When I tell people I have a dog and a bird, I get raised eyebrows and strange looks. Sure, most people understand the dog, but a bird? They ask, “Why do you have a bird?” “Does it talk?” and “What do you do with a bird?”
A lot of people think a pet should just be a dog or a cat. Dogs and cats are “real” pets because you can play with them and/or cuddle with them. If you have a bird, reptile, amphibian, or any other animal that doesn’t fall into the traditional pet category, it’s weird.
These people should open their eyes (and minds) a little.
Friday afternoon as I sat in traffic, I received the call about my bird, Snowflake, passing away. She sat comfortably in her cage, where she used to lay eggs, and fell asleep for the last time. She did not suffer and simply died from old age.
I won’t lie, it hurt. A lot. I cried the whole way home. I thought, if she wasn’t a real pet, this wouldn’t hurt so much…
We adopted Snowflake 15 years ago when she landed on someone’s head, and they brought her to us. Growing up, I only had dogs and maybe a cat, but there was no way I would let her just fly out a window. She needed a home, and I was happy to care for her.
Snowflake was more than just a pied cockatiel. She was sweet and affectionate. She was moody and hostile. She hated men of her kind and mine. She loved heavy metal, hated the answering machine, protected the women in the house, and only wanted to socialize on her terms. She loved popcorn and Doritos. Snowflake had personality.
When I got married and moved into my current house, she was the only thing – other than clothes and a few posters – that was mine. Sure, she was the family pet, but we shared a special bond. I talked to her like she was a person, I let her fly around my room, and she loved to walk on my bed. And she’d fly back and forth, from one window to another, when she didn’t want to go back into her cage. Sometimes I’d cuss at her for that, too, as I balanced on chairs and my bed while offering my hand as a perch.
No matter the animal, we grow attached to them. Sometimes we talk to them when we can’t talk to anyone else – animals can’t gossip or argue. In fact, they may be the only ones in the world we can completely trust. There’s no judgment or criticism.
So, to those who don’t understand why someone has a nontraditional pet: Think about having a confidant who is understanding, loyal, and can offer peace and normalcy during the toughest times. We depend on them, whether we realize it or not, just as they depend on us for food, shelter, and water. We need them as much as they need us.
A special thanks to Snowflake, one of the best pets I’ve ever owned. The house won’t be the same without her…