A city animal lover is set to imitate fictional pet detective Ace Ventura in a bid to trace a parakeet she hasn’t seen in a quarter of a century.
Devoted Hazel Fraser, 65, has steeled herself for the likelihood Pepper may be an ex-parrot but that hasn’t prevented her from going to extraordinary lengths to find the missing bird.
She gave Pepper away in the late 1980s but has regretted it ever since.
Today Pepper would be approaching her twilight years of her late-30s.
Her former owner knows it is “highly unlikely” she will still be alive.
The breed can live for up to 40 years in captivity, so there is a chance that she hasn’t yet passed away.
It is not clear what age the parakeet was when Mrs Fraser and husband Bruce bought her in Saudi Arabia in the late 1970s.
“Even if she has died I would like to know how her life was, and have closure,” said Mrs Fraser.
“I would consider hiring a pet detective but I don’t see what they could do that I haven’t already tried.”
Mrs Fraser has written letters to specialist bird magazines, placed adverts in newspapers and contacted bird-breeders.
She has spent hours phone specialists and scoured the streets of Dalkeith, Musselburgh and Fife, all to no avail.
Real-life pet detective Tess Frith, who works for Animal Search UK, said she hadn’t heard of anyone who had searched for a pet for as long as Mrs Fraser.
“Twenty-five years is a long time to look, and I hope she finds her,” said Ms Frith. “She could register the bird on our website.”
Mrs Fraser, who runs Hollyfield Bird Hospital and Animal Sanctuary in Tarbrax, South Lanarkshire, said she felt compelled to give Pepper a better lift after she began showing nesting behaviour and laying eggs.
“I thought it was time to find her a husband,” she said. “I thought I was doing my best for her but it broke my heart.”
She took Pepper to the aviaries at Sweethope House Hotel in Eskbank, where Pepper selected a mate. A few months later Mrs Fraser went to visit her in her new home but was shocked to find the aviaries empty after the owner suffered a heart attack and his family sold the birds.
But the amateur sleuth eventually managed to track the bird down and was even allowed to visit her new home.
Though Mrs Fraser continued to write to the new owners for updates about Pepper she was concerned when she received no response.
She discovered later that they had moved away abruptly and sold Pepper to a breeder in Fife. Appeals in the local press there have so far proven fruitless.
Since parting with Pepper, Mrs Fraser has not rehomed any animals and lives with five dogs, four terrapins, three cockatiels, a lovebird and a cat. “The guilt is terrible, and if I knew she had a decent life I would feel much better,” she said.
Alexandrine parakeets are among the top mimics in the parrot species.