Losing a pet

How do you comfort your child after losing a pet? I can’t really remember my own experience, but I think Mishka was really hit by the loss of her pet budgie, Blue Jay. What made it so much more emotional for her was that he left his little Belle behind, and Mishka was absolutely devastated that the little girl budgie was all by herself.

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There is no way of knowing when and how a child forms that bond with a pet, but I think because she saved up to get her own budgies from a pet shop in Cape Town (we don’t have pet shops in Hermanus that sell budgies) truly made this a very special occasion for her. Arriving at the shop and being guided by the shop assistant in how to look for males and females, talking about the different colours and patterns, how to care for budgies, it took at least an hour. The whole bonding process started there and then.

aae1d1ad-26c6-402c-b612-886ebd96e034 She chose a blue male budgie, Blue Jay and a yellow female, Belle. what we didn’t know that day was that these two would hit it off and end up falling in love (if birdies can fall in love these two certainly did), we were expecting eggs soon. This made the loss even worse, because Mishka really feels that he is irreplaceable.

For parents the loss becomes real when you see your child mourn, we didn’t expect her to get so attached so fast. That’s why when our gardener first called us to let us know Blue Jay flew away, we couldn’t break her heart just yet. We were on our mid-year break-away and we thought it best to let her enjoy the time. It was only on our way back that we broke the news. Well, what can I say, she is a child, of course she was upset, and even shouted, angry, sad! All of the emotions we experience when we have loss. That was it, I understood very well that my little girl’s heart will have to endure all kinds of losses throughout her life and asked myself what can we really do to prevent it or mend it. Not much, we can only offer comfort.

Replacing Blue Jay was not something she wanted to consider at first, but when we explained that Belle needed a friend we stopped at a pet shop in George on our way back from Knysna and a new friendship was forged, this time with  Buddy. What a mission to drive with a caged bird and a very enthusiastic collie dog. Mishka had her hands full, but we all survived and back home we still had to introduce Belle to her new housemate.

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We are still monitoring the friendship, as she doesn’t seem to want to bond with Buddy as quickly as she did with Blue Jay. And this should not come as a surprise as I read the following:

One particular parrot species, the budgerigar (or budgie), is monogamous. Both the male and the female have distinctive calls. When a male and female budgie are together (and love each other very much) they call to each other more often. This indicates that their calls are something to do with keeping pairs close and maintaining their bond. In the early days of courting, the male budgie will imitate the female’s call in order to impress her. The females do not do the same to the males, but prefer males that are particularly good at imitating their own calls. Once the male and the female have laid eggs, their calls start to become more different again. Therefore, when the next breeding season comes around, the females can’t rely on the males’ calls being the same as their own.

Seems like we will have to let her lay eggs, as she is building a nest and is very aggressive towards Buddy, he’s not allowed near it. Perhaps after this she will be a little bit more open to a new love in her life. In the meantime we will get another cage so that she can take her time to mourn Blue Jay.

We all need time to allow ourselves to grief loss, whether it is a pet, a friendship, a place, a job, anything that we hold dear. There is no set time or way to get over it, that’s why we tell Mishka that it’s okay to miss Blue Jay. ♥

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