It was a long and heart-wrenching 15 months, but now, after what seemed to be an eternity, Frodo is back home in his cage with the family that loves him.
Frodo is a 14-year-old Quaker parakeet that Donett Murphy raised from a baby. “I got him when he was 2 1/2 months old and bottle-fed him until he was able to eat food,” Murphy said. “He knows over a hundred words, and we had our own special way of communicating.”
Murphy would say, “Come here, come here,” and Frodo would repeat it. “He can say, 'I love you' and 'Baby Bird' and my daughter Kelly’s name,” she said.
In early October 2001, Murphy took Frodo and his cage outside onto the deck of the Murphy’s home at Cameron Station to clean the cage. “It’s so big that I can really only clean it outside,” she said.
While on the deck, Murphy said that she must have bumped Frodo while the door to the cage was open and he flew away.
“His wings were clipped, but he could still fly,” Murphy said.
SHE GOT A NET and found Frodo in a tree, but he would not come to her. Every time she got close to him, he flew away. This continued for several days. She would go out and call to him, see him, try to net him, and he would fly away.
“The last time I saw him, he was wet and shivering and scared,” Murphy said. “I couldn’t get close enough to him to net him.”
That night, the temperature dropped to around 40 degrees, and Murphy felt that Frodo must have died. “I just didn’t see how he could have survived in the cold,” she said.
She continued to look for Frodo but also began the process of mourning. That process included adopting a 10-year-old Bishon from the Alexandria Animal Shelter.
On Jan. 26, 2003, Super Bowl Sunday, the Murphy’s were planning a party. “We were going to have 40 people over, and my husband decided to go jogging,” Murphy said. “I told him that I could really use his help, but he went anyway.”
His jog took him through Ben Brenman Park and by the new animal shelter. There he saw a bird that looked remarkably like Frodo.
“I was in the shower when he came home, and he came in and told me to get dressed and come and see the bird,” Murphy said. “We knew that it was highly unlikely that it was Frodo, but I was excited anyway.”
EVEN AT THE animal shelter, Murphy wasn’t certain. That is, until the bird repeated her daughter’s name. “I couldn’t believe it,” Murphy said. “It’s a miracle.”
According to Betsy Wason, the director of development for the shelter, the bird was found in someone’s garden on Jan. 6, 2002, and brought to the shelter. “A family had seen him, and he was going to go on a home visit the very next day,” she said.
Instead, he came home to the place where he had grown up. No one knows where Frodo was living all of those months, but shelter personnel believe that someone was taking care of him because his wings were clipped when he was brought into the shelter.
“I don’t know where he was all of this time,” Murphy said. “I’m just grateful to all of the wonderful people at the shelter. Because of their caring, I have my bird back. They do wonderful work and are very careful in selecting families for the animals that they care for.”
As for Frodo, he appears to be missing one toe and has some problems with one of his legs, according to Murphy. “I’m just glad to have him back,” she said. “Whether it’s for a day or a week or a year.”