Lessons in Death

It’s been a while since we had a really bad day in the Engledow house. If you keep up on my posts, you will know that my middle daughter worked us over for months to get a parakeet (aka budgie). So, we eventually gave in and welcomed two new buddies into our house in December – Jahmal & Dexter (see pic to the left). Jahmal is the blue and white one and Dexter is the yellow and green one.

When I went on my “Mom’s Gone Wild” weekend in Florida last month, I received a text from Maddie telling me that Dexter had been diagnosed with terminal liver disease (his beak and claws were growing exponentially so we set an appointment with a specialty bird doc). The Vet gave Dexter a trim and gave my daughter some medicine that she was supposed to administer to Dexter once a day. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that the Vet gave Dexter a month to a year to live.  What?!?  So, my teenage daughter is supposed to traumatize Dexter (and also traumatize herself) once a day by grabbing him out of his cage only to stuff a dropper of medicine into his tiny little beak until he drops dead maybe a 30 days OR 365 days from now?

She came to us two days later and asked us the big question….“What would happen if I stopped giving Dexter his medicine?’  I wasn’t surprised or disappointed. It was a good and tough question.  My husband and I told her that we should all sleep on it then we would discuss it. She clearly was very disturbed every time she had to terrify and wrench Dexter from his cage. Was it fair to ask my daughter to do this every day?

We discussed it and determined that if she decided not to medicate Dexter, that it was okay. This treatment was not a cure. It only prolonged his life – wasn’t it better for the parakeet to be free of stress for the remainder of his days instead of being terrorized once a day for an interminable period of time? We thought so and so did Maddie.

This morning Maddie called my cell phone (not realizing that I decided to work from home today) hysterically sobbing. I hung up my phone and ran upstairs (really glad that I listened to my gut and decided to stay home) and poor Jahmal, the “healthy” one, was lying on the bottom of the cage, honking and wheezing. My Miss Maddie was beside herself. I told her to call the specialty Vet and I would hop in the shower. The Vet said to get there ASAP! I was about 10 minutes away from being ready when Maddie came in and said that she thought he was dead. I ran to her room and confirmed her suspicions.

If the bird at the bottom of the cage had been Dexter, she would have been able to handle it a little better. It was expected. Not Jahmal. He was the healthy one. It wasn’t his time. Sadness….

In calling the Vet to let them know not to expect us, I found out some interesting information. The person I spoke with said that due to the state that he was in (lying on the bottom of the cage, barely conscious and wheezing), it was very likely that there was nothing that they could have done for Dexter.  Huh? Why then would you act like there was something you could do and give my girl hope? Did they need my $80 that much? She could have handled the truth! Little irritated here.

She did have a brief lesson in death today. She experienced her first loss in a very unexpected way (Jahmal wasn’t supposed to go first!) and grieved all day.

Life is just that – unexpected (both good and bad).

A ceremonial burial in the backyard is planned (as soon as it stops raining).

Here’s to my girl and her bird….

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