We lost a pet last night.
Our 11-year-old cockatiel, Galen (named as a reference to Star Trek: Jean-Luc Picard lived the life of a man named Galen while under the influence of an alien probe), left us yesterday evening, just an hour or so after having his cage cleaned.
As I write this, he rests in a small box atop his freshly lined cage, never to sing again.
I use the term “sing” loosely here, though. Galen was an obnoxiously loud bird who seldom chirped, but more often squawked at the top of his tiny lungs. Most notably, he hated the digital clock dinging noise featured in the FOX television show, 24. Every episode we ever watched, he echoed back his disapproval of that noise, squawk-for-tick.
I often drew the parallel that, if Galen were a dog or cat, we would never have tolerated him. If any other animal were to bark, meow, or generally make it’s characteristic noise at the top of its lungs for no apparent reason and for minutes at a time, you’d certainly find some remedy or get rid of it. But no so with birds, for some reason.
Before we had our daughter in 1998, Galen and I were much closer than we were after then. I found my love and energy channeled more toward my daughter and had less tolerance for his birdy antics. There’s no question then that, in Galen’s eyes, he was my wife’s bird. My wife Ro was his caretaker, was the one who took him out and let him roost (and poop) on her shoulder, and she was the one who fed and cared for him.
The only uplifting part, then, was that Galen held on until he was with Ro. He’d been acting a little strangely the past few days, but not until she took him out to clean his cage did he decide it was time to let go. Galen didn’t die alone in a towel-shrouded cage, he waited until he was in my wife’s hands, to spend his last moments with the human who had brought him the most comfort all his life.
For all my protest through the years, I will miss Galen. He was a part of our family for more than a decade, and the silence of his absence will be tangible in our home.
Bye, Galen. Pleasant flights.