It is not often that a bird leaves an impression quite as significant as Monte Vista Small Animal Hospital’s beloved 24-year-old cockatoo and unofficial lobby greeter Thelma, who for her last few years called the animal hospital her home. Known to walk freely amongst clients and staff in the lobby, Thelma delighted everyone she met with her quirky personality and was “loved by all.”
“Thelma was our companion for 24 years – longer than I’ve had my three children,” said Thelma’s owner and veterinarian Rob Santos. “She lived in the lobby at our hospital where she had a personality much like a WWE wrestler — always ‘on stage.’”
On the night of Jan. 31, Thelma’s life was cut short when she was attacked and killed by an adult husky dog. Uncontrolled by its owner, the husky managed to jump to the top of Thelma’s enclosure where she was sleeping and grab her.
A day later, the animal hospital shared information regarding Thelma’s passing on Facebook, a post that garnered over 800 comments from members of the community who shared pictures and memories they had of Thelma.
“This tragic loss still feels surreal and is truly incomprehensible,” said Santos. “The painful feeling of loss will always be a constant reminder to me on the important role that companion pets play in our lives. They allow us to have a complete and purposeful life.”
Santos acquired Thelma when she was just three months old, according to hospital director Sara Leimgruber, who said that she spent much of her life at Community Veterinary Clinic where Santos started as a veterinarian. Thelma also provided joy and therapy to Santos’ grandparents in their later years before her time at MVSAH.
Leimgruber said that while at MVSAH, Thelma would spend the majority of her day on top of her enclosure on her perch, however, she would also entertain clients with her favorite sayings, such as “Hi Thelma” or “Hi Momma,” or by barking like a dog and meowing like a cat. Clients were welcome to hold her, and many members of the surrounding community would drop in to MVSAH to say hi to the bird.
“Thelma was extremely outgoing and friendly,” said Leimgruber. “She absolutely loved men. She would hold out her talon, which meant she wanted you to hold her. If the client was wearing a hat or glasses, she thought it was great fun to remove them and play with them. While on her enclosure perch she would often be found with an empty syringe or a peanut. She would turn sideways and drop it above her wing, and then catch it underneath. She was very agile and flexible.”
Leimgruber said that one memory she especially cherishes of Thelma was when staff gave her a yellow highlighter to play with. Just minutes later, Leimgruber and other staff members realized that she had taken the cap off the pen and began to paint herself yellow.