed to take him in. We brought him home with us.
Petie’s been with us now for almost eight years. He’s estimated to be somewhere between 20 and 25 years old. He’s a curious and protective little guy, with zero tolerance for interruptions to his schedule or intruders to his perimeter.
His large cage (one of the biggest we could find) is usually kept in the family game room, which has a door leading out to the porch. During the day, we usually move his cage outdoors, where he answers the chirps of other birds and alerts the family to closing car doors and trespassing squirrels.
As for our sweet little rescue dog, Jeanie, we adopted her years ago from a local rescue organization. When she was found, she had a deformed and crippled front leg, which was removed before she was listed for adoption. She’s now eight years old, and is a certified therapy dog — visiting hospitals, nursing homes, schools and libraries. She’s small, she’s happy and she’s a perfect mix of Pom, Yorkie, Poodle and Papillion.
On Feb. 9, 2015, Petie was enjoying a pretty day on the porch while the rest of us were inside. Jeanie, who’s always on alert, heard a noise and jumped down from the sofa. She ran to the back door and whined desperately to go out.
When I opened the back door, I could hear Petie squawking in a way I’d never heard before. Jeanie darted out and ran as fast as three legs could take her to the center of the porch where Petie’s cage was located. She let out a strong, ferocious bark (another sound I’d never heard).
I arrived a few seconds behind her, just in time to see Petie’s cage rocking back and forth as a HUGE bird flew away from the porch and into the neighbor’s Magnolia tree. It was a hawk! And not just any hawk … This was a Jurassic, pterodactyl-like creature, and he was trying to get our Petie!
The hawk released the cage, along with Petie’s bloody neck, when Jeanie charged him.
Petie became quiet and limp. He was bleeding, with puncture wounds on his chest and neck. His soft, gray feathers were floating all around us.
I ran back inside to get my husband. He put on a glove and gently grasped poor Petie. For the first time ever, Petie didn’t try to bite him. He put the stunned bird in Jeanie’s travel case, and I rushed him to our vet’s office.
Petie was seen immediately by our veterinarian, Dr. Gill. He asked that we leave Petie with him and told us he would call us later. He had to gas the poor bird in order to suture his wounds.
Petie was observed for a few hours and then we were called to come pick him up. Poor Petie. He was quite a sight. He was covered in bald spots and his eyes were half shut. His crest, a group of feathers that usually stand erect on the top of his head, was slicked to the side like a bad comb-over. And the poor little guy was drunk from the gas.
Dr. Gill explained that the puncture in Petie’s neck barely missed the esophagus and a main artery. He believed that Petie would be OK, and he was right.
Jeanie alerted us to this attack. She saved Petie’s life.
Petie is recouping at home, but he’s no longer in the game room. He’s now occupying a guest suite that’s closer to the living area of our home, where we’re watching him like a haw… uh, monitoring him closely.
And of course, Jeanie pops in to check on Petie several times throughout the day. Petie’s eating well, and his beautiful grey feathers have grown back. He’s louder and messier than ever these days, but I believe he has a right to be.
He’s perched next to a large window in his suite where he continues to answer not only other birds, but also the TV in the next room. And if, by chance, that Jurassic hawk passes by and peeps into Petie’s window, I sincerely hope that our bird … gives that bird … the bird.
A week after the attack, I ran into Dr. Bright, another veterinarian at the clinic. She told me of another hawk that had attacked and made an attempted abduction of a cockatiel. This time, the attack occurred across town from where we live.
For just a moment, the blonde part of me felt some relief in thinking that the very creature that had brutalized our poor Petie had moved to the other side of our city and we would never have to worry about another sneak attack. But as we continued our conversation, the reality set in that there are many more hawks … in sleeper cells … all over the place. She went on to tell me of another incident that occurred right down the street from our house. A hawk had snatched (oh, it just hurts me to say this) a kitten. A kitten! This may have happened on the same day Petie was attacked.
We’re now in a state of high alert. And as a result, Jeanie’s life has also been altered in a powerful and inconveniencing way. The poor dog can’t go out to potty without one of us standing over her in a protective stance, on the lookout for a hawk. As she’s doing her business, Jeanie looks up at us as if to say, “This can’t be my life.”
Our defense strategy is simply this: if the hawk swoops in for Jeanie, he’ll have to take us all.
Sometime after my encounter with Dr. Bright, Jeanie and I were walking in the back yard and came across a pile of grey feathers. I’m certain it was the remnants of some poor, unsuspecting dove. Yes, I know that these things happen all day, every day; that it’s just the law of nature, the food chain, blah blah blah. But that doesn’t make me wish any less that birds of prey had to follow some sort of code of ethics or commandments, such as “Thou shalt not kill song birds, kittens, and 3-legged dogs.” How I wish they fed on insects and berries.
And while I realize that the hawk was just doing what hawks do, I really don’t like him. He nearly killed our geriatric cockatiel. Petie has survived two hurricanes, three owners, four U.S. presidents and, as of late, a terrorist bird attack. He can sing “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath (thanks to our daughter), and many other tunes that he’s written himself. He knows each family member and greets each one with a whistle or a song.
Petie’s lived a long life, and when the time comes, we’ll do our best to see that old age is listed as his cause of death. But for now, thanks to Jeanie, Petie is alive and well, loud and messy.