Frankie, my best Cockatiel friend (named after Sinatra for his choral abilities and charm with the ladies), slowly stopped singing over the past couple of months. At the age of at least 18, it’s no wonder, really. At some point, oft-used body parts wear out. But, while Frankie has seemed perfectly healthy and happy in every way, I’ve been well aware that an end is near.
This morning, Frankie’s breathing was slightly labored. In the moment I saw it, all my growing fear of his eventual loss liquefied, cascading in rivers down my face. This sweet fella has been by my side through every happy moment and life crisis, every job, apartment, and house. I couldn’t imagine life without greeting him every morning. But I envisioned the end crashing down upon us in a sudden heap of senseless trauma and pain.
The rest went as follows, which you can read in my open letter to Animal Communicator David Louis, for whom I am eternally grateful for having spoken with me. While compiling his website these past weeks, I’ve been reading letters about how many human/animal relationships he’s helped with and, while I cannot viscerally understand or envision the level at which this type of communication works, I do feel that something good is going on here. So, I called him.
After we spoke, I wrote this.
Thank you so much for helping me connect with Frankie’s wishes for his last chapter in life, David.
When Frankie stopped singing, perhaps two months ago now, I surmised that it was because he reached the age of 18 and, in Cockatiel years, that’s a long, lovely life. His repertoire of microwave mockery, The Addams Family theme song, Pop Goes the Wease (because he never learned the last syllable of weasel), and other songs had been reduced to the mere whisper of a wolf whistle over time – and now he barely gives a hoarse squawk. It seemed he just grew tired and his song went utterly silent.
But is he just tired? Or is he suffering physically? The biggest part of me suddenly worried that he stopped singing because he was unhappy, a signal often seen in stressed parrots. Did he need more from me?
When I woke to Frankie’s slightly labored breathing this morning, I panicked. Is this a growing tumor that will slowly choke him? At my husband’s suggestion, I called our local vet but I was hesitant knowing how difficult it would be to get Frankie there. Then came the brick to my heart. No longer providing avian services, our vet referred me elsewhere.
Forced to step back from my initial trajectory, I felt exceptionally frustrated with our vet’s discontinuation of service. Once I called, I felt sure they could help, but that option was ripped away.
Then, while pausing at the thought of using strange vets in a strange place, that’s when I understood. The only mild sense of comfort our own vet could offer was to me. Having to catch Frankie, clip his wings, force him into a carrier, drive him to a cold examination table, he would feel utterly distraught no matter where we went.
Then it came ’round again, that feeling of ” But what if something can be done?”
Bird health can fail like a flash in the pan. I was torn.
I went to Frankie. He tapped his beak on his perch the moment I came near, a sign of flirtation among birds and bonded bird/human pairs. He came to me and preened my bangs when I leaned in to kiss his beak. While obviously winded, he still seemed happy and not in distress, unlike me in that moment.
I shoved aside our vet’s referral numbers and called my husband. I told him that I didn’t want to do anything but wait and see. If Frankie began to suffer, we would work quickly to end that, but I didn’t want to take him out of his comfort zone and away from his family flock. There, I said it. I had made a choice.
Still I had doubts.
I, I, I…
Up to this point, all my thoughts had been about me – what I should do, what I want, what I feel is best. No more. It was time for me to learn what Frankie was thinking and feeling.
That’s when I called you.
As one who cannot communicate with animals the way that you do, and I’ve said this to you before, I don’t know how to believe in what I can’t experience for myself. But I’m not a non-believer either. Whatever I am, the more that you and I gather stories for your website, the more I feel that there is something here.
And then you made me laugh without intending to. You asked, “You have birds?”
In our chance meetings over the years, dog or cat rescue was typically involved in some way – but that was it. I not only found it amusing that you didn’t know that I’ve had birds for 1/2 of my life, I was relieved by that. I didn’t want to influence your connection with Frankie in any way.
In the short sentences I shared with you about why I was calling, you gave me so much more in return. What you said was exactly what I felt I knew about my fabulous feathered friend, a companion who has been a huge part of my life going back to my early 20s. I wrote down every word you uttered when I could see the paper through my tears.
Thank you for sharing the universe’s response to your opening prayer asking who Frankie is. I will always cherish the answer: “Frankie – the beautiful soul who has chosen his life with Kim.”
When I chose Frankie and brought him home, I just had to have a bird. I had always wanted one and, having moved out from under my father’s bird-restrictive roof, I finally had he opportunity to get one. It never occurred to me that Frankie had chosen me too. I’ve just always seen him as a cheerful little companion who has made me happy all these years, not necessarily a being with a grand destiny. But what a grand destiny that is, now that I think about it.
You described Frankie’s first layer of existence as so filled with bliss and peace that you had to press him to address the heart of any physical discomfort. “He is always happy,” you said, but the singing takes too much work now, even for my “energizer bunny,” as you aptly called him. You added, “He says that was the old Frankie, you won’t likely hear anymore singing, but he says he’s not ready to go either. He still has work to do.” For the “couple more months” of living you felt he has left, I will do what Frankie told you he wants. Together, we’re “gonna shine until that last moment.”
When he does wind down, which you feel may be heart related (“There is something slowing down within the engine that drives everything,” you said), I’m so glad to know that our wishes are in line with one another’s. As you described, I will honor what I now know Frankie and I both want, to experience his passing together by sitting with it and through it, by experiencing the beauty of our deepest friendship, and by receiving the healing of allowing the end to happen naturally without putting that control in the hands of a stranger.
“It will be sad, but it will be healing. It won’t be traumatic. There is something beautiful in being there for one another,” you said.
I believe that.
Most poignant to me, as one so heavily focused on dog rescue, was hearing the words, “You don’t have to save this one.” Oh, how that resonated to the depth of my core and stomped every ember of my initial animal saving fire.
My mind is at ease now that we can go on living a beautiful life for whatever time Frankie has left. We won’t distract ourselves from that precious opportunity while trying to cheat an inevitable death.
Thank you so much for sharing what Frankie feels, especially without knowing what I wanted – because I couldn’t 100% decide what that was until after we spoke.
And now I’m off to sing to my bird who can longer sing to me. Because there are still joyful songs left to experience, no matter the vocalist.
With all our gratitude,
Kim and Frankie
For More on David Louis
As an animal communicator, David has worked with many species, from dogs, cats, horses, bunnies, ferrets and hedgehogs to raccoons and porcupines. He has taught, presented workshops, talks and sessions throughout the northeastern United States, in Canada and Europe. And, with an eye toward the stressors often endured by rescued animals, David regularly uses his skills to assist and raise money for nonprofit animal rescue organizations. Talk to Your Animals is a sole proprietorship started by Animal Communication Specialist David Louis in 2001.
David has studied interspecies communication extensively with the finest teachers available, most notably Penelope Smith (www.animaltalk.net) the author of four books on the subject, including Animal Talk and When Animals Speak. He has assisted Penelope with her workshops at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health and the Omega Institute. He lives in Wynantskill, New York with his family, which includes his wife, stepchildren, three cats and three dogs.