No Place Like Home

The burglary of her beloved parrot and a slow-moving, strapped police department have made a local woman upset

The moment Erin Madden got home from work on a fateful recent Friday night, she knew something was wrong.

The porch light she normally leaves on was off. The bedroom light she leaves off was on. Buster, her protective American bulldog, was not at the door to greet her. He was stashed in a room, likely smarting from some smacks or kicks, and was not his tough-guy self. He was melancholy.

Madden didn't have to search for clues. She could see that her desktop and laptop Dell computers were gone. So was a stereo. A television was damaged, and it looked as if it was waiting to be picked up with the thief's second load.

And then she noticed that the cage where her beloved parrot, Oz, should have been deep in sleep, was open. The Amazon Yellow Nape, who sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," was gone.

"My knees buckled," says Madden. "I dropped. I could not stand at first. I was shocked. My mouth got dry and sore. I walked around in circles.

"She was like a child to me. I was inconsolable. I've had her for 12 years. She is my baby. She sings and talks. She tells me 'good morning.' She is very sweet. She will go around the house on my shoulder. She'll cuddle and nuzzle."

Parrots like Oz can live beyond 100. Madden wanted that type of longevity. She had grieved greatly over the deaths of other pets and was planning on willing Oz to another loving home.

Madden sits in Bentley's House of Coffee & Tea, more than two weeks after the March 5 burglary, remembering Oz. Fliers in the East Speedway Boulevard shop help alert people to Oz's plight.

She frets for her companion, purchased from a couple when Oz was 6 or 7. Oz is on a restricted diet. She needs attention. She needs quiet time and adequate rest. She needs daily time in the sun. She needs regular bathing. Her beak and nails need trimming. Her wings need to be clipped.

It is not likely that Oz would have gone quietly. Disturbed from her sleep by the commotion, the sudden opening of the cage and foreign hands on her likely induced some trauma. She was carted off in a cat carrier, which doesn't afford her the room to perch as is necessary. And while Oz was sweet with Madden, she--like other Amazon Yellow Napes--can get irritated, irascible and aggressive.

Madden is trying to maintain hope, but this is not a cheerful installment on Animal Planet. In a city with bulging crime--violent crime--a missing parrot is not exactly a top priority. There is no animal detective within the strapped Tucson Police Department.

It took cops three hours to respond to the South Columbus Boulevard/East 29th Street home, where she has rented space from a friend. There is plenty of other crime in this part of town, something Madden realizes. Follow-up has been scant, and the case does not have a lead investigator.

Her complaint, which is probably too strong of a word, is that the police seemed to lose whatever interest they had when she told them that it appeared the theft was orchestrated and carried out by someone she knew: a young man who had done work for her at the home last year.

Soon after the break-in, Madden's stereo was pawned at a shop where the man who unloaded it used his own identification. Still, there have been no other strong leads that will help to locate Oz.

Madden has checked swap meets, bird stores, pet stores and the newspapers. She called the U.S. Border Patrol. She has probed the Internet, though that has become more of a chore, because she now has to borrow time on friends' computers.

She has faced the fact that Oz is worth a lot--perhaps as much as $1,200--to a desperate person. She also became a victim at a time of personal economic downturn. While Tucson Newspapers Inc., the company that handles advertising, circulation and business for the Arizona Daily Star and Tucson Citizen, runs "pets found" ads for free, those searching for their pets must pay. A series of "lost" ads in the dailies yielded no results in Madden's search.

Friends and strangers have stepped up, including people at PetsMart, the Avian Club and other bird and animal groups. Desert Pacific Printing knocked off a big part of the usual cost of color copies for the flier with Oz's picture--her distinctive yellow not only on her nape, but her head.

A psychic told Madden that she would be talking to the Tucson Weekly and that she will find Oz. Madden will pay a reward. She wants Oz back, and she could still use help looking and getting the word out. Some can post fliers; some can add eyes and ears.

To help, call Madden at 240-5651.

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