On Sunday, the couple were busy getting ready for a day out. Lisa was inside when she heard Alan exclaim, “Oh, my God! She flew away! She flew away!”
Alan had walked out the door to the car, forgetting that Chi Chi was on his shoulder.
“Birds fly,” Lisa told me. And that’s what Chi Chi did.
Lisa ran outside. Her gaze followed Alan’s outstretched arm as he pointed toward a yellow dot disappearing in the distance.
Chi Chi had come into their lives 3½ years earlier, a rescue. The couple doesn’t believe in clipping a bird’s wings, so Chi Chi had no problem taking flight.
Alan and Lisa spent the rest of the day doing exactly what you’d do if your dog or cat was lost. They made fliers with Chi Chi’s photo and put them up on lampposts and telephone poles. They walked through the neighborhood calling Chi Chi’s name. They called all the veterinarians in the area in case someone turned in a bird.
And before they went to bed, they put Chi Chi’s cage outside, its door open and a treat inside.
“I sat all night hoping she would fly in and I would see her,” Lisa said.
The next day was Monday. Earlier in the week Lisa had jotted a reminder to herself about an appointment with her optometrist that morning. She wasn’t in the mood to keep it.
“I just wanted to put a pillow over my head and cry,” Lisa said.
But she kept the appointment.
MyEyeDr. is in Cabin John Village, the shopping center just behind Lisa and Alan’s townhouse development. When Lisa went inside, the manager, Andrew Plaxen, could tell she was upset about something.
“I said to him, ‘I’m really having a hard time. Our bird got out by accident,’ ” Lisa said.
Andrew asked what Chi Chi looked like and offered words of encouragement.
“I tried to console her a bit, telling her the bird will come back, that animals usually don’t stray too far,” he said.
Andrew had grown up on Long Island with a dog that was “a wanderer.” Rex would let himself out of the house and go on adventures. He always came back.
Lisa wished she could be as confident as Andrew. She went home to make more calls in search of Chi Chi.
Because of the novel coronavirus, some MyEyeDr. customers prefer not to come into the store. One had arranged to meet Andrew in the parking lot. And so around 4 on Monday, Andrew went outside.
Suddenly, there was a commotion in the sky. Andrew looked up to see two crows chasing a bird half their size. One crow pecked at the bird, which plummeted 25 feet to the asphalt.
Andrew ran over to the downed bird.
“I put my hand out and it crawled right up my arm,” he said.
The bird — yellow, with peach cheeks — climbed onto Andrew’s shoulder and accompanied him as he walked back into the store. Andrew called Lisa and said, “I think we have your bird.”
Lisa and Alan hurried over and were reunited with Chi Chi. They took the bird to an avian veterinarian in Rockville who checked her out and administered fluids. The ordeal had left Chi Chi a little beat up — scratched and missing one of her flight feathers — but she survived. After a few weeks of being a bit skittish, she’s back to being herself.
Think about the things that had to come together: Lisa had to keep her eye doctor appointment. Andrew had to walk into the parking lot at just that moment.
“The story is just kind of a miracle, something you don’t think’s going to happen,” Lisa said.
Said Andrew: “This is a time right now when we need some feel-good stories out there.”
He has been made Chi Chi’s godfather.
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.