by Barry KuKes
When I was a young boy of around five years of age, my family had a few pets. One was a small turtle named Slowpoke that somehow climbed out of his bowl and crawled under the refrigerator, never to be seen again.
The other two pets were birds. Happy was a gray and yellowish cockatiel, and the other was a green parakeet named Soupy. Both birds lived on the enclosed but not heated or air-conditioned porch. Looking back, I wonder how they survived when it was below freezing outside. Happy, the cockatiel couldn’t fly, so she was easy to take out of her cage. She would sit on my shoulder or finger and sing. She would occasionally lay a blue egg. Of course, the egg was never fertile, but I hoped a baby cockatiel would emerge one morning.
Soupy, the parakeet, was not nearly as friendly as Happy. He could fly and was very difficult to catch once he was out of his cage.
Soupy was the first pet I ever experienced dying. One day I went to the porch to see him and Happy, and Soupy was lying on the bottom of the cage, not moving. I called out to my mother, and she came out to see what the matter was. Once she realized, Soupy had died, she tried to comfort a five-year-old who wasn’t familiar with the concept of death. I wasn’t buying any of it and wanted my bird back. Later that day, my father said he buried Soupy in an unmarked grave, but I’m pretty sure he wrapped the bird in newspaper and placed him in the trash can by the garage.
Happy the cockatiel, lived many more years. I believe she passed when I was ten, and then my parents gave me my first dog, Lucky, as a Christmas present. As I have mentioned in a few previous columns, Lucky lived 22-years and was the most constant companion in my life, having lost my parents and brother before I was 17. I was 32 when Lucky passed, and till this day, I still grieve for my little salt and pepper miniature Schnauzer.
If you have a grandchild with a pet, maybe prepare to comfort them when they eventually lose their trusted companion. Often, parents are too busy with life to appreciate the loss their child is dealing with when losing a pet, even if the child states they are fine.
Grandma and Grandpa can usually do a better job of comforting and reassuring their grandchild that Rover, or Oscar, or Daisy, or whatever the pet may have been named, has gone to a beautiful place called heaven, and they will be there many years from now when the child joins them. It can be difficult comforting a person who has just suffered a loss. We may say, “so sorry for your loss,” or “my condolences for your loss,” but words fail to comfort the brokenhearted. A hug or embrace and a good cry will do much more for the grieving process than the word, sorry.
Next time your grandchild loses a pet, take them in your arms and tell them how much you love them. Assure them that you know how sad they are, and you will help them get through their grief. Grandparenting isn’t just for getting the kids sugared up and taking them back to mom and dad. A grandparent has special healing powers that only a grandchild can see.
Please adopt, don’t shop.
Barry KuKes is the Community Outreach Director for the Halifax Humane Society. You can reach Barry at 386.274.4703, ext. 320, or BarryK@halifax humanesociety.org