Dougie was not as pleased to see me as I was to see him again. He tilted his head to one side, opened his eyes wide and ruffled his feathers.
Dougie, of course, was a parrot, with whom we made our first acquaintance five years ago, just after the start of filming for series two of The Yorkshire Vet.
He’d had a terrible time during a visit to a previous vet practice, where he had become so stressed and traumatised while having his beak and nails trimmed, that he had ended up spending the afternoon recovering in an oxygen tent.
Margaret, his devoted owner/partner, did not want this to happen again, and came to see if I could help. With the benefit of experience from a veterinary nurse called Kate, we devised a way of enveloping the parrot’s carrying cage in a plastic bag, enabling us to administer anaesthetic gas with the minimum stress to the bird.
Normally of course, it is a very bad idea to put a living thing into a plastic bag, but under close supervision and with the provision of oxygen and anaesthetic gas, nothing could go wrong.
On that day, everything went smoothly. Dougie was relaxed, although nobody else was, because the strength of avian-human bond between Dougie and Margaret was palpable and we could not bear to imagine the consequences of an anaesthetic accident.
And now he needed my help again. His beak and claws had grown again to a problematic length and the handsome, enigmatic and usually talkative parrot would require a GA to sort them out.
I found a suitably sized bag and recruited two helpers, one of which was Anne and both of whom happened to be slightly frightened of handling birds – especially a bad-tempered bird with a beak powerful enough to split the bulletproof casing of a walnut. But my assistants’ reticence was not a hindrance. The joining of forces and the pooling of energy and expertise is powerful. Soon Dougie’s annoyed noises from within the bag ceased and, soon after, all parrot movement stopped. I peered inside. Dougie has succumbed completely and his head lolled backwards. I think he was snoring. I tore through the plastic and opened his cage. He was definitely under the effects of the gas and was fast asleep, but we didn’t have long.
Swift and combined action was required to scoop the flaccid bird out and into position to clip the elongated end of his beak and overgrown toenails. Veterinary hearts were pumping quickly with anxiety for his health and recovery, with concern that he might wake up prematurely and either bite someone or escape, and with worry that his black nails might bleed if cut too short.
I held him carefully and clipped his beak while Anne dealt with his nails and the task was completed in the nick of time.
Dougie’s recovery was equally swift and he was back on his perch within minutes. As he regained his composure, Anne and I watched the emerald beauty from a safe distance.
Inside his travelling cage I spotted a child’s music-making machine, with a big red button on the front. It was impossible to resist pressing it, which resulted in a plinky-plonky tune similar to the wheels on the bus go round and round emanating from the speaker.
We had to laugh as Dougie, the Amazonian Green with his beautiful plumage, actually started to dance on his perch.
The Yorkshire Vet: A Christmas Carol is showing on December 22 at 8pm on Channel 5