We’re dog people. More specifically, dachshund people. This is my influence, I’ve had dachshunds all my life.
To me, they’re perfect. So cute, so awkward and floppy, so warm and cuddly.
We have two miniature dachshunds, Duncan and Darcy.
But all summer long, our 9-year-old begged for a pet of his own. He wanted a hamster – or some other small pet – that belonged to him and his brother. In September, we finally agreed. But research led us away from getting a rodent.
We knew no matter what kind of animal they chose, coexistence with the dogs was going to require diligence on all our parts.
The boys wanted something they could interact with, which led us to get a bird instead. A cockatiel. They named him Spike.
I fell in love with him.
It was hard not to. During the day, he stayed with me in my office. He’d stand on my desk and wolf-whistle at that handsome yellow bird in the mirror. He’d pick pens out of the holder and drop them on the floor. He’d sit on my shoulder and play with my hair. Maybe it sounds annoying, but I found it endearing.
After a couple of weeks, he moved to my office permanently. The kids didn’t lose a bit of interest in their new pet, it was just healthier for him to have his cage in one place rather than carting it up and down the stairs in the morning and evening.
Usually he’d keep to his cage at night, but sometimes he chose to fall asleep next to that handsome yellow bird in the mirror on my desk.
I’m using the past tense, so I can imagine you know where this story is going.
Tuesday morning, I rolled out of bed after hearing our 6-year-old exclaim, “Twelve days until Christmas!” It was his turn to change the numbers on the Christmas countdown.
I went through my morning routine. Make the coffee. Feed the dogs. As I was stirring creamer into my first cup, I heard a SQUAWK! But I thought nothing of it and headed to my office.
But my office door was OPEN. The bird cage was OPEN. Spike was GONE.
I’ve replayed Tuesday morning in my head so many times. My office door was CLOSED when I got out of bed. My husband and the kids were in the master bathroom getting around when I got out of bed.
How did the door become OPEN while I was making coffee and feeding the dogs?
I think back to Monday night and notice if just one of us had done a single thing differently…
If our 9-year-old hadn’t insisted using my office for homework…the desk chair would have still been pushed in. If my husband had insisted on closing the cage when he turned off the office light that night…If I hadn’t said, “No, it’s okay, he sleeps on my desk sometimes…”
I will never know how the dogs got in there. I can’t even be mad at them. Instinct took over.
The tears were free-flowing on Tuesday; mine more than anyone else’s. Spike was the kids’ bird, but he was my little buddy.
Please don’t think my emotion over a bird is ridiculous. He brought me joy I never expected or asked for. He became such an important part of my daily life. That part feels so empty now.
I want another cockatiel, but I feel awful for feeling that way. Next time, the cage will always be closed when I’m not in my office. A sheet will always be over the cage at night. The desk chair will always be pushed in. These are all the things I should have done to protect Spike.
Maybe we started out as dog people, but we became dog and bird people.
I’ve lost pets before. It never stopped me from wanting to have another companion to love. But this was the first experience for our boys.
How do I explain to them that if we do get another bird, we won’t be replacing our beloved Spike?