Some Thoughts on our Feathered and Furry Children and their Deaths

Connie on a walk-about

We lost Connie, our twenty-year-old Sun Conure the Sunday before last. It was not expected, and she was not that old, for a conure that is. We had the vet give her an implant to prevent egg-laying, which is a danger to female birds. Egg binding can be lethal.

So we did what was medically adequate, but she died from what I can best describe as a bad reaction to the hormones. We also took her the next day after the procedure to the vet, who had never seen this. So of course, did not take it as seriously as her parents did.

I write this because we have special relationships with our wee ones. They are our children, and I mean that. And they will never grow up in our minds. So when they die, we humans go through a grieving process. It is real, it is confusing, it is painful.

Incidentally, so do parrots. When our old Cockatiel Tuky died, his Nanday brother and his best buddy did grieve. We saw it. He got very low and watched the now still body of his best buddy, and made cooing, or were they crying sounds, that we never heard before or after. This is one reason we cannot adopt another feathered one. They live so long that we, in the course of normal human life, would abandon them. I cannot bear to do that to an intelligent being.

Cookie was not the same clown he used to before Tuky died. He was deeply affected, but he also got closer to me. Yes, we are told not to look at our kids, or is this FIDS, as if they were human. However, an increasing amount of research has revealed that yes, animals have feelings. And the research comes as zero surprises to their human companions. We know this.

So last week I was a mess. No, I mean it. Tears came from nowhere. I wanted not to do a thing. It was difficult because Connie should not be dead. She was full of life when I took her in for her annual. I asked the usual questions I ask when talking to my own doctor about medicines, side effects, and all that. I was assured this implant was safe.

Our little one was dead less than forty-eight hours later. We took her to her vet the morning after the procedure, and the doctor thought it was just pain. We insisted it had to be more than just that. It was, it turns out. Her vet was her two brother’s vet. We have had a relationship with that vet that started in 1987, shortly after he opened his practice. Tuky was one of his first patients, and he likely saved his life. You see, Tuky was very sick as a chick. He is one of the best in the field, but as my mom used to say, even the best hunter misses the hare.

I know I could not bring another pet bird to him at this point. That is my heart speaking, not my head. But the heart will win in this case. My husband could not deal with the vet either.

However, the house is empty. We have a hole near the TV where Connie’s cage was. I have no cute demands for waffles in the morning, nor a face going, mom, I want to be with you after dinner. Nor do we have the small bird coming over and wanting to perch on us. Or for that matter, begging for food. She ate what I cooked. I used to joke that she ate better than my nephews, which actually, is true.

So what helped? I wrote a letter to my little one. I apologized, not that this will bring her back. It was a way for me to deal with the jumble of emotions that came out of nowhere. (Though my mother died last year, so this may be a jumble also involving that loss.) I talked to a few people, and yes, there are animal bereavement specialists.

If you lose a pet, do not think those feelings are abnormal. You lost a close family member, and you may need to talk with somebody. I know I did, and it greatly helped. It is not weakness, it is taking care of your own mental health. And let's be honest, our little ones would not want us to get stuck, and would like us to honor them by living our lives, and remembering the good times. Yes, Connie, we know how much you liked your TV and demanded it is turned on. However, you were not a fan of a few news stations. That was funny to me.

Will we adopt another pet? Someday…maybe. We were looking at the pound, our preferred choice for adoption. I even have some breeds and half breeds that will be able to do well where we live. However, we are not ready. The research though told me a troubling story about pure breeds and what we have done to dogs, due to inbreeding. It is not a happy story…and that will be a rant of its own. This is why I am looking at half breeds, with more genetic diversity, for their long term health. I really do not need or want, a show dog.

But it became quite clear in the morning, that my husband is not ready. And truth be told, I would rather get another bird, but I know how long they live…so that would be irresponsible, and selfish.

And I would have to find ANOTHER vet, that specializes in birds. That is not as easy as it sounds.

Historian by training. Former day to day reporter. Sometimes a geek who enjoys a good miniatures game.

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