Monday, April 11, 2011
For Eloise I usually blog about what is going on around me – in my backyard, my neighborhood, places I visit and things I hear about. Today I have to blog closer to home. I may have mentioned my cockatiel Eloise. On April1, she turned twenty-two; on April 10 she passed into birdie heaven.
That is a long life for a cockatiel; most live 12-15 years though I did hear of a bird that lived to be twenty-six. We were aware that she was beginning to show signs of age. She hadn’t been flying as much lately and when she did, she often got lost and had to be rescued. Her food choices changed. She used to love vegetables (she preferred red-leaf lettuce to romaine) and fruits (she would dance back and forth on her perch when watermelon was being served) but she began to ignore anything wet or soft, favoring crunchy things. And she stopped wanting to do her usual things such as roosting on the railing of my chair in the kitchen to share my lunchtime crackers or keeping my husband company on his shoulder (she liked him best) while he read the morning newspaper. I always knew when my husband was about to come home because Eloise would chirp loudly and, sure enough, shortly thereafter he would pull into the driveway. I became aware recently that she stopped chirping at his approach.
We knew she was winding down but she was still pretty perky and interacted with us. Shortly after her birthday Eloise started to seriously decline. She was always free to leave her cage though she began to spend more time inside and when she left tried to fly, she went down to the floor and could not fly back up. My husband or I would gently lift her and she would scramble back on the bars. Eloise had always been a family-conscious bird. Even though I fed her first, she would wait until we were both seated at the table before she would dig into her own dish; suddenly she was eating before us or ignoring her food altogether. Then she started wanting to spend more time with me, a distinct shift from her fixation on my husband. She would let me gently pet her, a previous no-no, and lay her head against neck when I stood beside her cage. Her chirps changed, too. They became weaker and of a different quality, almost like a plea for me to come over and be with her, which I usually did.
On Saturday, Eloise made a sound that made me put aside what I was doing and rush over to her. She instantly stepped off the top of her cage and onto my shoulder. Then she snuggled against my neck and stayed there. It seemed to comfort her. If I moved, she moved – to get even closer. I spent much of the afternoon and all of the evening with her pressed tightly against me. At bedtime, we gently put her in her cage and said goodnight, wondering if she would be there to greet us the next day.
Eloise was down on the bottom of her cage in the morning. She had died in the wee hours by herself. I was feeling sad about her death but also about not being there when she died. But then I remembered that people often wait until they are alone before they depart. We buried her lovingly, already missing her. She had been a long-term companion. I hoped that we gave her as much as she gave us, that she felt loved and cherished during her life.
I am sure that many of ,you have loved animals or birds. Please feel free to share your stories.