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.
This One Wild Life wants your interpretation of our photo story.
What’s this critter thinking about his situation?
What silly or snarky comment would he make?
Why play? First, it’s just stoopid fun. And, time/life permitting, we may add our favorite comment to the photo and share it across our social media network with credit to you! But really, do it because it’s stoopid fun.
The answer is this… I stopped when I grew bored with “trying” to capture photos in order to continue the trend. I much prefer the magical happenstance of capturing a perfect moment – just because. Missing this made me cranky, apparently, for a month and a year.
During that time, I shot more pictures – for fun. Visiting the terabyte of new images last night, clearly we have enough to reconsider. So, Miss Mel, tons of fresh, new Wordless Wednesdays are in the queue for the year ahead. And, if I were to hazard a guess, spontaneous shots taken this year just may keep things going through 2014.
Can’t Get Enough? There’s More!
Our entire collection is now in the new “Caption This!” menu category under Human Animal. (Please be patient with less fleshed-out menu options. We’re categorically retrofitting blog posts through 2009. This process is long.)
Ready? Set. GO!
Fire up your witty caption engines and start posting your thought bubbles in the comments below!
We hope that your holidays glimmered and shone with all the brilliance of hope and love that this season has to offer.
Tim and I spent our holidays twinkling with glistening, feverish foreheads while decking our dark halls with coughs of horror as 10 days of the flu consumed us. We woke on New Years Day feeling like we had missed the 2012 Prom.
So, to rekindle any salvageable cheer, we mustered up some footage from last year to bring you The Story of the Christmas Garland, a tender little tale about our house being under construction right up until Christmas Eve (and why we didn’t have the energy to produce a holiday greeting last year.) We hope you enjoy.
I talk to my pets. I know it soothes my soul more than theirs. In fact, I recently told Shamus, the Newf, “I bet you’d prefer if we just cuddled and never spoke again. In fact, humans might better relate if we just stopped talking and cuddled too.”
But that’s not true, for us or our pets. We all communicate intricate messages back and forth, even when we don’t use words.
The thought that humans can communicate with animals is mind-bending in and of itself, but this answer had me equally perplexed. Our hound, Emmett, rarely barks, howls only when provoked and, for months, he spent every waking hour stealthily stealing and shredding household items. It’s the Newf that barks non-stop at deer, squirrels, rabbits, and now our new resident porcupine.
Bethanne translated for me. “No, Shamus says Emmett’s brain is loud.”
That made more sense. Emmett is always thinking about where to find trouble fun. According to Bethanne, that’s what Shamus picks up on.
I can’t talk to animals and they can’t speak to me, but I have no doubt they can speak among themelvess. That’s why I’m so glad our 2 dogs, 2 cats and 3 birds have each other. It’s always better with multiples (or more).
PETS ADD LIFE! For Humans and Each Other
New Pets Add Life videos show what multiple pets might banter about, from a lizard’s most simple pleasure in life, the heat rock, to a dog’s greatest joy, butt sniffing, and the cats’ thrill of the kill – something humans just don’t get. The campaign’s mission is to promote the many joys and benefits of responsible pet ownership and the bonds that pets have with one another. I’d say they’re “spot on.”
Check e’m out.
Which is your favorite?
I’m a total fan of them all, but the cats and lizards are tied for first place. Maybe. Dog Butts is pretty great too. Which do you like best?
This post is sponsored by the Pets Add Life campaign and the American Pet Products Association. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about the benefits and joys of pet ownership.
October is Fire Safety Awareness Month. According to DisasterCenter.com, 80% of fatal fires occur in buildings where people sleep – whether in homes, hotels or dormitories – when people are likely to be less alert. Since an deadly poisonous gas and black smoke takes just seconds to accumulate and an entire home can be consumed by flames within 3 minutes, fast escape is of the utmost importance.
Fire Safety for You and Your Pets
I think about this a lot since our house relies on the neighbor’s distant pond rather than a hydrant for extinguishing needs. In fact, we’re reconfiguring our home for just that reason, converting the bedroom loft (with just one exit and no door to keep rising gasses out) into an office while adding a first floor bedroom with an external door into a fenced yard. This will ensure that humans and animals have the fastest egress possible if woken suddenly in the night.
After the Escape
Regardless of planning, exposure to dangerous levels of carbon minoxide and other gases can take a toll. People often require oxygen after a fire, and pets are no different. Wag’N Enterprises, a Virginia-based pet safety company, is doing something about that.
02 Fur Life: Pet Oxygen Masks
Wag’N Enterprises provides first responders a channel to order life-saving pet oxygen kits through their program, O2 Fur Life®. O2 Fur Life was created by Ines de Pablo, Wag’N’s executive director of Pet Emergency Management Division, in 2008 when she realized that aftercare of pets rescued from emergencies, such as fires, was something that most first responders weren’t equipped to handle.
Throughout October, the company and kit-manufacturer McCulloch Medical are offering free shipping in observance of National Fire Safety Awareness Month.
“The goal of O2 Fur Life is to get all first responders in North America to carry pet oxygen mask kits to help distressed pets after an emergency,” Ines de Pablo, said. “McCulloch Medical generously offered to cover all shipping costs for first responder, direct and sponsor O2 Fur Life orders placed between Oct. 1 and Oct. 31. This is a great way to save pets and money.”
Now, de Pablo’s work has placed 2,460 life-saving pet oxygen kits in more than 1,050 first responder departments in the United States and Canada.
Pet oxygen kits work similarly to those used on humans. The kits contain three different sizes of masks that can accommodate different size animals –everything from a ferret to a foal. Below is a demonstration on how these masks are used.
De Pablo said Wag’N doesn’t turn a profit from providing the kits to first responders because they are sold at cost. However, consumers may also purchase the kits at a slight markup with the profits going right back into the program so that Wag’N can donate masks to other first responders.
Pet oxygen kits start at $70 for all first responders and sponsor orders and $90 for private consumers. More information is available on Wag’N’s website.
Since the fall of 2009, Wag’N has been working diligently with McCulloch Medical to raise pet safety awareness and pet oxygen mask awareness during the National Fire Safety awareness season. De Pablo says, “Too many animals get injured and die every year due to preventable fire related emergencies. Incident mitigation combined with pet oxygen mask kits can help save countless pet lives”
His shrill screams pierced through the floor from the apartment below, each one a cry of angst for being caged, for being alone, for being born.
The tenants called him Beelzebub – when they were home to call him anything. More often than not, they just yelled “Shut up!” over and over again. The girl told me once, “I try to hold him, but he just hisses and bites, the little bastard.”
I saw her feeble attempt once, menacing hands reaching in to grab him, cornering him behind a perch. As his wings splayed and bent feathers stuck out between cage rungs, his mirror swayed frantically as its bell rang out in feeble, panicked tinks. Beelzebub’s head snapped back in retreat and then forward, his beak breaking forefinger flesh. The girl jumped back.