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You’re Not Alone: Companionship in the end


birdColumn by Linda R. Jones

I am grateful I was able to stay with my last two furry companions when they took their last breaths.  I was there for them when they were sick and aging and I wanted to be there for them in the end.  It was difficult to watch, it was difficult to touch them, but it was also comforting for me and somehow I believe for them as well.

I believe our nonhuman companions feel that way about us.  They play with us when we are both young and when we age they slow down for us.  Don’t we all have a dog or cat that snuggles up next to us when we’re sick or sad?  They simply know.  They want nothing in return.  They just want to comfort us.  I believe they would stay by our sides, to comfort us, if we were close to our last breath.

My father had a bird; a White Faced Pied Cockatiel to be exact.  His name was Lucky Boy.  I didn’t care for him at first; the random poop droppings, the mess when he threw his food around, the feathers, and the noise.  Lucky Boy claimed my father and he made sure everyone knew it.  The bird sat on my father’s shoulder, followed him throughout his condo, and went “to bed” (his huge cage) when it was lights out.  My father built that bird a little ladder so he could waddle up to his “bed.”

In 2010, my father needed another open heart surgery.  I was with my father before the operation.  The surgery had to be delayed because of some kind of virus that had to be cleared first.  Two days into my stay, my father was trying to nap or so I thought.  Lucky Boy was on my father’s chest screeching and slightly pecking at him.  I was so angry with that bird and wanted to grab him and throw him.  I didn’t.  I tried to call the bird off of my father but he kept screeching and pecking.  My father got up and said, “I can’t breathe.”  Lucky Boy saved my father’s life.  I called the ambulance and Lucky Boy waddled into his cage without argument when the paramedics arrived.

My father stayed in Florida but moved in with a roommate six weeks before he died.  He told me to clear out his condo so he could sell it.  He asked me to take Lucky Boy.  I was stunned because he loved that bird.  I called a friend of my father’s and she insisted my father needed Lucky Boy as much as the bird needed him.  My father was in the hospital again while we were cleaning out his condo.  Lucky Boy was at my father’s roommate’s place when he got out of the hospital.  They were equally delighted to see one another.

Lucky Boy was still his feisty self but then, in those last weeks, he was content to simply sit on my father’s shoulder; no screeching, no pecking, just companionship.  I had never seen Lucky Boy so peaceful.  I think he knew his human’s days were limited.  He comforted my father until the end.  I loved them both.

Like my father, Lucky Boy wanted to stay in sunny Florida.  Lucky Boy is now Clyde.   He is living the life of a pampered bird in an environment he enjoys.  His new humans think he may actually be a Claudette!  Clyde or Claudette, I know he will be a faithful companion yet again.

The cycle of life and death for humans and our companions is just that; a cycle.  It is a privilege to have such companionship.  In the end, that’s all we need.

My healing journey continues.  Join me.  All species are welcome.



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