He never learned to say any words. Occasionally, though, his intonation sounded just like how we say “Cooper,” but it was a stretch. He did, however, mimic the sound of kissing. When I walked in the house, “Mwah!” When my husband walked in the room, “Mwah!” When he wanted to fly about, “Mwah!”
I thought we had more time, but Cooper died this week. He was 6. We always think we have more time, don’t we?
He’s a sweet, generic, blue budgie from the pet store. I am heart-broken. Slightly comical, I suppose. I find I am embarrassed to tell people that my parakeet died. Embarrassed that I care so much. Guilty that I didn’t do enough.
I’ve been pondering the ethics of “owning” a “pet.” My kids desperately wanted a dog, but we didn’t think we were home enough to give a dog a good life. A bird was the compromise. But is a life in a cage a good life for a bird?
I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe it is better than a life in a cage in a pet store.
We certainly tried to give Cooper as good a life as we could. His cage was in the center of all the family activity and we let him out every day. He had his flight pattern, circling around the first floor of our house, making his navigational chirps as he negotiated the turns with the utmost speed and accuracy before alighting on my husband’s head. His favorite human. I was too busy. My kids were too impatient. But my husband would stroke him and play with him every evening.
Cooper loved music and had pronounced preferences. His favorite was B.B. King, especially “The Thrill is Gone.” On weekends, we would have long family dinners in the dining room with conversation, joking, and music. Cooper was right there with us, singing along.
It seems salt on the wound that he would die shortly after my youngest left home for college. We joked, “Ah, just the three of us,” as Cooper would alternate between the top of my head and my husband’s hand. Well, now, it really is just the two of us and the house is much much quieter without his bright chirping, squawking, mumbling, and of course those air kisses.
He is very much a part of our family history and it feels fitting and painful that his life ends as the childhood part of our family story ends.
My husband told our son the news before bringing him home for his spring break. Our daughter is spending the semester abroad, so I facetimed with her to tell her the news. It must feel like an integral part of their childhood and homelife has died. They were both upset. I am proud that they are both connected to their feelings and cry easily. I do not. May they always love deeply and feel deeply.
My daughter said that Cooper was the reason she has chosen a vegan lifestyle. If he was so sweet, with so much personality — clearly a sentient being — how could anyone eat another being? Indeed.
Perhaps that is why we have pets. I don’t know that we make their lives better, but they make our lives better. Perhaps we are better humans for having known them.
Thank you Cooper. Mwah.