“This is embarrassing Big Guy but would you come over here and taking a look at this. I’m afraid its serious.”
My budgie buddy Pavo the parakeet sometimes resorts to artificial angst to get my attention so I try to remain calm. “Look at what my colorful cageling?” I inquired casually.
He peeked furtively around the room as if afraid someone would overhear us. His expression told me that he was truly concerned about something. When I approached his cage, he put his head down. At first I thought he was bowing respectfully but then I realized he was showing me the top of his head.
“Is it true Big Guy? Look closely. Am I getting thin on top?”
I tilted my head back and peered through the bottom of my trifocals. “I see a bit of skin showing here and there Pavo. Is that a problem?”
“Problem? Of course it’s a problem,” he squawked, his reedy voice teetering on the edge of hysteria. “My popularity is about to take a nose dive. Who will have anything to do with a bald parakeet?”
“Makes no difference to me,” I said, running my hand across my sparse thatch. “I’ll stand by you.”
“That’s not good enough. Don’t you see what’ll happen? Miss Kari T. Kanari from next door will rebuff me. Chicks in bars will ignore me. Call girls on 900 numbers won’t talk to me. I’ll be an outcast. A pariah.”
“Pavo my paisano. Where are you getting all these ideas?”
“It’s all over the tube Big Guy. Morning, noon and night. Let’s face it, if you are follicularly challenged, you never reach first base, never go for the gusto, never get the girl. Beer ads, car ads, dandruff ads. It’s the one with the full head of brightly colored hair who gets the job, the raise or the promotion. I want the young chicks to have plans for me. It’s even gotten into Disney movies. Without a mane you can’t become king.”
“Listen to me Pavo. If it bothers you that much, let’s see what we can do about it.”
“While we’re at it Big Guy, do you think we can do something about the color too? Mine’s been looking a bit shabby lately.”
“That’s the easy part Pavo. A little food dye blue number 6 and you’ll be as aqua as ever.”
“But what about the vacant spots?”
“What would you prefer?” I asked picking up the want ads, looking for restoratives.
“Something that looks natural.”
I began thumbing through the newspaper ads for a Bird Watcher’s store. “Here’s a possibility Pavo. Oriental rug company. All natural fibers from the middle east and China. Guaranteed non slip back.”
“Not for me. Colors are too dark. And they fray around the edges.”
“Okay. Here’s one. Feather Club for Birds. He looks like a wilted peacock but Sly Starling says he’s not only a client but the president as well. And he says it won’t come off when you fly, drive or swim.”
“That’s encouraging. But I understand it needs to be rewoven and tightened periodically. I’d like something that’s more permanent.”
“Hmmm. Let’s see. Here’s an ad for feather implants. Doctor Doolittle. He pulls out little plugs from near your rump and transfers them to the top of your head. The feathers are guaranteed to grow but they have a tendency to stiffen up a bit more than usual.”
“Sounds painful. And I don’t look too good in a buzz cut. What else is available?”
“Only other one I see here is a hormone treatment called Nogaine. No pain, Nogaine. You have to ask because only your doctor can write a prescription for it.”
“How do you know if it’s time to ask the question?”
“It’s best if its done before you get into a serious relationship.”
“But I’ve heard it takes a long time to show results. And it’s not approved for certain kinds of loss.”
I clipped the ads and put them on the bottom of his cage. “Look Pavo, study these and let me know what you want to do in the morning,” I said while covering his cage for the night. “Then we can outline a plan of attack.”
The following day Pavo was up bright and early and as soon as I removed the cover he came over to the edge of his roost. “Okay Big Guy. Let’s make an appointment with the vet. I’d like to get started on this painless treatment as soon as possible. I noticed a few more feathers on the bottom of the cage this morning. I can’t wait any longer.”
Immediately, I picked up the phone and made an appointment.
Later that morning, after we came out of the vet’s, I put him in the front seat of the car then returned to her office for a private consultation. She wanted me to be the first to know because she thought it would be best for someone close to him to tell him about his delicate condition.
On the way home, I watched him observing the birds sitting on the phone wires. I could see him examining them closely, comparing their plumage to his own. Finally, he turned to me and said, “You haven’t told me yet Big Guy. What’s the prognosis?”
“You’ll be happy to know you’re expected to recover fully Pavo. It’s nothing to worry about. It’s about hormones but it requires no treatment.”
“So what are we supposed to do?”
“We adopt a wait and see attitude and let nature take its course.”
“Then it can’t be serious Big Guy.”
“It’s not Pavo. You’re just molting.”