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Reemie Sunshine




Reemie's Story Part 1 

In November 1984 I was observing a frame shop that I was considering buying. The guy who owned it said he had a parrot and I asked if he could bring it in. When he did, I took one look and was swept away. I reached through the bars and tickled her head. 

This was a girl, there was no question in my mind, she was a beautiful, badly handicapped girl. I don’t know how I knew, I just did. And she was mine. 

She only had one small round dowel to stand on and couldn't do that at all without holding on to the bars in front of her. There was no way she could balance with her twisted feet and legs. There were spiders and spider babies living on both sides of the tiny 18x18 cage and mounds of poop that almost reached the horrid perch.

I demanded money to take her to a vet and he gave it to me. He took one look at my face and did not dare refuse. When I returned, I informed him I was taking her home immediately and I wasn't interested in his business. He never said a word he just shook his head affirmatively. I left with my wondrous treasure. 

Thus began the most incredible journey of my life. I had always had budgies while growing up and birds were a lifelong love, but I’d never had a parrot this size. The guy hadn’t been sure of her name and thought that one of the three caregivers so far had called her Reenie. That didn’t sound quite right to me so I called her Reemie to keep it as similar as possible. 

Reemie was magnificent. Rare as a species and a soul, wise beyond all that can be imagined. My affinity for her grew constantly and we soon became so intertwined it was as if we were one. I always seemed to know what she needed, maybe a drink of water or a trip outside to sit in my enclosed balcony and watch the passersby below. 

She had friends who would call to her when she was out and she would respond with a long drawn out “Helloooooo.” She spent a lot of time sleeping on a soft folded towel in front of the bathroom door where she could watch me most of the time in either side of our apartment. 

She could walk and often times scurry in her way. She was badly handicapped with one foot curled up under her and although the other foot was ok, she had to walk on the first joint beyond the heel since the foot could not be used. She would put her beak on the floor and off she went shuffling forward. She had another sitting and sleeping place on the arm of the sofa next to the chair I sat in. 

I made a ramp for her to the ottoman that was covered with a towel and had her food dish, water and a few small toys on it. 

I watched her. It did not matter what she was doing, sleeping or preening or whatever. I stared at her all the time. I could not drink her in enough. There was always room for more. I couldn’t get enough of her in any way. She was so serene and elegant and such a regal bird that she fascinated me endlessly. 

I made another soft place for her to sit next to me when I got my first computer. We were always together. She had a little flat stuffed fish that she used under her leg to keep herself propped up. I still have it. I will keep it forever. 

 Reemie's Story Part 2 

She didn’t speak much, just ‘hello’, very clearly and with several different intonations. She didn’t play with toys much either. One, and only if she thought she couldn’t be seen. But you know, she didn’t have to do anything for me to feel my love growing and growing for the multi-colored little being. She was a Belize amazon, quite unusual among amazons in this country, even though she was rescued from a nest in Nicaragua. 

She had been left to die by her parents. More on that later. Belize amazons have very delicate features and the yellow on their heads only goes halfway across the cheek, unlike a double yellow-headed amazon who has larger features and yellow that can go quite far down the neck at adulthood. 

Belize amazons are very dainty birds and their faces are quite sweet. At first I too thought Reemie was a double yellow-headed amazon, but was duly corrected one day by the late John Stoodley who is the author of “Amazona” a book for all amazon lovers like myself. After all, amazons are my favorite species. Budgies are next… they are amazing if only people would provide them with opportunities to live up to their potential. 

But I digress. During our 18 years and three months together, I wrote several articles about Reemie that appeared in several magazines. Many people knew about her and the ones who had met her wrote to me about how she had touched a tender place in them, and many wrote again upon learning of her transition. 

Early on in our relationship I took Reemie to meet Penelope Smith, one of our earliest animals communicators to talk to Reemie in a way that I wasn’t able to do myself. When Penelope Smith met her she gasped and told me that Reemie was a Buddha Being. She said she rarely met one but Reemie was an extraordinarily evolved soul, a realized being.

During the course of the interview Penelope told me she was quite funny too. Reemie had taken the form of a bird to get back to me. She said that people like birds and if she came back in a bird form she might be able to find me again. I asked Reemie if we had ever been together before and she replied, "You and I have done many turns of the wheel together as friends and lovers. Don't you know?" Penelope said that regardless of form Reemie would still be as wise, gentle and regal, but had taken her bird form for me. 

Wow, my baby girl a realized being. I had to process that for while, but Reemie was quite comfortable with it. There are so many stories to tell about my life as Reemie’s caregiver and student. 

But this story about Reemie Sunshine has another story within it. One that has tugged on my heart strings so hard, that sometimes I can hardly catch my breath for the tears rolling down my cheeks. 

 Reemie's Story Part 3 

Having removed Reemie from the horrible guy who had her, and holding onto the information that he had given me about her, I was able to contact her second caregiver, Coral. 

That was almost 26 years prior at the time of this story,. She sent me a few photos of Reemie, whom she called Reenie, that was our one and only contact. On July 14, 2010 I received an email through my company’s web site, StarBird Parrot, that knocked me out of my chair. 

StarBird manufactures enrichment products and toys for parrots and zoo animals. Parrots had become my life’s primary mission. I’m going to let you read the email and then the ensuing communications between us. 

 “I was the 2nd person privileged to be the long-time "owner" companion of "Oscarina" (you called her "Reemie") the Mexican Double-Yellowhead parrot that you (Bonnie Jay) adopted from my friend Krystal Small (RIP) way back in 1984 or so. I searched for your name on the internet and found this site. My wondering was to see if "Reenie" (my nickname for her) was still "with us" and I see from your sweet dedication page to her memory, that she crossed over 7 years ago. SO sorry for that loss. 

She was found in Nicaragua as a tiny abandoned baby, squished down in the nest she was born in, unable to perch due to mal-formed feet, and carried illegally across the borders into the USA by a San Francisco street-artist named Damaris. 

She was not from Belize, but Nicaragua. (Reemie was a Belize amazon) I have a really wonderful picture of her the day I kissed her good-bye, when my landlord wouldn't allow me to keep her. I had managed to have her for 6 years until he found out I had her and her cage-mate, and was evicting me if I didn't find another home for her. 

I am a singer and she used to love to sing along with me, in my lap when I played the piano. She learned to cry like a baby from her first owner, but sang with me everyday for all the years I got to be with her. I adored her and have always wondered how she was doing after all these many long years. All the best, and thanks for loving her so much for so long, Bonnie. She was a very special being, indeed... Coral” 

My response: Oh my Coral, I have tears streaming down my face. Thank you so much for emailing me and for adoring and taking such good care of my one love. I had heard somehow that she had been brought in from Nicaragua, but she was indeed a Belize amazon. I can hardly see the screen for the tears right now... I remember I connected with someone back in November of 1984 when I brought Reemie home to live with me. 

It was an instantaneous connection between us. She was with this guy Salvatore, who was trying to sell his frame shop. I was considering buying it and was spending some time there to see the operation. He said he had a parrot and I asked him if he could bring the bird into the shop. When he did, I took one look at her and I knew I had found my missing piece of me. I reached through the bars and gave her tickles. He said he couldn't do that... no wonder... she hated him. There were two round perches she tried to perch on with great struggle and discomfort and two very tall piles of poop and a spiders living in the cage. I told him I wanted money to take her to the vet immediately and he gave it to me. When I returned from the vet I told him I was taking her home with me. He said nothing, just nodded.

I made her as comfortable as I knew how. I gave her a wide, soft flat perch for that cage so she could sleep comfortably. She only slept in that cage, nothing more. She was out the rest of the time. 

I opened my own frame shop shortly thereafter and took her to work with me every day in that cumbersome cage, up and down the two flights of stairs in my building. I could not be away from her. I had a small carrying cage made for her and a large cage designed with a ramp made for the store. 

People in the neighborhood would come to visit her. She had her own 4'x8' table to play on. In the cool mornings I would put her on my wide window sill on a soft folded towel and wrap her in a blue cashmere scarf. I have the photos of her wrapped and looking out the window. I have many photos of Reemie. She was and always will be extraordinary. 

After I sold my frame shop years later, Reemie and I were home together and she spent her days on the arm of the sofa at first, then later she spent them on a fluffy, soft pillow like thing I got her, on the floor right at the edge of the bathroom door where she could see everything going on in both directions... She would do her 3 point walk to me or to wherever she wanted to be. 

I flew her every night until we reached a time and place when she said no more. I always knew what she wanted. When she wanted water, or to be moved or was hungry or wanted to go outside. We were so connected Coral... she was part of me and I part of her. I was told that my losing her was the hardest and most painful experience that I would ever go through. Not even the death of a husband could even come close.

 Reemie's Story Part 4 

Who was her cage mate? Why did you give her away and not the other bird? Did you know Krystal (who has transitioned?) had given her away to a man who didn't really want her and didn't take care of her? Do you know how to get in touch with Damaris? Was Damaris from Nicaragua? So many questions and so fantastic how a baby bird from a far away land ended up coming home to honor me with the gift of being her caregiver. 

She loved music, and sang with me although I cannot carry a note in a bucket if I had to. No one could get her all excited like my friend Esther. She would lay on the floor and say, "Reemie! Reemie! Reemie!" in a high pitched voice. I read your email to her this afternoon and she wept with the reading of it. 

I wrote a little song for Reemie. The lyrics are below. 

Reemie's Song 

Reemie is yellow like sunshine 

Green like a fine spring day... 

Red for the beautiful sunset 

And blue when the stars come play. 

Reemie is a Buddha being 

With spirit and soul so fine... 

Reemie and I have traveled 

From life to life in time. 

Reemie is my one and only 

The darling that I adore 

 Pretty little music maker 

Who I will love for ever more... 

Who I will love for ever more 

I never took her flying outside for fear of losing her. She wasn't trained for recall. I am so glad she had the chance with you. I want to know all about it please. There was one time she flew off and I had Mattie my tiny moluccan on my shoulder... 

I saw a man from the next building over and shoved Mattie into his hands and said I would be back in a minute. I thought Reemie had landed in an empty lot with a great deal of vegetation and would just go get her. But she wasn't there. I called for her and finally after many calls she returned the call. 

She was on the concrete floor of another building's laundry room. I picked her up and held her close. I walked over to the man and Mattie jumped on my shoulder. He was very nice and thank goodness he didn't freak when I shoved her into his hands and said "Here!"

She rarely flew in the house. I would just fly her down the hallway and onto a big soft throw on top of her sleeping cage. Then one day... she said no more... I don't want to fly. I kissed her and moved my lips from her cheek to her tail to remember her fragrance and the softness of her feathers... I realized that night I might not have her forever as I hoped to. I had no idea how old she was. 

Reemie's Story Part 5  

SO lovely! Nice "hand-drawn" quality overlaying the photograph. Self-portrait? Thanks for sending this along, Bonnie! Love seeing these reflections of your life with "Reemie". Wasn't she just the best? xo, c 

My response: 

I'm glad you like it. It wasn't a self portrait, actually it was shot by a highly respected photographer for whom I used to work ... It was shot for the season opener for Nature on PBS. I have the tape somewhere. It was about smuggling. Mattie, Reemie and I were in it along with Chris Davis who is the one who said that Reemie had left her form and was now pure light. 

Yes, she was the BEST. I am so grateful to know she was loved by all her caregivers, at least until the guy. You have no idea what a relief it is to know she wasn't traumatized, but rather cared for with tenderness and love. I am also aware that you and I did so many of the same things with her, sang, played and carried her around with us. Our Green Duchess of Love and Light... when I transition I will be so ready to see her waiting for me. I know she will not be in her form, and I don't know what to expect, but I know I will know her. 

I cannot say this enough Coral, thank you for loving her so deeply and well and recognizing her magic... Hugs, bonnie 

I lost my love. She was a wild caught Belize Amazon, and as a result of being wild caught she was very physically challenged. For the brief 18 years and 3 months that she shared with me, I did all kinds of things to make her life as enjoyable as possible. We don't know her age, but I thought she was probably well into her 30's when she left her body. Perhaps more. 

Reemie was an old soul; serene, confident, regal; beaming love and wisdom to all in her presence. Many people have read about her in articles that I have written, and many others knew her or had met her. I have the most wonderful collection of emails that were sent at the time of her crossing. I am in the process of making a hard cover book with photos of her and emails about her. 

Because of her legs she could not stand on a round perch, so I made her a wide, flat perch covered with soft toweling for her sleeping cage. Sleeping was the only time she was ever in her cage. I carried her from place to place, and if she wanted down she would let me know which was the right place. 

I put her outside in my enclosed balcony so she could commune with the world, sing some tunes, get some fresh air and have some fun. For meals she sat on a folded towel on the kitchen counter with a little rawhide thingy under one of her footies so she could balance. If she was hungry and I wasn't being mindful of the time she would waddle into the kitchen and remind me she was hungry. I served her meals in a china bone dish that curved around her so she could reach everything. She could walk, she could climb, and if she was after you, she did a three point run; beak to the ground and those two damaged legs moving as fast as they could. We sometimes played a game with a paper towel roll. Reemie behind a towel draped over a bathroom cabinet door and me on the other side with the paper tube prodding at the towel. She would attack the towel to bite the tube; she screamed and yelled and laughed and had a perfectly wonderful time. When she had had enough she came out from behind the towel and walked away. 

She was always with me. Even when I showered, she would push the bathroom door open and waddle in and sit with me. At night she slept in a small sleeping cage on the dresser in my bedroom. We were never far from one another. I kept a heating pad set on low under her cage so she would always be warm and to prevent her broken bones from hurting when it was cold. 

When I worked on my computer, she was always right next to me, on my desk, on a folded towel with one of her flat stuffed animals to lean against. She would tuck her head into her wings and sleep, regardless the sounds. If there was a strange sound, she would open one eye, see if she needed to be concerned and then close it again. 

Most of the time she was on the floor. She had strategic spots that she liked to nap in. Her favorite was a faux fur flat pillow in front of the bathroom door. Reemie could manage her empire quite nicely from there, being able to see in both directions, using the one-eye-for-a-peek method of sleeping. She had regular vet visits to be certain that there was nothing going on that I didn't know about. She received a bit of arthritis medication every day, I weighed her regularly, and I tried my best to get her to eat veggies. She was not a fan of green food, but she loved her oatmeal. I would put a bit of powdered greens in it for her late meal at 11 PM before she retired for the night. If I put too much and the oatmeal turned green, she wouldn't eat it. 

In the evenings if I was in the living room, I sat in a chair and she had the sofa. I had towel covered pillows leaning against the arm of the sofa, nearest my chair, in order to make an incline that she could go up or down. There were snacks and toys on the ottoman so she had some autonomy. 

But the evenings, those were our real time together. I in my chair and she on the arm of the sofa; the two of us communicating silently. Or better still, she on my chest while I swooned with the inhaling of her magical fragrance, stroked her head, and gave her kisses. I miss her so dearly, and shall never...ever...forget...Reemie, my teacher, my love, my baby girl... 

Reemie's Story Part 6 

Conclusion Coral’s response: Precious piece of memorabilia Bonnie, Thanks so much for sending it along for me to read. So moving and dear! If we add up the timing as best we can of her life since Damaris found her abandoned nest in early '75, we can come up with a pretty good idea of her actual life-span: Damaris 2 & 1/2 years ('75-77.5) Coral 6 years ('77.5-83) Krystal 6 mo (approx?) Salvatore 6 mo “83-84 Bonnie 18 years 3 mos. (84-2003) Oscarina's age at her passing would have been somewhere between 27-28 years. 

Given how fragile she was structurally, she was clearly very well loved and cared for with a short gap when she was waiting for you to come along. I am so grateful you found one another. By the way, she ate raw broccoli and carrots daily when I had her. Nothing cooked. She loved broccoli stems, especially if I stripped the tough skin off of it for her. And she ate LOTS of organic fresh fruit, cut up into small pieces, including bananas, apples and grapes, which she loved! The juice would drip off her chin and she'd eat one after another until she'd made quite a messy pile of juicy remnants, until she was sated! She'd be grinning the whole time in utter contentment. 

I'll never tire of hearing your stories and seeing your pictures of her. She was a family member whom I'll miss the rest of my life, too. Thanks for loving her so well and for SO long, Bonnie! You're both the best! Coral Coral, 

My response: 

We're family now too. She would never eat anything green, and didn't much go for veggies in any way shape or form. I tried, raw, cooked, smashed, chopped, diced, grated... and she told Penelope that she told Mattie not "to eat those green things". I remember you telling me that she ate raw broccoli, and I told her she used to love broccoli... but no go. She still loved to juice food in her mouth and she 'shelled' everything. I think your feeding her helped hugely to keep her well, considering. 

Thank you for feeding her that way. Thank you for recognizing who she was/is. I had no idea she was so young. I was not given the reason why she had congestive heart failure, and perhaps there is never a reason. I would have given her a transplant if I had known and if a heart were available and if... she wanted it. But no one knew... I thought she was slowing down because she was in her 40's. At least I hoped that was the reason. I couldn't bear the thought it could be something else. Six months with that horrid man must have seemed a lifetime to her... trying to perch on that awful round dowel, being locked in that cage with nothing to do for all those months after being loved and cherished by you, no tickles, no fun, no veggies, no nothing. bonnie 

Bonnie, Dug around in a very old photo box yesterday, and found this one from my San Francisco 1977 children's theater & story telling days. Reenie was very popular with kids of course, and really with anyone who came into our lives. Predictably friendly and social, yelling "Hi T-heaaart!" ("Hi Sweetheart") and laughing like a clown. She was SO Playful, goofy, happy and she LOVED those red-hot chili peppers, and unsalted peanuts in the shell, one after another. I took her everywhere with me in her travel cage, which is how the landlord found out I had broken my lease agreement not to have pets. He came into my place on an emergency basis when I was out of town with her, and saw her "home" cage in the corner of the kitchen-- Afterall, she WASN"T "Just" a pet--She was my best friend (and a trance medium by the way). I sometimes used to hide outside the door of the kitchen and listen to her muttering to herself. Sometimes I actually took notes when I could understand actual words. I thought she was channeling Madame Blavatsky, the Russian mystic, at one point, as it sounded like she was speaking in tongues! What a marvelous creature she was (and IS!) Sensitive, intelligent, willing and such a sweetie pie on this plane and in spirit! 

I'll tell you more about her cage-mate Roscoe when we talk. He was a dwarf parrot, a half-moon conure. The two of them were like Mutt & Jeff. Reenie was SO big and he was SO little. They teased each other a lot, and always played well, even with their size difference. Damaris wouldn't let me adopt just Reenie. It was a package deal and I adored them both. After 5 years, Roscoe died of a sudden case of pneumonia just before the landlord would have evicted me -- I had a very long talk with Reenie re going on to Southern Calif where it would be warmer and better for her health. She'd had a gland on the side of her face that would swell up when the weather got damp and chilly outside. 

Two separate vets told me that she was prone to colds and viruses and probably had a compromised immune system, since she was so at-risk as a baby. Damaris was VERY attached to her, too, having hand-feed her after rescuing her from her abandoned nest in a half-starved state. She only had pin-feathers and was nearly dead when she found her in the wild. Damaris' family was living in the jungle in Nicaragua, and she had found the nest in her parent's yard. Damaris gave Oscarina a real chance at a very loving domestic life for her first 2 years. Following her time with Damaris and her new baby (& uptight husband who couldn't stand Reemie "baby crying" noises). I had her for SIX years, (not 4--I redid the math) so she was only 8 years old when Krystal agreed to take care of her for me.

I adopted Oscarina in July of 1977 and had her until July of '83. Krystal was supposed to call me if there were any problems, so I could come up with another adoptive solution if need be, but I think she was completely overwhelmed by the whole thing. She did however tell me LATER, when YOU adopted "Reemie", and that's how you and I first connected way back in '85 or so, as you'd sent me a letter on your "Bonnie Jay" frame shop stationery.  

 Anyway--it brings such joy to my heart knowing how well loved "Reemie Sunshine" was, and how much mutual depth and spiritual connection you shared and STILL have. I am an astrologer by profession since 1978, and I always surmised that Reemie just HAD to be an Aquarian. Her energy was SO high frequency! Truly an evolved creature. Our little "Green Duchess of Love and Light". A name I called her often. I'll try calling-- Reemie's 2nd mom, Coral