Matt Heath is a radio host on Radio Hauraki and Herald columnist

Matt Heath: Rat attack on much-loved pet

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Freddy after the attack, without tail or wing feathers. Photo / Supplied
Freddy after the attack, without tail or wing feathers. Photo / Supplied

Guilt is a horrible thing. It eats at your soul. There's nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. Booze helps but only for a while. Before too long you're back sober and dealing with what you have done.

I should know. Last week I did something to a friend that was so evil and neglectful, I am unsure I will ever forgive myself. So grotesque and inhuman it sickens me.

Freddy is a 14-year-old cockatiel. He's a great guy and a close friend. Every time he sees me he chirps "What doing?". We sit for hours singing to each other. He can do the bass line from Another One Bites the Dust. I can whistle the guitar solo from Sweet Child O' Mine. We get on great.

Sometimes he can be a bit aggro. He'll try to bite your fingers when you change his food and water. His full-volume phone-ring impersonation can grate. But deep down Freddy is a nice guy.

He certainly didn't deserve what he got from me.

It was hot on Valentine's Day. Punishingly hot. Even a native Australian like Freddy was suffering. So I put his cage outside on the deck. He was happy for a while. Unfortunately, I completely forgot he was out there.

Sometime in the night, a rat crept out of the darkness and attacked.

While I was tucked up happily in bed, he was going through hell. By the time it was done the rat had pulled out 20 of Freddy's feathers.

It's horrible to think of our poor old bird screaming and scratching, trapped in his cage while the evil rodent came at him again and again. I am supposed to protect him, but I led him to near slaughter.

But it wasn't all one-way traffic. Freddy was named after Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street. The next morning, alongside a lot of bird blood, we found a lot of rat blood in that cage too. Freddy gave as good as he got, eventually fighting off the evil mammal.

In his 14 years, he has survived 14 life-threatening dramas. Thirteen were his fault.

But at what cost? Our once-proud parrot looks like a plucked chicken. He has been grounded and it's all my fault.

I'm sure he'll bounce back. Freddy is a survivor. He has flown away and been found nine times in his life.

In 2006, I was forced to hijack a New Zealand Music Awards broadcast to appeal for help finding him. It worked. We got him back.

He was 10km from our house watching TV in a student flat. Each time he flies away he finds a human, lands on their shoulder and makes it clear he is a people person. In his 14 years, he has survived 14 life-threatening dramas. Thirteen of those dramas were his fault.

This one was all mine.

Guilt is a hard thing to live with. We all want to be the hero. But sometimes we mess up. The only hope you have is to seek redemption through your actions. That's why I plan to hunt that rat down and stove its head in with a brick.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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Matt Heath is a radio host on Radio Hauraki and Herald columnist

Matt Heath is a breakfast radio host on Radio Hauraki, and a television producer, writer and director. He made a name for himself with Back of The Y Masterpiece Television, Balls of Steel UK and the feature film The Devil Dared Me To. Matt was guitarist and singer for the band Deja Voodoo which released two top twenty albums. He is currently a producer on Best Bits, a cricket commentator for The Alternative Commentary Collective, and the director of Vinewood Motion Graphics. Matt is a father of two living in Auckland City.

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