Archive for Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Happy, the wayward cockatiel, returns to owner

September 13, 2006

Happy Doodle has come home.

And Mary Harris is glad he's back.

But her happiness was mixed with concern for the family that cared for her lost bird for a week while searching for its owner.

Harris removed her eyeglasses, touched a tissue to her eyes, her shoulders gently rocking as tears fell.

"I'm just thinking about the people that have to give him up," Harris said.

Harris, who is 91, received the pearl-colored cockatiel as a gift from her children last December, shortly after the death of her husband. The couple were married 70 years.

"He passed away December 5, it was sort of unexpected," Harris said of her husband's death. "It left a big hole in my life."

So when her family gave her a cockatiel, it helped her cope with the loss.

She was familiar with birds, having earlier raised two cockatiels with her husband. Both birds also went by the moniker, Happy Doodle. But on Aug. 28, Happy Doodle flew out of Harris' house.

Two people -- long-time friend Herb George and mail carrier Amy Daniels -- told Harris about the story of a found bird on the front page of last Wednesday's Mirror. And that brought to close a sad few days in Harris' life.

Bye, bye, birdie

The bird flew the coop Aug. 28, as Harris opened the door to greet a neighbor's dog.

"I opened the door and zooop -- I just felt him skim my shoulder and he was gone," Harris said.

She was devastated.

"I was walking around my yard hollering "Happy Doodle," Harris said.

The week was rough on her. Shortly before Happy Doodle flew away, Harris had taken him to the vet, who suggested they could clip his wing feathers to prevent an escape. However, she said that at the time, she thought sounded harsh.

Three days after Happy Doodle's escape, he showed up about 2.5 miles away -- at Tonganoxie Elementary School.

By last Wednesday, Harris had given up hope of finding her bird.

"I was so unhappy about it when I woke up this morning that I didn't care if I took another breath," she said.

But by the end of the day, Happy Doodle came home, thanks to Tonganoxie residents who had cared for it.

Mistaken identity

After a student found the bird Aug. 31, teacher Deanna Sittner, took it to the school office. There, someone recalled seeing posters about a lost cockatiel. That cockatiel -- JBird -- belonged to Paul and Chrystal Wilson. And he had been missing since early August.

The Wilsons were contacted. But it wasn't their bird. They did, however, agree to care for it until its owner could be found. Chrystal contacted The Mirror that day to see if anyone else had reported a cockatiel missing.

On Sept. 6, Chrystal Wilson learned the bird's owner had been found, and that afternoon she and her daughters, Audrey, 3, and Meryssa, 2, took the bird to Harris.

Harris met them at the door with a smile, and then turned to Happy Doodle, who was in a cage.

And after a slight scolding from his smiling owner, Happy Doodle perched on her shoulder and took a ride through the house.

Wilson and the girls watched, as Wilson noted how friendly the bird was while at their house.

"We knew he was someone's pet," Wilson said. "He is a very, very sweet bird."

She explained that because they thought his owner would be found, the family decided not to get too attached to him. They didn't name the bird.

Even still, when Wilson first learned the owner had been found, she didn't think she could bear to deliver the bird herself. However she soon changed her mind.

And she said she thought it seemed like the bird knew what was happening.

"I asked him if he wanted to go home," Wilson said. "He started whistling and pacing back and forth."

Although Happy Doodle was safe at home, no one ever will know what he did during his three days on the lam.

Sitting in a blue velvet chair, Harris talked to the bird, who was perched on the chair's back.

"You know you've been a bad boy," Harris said, smiling up at him. "Tell me, where did you go, what did you see, what did you do in the night?"

And later, Harris, who plans to have the bird's wings clipped, said, "You little stinker. I bet you won't take another vacation."

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