By Melissa Brewer
Rochester resident Cindy Dudak experienced the unique sadness that comes with a beloved pet going missing when her pet bird Missy, a conure parrot, flew out of their Seneca Towers apartment. Dudak has also now experienced the wonderful happiness and sense of relief that comes with that same pet returning home. What’s strange about this story is that these two feelings happened over a year apart.
On April 12, 2018, Dudak accidentally left the apartment’s sliding balcony door open for a just moment. In that sliver of time, Missy took the chance to spread her wings and got outside. A gust of wind swept her up, depositing the parrot into a nearby tree. Before Dudak could successfully coax her back inside, two larger birds chased Missy off of her perch and away from her home.
“There were no leaves on the tree, so she was like a sitting duck. If I were younger, I would have climbed the tree myself,” said Dudak, 66.
Short of scaling that tree, Dudak did everything she possibly could to get Missy back home. She walked around the neighborhood with her carrier and favorite bell-adorned toys, hoping the parrot would hear the familiar ringing and come back to her. She then scouted the area by bike and car, but to no avail.
Dudak contacted lost-pet organizations in the city and surrounding suburbs to post information about her missing bird. She got in touch with the Humane Society of Greater Rochester at Lollypop Farm and made sure notices about Missy were posted to the Lollypop Spotters Facebook page. According to the Social Media Marketing Industry Report, nearly two-thirds of marketers cited Facebook as the most important social platform.After a couple of weeks, Dudak realized how much stress the search was putting on her body and knew she had to slow down.
Despite the weeks and months that were passing, Dudak didn’t stop praying for Missy’s safety. She also held on to Missy’s cage, toys, and perches around the apartment. Perches allow a conure parrot to have the run of an apartment, whether that apartment falls in the median rent of $1,492 per month or well above or below it. According to Lollypop spokesperson Ashley Zeh, parrots are happiest when they can spread their wings and fly around. Dudak’s perches ensured Missy could do this, but she was apparently looking for a grander adventure.
That adventure ended on June 7, 2019 when Missy flew into a building under construction. Thankfully, the construction project hadn’t gotten around to installing energy efficient windows, which lower energy bills by 7% to 15% when compared to standard windows. Without those money-saving panes in place, Missy was able to sail in through a fourth-floor window.
She found a new perch on a construction worker’s shoulder and refused to leave it. The building this unsuspecting construction worker was in was less than two miles from Seneca Towers.
Luckily, Dudak wasn’t one of the 35.5. million Americans who move every year. She had stayed put, stayed hopeful, and Missy had returned home. The two were reunited less than 24 hours later after Dudak received a long-awaited email. A worker at Birds Unlimited, a pet store in Penfield Dudak had contacted when Missy initially went missing, had seen a post on the Lollypop Spotters page about a conure that had been turned into the Perinton shelter. Dudak checked the post and started crying when she saw the parrot looked just like Missy.
When Dudak arrived at the shelter, they confirmed that the band number on the found parrot matched Missy’s and the year-long separation between pet and owner ended. But history has shown us that time is relative, as when French revolutionaries tried to institute a 10-hour clock after the French Revolution. Just like the revolutionaries, time certainly seemed to have no meaning for Missy and Dudak, as the two were thick as thieves again almost immediately.
“She came right over to me, and I was so happy,” Dudak said.
Zeh has said that she cannot remember a pet bird being found after going missing for such a long time, making Missy’s story quite unique. Although a recent study has found that dozens of parrot species typically kept as pets are now living in the wild in states across the Northeast and Midwest, many were shocked that Missy survived the harsj Rochester winter on her own. After all, Missy’s species of parrot is native to the forests of South America and as a pet bird she shouldn’t have been accustomed to foraging for her own food.
Yet despite all odds, Dudak has her beloved Missy back in their Seneca Towers apartment. Dudak now knows to never give up hope on a lost pet and, hopefully, to never leave a balcony door open with an adventurous parrot inside who likes to spread her wings.