Monday, February 4, 2013

Pets are Family Too

  The loss of a pet can be devastating. Whether we've had that pet for years and years, or if it has been just a few; once we fall madly in love, it's more than "just a little hard" to get over it. I had three years with the delightful creature to the left. He was part of a gift during my midterms when I was at Roosevelt University. He was my little songbird turned affectionate strong-but-silent buddy. He tolerated my off-key singing and had enough affectionate nicknames to fill a slambook from the 90's. He was Ganymede Osiris Williams--my feathered best friend.

  Perhaps it hurts so much because I expected to have him for a long time. It stings so much because we were just starting to really bond. Maybe the time for teaching him "step up" had passed, and he sometimes ran away from a hand coming close, but he loved to sit on my fingers for a treat. He'd come running when he saw me with the food container. When I made the "kissy face" noise, he made it back. As he grew, he became kinda cool and mellowed out with the fact that his mommy liked to take pictures of him. Last time I counted, there were about 169.




  Sure, life goes on. Nothing is forever. For me, however, I always expect to have birds for long periods of time. I got my first Parakeet at the age of six--a time period where I was changing schools, getting over the loss of a grandfather, and just needed a friend. I lost that bird at thirteen and cried my eyes out for days. Once we got a new pair, I had those until I was about nineteen. Long story short, there's just something extra special about bringing a "new baby" home and watching it grow from a timid, jittery, beady-eyed creature into a personality all his or her own. Once that cere changes from bright pink to a blue or brown/tan, it's like a milestone.

  Pets become part of our lives. We work around them, we socialize with them, and maybe we find ourselves online with credit card in hand making sure they have a good birthday and Christmas. We're looking for the latest in healthy pet food and tips. When it came to my little blue fluff and his sister, Vega, you bet I was just that kind of bird mother. Just like any owner bonded to their pet, my love was strong. Somewhat convinced that "this was it" in the lines of having kids, I gave them extra love.


  I was devastated when I found out having them in the bedroom with me triggered bronchial issues. I cried and grumbled as I had to move them to the living room. I was upset about missing Ganymede's chatter. I was sad I wouldn't be there for his morning snack. And...well...it was absolutely adorable to watch him nap, preen, and cuddle with his cage-mate. Most of all, he was just a beautiful bird. He was some kind of blue, some kind of teal, and some kind of gray and black. I named him Ganymede for two reasons--for the play As You Like It, because I was studying it at the time and liked the name Rosalind used, and for the mythological character Ganymede--a creature so gorgeous that Zeus himself wanted to snatch the boy up and have his way with him. What can I say? Ganymede was just a stunning bird. Since I wasn't able to sex him right away, I thought that the name would be like a double-edged sword. Would he end up becoming a she?  Strangely enough, Vega ended up being the girl. Despite Ganymede being close to hen size, he was a boy.

  The first time he fell ill, I was able to rush him to a vet all the way in the Ukrainian Village here in Chicago. This time, it happened so soon that going to the vet....in the chilly Chicago air...seemed fruitless and hopeless. I felt horrible for being unable to take him, and even worse for not seeing the warning signs. The thing is, there weren't any. He was fine earlier in the day. He flew around and acted like he always did. He was fine the day before. All vital signs were great. Poop was the right color, and he was himself--the big eater. Still, I beat myself up and heard the unknown voices of better Parakeet owners and experts in my head. I just felt like a bad bird mother.

  Ganymede was given a fine bill of health when we went to the vet that last time. The doctor complimented his health and said "he's a little underweight. Maybe it's just the food." I did my best to feed him, gave him fruit, and vowed to find the right seed brand. Treats were rare and I thought we'd have time to work on greens and such. That's the thing--I always thought we had time. Time to get the vitamins, time to get that cuttlebone, and time to watch my special bird grow.

  I did get to spend time with Ganymede. A lot of time, actually. Probably not as much as I'd like, but just enough. Maybe the hurting will never stop. Accepting I'll never see him again truly bothers me. It has moved me to tears of mourning several times today. The last moments of his life will be forever etched into my mind. Though he fought a little, he let me hold him in a way I'd been dying to since I bought him home. He looked at me and winked a little. He settled into the box I made for him and tried his best to drink water and have seeds. I wanted to boil his favorite--a crisp Gala apple. Something said "don't leave his side". I couldn't. I didn't.

  Beforehand, he struggled to get closer to the food I'd just put into his tray. When he leaned over and couldn't move, I tried the "step up" trick one more time. He slowly stepped up. He almost fell into the food once I got him there. He escaped and tried to crawl into a corner. Refusing to let him die under the curtains, I found the most comfortable set of towels and blanket to nurse him.

  I sat with Ganymede. I watched him huddle into a corner of the box. I begged him not to die. I thought it was dehydration or a cold. Sometimes he didn't drink enough water and I'd have to trick him into having it. I had a few minutes of thinking he was going to live until something inside me fell completely apart. I cried at that point. This was his last day on Earth.

  I wanted to save my precious little blue baby. Watching his sister freak out running from side to side behind me was torture. Listening to the deep gusts of wind as she circled the room the second he died tore my heart completely apart. A day later, Sunday, my family was in a rush to get a new bird to keep her company. The entire time, I'm dragging behind and feeling upset that my familiar blue friend was no longer in the cage. I knew we had to find Vega company, but no one was as special as Ganymede. I feel like a jerk for saying that, but the fierce love I had...HAVE for that little bird was something special. Like most owners will tell you, he was a part of my flock. He was my baby. He was my son. Many sons have come before him, but there was something extra special about him. He was different.

  And now...he's gone. :(

  I will miss my little guy so so much. As I try to gather my thoughts, stop beating myself up over certain things, I can't forget to celebrate his life. I will learn from my mistakes and do my best with Vega and the new bird. Honestly, I wish I had more time with my Ganymede. But alas, time moves forward. Time to slowly move ahead without him....my little blue fatty bird. He was round, he was adorable, and he ate like a piggy. He was a majestic breathing machine of flight. He meant a lot to me. Above all things, he was my friend.

Rest in peace little buddy.

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