Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Beautiful Witness

When I was dying, I did not have the physical ability to take care of my dog. I wouldn’t have been able to walk him, play with him or feed him at consistent times. Because of this, he lived with my parents. I missed him specifically and, in a more general sense, I missed having an animal presence in the house. My solution to this was to get a bird.

I had never had a bird before and didn’t know much about them. I did a fair amount of research and settled on getting a Cockatiel. I was hoping to get a boy because the boys sing and talk while the girls only have one note. When they are babies, there is no way to tell if they are male or female without a blood test (which I wouldn’t do to a poor baby bird). Instead, I chose a rather unfortunate technique for determining the gender. I took out all of the birds in the store and looked for the meanest one; I figured that would be the boy. There was one that certainly fit the bill. This bird did not back down or fly away. When I went to pick him/her up the bird bit at me and hissed. It’s bizarre to report, but this is the bird that I took home!

She wasn’t a he. She was a female and the meanest one at that! She didn’t like me but she did like my boyfriend at the time. He could pet her and hold her while she would rather just bite me and fly away. It would be an understatement to say we weren’t best friends.

Despite this, however, that bird was a key piece of my life. She was my constant companion in the quiet, lonely world of my living room. I would watch her with wonder and interest as she went about her day. She was allowed to fly around and I loved watching her at the window perch communing with the tress and outside birds. Sometimes, her squawking would make me crazy. Often, it made me laugh. She was easy to care for and a joy to live with.

Today, I don’t watch my bird very much. I’m busy with my life and my two dogs. She interrupts my phone conversations with shrieks of joy and I find that annoying. She still communes with the trees and outside birds and I find that amusing. She doesn’t get out of her cage much because my Whippet would like to eat her for lunch. Amazingly, she really doesn’t seem to mind. She still hisses at me but loves my husband. Her role in my life is no longer one of central status, but more one on the sidelines.

Sometimes I feel guilty that Spike has taken a back seat in my life. She gave me so much at the time I needed it most. Occasionally, I wonder how a bird this ornery could have meant so much to me at any time, no matter the circumstance.

There is a deep and meaningful gift that animals give us. When I was dying, Spike certainly made this contribution tenfold. That gift is one of being our witness. She was a conscious, living being that saw me at the times when I was at my most raw, my most real and my most vulnerable. I was alone, but with my bird. I never held back my tears to prevent Spike from being uncomfortable. I never hesitated to display how sick I felt to allay her worry. I never wondered if she could handle the depth of my situation. Spike remained squawking and busy throughout all of my ups and downs. She was my beautiful witness and, for this reason, her little spirit will always be bound to mine…bite me or no.

Animals are one of God’s greatest creations. Whenever possible, they should be brought into the lives of those suffering with illness. Whether sick or not, we all need the healing magic they provide. I am forever grateful for my sweet dogs and my mean little bird.

1 comment:

Megan said...

We need to stop naming girls spike. they are going to kill us all.
also- prom might be off.