Polly the cockatiel died last weekend while I was away in Sweden. She had been quite ill – she’d had two accidents involving her leg in the last three months and this had very obviously taken a toll on her. After the last incident I’d taken her to the vet a couple of times, the last time about a week before I left to go away. By that time her foot was infected, so the vet prescribed antibiotics and told me to come see her when I was back.
A few days later I noticed Polly was breathing really rapidly. She’d sit pretty much stationary, but it was like her little body was pulsating, like she had a rapid heartbeat or something. So I called the vet and initially spoke to a different lady than the first one, who told me to bring her in if I was worried. I decided I’d first speak to the vet who had examined Polly, because I knew she was their avian specialist. She called me back a short while later, and while she thought the rapid breathing was slightly abnormal, she didn’t seem too concerned. Thought Polly was probably just out of breath because she had been ill and was very low on energy. Told me to come to see her as arranged. Her last words to me were: “We’ll all just see each other – happy and healthy – when you get back.”
Alas, that was not to be. And you can believe that I feel like absolute crap now that I didn’t take her in that day, as the first vet suggested. In fact, we’re pretty crushed around here, particularly AAH and me.
As anyone who has ever been owned by owned a cockatiel will know, they have amazingly big personalities for such small creatures. They tend to pick one human friend in the family who is their absolute NUMBER ONE, and in Polly’s case, that was YT. This meant that she followed me around like a dog [we clipped her wings and let her out of the cage a lot – at least until recently] and if I happened to disappear from her line of vision she would give a vigorous shout until I came back – or at least until she had found me. We had our own little morning routine … in fact, much of the day’s activities were intertwined with Polly’s little routines. She was not the kind of bird who just sits passively in a cage – cockatiels are very engaged with their surroundings and their “flock” – the family that owns them. Case in point: whenever we sat down to eat, Polly would have to eat, too – preferably somewhere near us – because cockatiels eat in flocks. She knew her name and almost always responded when called. She also knew the meaning of a few words and would react accordingly [if she heard nammistöng [candy stick], for example, she’d get really excited, and also when she heard salat [lettuce]. Needless to say those were her favourite foods. Different chirps had different meanings with her, and when something was amiss in her routine – like if her cage wasn’t covered by 9 pm in the evening, when it was time for sleep – she would sound a reminder.
We had Polly for ten years and saw her go through various phases – from becoming a girl, to the times she would drive me crazy clamoring for attention, to when she almost died trying to lay eggs, to when she bought our dupe with the hazelnuts, and many more. We actually don’t know how old she was when we got her – she was full grown – but no more than a year or two. Based on that, she probably could have lived for another five or ten years.
It is hard to explain to someone who has not experienced it what it is like to lose a pet, but those of you who have gone through it will know. It’s like losing a friend. I talked to one of my cousins the other day, who lost a beloved dog, and she said it was even worse than losing a family member because you only have good memories. I don’t know if I agree with her, but I think what she meant was that, with animals, there is a complete absence of guile. They’re just whole and complete in who they are and they give of themselves unconditionally. And that is rare with people.
So goodbye, dearest Polly, and thanks for everything. You are and will be terribly missed.