“If you love something set it free. If it comes back it’s yours. If not, it was never meant to be.”
We’re all familiar with this sentiment… But what if you accidentally set it free, then embark on a mass-Facebook campaign to find it again? It still totally counts as being ‘meant to be’, right?
Most of you will know my little pink and grey galah cockatoo, Thor by now. He’s a regular feature on the old ‘gram and has even had his very own blog (or two) dedicated to him. He means the world to me. He shares the same birthday as my late grannie and I hand-raised him from just a few weeks old when he was born in 2015. He’s ridiculously tame, doesn’t even know how to bite and just loves to dance and cuddle – give him a head scratch and he’ll be your bestie for life. He’s my little superhero.
I’ve always allowed Thor to spread his wings as he is such a magnificent flyer. I just couldn’t bring myself to take that away from him by clipping his wings. Instead, I have always just had to be incredibly vigilant when opening doors and windows if he is out and about. And for 1.5 years we’ve been fine. Admittedly, there have been a few hairy moments here and there, but Thor has never shown an interest in wanting to ‘escape’. He’ll always come when called and genuinely has more interest in snuggling up on your shoulder than flying off. However, last weekend he got out. My step-dad Simon and I were ironically mid-argument about him leaving doors open whilst Thor was flying around my house, and just as Simon opened the front door, Thor flew out. We ran after him, but it was too late. He was gone. After hours of searching for him in 40 degree heat (like seriously, needle in a haystack x infinity), calling his name into the sky and looking like an absolute nutter shaking sunflower seeds at trees, we came to terms that he was not coming home.
It was horrible. I cried and cried. It wasn’t just losing my little man and the absolute irony of the situation (I refused to talk to my poor step-dad for the rest of the day) – it was knowing how innocent and tame little adorable Thor was, out there in the wild by himself. How would he eat? Would he know to fly away from cars? Where would he sleep… How would he sleep when he’s scared of the dark (don’t tell him I told you that). I started making bargains in my head with God (who I really only talk to when I want something, I’m not particularly religious) – that I would be okay with never having him back in exchange for knowing he was safe and healthy. I was absolutely devastated and convinced I would never see him again.
After the first hour of searching for him, I placed an ad on Gumtree and shared it on Facebook, pleading with all my Perth friends to do the same. As the hours ticked by, messages of love and support started flooding in from my incredible friends – coupled with recommendations for Facebook groups dedicated to lost animals in Perth which I could join and post updates to. And so I did just that. A few hours later came more messages of support and further recommendations to ramp up my search for Thor – this time from complete strangers who were members of these groups and communities and had seen my posts.
“Have you contacted every vet in the area?” asked one lady, “have you notified your neighbours?” asked another… One woman suggested posters and mailbox drops around the neighbourhood. Another said she’d been out looking around where she lived in Whitfords for him! One girl even tagged me on a couple of listings for galahs recently found in Perth – but sadly none were Thor. I started trawling through Facebook pages dedicated to lost animals, such as Lost and Found Pets in Perth, Pets of Perth – Lost & Found and Lost and Found Birds Perth WA and joining Facebook groups dedicated to galahs such as Pet Galahs and GALAH OWNERS ROCK (we totally do) – messaging the admins to check if I could post my pictures of Thor to their pages. Not one of them turned me down. I received nothing but kindness and empathy in response to my messages. Within minutes of my posts going live on these pages, they were being shared into other community groups by members and admins to raise maximum awareness. I started reading other listings, some days or months and others even years old, where pet owners never gave up hope of finding their little buddies. It was bitter sweet – one minute I was hopeful, the next I was in tears.
Later than evening, my other little birdie Kenickie (cute cockatiel) started calling for his buddy. He does this when Thor and I are together in another room and he misses us, wants to flock or simply wants some attention. It literally broke my heart.
The next morning, I woke after a pretty restless nights sleep to more messages of support and saw that my posts were starting to get some real traction. People who I didn’t know, had no connection to other than a clear love of birds were sharing my posts about Thor with their friends and other community groups – some people in South Australia and NSW even posted to their pages, in the hope that their Perth friends would see it. I was touched.
I searched the neighbourhood again that morning before having to drive to work, and I cried all the way to the office. I left Thors perch in the front garden and sprinkled sunflower seeds all around it. I was desperate. That morning, as soon as I received a Facebook or Gumtree notification, I’d frantically check my messages for news. Word was spreading – based on the following of these Facebook pages and groups, coupled with the average organic reach of a Facebook update, I’d estimate my posts collectively reached in excess of 150,000 people thanks to the incredible support I received.
I’d just finished drawing up a ‘lost galah’ poster on my lunch break which I’d planned on pinning around local supermarkets and shops that evening, when I received a notification from a lady on the Lost and Found Pets in Perth Facebook group; “Someone has found a galah on the Madly Kingsley Woodvale Resident Facebook group!” – my heart leapt. I immediately went on to the Madly, Kingsley, Woodvale & Surrounds Residents Group, saw it was a closed group and requested to join. Then another message came through from another lady about the same post “Katie, someone is advertising a galah that has been found on the Madly, Kingsley, Woodvale & Surrounds Residents Group!” After a few more messages and notifications, an unknown number called me – through some twist of fate, Kerry – a lady who I house/dog sat for in Woodvale when I first arrived in Perth had seen my posts, saw the very same post in the group, and called me. She forwarded on my number to the guy who had posted a picture of a pink and grey to the closed group, with the caption “Anyone lost this little fellow?” and he called before texting me pictures of the little galah he found sat on top of his white outdoor fridge (which is exactly the same as my white fridge). Through some miracle, IT WAS THOR!!
I couldn’t quite believe it. I honestly thought I would never see that little rascal again. I zoomed over to Woodvale and collected my little man, who felt very fragile, looked quite sorry for himself and was very tired. I bundled him into the car, took him over to my mom’s place and cuddled, bathed and yes, clipped his wings.
So Thor is home safe and sound! Although a little quiet, clingy and somewhat dazed by his 24hr adventure, my little superhero is back where he belongs – Kenickie was thrilled to see his buddy too.
I’m literally overwhelmed by the kindness and compassion I’ve experienced from complete strangers during this ordeal. I’m already a huge advocate of Social Media, hell – I do it for a career, however the power achieved from such kindness coupled with the exposure and virility on Facebook has stunned me. I’ve received so many messages of support and love from people all over the state, who I don’t even know. After I had Thor home, I spent hours that evening responding to every single person who had offered support, to thank them – only to be met with even more love and sentiment from these perfect strangers… Wendy responded “I am so happy you found Thor!! I wanted to drive to Craigie last night to look for him!”, Chris followed up with “So pleased for you Katie, I love happy endings like this!”, and Luke said “Amazing news! This brought a big smile to my face reading this. So glad Thor is back home safe. What a wonderful effort by all those that helped out and I can’t imagine your relief.” – that’s just three out of about 100 messages.
Special thanks to Bruce who found Thor and for offering his fridge and indeed shoulder as a temporary perch until I got to him – and to every single person who helped spread the word. It’s incredibly touching and heart-warming to see how many kind, caring, authentic people there are out there. I’m amazed, grateful and over the moon to have my little pink man back.
It saddens me to think of all the people out there who have lost an animal – especially a bird. Every time I saw a galah in the sky in those 24hrs, my heart leapt. So if by any chance, you ever see a little birdie who looks a little out of place. Take a chance, attend to it and get in touch with one of these amazing Facebook groups. Likelihood is, it has someone out there just desperate for its safe return. And for the people out there who have lost an animal recently – don’t lose hope. Animals are smart, they will find their way back to you… With a little help from kind, selfless people and the fantastic support networks available through Social Media.
Prayers do get answered – and I’ll be paying this miracle forward for sure. Right after I go and pick up all those bloody sunflower seeds off my lawn before I have yet another thing to maintain in my garden!
“What a wonderful ending for you and Thor.
Luck and love combine to make great things possible.” – Lisa, GALAH OWNERS ROCK Facebook page
“I know the feeling when your pink chicken goes missing & the relief on return.
The positive power of social media is so fantastic.” – Vanessa, GALAH OWNERS ROCK Facebook page