Monday, December 28, 2015

A few post-Christmas observations

I often joke about being a direct descendant of Ebenezer Scrooge, but it is a fact that I don't particularly enjoy Christmas anymore, and the last time I really did enjoy it was probably about 25 years ago. The religious significance of the holiday is still there for me, but mainly I have come to associate it with crowded shopping malls, an expanding waistline, and unrelenting pressure to spend money I don't have on things that others don't necessarily need or want. And this year's was surely the saddest Christmas of my life, owing to the recent tragic loss of all three of my pet birds. The sadness is definitely still there and continues to surface from time to time, and I especially miss Spoots.

With that being said, this year's Christmas at least was not unbearable. For a couple of days I pondered whether I should get any new birds at all, but I suppose it was all but certain that I would. They are fragile and delicate creatures, to be sure, and the likelihood of eventual loss and heartbreak, always an ever-present reality with any pet owner, is especially true with regard to birds. But my main hesitation, quite honestly, was the consideration of my own life expectancy. The possibility of losing another bird is difficult enough to face, but that does not concern me nearly as much as the thought of my dying first, thus leaving the bird with nobody to take care of it or play with it or love it the way it would deserve. While they can indeed be wonderful pets, as they have been for me, birds are definitely not for everyone. Apart from all that, it is no secret that I am just plain tired of life, with its seemingly endless struggles, disappointments, and frustrations, and that I will be glad when it is finally over. At age 62, I am definitely on the downhill slope of life, and I wonder how much I really have to look forward to between now and the day my earthly journey ends.

But I simply do not know when that will happen, and at this time I am basically healthy and don't feel any particular premonition of impending death, so I might in fact live for another 20 years or more. What if that proves to be the case, and between now and then I deprive myself of the love and companionship of another bird? That would not be good, either; and for me this was what finally tipped the scale, so to speak. So now, just two weeks after losing Spoots, Yo-yo, and Boswell, we once again have birds in our home, both of them female cockatiels. One, an albino, is about four months old and has been named Bibi; the other, an adult pearl with a previous owner, is about two years old, and I immediately named her Sophie. The origins of the two names should perhaps be explained. While we believe the albino is female, we are not 100% certain of this, and I am awaiting the results of a DNA test to establish the bird's gender once and for all. Bibi has the advantage of being a sort of gender-neutral name, in that it sounds feminine but also happens to be the nickname of Benjamin Netanyahu, the current prime minister of Israel. Thus, if Bibi turns out to be a male, there will be no need to change his name. As for Sophie -- well, she sort of adopted me, rather than the other way around. It was love at first sight for both of us, and she immediately climbed up my arm, perched on my shoulder, and nibbled on my fingernails as I petted her. And so it was that I became, quite literally, Sophie's Choice. (The person who assisted me at the bird store told me that Sophie had hissed, bitten, and snapped at someone else who had checked her out a few hours earlier that day.)

More will be written about the new birds in future posts, which will include pictures as well as text. Over the past 17 years, we have had ten birds living with us at one time or another. Two of them did not work out and were soon returned to the pet stores where they were purchased. Of the remaining eight, one (Oochie) was given a name based on mangled Italian; another (Elbie Jaye) was named for an American President; and a third (Spoots) from an amusing memory of our then-four-year-old daughter's mispronunciation of the article of footwear customarily worn when snow is on the ground. Then there was Boswell, named after an author; Ceci, named for an opera star; and Yo-yo, whose name just sort of fit his rather neurotic personality and peripatetic back-and-forth movements in his cage. (During his lifetime, I suspect Yo-yo moved at least 500 miles just by doing that.) And now we have a bird who is sort of named after an Israeli prime minister, and another named after a movie title. I don't think we will be getting any more birds for awhile, although I don't rule out the possibility, either, so perhaps I should come up with another new, standby name or two, just in case.

Friday, December 18, 2015

R. I. P. Yo-yo, Spoots, and Boswell

My last post was about the passing of a beloved pet bird. Unfortunately, so, too, is this one; even more unfortunately, today's post laments the sudden, tragic passing of three birds, all of whom were either very young or in the prime of life. Oochie, at least, was old, having reached the average life expectancy of cockatiels living in captivity. On November 10, 2014 -- about six months after Oochie's death -- our parakeet, Elbie Jaye, also died, likewise at a somewhat advanced age. I knew she was sick and probably dying one day around the third week of October, when she suddenly stopped singing and chirping, something which until then had been a virtually nonstop activity from around 8:00 a.m. every day until around midnight. I never learned what killed her, but much to our surprise, she put up a brave fight and hung on to life for three more weeks. She was buried in our backyard next to Oochie, along with her favorite toy, worn and battered from the constant pounding she had administered to it over the years. Elbie was a stray when she began living with us, so we do not know how old she was then, but we had her for just over ten years. Since captive parakeets usually live around 8-10 years, we were satisfied that Elbie had lived out her full life expectancy, and she was always and obviously a very happy and contented little bird. A healthy one, too, except at the very end. We gave her a good home and a good life, from which I can take comfort today.

Elbie was succeeded by another parakeet, a male whom we named Boswell, after the author of the famous Life of Samuel Johnson. Boswell is one of the three birds referred to here, where this story is continued. Since posting that photo and article on Flickr, I have purchased two new birds, about which more later. (Only one of them is living with us now; the other is still being weaned and will probably come home to us in about two weeks.) But all things considered, I would much rather have kept the three birds who are now so suddenly departed. Living creatures are not machine-tooled, interchangeable parts, and while one can certainly acquire a new pet, one does not truly replace a lost or departed one. I don't know if I will ever completely stop grieving for these birds, especially Spoots, who was the best pet I have ever had.