Sirius memories

Sirius was an awesome bird.

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Here is the tag for all the posts on this site that featured him. Just in case you’re like me and want to take the occasional trip down memory lane.

http://www.erikahammerschmidt.com/category/sirius/

We still miss him so much.

Heartbroken

It’s been a few days but I still don’t really want to talk about it. Sirius the Starling has passed away.
When the growth on his belly started, I was preparing myself for the possibility that this could happen, but I did not expect it to get so bad so quickly. 
I’m not going to go into all the details because it would make me cry again. Maybe someday. I feel like I failed him, even though there wasn’t really anything I could do. I don’t think anything that we did caused the problem to start. But we can never know for sure what caused it. The vet said it was probably some kind of tumor.
John and I were crying uncontrollably the first couple days, like lying on the floor sobbing too hard to talk, for half an hour at a time. And everything still feels utterly different without him. There’s no way we’ll get used to this quickly. He was such a part of everything we did. Everything we can possibly do reminds us of him.
Part of me wants another starling to fill the gaping hole, part of me doesn’t ever want a pet again because this could happen and this was so hard to go through.
And part of me realizes that we’re not in a good place in life to adopt another bird right now, since we don’t know when or where we’ll be moving after John graduates, but that once we settle down we will most likely have birds again… because for all the mess and work and eventual heartbreak, birds really are worth it. 
Sirius was a wonderful, brilliant, sweet-hearted creature who loved us both in his own beautiful, weird and devoted way, and he was one of the best things to ever be in my life. 
Over the next few weeks I will be making a tribute page for him on my website, with all the pictures and recordings and descriptions I  have of him. Right now most of this website still looks as if he’s still alive, and it’s going to be hard for me to change that, but I will when I have the energy.

Travel Cage and Vet for Sirius

Sirius the starling had his first vet visit today!

Details of the vet visit after the pictures. Basically, Siri was very good and he appears to be in good health too, though there are a few mysteries about his health that couldn’t quite be solved (vets don’t really know a lot about starlings, since they’re so rarely kept as pets).

Here are some pictures of Sirius at the vet, in his travel cage, and some pics of the cage by itself. It’s not pretty, but it’s the only travel cage we’ve been able to design that Siri seems comfortable in. He’s really comfortable in it, too! He’s been on a three-hour car ride in it before, and seemed fine!

It’s John’s design, but easy enough for me, or probably anyone, to build.

It’s made of a plastic bin and some black plastic mesh from the hardware store, held together with zip ties. (We know that dowels don’t make the best perches, and we’re trying to find actual branches that fit well in the holes of this mesh. His regular cage at home is much bigger and has real branch perches.)

The opening is just three cuts in the mesh, with the cut sides covered with plastic from a heavy-duty trash bag (held in place with zip ties) to protect from any sharp edges. The mesh is bendy enough that we didn’t need to create a hinge. A small bungee cord holds it shut when needed.

A bigger bungee cord holds the top of the cage onto the plastic bin bottom, and it can be taken off to replace the paper or rearrange the perches and other accessories.

I made a smaller version of this cage, too, with a shoulder-carrying strap, in case I ever need to get him out of the house extra quickly.

Anyway! Here are the pictures:

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And, in our experience so far, Como Park Animal Hospital in St Paul, MN, is a very nice, very reasonable and very accepting veterinary hospital. Very few vets around here will treat birds of any kind, but these people were totally fine examining a captive-raised starling.

Although Siri didn’t show any real signs of being sick– he’s still eating healthily, singing and being active in every way– we’d been concerned about a swelling on his abdomen and a callus and bruise-like mark on his foot.

And we didn’t really get that resolved on this visit, but the vet gave us some reassurance.

After the examination, they said that from the location and texture of the abdominal swelling it looked like a gastrointestinal issue… but since his stools are still normal, and a test for parasites didn’t turn up anything, they weren’t able to give us any conclusive answer. They did give us some options, though.

We could have an x-ray to see if any problems were visible that way. We decided not to, since an x-ray on a bird requires anesthesia, which gets more risky the smaller the bird is, and if something did show up, it would probably be something we couldn’t do anything about anyway. The vet explained these things very honestly and reasonably.

He also said that if the problem gets worse, we could give the bird a deworming medicine just to see if there might be any parasites that didn’t show up on the standard test. But since that’s not so likely, and since Siri still appears to be in good health, we decided not to do that right away either.

As for the foot, he said it didn’t look bad enough to be dangerous, but recommended giving him softer perches, maybe by wrapping them with padding material (I think he was talking about this stuff, since I’ve found some mentions online of people using that to wrap perches.) He also suggested extra vitamins and maybe more sunlight to help with the few overgrown scales that keep coming back on his feet.

And this all did cost some money, about $130, just to have him examined, tested for parasites, and prescribed a vitamin powder. But honestly I was expecting to pay more; I was scared of having to spend thousands on him, because I’ve heard so many stories of awfully expensive vet procedures. This vet is reasonably-priced by vet standards, as far as I can tell, and didn’t push unnecessary expensive procedures on us. (There was no pressure to do the x-ray, for instance, and if we had chosen to, it would only have been about $40 for the anesthesia and $80 for the x-ray itself.)

And it’s good to know that there is a vet in town who’s willing to see starlings. And it’s good to have a clean bill of health regarding parasites. Overall I think this was well worth doing.

Sirius eating lunch

He is a ravenous little dinosaur.

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Petting Sirius the starling

Siri isn’t crazy about petting, but it’s important to keep him accustomed to the touch of hands in case he needs to be handled for emergency reasons.

And once we start petting, he kind of gets into it and starts enjoying it. Until he’s done. Then he lets us know.

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Sirius and his fluffy feathers

2017-01-15 13_38_49 2017-01-15 13_54_08 2017-01-15 14_23_52  IMG_20170115_102217Sirius the starling has grown back all his missing feathers!

He still has a few crooked ones, like the feather that sticks up on his head and the one that droops on his tail. But he is very fluffy and pretty today!

Counting blessings, 2

Oh, and another thing I’m happy about, although I don’t have pictures of it yet:

I have a bunch of my handmade jewelry in the Music Forest Cafe! It’s this really charming little vegan cafe in St Paul, and it has a section with locally made crafts for sale, and my stuff is there!

And I am happy about that. I’ll get some pictures of my pieces on display when I stop in this weekend.

Oh, and John and I gave a speech in Marshall, MN last week. It went great! We do have a pic from that. Not a very interesting picture, but here it is:

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It was a pretty typical speech, except for one thing. Because it was so far away from home, we had to stay the night at John’s parents’ house in a nearby town… and because our roommate has moved out, we couldn’t have him look after the bird while we traveled.

So we had to bring Sirius the Starling on a road trip!

John made the weirdest-looking cage and Siri actually liked it, unlike any other travel cage– he would willingly go into it, and when he wasn’t in it, he was on our shoulders watching the traffic go by, and he had a total blast riding in the car with us! I’m so happy– he has always hated car rides in the past, but we figured out a way to make it work for him! (Again, pics of the cage coming later.)

And at the speech, we actually brought him in, in his cage, and set him on the counter, way off to the right of that photo. It was so cool; I wish we could do that with more of our speeches!

Counting blessings

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, and to take a positive turn from the many negative thoughts I’ve been having lately, I’m going to make some posts this week of things I am happy about.

To start with: Sirius the Starling has been getting better. His face injury has healed and his feathers are coming back in, little by little.

Here are some pictures of him hanging out on my hand and eating crickets.

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My bird sat on my arm so long he left footprints.

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Sirius the starling has a cone

This bird will make my hair gray.

He’s been scratching at a spot on his face for a long time, so much that the feathers fell out… and now he’s scratched so much it started to bleed. A lot.

I’ve put some DMSO anesthetic on the scratch, hoping it will reduce his desire to pick at it, and we improvised a cone out of paper and gauze. He’s frustrated that he can’t preen, but so far it seems to have stopped the bleeding.

Keep us in your thoughts. Thank goodness this at least happened on a Friday night, so we have the weekend to deal with it…