Although she is the proud owner of 80 birds, it broke Diana Vanceâ€™s heart when her small cockatiel flew out the door one cold Monday.
â€œThey say once theyâ€™re gone, they never come back,â€ she said.
Vance, who keeps unwanted and disabled birds, followed her cockatiel for hours, hoping it would stay close to the sound of her voice. She knew it was unlikely the bird would survive for long.
â€œIt was so cold, and they get hypothermia really quick,â€ she said.
Her daughter helped her in the rescue effort, calling local volunteer fire departments and eventually hiring a picker truck in an attempt to get close to the bird.
The picker truck proved too bulky, and their requests for help kept being turned down. It wasnâ€™t a firefighterâ€™s job to save lost birds. They focused on humans, the Vances were told.
â€œI said, â€˜Well, she doesnâ€™t know sheâ€™s not human,â€ said Vance. â€œThey have the same emotions as a human being.â€
Their luck finally changed when Vanceâ€™s daughter walked into the North 321 Volunteer Fire Department.
â€œWe had just got back (from a fire call) and were sitting around talking about it, and this girl came walking into the fire department, and she asked if someone can come help,â€ said Sgt. Burton Leonard, a volunteer firefighter.
She had certainly come to the right place.
â€œThatâ€™s something I do. If somebody wants me to catch an animal, I usually catch it,â€ said Leonard. â€œIt doesnâ€™t matter if itâ€™s a 2,000 pound bull or a rabbit or what.â€
Most of the other firefighters were tired from a hard dayâ€™s work, but Leonard found a comrade in his fellow firefighter, Gerald Boulanger.
It was a good thing Boulanger came along because once they found the bird it was in a pine tree whose closest limbs were 40 feet up.
â€œShe had gotten in the tallest pine tree out here,â€ said Vance.
After climbing a 30 foot ladder, Boulanger relied on his body to do the rest.
â€œGerald, he can climb a tree just with his hands and legs,â€ said Leonard. â€œHe just wraps around the tree, and up he goes.â€
It wasnâ€™t too long before the little yellow cockatiel was safely inside a pillow case tied with twine.
â€œAfter he grabbed the bird, I went up the ladder all the way to the end,â€ said Leonard.
The bird was lowered to Leonard who clutched the pillowcase in his mouth as he made his way down the ladder.
Vance was beside herself with joy after her bird was rescued.
â€œI was crying, I was laughing,â€ she said.
The bird returned safely to the sanctuary of Vanceâ€™s house. Boulanger didnâ€™t fair quite so well.
â€œHe cut his hands all to pieces on that bark, but he got up the tree,â€ said Leonard.
The men went on home after a day of do-gooding, satisfied with the catch.
â€œIt was just hurting her,â€ said Leonard of Vance. â€œI have animals too, and I just know how that would feel to me.â€
by Sarah Grano