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On mourning the loss of a friend

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.

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  • Jennifer March 24, 2010, 5:50 pm

    So sorry about your loss.

  • Angel March 24, 2010, 6:01 pm

    Alda and family, so sorry for your loss.

  • SOe March 24, 2010, 6:11 pm

    I am so sorry to read this.
    I think all your readers will miss her and your beautiful posts about her.

  • Ása March 24, 2010, 7:09 pm

    Innilegar samúðarkveðjur, falleg “minningargreinin” þín.

  • Dumdad March 24, 2010, 7:14 pm

    Polly RIP.

  • sylvia hikins March 24, 2010, 7:28 pm

    Animals give so much with their love and companionship, and you have shared Polly with all of us, so that in a way we are her ‘blog’ flock. So we shall all miss her. But you Alda will grieve her just like I grieved for my lovely old dog Melly (short for Melanie because she was black) who looked after and guarded my three girls when they were growing up and would never let a stranger touch them. I’m sure Polly felt your love for her right to the end.
    sylvia from viking wirral

  • Michael Lewis March 24, 2010, 7:55 pm

    As a Monty Python fan, can I ask – Are you sure it’s not just pining for the fjords? They say laughter helps. All jokes aside I remember when my spaniel, Mia, died when I was younger. It was very upsetting. I recommend a visit to the petstore.

  • Lissa March 24, 2010, 8:07 pm

    My condolences. It is never easy. But, it is worth it.

  • MishaBear March 24, 2010, 8:10 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss. I cannot find any more words, but I know very well that losing a pet is like losing a person you love. What I find heartbreaking is that animals, even the ones with the biggest personalities, live their life with innocence and often blind dedication to their human friends. Bye Polly!

  • Michael Lewis March 24, 2010, 8:33 pm

    I was thinking about this post, at least your pet died naturally. I can’t imagine what it must be like taking an old pet to a vet and the vet turning around and saying euthanasia is the best bet. In some ways, many people would argue we are kinder to our pets than our own old folk.

  • elín March 24, 2010, 9:30 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear about your Polly, Alda. Thank you for sharing stories of her over the years.

  • idunn March 24, 2010, 9:36 pm

    Condolences on your loss. May Polly rest in peace, and forever lovingly in your heart.

  • tom joseph aka tj3 March 24, 2010, 10:35 pm

    I remember a photo you posted with Polly in it. It is in my imagination as surely as all the usual subjects of this blog.

    It was a nice photo and fare thee well Polly-o

    ..and the rest of your family also

  • Auður March 24, 2010, 11:16 pm

    leitt að heyra, innilegar samúðarkveðjur ♥

  • Volkmar March 24, 2010, 11:40 pm

    I am sorry for your loss. During the last years, five of my budgies died, and each time, I was mourning. So I think I know what you feel. Poor Polly.

  • Stephen Cowdery March 25, 2010, 1:57 am

    Quite a bird, with an international fan club! She was one of the things about IWR that I really enjoyed, from the very beginning.

  • James March 25, 2010, 2:35 am

    “they give of themselves unconditionally”

    And they depend on you completely for everything – more like a child than just a friend. Sorry to hear Polly has passed on.

  • The Fred from the forums March 25, 2010, 2:55 am

    Family is defined by love and commitment, not by biology. Polly was indeed a family member, I’ll miss reading about her, and offer my condolences on your loss.

  • kevin oconnor,waterford ireland March 25, 2010, 3:59 am

    Mirror all of the above

  • Kathryn March 25, 2010, 6:52 am

    I am so sorry to hear about Polly. It is so hard to lose a
    pet that has a special place in your family. She was much
    loved, and gave a lot of love in return. Thank you for
    sharing stories of the happiness that she brought you.

  • Tom Harper March 25, 2010, 8:12 am

    Requiescat in pace.

    I know the pain of losing pets; it’s part of the price we pay for loving them! You certainly have my condolences.

  • Chris March 25, 2010, 9:20 am

    I am sorry for your loss. And you are right, this is not easy.
    Thanks for sharing Pollys stories with us.

  • alda March 25, 2010, 9:34 am

    Thank you, everyone. ♥

  • Joerg March 25, 2010, 11:54 am

    Sorry to hear about the loss.

  • Grif March 25, 2010, 6:14 pm

    So sorry to hear about your loss. She surely will be missed by you but also by us.

  • gloria March 25, 2010, 10:59 pm

    My heart goes out to you. Polly was obviously a very cool bird. It sounds like she had a great life with you.

  • Luna_Sea March 26, 2010, 4:53 pm

    I’m so sorry about little Polly and understand completely the emotional devastation the loss of a pet can cause.

  • baa March 26, 2010, 5:22 pm

    So sorry to hear about your loss.

  • susie norris May 29, 2010, 3:39 am

    My heart goes out to you. I’m so sorry and can so relate. I just loss my much loved 16 year old cat. Silly as it sounds he really was my best friend and baby.

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