As soon as I heard the squawk on my balcony I knew something unusual was happening. A very small parrot, resplendent in feathers of brilliant green, red and blue, clearly a pet and not wild and indigenous to the UAE, had landed.
I shooed Ninja Jr my hungry-looking cat inside, where she proceeded to lose her marbles gazing through the window at the bird. It was still there after one hour; then two.
Finally, knowing it was too hot for the bird outside and fearing for my evening plans, I launched into action. I should have called sooner; the Abu Dhabi Animal Shelter, which is part of the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, was closed until Sunday. It was Thursday.
I posted a message on Dubizzle, stating that I had found a pet bird on my balcony and wanted to return it. And that I had a cat, so could not shelter it inside.
A very nice man phoned about 15 minutes later. We struggled, he in Arabic, me in my two words of Arabic, to understand each other. It turns out he has a small bird and was offering, considering the menace of the pet cat, to keep the interloper until I found its rightful owner. He was so sweet; my heart melted.
There were several more offers like his, but the thought of coordinating with a stranger was too daunting.
I phoned several area veterinary clinics to see if there had been any reports of birds lost. There was a ring on its leg, but I couldn’t get close enough to read it because I am scared of birds. Someone suggested I contact the British Veterinary Centre. I did and they offered to take it.
“Our owner will probably keep it,” a member of staff told me as I handed it over, trapped in my compost bin. “He loves birds.”
Over on Dubizzle, while I said nothing about selling the bird, I would receive a string of “How much is the bird” texts over the coming week.
There were more than a dozen inquiries from people who wanted to adopt it. One call came at 3am; another at 11.30pm, from a woman who sounded as though the matter was urgent.
I had a lengthy text exchange with one rather frantic hopeful, who feared the clinic wouldn’t hand the bird over. “Can you vouch for me?” he or she asked. “Otherwise they won’t trust me.”
“Just call and say you want the bird,” I texted back, wondering how I was supposed to vouch for someone I’d never met, for a bird I’d only found. I referred all calls to the British vet.
Flash-forward to Sunday night. I had given up on the rightful owner, only to find six missed calls and a frantic text message on my phone.
“You have my bird,” it read.
I immediately called the sender, who’d spotted my Dubizzle ad after posting his own. His friend had left the bird with him and he was just putting it (a baby, he said) on his finger for the first time when it fled.
That was less than a kilometre away from my house, about three hours before it turned up on my balcony.
I badly wanted bird and owner reunited and referred him to the vet, telling him my name, that I had dropped it there the same day he’d lost it, donated Dh100 to its care and, at the request of the veterinary staff, given it the rather uninspired name of Tweety.
The man asked my nationality. Next, if I lived here with my husband and children. My husband, I said, growing suspicious.
“I wish to meet someone special,” he typed. There it is, I thought. I hope you do, I responded.
“If you need anything anywhere anytime don’t be shy to ask me I am available all the time,” he wrote.
I’ll never know why, but he waited two more days to actually visit the vet, and only went on my urging. (I was growing frustrated at his lack of action, frankly.) Soon he was sending a series of plaintive texts. Coco, so sought after, had already been adopted out.
“I lost my bird,” the man wrote. “They give it to whom even they don’t know.”
He followed up with four sobbing emojis.
When I went to Dubizzle to delete my original advert this week, I saw that it had been viewed 719 times over 10 days.
I’m not sure there is a moral to this story. I’ve sure learnt a few things, though, and been reminded of others.
A surprising number of people in Abu Dhabi are casually interested in obtaining a tropical bird, for one. The people at the British Veterinary Centre are lovely, but they are not running a free pet hotel. Dubizzle is a useful hub and should be turned to immediately in times of loss. People are kind, and they are lonely. We all care about our pets.
And it’s never boring, life here in this crazy city we call home.
Ann Marie McQueen is features editor for The National.
Source: art & life