Four men stand in front of a fire truck
Jack Lucky (second from left) stands with the three firefighters that helped him rescue his parrot companion, Little Blue, on Aug. 14, 2023. Credit: Pat Long

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ASHLAND — When Jack Lucky’s parrot companion, Little Blue, flew off his shoulder and into a tree around Lutheran Village — an Ashland assisted living facility — Lucky worried he’d never see her again. 

But thanks to the Ashland Fire Department and Lutheran Village staff who sprang into action, Little Blue made it home safely after an emotional search. 

“Boy, they turned out to help,” Lucky said. “Let me tell you. Everyone was doing everything they could.”

He moved to Ashland after working as a police chief in a small town in West Virginia for about seven years. Lucky finished his career as an overhead crane operator at a steel mill. The Lutheran Village resident will be 94 this year.

His daughter, Patricia Long, also lives in town, and spent her career working in healthcare. Both said they love Ashland.

Lucky’s best friend

Long has had parrots before, and still owns a bird today — a parrot named “Spunky.” She said they decided to get Little Blue for her dad because she thought it would be a good companion for him.

They got Lucky a cage for Christmas, and then searched for months for a blue quaker parrot. Long said those particular birds are rare. 

Finally, they found one in Michigan. They drove to pick it up, and Little Blue sat in Lucky’s hand the entire drive home, Long said. They’ve been together for nearly three years.

The birds have a lifespan of 15 to 25 years, but can live up to 30 years if properly taken care of, according to Bird Cages Now.

Little Blue has a cage set up in the living room at Lucky’s apartment in Lutheran Village. The pair do everything together. The bird wakes him up from naps, knows his schedule, sits on his shoulder and acts as a constant companion. 

Long said it’s unusual for birds to climb on a person and fall asleep. Usually, they sleep standing with one leg up. But Little Blue would climb right onto Lucky, curl herself around his neck and fall asleep that way.

“We soon learned that Little Blue was more than I ever knew a bird to be,” Long said. 

Little Blue has also been certified by a vet doctor as a care companion, according to Long. Since the bird is certified, it’s allowed to travel with Lucky most places. 

Amanda Williams, the executive director of Lutheran Village, said everyone at Lutheran Village knows Little Blue is Lucky’s best friend. 

Little Blue’s escape

Lucky takes Little Blue on a walk around the grounds of Lutheran Village almost every day. It’s surrounded by trees, but that had never been an issue before.

Usually, the bird remains perched on Lucky’s shoulder. But on Aug. 14 as they went for their walk, a gust of wind picked the bird up and it caught flight, landing high up in a tree. 

“There were tears coming down my eyes,” Lucky said. “I thought [she] was gone.”

Williams said she doesn’t think Lucky knew the bird could fly. Long said it’s not supposed to — she keeps its wings clipped so it can’t. The wind caught the bird just right and she was gone that day.

Williams said one of the Lutheran Village staff members was returning from lunch and saw Lucky. They looked for the bird together, and the staff member contacted the director of nursing, who got in touch with Lucky’s family. 

Long arrived as staff members were out helping to look for the bird. The fire department also arrived on the scene. 

Steve Cellar was one of three firefighters who came out to help find Little Blue that day. 

He said the fire department rescues animals from time to time, but it’s not a regular reason they’re called. Usually, it’s cats they help rescue, but this isn’t the first call the department has received about a bird. 

“I think when people don’t know what else to do, they call the fire department,” Cellar said. 

They found the bird and tried to get it out of the tree. Cellar said they grabbed the branch Little Blue sat on and pulled it down so Long could get the bird, but Little Blue flew again. 

They didn’t know where she went at that point.  

Long said they thought she was gone for good, worried that she’d flown across U.S. Route 42, which is near the nursing home. She said it’s unlike Little Blue to take off like that, and the bird wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild on its own.

A happy ending

But one of the firemen who was part of the search effort, Matt Spaniel, found Little Blue in a different tree near the front of Lutheran Village after about a half hour of searching. 

Lucky poses with Little Blue, his blue quaker parrot, in his apartment at Lutheran Village on Aug. 30, 2023. Lucky and Little Blue were reunited thanks to the efforts of the Lutheran Village staff and the fire department.

“It was definitely a blessing to find [her],” Williams said. 

Lucky picked up the bird out of a branch in the tree. 

“Boy was [she] glad to see me,” Lucky said. “Not near as much as I was [her]. [She] was tickled pink to get him back.”

Williams said it was a happy reunion. Lucky, Long and some of the other residents cried tears of joy when Lucky and Little Blue were reunited. Long said one other resident was sobbing and he and Lucky embraced when Little Blue came back. 

“I’m glad [she] didn’t fly the coop for good,” Cellar said. “[She] just took a little trip.” 

Lucky and Long are grateful for the Lutheran Village staff and the firefighters who helped find the bird. Long said the staff brought out a chair and water for her dad and took great care of him during the entire emotional ordeal. 

“Everybody was doing everything in the world they could to get [her] back,” Lucky said. 

Little Blue and Lucky are back together now. Long clipped her wings to make sure she can’t fly away again, but Lucky’s still nervous to take her back out on his walks. Still, the pair remain best friends. 

“All’s well that ends well,” Williams said.

The Life section is supported by Brethren Care Village in Ashland.

Ashland Source's Report for America corps member. She covers education and workforce development, among other things, for Ashland Source. Thomas comes to Ashland Source from Montana, where she graduated...