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What My Cockatiel Taught Me About Grief

·544 words·3 mins

This is the first time I’ve talked about it on this blog, but 6 weeks ago, one of my pets passed away. We lost Galileo, the peppy little parakeet. He was very old for a parakeet, 9 or 10 years old, and it was frankly impressive that he lived that long. He’d always had health problems the entire time we’d had him — and then right before COVID hit, he had a massive stroke, and we thought we were going to lose him then. Instead, he healed from the stroke and lived another year and a half… which is really impressive when you think about it.

Anyway, 6 weeks ago, he had another stroke, and he didn’t recover. It was an incredibly sad time. No one was more upset than our cockatiel Buddy ( I wrote about Buddy most recently in this piece).

Buddy is, to put it lightly, a strong personality. In other terms, he’s kind of a bully. But Galileo had managed to defend himself to the point where Buddy was a bit cowed by him (impressive since Galileo was so much smaller than Buddy). And there was a deep friendship that had developed over the years between the two birds.

Galileo’s passing was incredibly traumatic for Buddy (he watched it happen). Buddy found himself alone in his cage for the first time. Any time I would leave the room even for a brief second to use the bathroom, Buddy would scream and scream.

I worked on the couch in the living room for a full week to help so that I would always be within eyesight (instead of in my office). It was inconvenient but it helped his anxiety.

But since then, we’ve experimented with letting Buddy out more. He likes to explore our home. Galileo didn’t, and he’d get separation anxiety when Buddy would fly around outside of the cage and get so worked up he’d end up having seizures (as I mentioned, Galileo had a lot of health issues). So Buddy would stay mostly in the cage. My partner would take him out sometimes, but it was limited.

Now that Galileo is gone, we’ve started leaving the cage door open for Buddy some and just letting him go where he wants.

We DO have cats, but they’re trained to leave birds alone and are (rightfully) scared of Buddy. Yes, our cats are scared of a bird.

Buddy stays fairly close to his cage but often climbs on top or might hop over to the couch. He’s quite content.

He’s also started begging for food whenever we eat dinner. Which is quite curious. Bits of rice, pasta, what have you. If it’s white/off white/yellow and starchy, Buddy wants in.

And most adorable and unexpected of all: At night when we cover his cage so he can go to sleep, he has a routine where he hops over to his bell toy and he ding-a-ling-a-lings it. Every night. Without fail. It’s part of his roosting ritual. Good night, good night, he rings with that little bell.

Anyway, the whole thing gives me hope… If Buddy can find a new normal in the face of major loss, so can I. There is always a way forward, even if sometimes it feels overwhelming.


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