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THE PIWI REED STORY

By Chris Reed

It's very hard to say good-bye to a pet that you've loved and has given you so much over the course of so many years but putting your thoughts down on paper can certainly help.  I know everyone thinks their pets are special, but if I try to look at all the creatures I've shared my life with objectively, I'd have to say I've had some average pets, pets that have surprised me with what they were capable of learning, some that were very loveable, and two or three pets that I've had the privilege of knowing, that I would consider "special".  This is Piwi's story.


Back in 2003, I had the privilege, that's how I looked at it, the privilege of being a wildlife rescuer for The Pelican Man.  Every Sunday I loaded up a truck with bait, nets, cages and towels and as the calls came in, my partner and I would head out and do whatever we could to help rescue sick and injured birds and other wildlife.  At the end of a long day, the last thing I would do before heading home was to walk through the makeshift clinic and see how all the patients were doing.  This included the ones that I rescued as well as all the other residents recovering from a variety of ailments.  Usually, I'd just give a little peek since I didn't want to disturb anyone but this one day, a little lovebird came running to the front of the cage and started chirping.  It was not an angry kind of chirp which I am all too familiar with, rescued birds that don't want to be rescued.  No, I swear if he could talk, he was telling me his whole life story, at least that's how it felt.  I just listened then moved on but when I finished my rounds, I felt compelled to go back and see if the same thing would happen if he saw me again and it did.  Despite being rather hungry and tired, I felt totally obligated to just stand there and listen to him until he was done.  Most unusual for a bird that didn't know me, so I asked the acting vet what was his story. 

He said the bird was found by someone just walking around, lost and starving, so one of the other rescuers brought him in.  Since he wasn't a wild bird there was no releasing him back into the wild once he recovered, so they would need to find him a home.  Well that night I couldn't stop thinking about that bird so the next day as soon as the office opened, I called and told them that I'd be glad to take the little guy off their hands.  Here I thought I was doing them a favor which should have been met with "We are so glad you called and volunteered to do that."  However, much to my disappointment, I was told to "get to the back of the line."  After what seemed like an eternity of silence, the receptionist told me that there was quite a number of people that wanted him, so many that they decided the only fair thing to do was to put everyone's name in a hat and draw one.  Then she asked if I wanted my name to be added and I said absolutely.  Well at that point, I just about lost all hope, everyone there saw exactly what I saw, in some way, he was very special, couldn't put it into words but everyone recognized it. 

Well, the little guy recovered quite quickly, so after about a week, they held the drawing and my neighbor up the street who worked at The Pelican Man was asked to pull a name.  Peggy was so excited after drawing my name that she immediately called and left a very long congratulatory message on my home answering machine that my husband heard long before I did, which presented  my next problem.  Being the animal lover that I am, before I started working at the Pelican Man, my husband Rick had one condition, he made me promise that I wouldn't bring any animals home to keep.  We already had a quaker parakeet and she was more than enough for him to take care for while I was at work all day.  It was his only condition for my volunteer work so of course I agreed to it, but that was before I met this bird.  When I got home, he said is there something you forgot to tell me, then he played the answering machine message.  I had seconds to come up with something good to say since I was not giving up that little guy.  Here's what I came up with: "Well, you know how I have Kiwi who's bonded to me but is a one-person bird and dislikes you.  Well, I got this little guy so you could have a buddy all your own."  Then I told him how special I thought he was and just maybe, given the odds of my name being drawn, he was meant for us.  I know, sounds a little lame, but in the end, he didn't object.  


I love naming pets and I actually have a book to help with the process but I thought I did bring this bird home for Rick so I should let him name the bird.  He gave it about 2 minutes and declared Piwi, because it rhymes with Kiwi, our first bird.  Little did I know that every bird we received since would have to sound something like Kiwi with two "i's" in the spelling, which is why we now have a Pidi, Gigi, the late Digi, Kiki, Tini and Wini and when Tini's mate Wini died, we just started calling him TiniWini.  

Rick works all day at home, alone so I was wondering how long it would take for him to retrieve Piwi from his cage and spend some time with him.  Well it didn't take long, I brought Piwi home on a Sunday and by the following weekend, they were inseparable.  I was so surprised to see them bond so quickly.  Rick didn't have any pets growing up and the one bird that we had, basically was a one-person bird who only liked me, but Piwi seemed to love being with him all day long.  The only problem was that he didn't trust hands.  He was more than happy to sit on our shoulder but acted deathly afraid whenever we reached over to him or tried to teach him to step up.  Despite his fear, after working with him every day, about a month later he was sitting in our hands and I never saw him act afraid of anything again, except for vet visits.

After a few weeks we noticed something else about little Piwi.  One night I woke up to the sound of him thrashing and crying in his cage.  Like lightning I jumped up, got him out of his cage and held him as best I could until it passed.  Did he just have an epileptic fit? Over the next couple of months we noticed that he would have that kind of fit about once every three weeks, usually during the early morning hours between 3 and 8 AM.  I started reading everything I could find on the subject and there were a number of things that were suggested as to the cause, lack of calcium, lack of other minerals, vitamin D etc.  Over time we tried a variety of options given to us by veterinarians but to no avail so we just did what we could to keep him safe when it happened.  We kept him in our room at night and one of us would get up, take him out of his cage when it happened and hold him best as possible until the jerking motions stopped.  I never minded doing it but it did get me thinking, maybe this is why he was found out in the wild.  Someone saw that happen and was afraid he was doomed to die soon so they let him go to let nature take its course.  Problem is when you've had a pet that has been fed and cared for by people, letting them loose guarantees a quick death.  Thank God someone spotted him and called the sanctuary to rescue him.  Whomever they are, I will always be grateful.


Piwi really liked people.  He spent all day sitting on Rick's shoulder while Rick worked on the computer.  Unlike my other birds, Piwi was content to sit undisturbed for hours.  It got so that we had to make a mental note of how long he was with us so we could put him back in his room to eat and get some water.  He just wouldn't leave us to go do that on his own.  When it came to the other birds, he did try to buddy up with my Quaker parakeet but she didn't want anything to do with him.  He took the rejection well but whenever he had his chance, he took a little snipe at her tail when she was looking the other way. We did try to interest him in a very frisky female lovebird owned by someone I worked with, but he spent the whole time running from her and trying to hide behind us.  I think he just decided he was fine with people, and if they had big, bushy hair, the happier he was.  


Once a Mary Kay distributor came to my house to drop off a purchase and to help me choose a few lipstick colors.  As I was in the bathroom trying on my samples, I suddenly hear d "help I'm being attacked."  I ran into the dining room to find Piwi right in the middle of her massively long beautiful blond hair having a grand time moving around like he was going to make a nest out of it but I know that wasn't the case.  I immediately apologized and explained that Piwi wouldn't hurt a fly, he's just in love with your hair.  I then scooped him up and took him in the bathroom with me while I continued trying on the samples but the moment he had his chance, he was back in her hair scaring her breathless.  From then on if anyone came to visit that had huge thick hair, we'd offer them a baseball cap if they wanted to see Piwi or we'd have to leave him in his cage.  Pets really are an endless source of entertainment.


One of the things that also seemed remarkable about Piwi was how happy he always seemed to be.  When I'd go into the bird room first thing in the morning, they were all happy just because I'd be letting them out of their cages soon but Piwi took it to another level.  He slept in a little tent at night so when he heard me come into the room, he literally jumped down to the bottom of  his cage and started what I later called his happy dance.  He would start chirping and scratching around with his feet like a chicken.  It was the funniest thing to see.  He would do this until I opened his door then he'd fly into my hands eagerly awaiting his hugs and kiss.  My other birds were like "okay just open the door," no fanfare.  I used to let Piwi out in the mornings when I worked but it was so hard to get him back in that I just left him for my husband to do his morning routine when he got up. 

Speaking of routines, pet owners do set up regular times for feeding, exercise, and bathing, but pets sometimes institute their own routines.  After getting out of his cage and hanging out with us for a little while, Piwi would do some fast flying.  He would go from one end of the house to the other as fast as he could.  He would do this for maybe 5-8 minutes but it would be as fast as he could go then he'd settle down on one of us for the rest of the day.  On the weekends when I'd try to make one nice big breakfast for Rick and me, this was particularly entertaining.  Piwi seemed to wait until we were seated at the dining room table, which was half way through his path before starting his flight.  Then he did something we loved to watch while we ate our breakfast.  As he flew by, he would get as close to our heads as he could without touching.  Yes, we could feel the breeze as he'd wiz by leading you to believe he enjoyed it as much as we did. 

One day once he finished flying, Piwi sat on my shoulder and stared at me for some time, then he climbed on my head and with one foot gripping my bangs and the other straddling my nose, he proceeded to clean my eye lashes with the utmost care.  Now I'm familiar with birds pruning my long hair as they'd prune any other bird buddy but my eyelashes were another matter.  As much as I tried to discourage him, the more insistent he became.  I finally gave in since he'd been so careful about everything else but I would never allow any other bird to get close to my eyes, you just never know.  So once a week I got my eyelashes cleaned whether they needed it or not and Rick got his hair cleaned almost on a daily basis.  That year I did a watercolor painting of Piwi for Rick and gave it to him for Christmas.


This is how we lived with Piwi for many years until one day as Piwi was flying into another room, he accidently hit the door frame.  He was alright as he hadn't been flying as fast as he used to, but we figured we'd take him to the vet for a physical.  It turned out he had cataracts.  He was nearly blind in one eye and impaired in the other.  We had no idea but within a few weeks of that visit he was pretty much "legally" blind, still able to see shadows and larger objects but for all intents and purposes, blind.  Fortunately for us he seem to understand that.  He never tried to fly again and seemed perfectly okay with us carrying him and perching him where ever we went. 

Shortly after that we noticed that his head was starting to lean.  We looked it up on the internet and found that there was such a thing as head tilt in birds.  Again we brought him to a vet who said there was not much they could do, He did prescribe some medicine in case he developed pain, but by-and-large he didn't need it.  Piwi was getting old and he was starting to lose his abilities to do the things he'd always done.  Over time it got to where his head was totally upside down but the vet said be sure when feeding him to let him swallow on his own or he could choke.  We started hand-feeding him three times a day and he supplemented that by somehow still also feeding on his own, amazing and inspiring to watch his patience and determination.  Again Piwi, the little trouper that he was, adapted to our new feeding routine and never seemed to complain at all.  He was like that for years.  Our friend even noticed improvement from one year to the next.  He would climb up his cage and keep going until he found where he wanted to hang out.  He was so well behaved that we had no trouble taking him with us traveling if it was a road trip.  When we did travel by plane, we had an excellent pet sitter who was a nurse and a very close friend who didn't mind at all taking care of Piwi with his unusual set of disabilities. 

There was an issue that we called a vet about which was remedied easily but as he was leaving, he did say to me, when you're ready, I can put him down.  Put him down, I just couldn't put my mind around that, or maybe it was my heart.  I've been fortunate that all my pets just died, I never had to take any to be put down before.  Certainly I would if they showed any signs of being in constant pain but Piwi didn't and he had a very good appetite which, if he hadn't, would certainly be a clue that something wasn't right.  I did promise myself that I would do what's best for the little guy if it came to that but then quickly brushed the thought from my mind and we continued to share this life for many more months to come. 

It was during 2014 that I decided for our vacation that we'd take a cruise so that my husband and I could really "get away" and enjoy each other's company so we did.  Just before shipping off we brought Piwi to our friend, kissed everyone good bye and left.  While relaxing on the ship, we didn't have phone capabilities but when we pulled into the port of St. Thomas in the U. S. Virgin Islands, my husband took the opportunity to call and see how Piwi was doing.  I never would have made that call but my husband needed to know, since Piwi seemed to have started becoming more feeble in recent weeks.  On the phone our friend hesitated but reluctantly told us the news we so dreaded, Piwi was gone.  He was fine the first couple of days but then on Tuesday, he didn't eat.  He passed away while being held and comforted by our friend.  I suppose it was the best way to go but that offered little comfort at the time.  She knew how much we loved him so she did preserve the body for our return.  I wasn't sure I wanted to see him but she said he looked so peaceful, she wasn't sure if he was gone or just sleeping until she touched him.  She was right, he did look exactly as he did when we last saw him, I'm so glad it was quick and hopefully painless.   Earlier the same day Rick made the call from the ship, we had gone on a snorkeling trip.  We took some pictures of a little island that wasn't inhabited.  When we returned home after the cruise, Rick, who designs fun money, decided to design a fantasy art banknote with the picture of that island and rename it Piwi Island.  The note is a lovely tribute to the pet we lost, with images of Piwi on both sides of the specially-produced polymer bill, including an image of the painting of Piwi I did.  The bill contains a hologram and ultraviolet security feature just like many real bills today and promises to "pay the bearer in love and good cheer," just what Piwi did for us all those years.


The nagging question that I couldn't shake for the longest time was why did  it happened while we were away.  We didn't travel without him hardly at all so this just kept bugging me.  If we didn't take the trip, would it have happened anyway or was it possible that we were spared the heartache of having him pass in our care by a high power?  We may never know but one thing's for sure, I am so glad I put my name in that hat, and my husband and I are so blessed for the time we shared with a little bird named Piwi.   




  


This colorful fantasy art "banknote," designed by R. J. Reed, Chief Graphic Artist of the Reed Banknote Co., Sarasota, portrays a beautiful and sweet lovebird, Piwi,  who was Reed's pet for a dozen years.  This limited edition "Piwi Island" bill is printed on a special polymer plastic substrate that features hidden security features which can be viewed using an ultra-violet light.  Each note also has a cool "see-through" holographic seal and is hand-signed by Reed, who has been designing money art since the 1960's and is one of the few people who makes a considerable portion of his income designing fantasy notes.  On the back includes a depiction of a painting of Piwi by Reed's wife Chris.  Piwi the Lovebird is also featured on many other Reed banknotes and is the unofficial "trademark" of the firm.  His image probably appears on more different designs than any other bird in history!  This note is available in our misterbanknote ebay store (and direct from here - just send us an email) along many other fine banknotes (real, fantasy, prop, novelty, and political)!

See the Piwi note and many others at The Exotic Bird Extravaganza in Sarasota, Florida on Sunday, May 7, 2017 from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM - Potter Building, Sarasota Fairgrounds, 3000 Ringling Blvd.  Admission is only $4.00 and parking is free!  Presented by the Florida West Coast Avian Society, Inc., a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization dedicated to avian welfare.  Visit the FWCAS online at www.fwcas.org.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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