A Journey Through Grief


For Those Who Didn't Know Me, I...
For Those Who Didn't Know Me, I Was Shy

Guilt. It washed over me like a wave. Who did I think I was, offering people and their birds advice when my own umbrella cockatoo died before she was eight years old?

How could I write about pet psittacines when I couldn’t even keep my own bird alive after a protracted struggle with lead poisoning? Self-doubt was screaming through me, stifling any pretense of work I could summon.

Days passed, and I couldn’t bring myself to visit the Pet Care Forum, a site that had provided me comfort, support, and a shared passion of learning about the feathery animals who brighten our lives for years. What was I doing hiding? Did I think the members would avoid me? Did I worry the rest of the employees would be disappointed with my cockatoo care? What in the world happened to my self-esteem?

Yes, the grieving process comprises a wide range of feelings, not the least of which are anger and guilt. I was furious that I hadn’t KNOWN she was planning to leave me. For the same reason, I felt guilty. But it was the self-doubt that surprised me.

Let me take you back to the beginning, when Lobo became ill for the first time. I had a lovely negligee about three years ago. It was imported and had beautiful beading, and I adored it. Lobo enjoyed it as well, but what I didn’t understand was that she had removed a bead, which would begin its destructive trip down her digestive system.

On Saturday mornings, I weigh my birds, which is something I do on a regular basis. Lobo had always weighed approximately 480 grams, which was a healthy weight for her. She started to lose weight gradually, and I observed her starting to vomit. We took Lobo to our favourite avian vet, who promptly identified heavy metal toxicity and began chelation treatment. I was supposed to give her Calcium EDTA injections twice a day. X-rays showed the microscopic culprit, which was trapped in her intestine. I started hand-feeding her again, this time with baby-food sweet potatoes, and we added Metamucil in the hopes that the fiber would help drive the metal thing out of her system.

The following three months were terrifying. I’d wake up every morning wondering whether I’d find Lobo dead. She lost weight and weighed less than 380 grams. Lobo was so unwell that she hardly noticed the shots. I would rock her while she wailed on my lap, wrapped in a nice throw. My heart was pounding.

Slowly, though, I saw a shift in her. She eventually needed to be toweled before I could give her her shot. I was overjoyed! Her weight started to return, but it would never hit 480 grams again. We were fortunate to get her up to 400 grams. She grew quite particular about food, and I used to indulge her rotten by stocking up on her favorite banana chips and pine nuts.

Finally, our vet advised we could discontinue the shots but keep an eye on her. He predicted that she would be prone to sickness, with opportunistic illnesses finding her easy. They succeeded. We battled illnesses on a regular basis, at least once every few months. But she remained an angel throughout it all. I expected her to despise me for the shots, but not Lobo. Our morning and nighttime embraces brought her the most delight.

I recall something else our vet had told me, despite my refusal to listen to him. “”Tequila, appreciate the time you have with Lobo,” he added. She can’t keep fighting forever. I’m not sure how she did it, but you have to recognize she’ll never be a healthy bird. Enjoy the time you have.”

So we had three more years and each other to adore. I’ll get over my feelings of guilt, rage, and self-doubt. Among bird enthusiasts, I’ve discovered the most supportive community on the planet. Every day, the PetHobbyist members and my cherished pals, the PetHobbyist Staff, assist me. We do our best and show our love to our parrots. The remorse is fading, and self-confidence is returning. I have seven other parrots that depend on me, and they have also contributed to my support.

I informed my military macaw that it was now his obligation to pick up the slack when it came to cuddling, and by God, he has. Don’t tell me that parrots aren’t clever and kind. I should have known better. That’s correct, I KNOW.

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