I brought Lance to the vet today. If you guys have forgotten, Lance was the baby budgie i rescued from three vicious magpies when i was walking my dog several months ago. The bird can’t fly and will never learn to fly – it has an intrinsic problem; in fact it can’t even balance well whilst sitting on its perch and has since created a corn at the bottom of its belly from all the climbing it does.

Anyway, two months ago i noticed a lump at the side of its head. It was also molting a fair bit. At the point in time, i called my housemate over to have a look and to provide a second opinion. We decided maybe perhaps it was its ear, and we will just keep an eye on it. Early last week, i discovered that the lump has grown twice in size and was ulcerating. I was horrified.

I would have immediately taken the budgie to the vet except i was hit with a particularly severe case of viral laryngitis (thank you Mr Patient!) and was voiceless for a week! I could not even call the vet to set up an appointment. It will not be convenient for the Housemate to take the bird to the vet because the bird is technically mine, and thus my responsibility. Hence i also know the bird better than my housemate therefore i will be better able to provide a more coherent history. Also my Housemate does not drive. So the point is, i had to wait on the matter. I was really frustrated i had no voice. I jumped onto Merck Manual to look up the budgie’s condition but it wasn’t too helpful (there was more information on dogs).

The moment i could at least rasped, i called the vet and we went in today. The vet examined Lance and we finally put the issue that has bugged my friends and i – Lance is a girl. Anyway, i am keeping the name. Too bad. So the vet confirmed that Lance has a tumour and its malignancy really depends on how much i would like an excisional biopsy done. That was unnecessary because we both agreed it would be too traumatic and redundant for the bird – the tumour is about a third the size of its face. He also agreed the bird has a neurological deficit. When he used that particular term, i could not help but chuckle. I have only ever heard healthcare professionals use that term on humans not on animals, so it was a little strange.

Anyway there were a couple of issues i got cleared up. Budgies can live up to 10 years. No one knows how old Lance is and if she used to be a wild bird. For all we know, she could have been a domestic bird before i found her. Apparently domestic birds when released do not really know how to survive in the wild. They can fly smack into a glass window and develop severe injuries from that. But i think Lance was a baby budgie when i first found her – i saw a nest at the tree where i found her; also the vet who saw her at that time and a friend’s sister who is a vet student agreed that she was a baby bird.

When i further inquired how long Lance could live, the vet’s reply was that it is up to me. I could euthanize her now i wanted to. I was just slightly appalled but i had an inkling the vet was just ribbing me along, trying to provoke a reaction. He knows i am a medical student, and apparently he feels that too many medical professionals think that the lives of animals are not as valuable as that of humans, and he is a tad miffed about that.

Anyhow, i do not believe in euthanasia unless the animal is in pain that cannot be alleviated. I was reassured by the vet that Lance was not in any pain and if she was, she would not eat nor climb. So far she has been doing a shitload of both (i have to clean out the cage more regularly than i like or have the time to do so and it’s making me a little annoyed). When i told the vet that i will be heading overseas for a month at the end of the year, he interrupted me and asked if i wanted to euthanize the bird now. Actually, something makes me feel that this vet is world-weary and a little too cynical? I told him to hear me out, and said i was going to board the bird with the dog at a boarding kennel. He looked…amazed, and it was pretty obvious that to him i suddenly emanated a different light. Anyway, not too concerned about all these. Lance has been a fighter, going against all odds. If she is still surviving this damn tumour, i am definitely not going to stand in her way. We will let Nature take its course. If i think she’s in too much pain, then perhaps it is time to let go.

Before the consultation ended, i had an engaging conversation with the vet. Out of curiosity i asked if Lance has neurofibromatosis, and he replied that he has never seen it in a bird presumably because they die out without medical treatment. He has however only seen it in dogs, usually in the middle-age group. He also seen Motor Neurone Disease in dogs (???) and told me that dogs can get eosinophilic myositis where half the masseter muscle at the top of the head can atrophy and form a concave shape. This led on to the topic of dementia in dogs and cats. Apparently it is more common than people realized. I was concerned that the dogs would be more aggressive. But they don’t, they only become more stupid. Which is fine by me – i did not get a dog because i want a genuis (not that i am hoping my dog will get dementia!).

Anyway, so that was all about animals. Fascinating. I am glad that i was not faced with the prospect of having to put Lance to sleep today. I have been a little anxious about making this decision the whole week. Even though i am not too fond of the bird because it pollutes my house with its messy eating habits and phases of mouting feathers, knowing myself, i have probably already formed some emotional bond with the bird.

Here’s hoping Lance can live to at least five years old.


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