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Willie the hero bird.

March 25th, 2009, 11:17 AM
This is such an amazing story! The link is for a video:

Red Cross honors hero parrot Willie! (

DENVER -- Willie, a Quaker parrot whose frantic cries saved a choking toddler, has been lauded as a hero by the American Red Cross.

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper were standing by when the Red Cross' Denver chapter granted Willie its Animal Lifesaver Award on Friday, making him the first bird to receive the recognition.

"This year, Willie seemed to fit the bill," Red Cross spokesman Jim Rettew told Zootoo Pet News.

He noted that in previous years, the organization has only made dogs the "animal lifesaver" of the year.

"Obviously, Willie played a very important role in saving a little girl's life," Rettew said. "This was not just a bird chirping for his food. He saw that there was an emergency and used exemplary behavior to notify the babysitter that the child was choking.

"How could you not give the award to this bird?"

As ZT Pet News previously reported, Willie rose to the occasion in November, when he was left alone in the kitchen with 2-year-old Hannah Kuusk. The girl began to choke on a piece of Pop Tart while her babysitter, Megan Howard, was out of sight in the bathroom.

Willie, who is not normally a chatty bird, began to repeatedly cry out "Momma baby."

"I started hearing Willie go wild," Howard, Willie's owner, told ZT Pet News. "He started screaming and flapping his wings. There was serious panic in his voice. Like I've never heard before.

"I heard Willie say, 'Momma baby, momma baby.' I knew something was wrong."

Howard rushed into the kitchen, and found Hannah at the kitchen table, her lips and face turning blue.

"And the second I got Hannah down off the chair and started doing the Heimlich, he stopped screaming," Howard said. "He knew it was going to be OK after that."

Hannah survived the incident, but months later, the scary ordeal still resonates with her mother, Samantha Kuusk.

"The part where she turned blue is always when my heart drops no matter how many times I've heard it," Kuusk, told KCNC-TV. "My heart drops in my stomach and I get all teary eyed."

The Red Cross' Denver chapter, Mile High, thought Willie's heroic tale was remarkable, as well, warranting his fixture amongst its previous "Breakfast of Champions" honorees.

At the event last week, Willie and Howard received a Wheaties cereal box -- a nod to General Mills' "Breakfast of Champions" slogan -- with the parrot's picture on the front. Rettew said the keepsake is one-of-a-kind.

Willie, however, remained silent throughout his award ceremony, perhaps bashful of all the attention he received.

"He didn't say much. He was quiet but friendly," Rettew recalled. "I thought he smiled at me, though. He just bobs his head and kind of looks around. He's a very curious bird, very well behaved. He didn't fly around or anything, just sat there with his owner."

Howard, meanwhile, also credited Willie with saving young Hannah's life.

"I still say that I did what I had to do and he is the real hero," Howard told CBS News of her pet. "He's kind of small and he's just a bird but he's in there with all of these people that have gone above and beyond just to save people's lives, and it's an honor to be in there and know he's recognized for what he did."

March 25th, 2009, 11:19 AM
Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. Made my day!:thumbs up

March 25th, 2009, 11:33 AM
It's great. I love that the woman said, animals aren't just property. They have feelings, and I'll also add awareness. Something many people don't want to either believe or care about.

March 25th, 2009, 11:40 AM
What a great story, thanks for sharing, AG.

August 30th, 2009, 06:09 AM
Wow, AG! Thanks for posting this wonderful story. It sends a message to arrogant people who think that only people are important and an animal is nothing more than an animal. Willie is a true hero in my book. That baby might not be here today if it wasn't for Willie.