In the dark hours last weekend — when she couldn’t sleep, when she was sick with worry — Teodora Ateska tried to imagine what she might have done to make him behave this way.
But it didn’t make any sense. Ateska had always showered him with kisses, fed him bite-size pieces of fresh fruit and vegetables [organic whenever possible]. She took him camping and on bike rides in a special backpack with a clear plastic bubble so that he, too, could enjoy the views.
Despite all of this, Ateska’s beloved Quaker parrot, “Stole,” made the decision to escape from the 26-year-old’s second-floor North Side apartment the morning of June 12 through a tiny hole he’d pecked in a window screen.
“Oh, my God, I was in shock,” said Ateska, a safety manager for a trucking company and a native Macedonian.
But this story doesn’t end in tragedy. Somehow, miraculously, Stole’s bout of insanity ended when he alighted onto the shoulder of a woman about 5 miles away in the Old Irving Park neighborhood. The fellow bird lover seized his little green-and-white body, put him in a cage and then found Ateska through one of her frantic social media posts.
“We love him — that’s why we’re so devastated when he escaped,” said Ateska, who is married.
Before his escape, Stole spent his days enjoying the kind of freedom that other pet birds could only dream about. He’d hop onto the kitchen sink while Ateska did the dishes or on her laptop when she was online.
“If he wakes up before me, he would come near my bed or on my head, and he would start … giving me kisses until I wake up,” Ateska said.
The only time Stole is in his cage is when it’s time for bed, Ateska said. Still, he’d never hinted that he wanted more out of life.
“The weird thing is that he never had any interest about getting to the window or trying to escape or anything like that,” Ateska said.
But then one day he did. Ateska and her husband found him missing — and the hole in the bathroom window screen — about 8 a.m. Saturday.
They hopped on bicycles and searched for 13 hours without a single sighting.
“The only reason I went to bed that night was so that I could have more energy in the morning to do it all over — because I was never going to stop looking for him,” Ateska said.
At 4 a.m. Sunday, they awoke. Ateska’s husband had a text from the woman in Old Irving Park. She had seen Ateska’s post on Craigslist. She had Stole. He’d showed up about the time Ateska and her husband gave up the search for the night Saturday. The bird was safe.
Ateska couldn’t wait. At sunrise Sunday, she set off to pick up the bird.
“Because I love him so much, I had to get him home,” she said.
Now that Stole is home, Ateska still doesn’t know what made him want to leave. He has a vocabulary of just a handful of human words. But she’s just thrilled to have him home.
“I was praying that if he was happy and he did [make] a mistake, then he should come back,” Ateska said “If he wants to live in the wild, I’ll try to accept that and be happy about it.”