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Parakeet’s journey from hoarder house to book, foundation

KristLudwig with her parakeet Nubs. |  Submitted

Kristin Ludwig with her parakeet, Nubs. | Submitted

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For a lot of us, the scene inside Dave Skeberdis’ Aurora home last October would have been something out of a horror movie.

More than 500 birds, 153 of them dead, were discovered in the feces-covered townhouse — many sick, handicapped, malnourished and covered in mold.

All those that could still function were terrified, flying wildly about when rescue groups descended.

Except for one exceptionally small parakeet, hobbling about on one leg.

“Instead of being afraid,” recalled rescue volunteer Kristen Ludwig, “he went toward people.”

While most of the surviving birds went to a temporary shelter in Villa Park, Ludwig took the friendly little parakeet to her Grayslake home, where she lived with her 12-year-old son, a couple of certified therapy dogs and several other birds.

Ludwig named the newest member of the household Nubs because of his missing leg, the result of inbreeding. And she nourished him back to health, which was no small task since Nubs also had a host of medical issues that will remain for his life.

But as Nubs began to flourish, so also did an idea.

Witnessing the chaos of this hoarder case that grabbed national attention dramatically affected Ludwig, who has, she told me, “always been passionate about all of life’s underdogs.” There has got to be better way of dealing with rescue efforts, she decided, as well as a way to educate the public about responsible pet ownership.

And so she formed the not-for-profit No Unwanted BirdS (NUBS). Named for and inspired by the parakeet rescued from this house of horrors, Ludwig wants NUBS to serve as a business model representing a new way of funding animal welfare projects.

The idea behind it, said Ludwig — a biochemist who works in new products and marketing with a green pesticide company — is to create unique products to raise funds for specific causes. Instead of asking people directly for money, she said, why not provide them with a unique product they could not purchase anyplace else? (Go to (

The first project is a children’s book titled “Nubs: a Little Bird With a Big Story,” and all profits will go toward an upgrade at the aviary at Washington Park Zoo in Michigan City, Ind., where 368 of these former Aurora birds now live.

NUBS is also an educational outreach, where volunteers teach children (and adults, of course) about the benefits of bird ownership and the responsibility that comes with it. That last point is especially important to Ludwig, who saw firsthand how badly things can spiral out of control. Even a few of the volunteers who showed up to help when the Skeberdis case made headlines were not the best candidates to take care of these vulnerable animals.

What is responsible ownership, she insists, is being able to give these pets individual attention each day, as well as feeding, sheltering and providing their medical needs. And one other thing: Make sure there is a plan in place in case your pet — birds tend to enjoy long lives — outlasts you.

Ludwig says she harbors no ill will toward Skeberdis, who goes to trial in September. But what the birds in his Aurora home experienced “was horrific.” Nubs will always battle bacterial infections, pneumonia and heart disease because of his past. But whatever time he has left, she said, will be filled with quality and purpose.

Nubs is now a certified therapy animal, working with disadvantaged kids. And the joy he brings to others, Ludwig said, truly gives his story “a happy ending.”

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