Patrick McInnes has scoured the streets of James Bay looking for his lost friend, a 2 1Ú2-inch-tall cockatiel named Pip.
McInnes and Pip have done everything together for the past 15 years, longer than any of his marriages, he said.
At 71, McInnes was looking forward to enjoying his sunset years with his buddy. But that’s up in the air after Pip took off almost two weeks ago.
Pip was snuggled inside McInnes’s vest on his balcony on Dec. 1 when she wriggled out and flew away.
“She gave a couple of large tweets and off she went, her little butt flying south, along with my life,” McInnes said.
Since then, he’s been out every day looking for her, calling her name and whistling.
He shows her picture to people on the street, and has asked police, the Capital Regional District and B.C. Transit to keep an eye out for her.
McInnes is having trouble sleeping since Pip left, and keeps imagining that he sees or hears her return. “Every time I hear a peep or a chirp, I’m out of bed and I’m running to the balcony, because her cage is on the balcony,” he said. The two used to eat their meals together — chicken, pizza, pasta and yogurt.
Pip has her own little plate, but when she finishes her meal, she’ll move on to McInnes’s dish.
She particularly likes jelly doughnuts and cheddar cheese.
“She’ll hop on my plate and when my back’s turned, she’ll flip open the bread, take out the cheese and leave the bread. And then walk all over my furniture with her cheesy little buttery feet,” McInnes said.
They go for walks together, too, with Pip on a little bird leash called a feather tether. A lot of people in the neighbourhood have seen them together and recognize Pip.
McInnes said he hasn’t always been an animal lover. There were pets in the house when he was a child, but as an adult, he travelled a lot for work, first in the coast guard and then as an insurance salesman. He didn’t have time to take care of a pet until he retired.
“I didn’t believe I could be taken down by a little eight-ounce furry fowl,” McInnes said. But he and Pip bonded right away.
He has put the word out about Pip’s disappearance online and has received messages offering advice and sympathy from as far away as the United Kingdom.
“One guy from the U.K. was saying the worst winter they’ve had in recorded history, he lost his cockatiel, and she came back in the spring,” he said. “So he just told me not to give up hope.”
McInnes said he’s trying not to think about what will happen if she never comes back. He’s imagining a happy ending like one he might have seen in a Disney movie as a kid.
“I’m still waiting for a whole bunch of birds to be guiding her in the right direction.”