Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

A lost friend, a lonely man, and a second chance

ST. PETE BEACH — Pete Collins rushed to the animal shelter, his heart thumping.

A worker had responded to the ad Pete placed in the lost pet classifieds.

Bird- Cockatiel, grey with white face. St Pete Bch area on Fri 3/26. Whistles at toes! Heartbroken.

The bird at the shelter had the same coloring, the woman said. But it didn't care for her toes.

Pete hurried inside. He spied the bird in the distance, with its luscious charcoal plumes, its puffy down, its spiky head.

Could it be Shadow?

• • •

Pete, 68, was a retired landscaper. He read books, gardened, let the wind whip through the open door. His wife, Donna, worked long hours as a hotel housekeeper.

Life was a little lonely.

One breezy spring day last year, he stood outside his tiny St. Pete Beach cottage, practically in the parking lot of the Twistee Treat. He grilled ribs as the sun lagged in the late afternoon.

A tiny gray bird came around the corner. Hop. Hop.

Pete made a kissy sound. The bird came closer. He crouched and extended a finger. The bird hopped on.

Inside the house, it flew atop the kitchen cabinets. Pete found bread crumbs and a tiny dish of water.

The next morning Pete and Donna awoke to it perched on their headboard, staring them down.

The bird was clearly someone's pet, so they put an ad in the newspaper and got three calls. No one could describe it right.

So they named her Shadow.

One day, she fluttered onto Pete's knee as he reclined and stared at his gray sock. She hollered. When he wiggled his toes, she went berserk. She found Donna's toes equally thrilling.

She whistled out the window to girls at the Twistee Treat. Pete told Shadow to cool it, that the ladies would think the old guy in the house was a wolf.

She loved chocolate.

"I'd give her a tiny piece of chocolate, and then no more. She'd fly away, like, 'The hell with you.' She was haughty."

She woke at 6:56 every morning, fluffed her feathers and sang. Chirp, tweet-tweet.

"I cheered up every morning with that beautiful song," he said. "That bird made me so happy."

Shadow had chances to leave. Pete regularly opened and closed the front door while she was free.

One day in March, Pete noticed Shadow sitting on the living room windowsill, staring out at the sky.

The next day, when a friend came to visit, Shadow took off like a shot out the open door. She propelled herself miles into the air until she was the size of a speck. She dove down and perched on a power line.

"Like an eagle."

She turned and flew away.

• • •

At the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shelter in Largo, Pete got closer.

He had spent days looking for Shadow, peering into trees, being taunted by mockingbirds and pigeons and sparrows.

The gray bird turned to the side and Pete's heart sank. Shadow was plump from all the chocolate and bird feed. This one was skinny. And its feet looked different. This bird was terrified and silent and stiff, with none of Shadow's attitude and pluck.

Maybe it needed someone, too.

Pete called his wife.

"It's not her, but you're not going to believe how close she is."

"Bring her home," Donna said.

He named her Shadow II.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at or (727) 893-8857.

A lost friend, a lonely man, and a second chance 04/21/10 [Last modified: Monday, April 26, 2010 5:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Seminole man accused of fracturing 8-month-old baby's leg


    Deputies arrested a Seminole man Thursday after he fractured an 8-month-old baby's bones, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

    Gary G. Gibeault of Seminole was arrested on a charge of aggravated child abuse.
  2. St. Petersburg's ballooning sewage debt could threaten credit rating (but there's a Hail Mary plan to avoid that)

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The city needs a lot of money — $435 million over the next five years — most of it to fix its leaky sewer pipes and aging sewer plants.

    In September 2016, signs at St. Petersburg's North Shore Park warned people to stay out of the water due to contamination from sewage released by the city's overwhelmed sewer system. The City Council on Thursday learned that the very expensive fix for its sewage woes could hamper the city's credit rating. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  3. Pinellas County receives $30 million for beach renourishment

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — While Pinellas beaches continually rank among the best in America, they need help to stay that way.

    The Army Corps of Engineers has allocated $30 million to help with beach renourishment at several Pinellas locations, including including Sand Key, Treasure Island and Upham Beach. This photo from 2014 shows how waves from high tides caused beach erosion at Sunset Beach near Mansions by the Sea condominium complex SCOTT KEELER   |   Times

  4. Straz Center parking squeeze infuriates patrons, motivates search for solutions


    TAMPA — When the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts opened 30 years ago, it welcomed just 30,000 patrons its first year.

    Fireworks shoot into the sky over the David A. Straz Jr. Center For The Performing Arts. [SCOTT MCINTYRE, Times]
  5. Video shows naked man who stole swan sculpture in Lakeland, deputies say


    The Polk County Sheriff's Office is searching for a large swan sculpture that was stolen from a Lakeland cold storage facility last weekend, possibly by a naked man.

    The Polk County Sheriff's Office says this naked man stole a large black and white swan sculpture, upper right, from a Lakeland storage facility last weekend. Surveillance video showed the man walking into Lakeland Cold Storage. [Polk County Sheriff's Office]