Catherine Sophia: A Pet Loss Story

The following pet loss story was shared with DoveLewis Pet Loss Support Director Enid Traisman from Patricia Phillips. Please feel free to submit your own pet loss story here.

Catherine Sophia was a Congo African Grey parrot that my partner Mike and I had the pleasure of sharing our home with until her death yesterday, March 20, 2018 at the age of 30. She hatched on September 27, 1987 in California from a breeder, and lived the first 15 years of her life as “Jonathan” since her first owner thought she was a boy. She was surrendered to a caring woman named Pam who we eventually adopted Catherine from when she was 19 years old. Catherine’s death yesterday is haunting me - she had been a little subdued but then Monday evening and Tuesday morning didn’t touch her dinner or breakfast so I made an appointment to take her to an avian vet that afternoon. She didn’t want to come off the perch she was on, but I did get her into her travel cage. We had just started our drive to the vet when she started showing signs of distress - wings extended, gripping the cage bar and struggling to hold on, panting. I was driving so pulled over to the side of the road, not sure what to do. I called Pam who didn’t pick up, then called Emergency Vet saying I was en route.

Around this time Catherine started to collapse and couldn’t support herself (wings were splayed and tail was collapsed under her. She started to squawk and then threw up some clear liquid as she slumped down head first onto the bottom of the travel cage. At that point she stopped moving and i think she had passed. I was screaming out her name and wailing, and felt utterly helpless and terrified to see her going through this. When I got to the emergency vet they took her and then came to the room and told me she had indeed died. I am feeling deep grief and intense loss, mixed with trauma over witnessing the not gentle way she passed. I am second-guessing myself for making her go to the vet when she was resting quietly on her boing. But if I hadn’t taken her and she had collapsed and died I’d be feeling guilt as well. The feelings are so raw and complex right now - grief, horror, sadness, guilt, emptiness, fear. I’m trying not to let those last moments be the defining memories of 11 years we spent together.

I want to share about Catherine. She was proud, smart, stubborn, endearing and a huge presence in our home. When she “spoke” her voice sounded just like mine. She took showers in the bathroom, she did “flap flaps” every evening with me before bed (I carry her on my hand and run laps downstairs while she flaps her wings) and then did the ritual of drinking some water out of a glass afterwards. She made up word combinations including “crapple” (cracker+apple), Butterine (her name + butter) and many many more. She imitated the sound of water running, said “goodbye” when she wanted us to leave the room (when she was sleeping), always greeted Mike when he came through the door after work with “Hello?!” She new how to do a bunch of behaviors like wave, high-five, turn around, kiss, nod yes. She did creative dances with Mike or I where she would lead and we would follow through head bows, turns and intricate patterns (she LOVED this). She loved cornbread, hated vegetables (although we fed her fresh fruits and veggies every day). She had given us a health scare earlier (7 years ago) where we thought we were going to lose her, but she rebounded fully. I never thought I’d lose her this way, and I am completely devastated. I miss her every second and wonder where she is now, if I’ll ever see her again. I miss her physical presence in our home, the little tufts of feather down, the sound of her voice. I miss everything about her.

I could go on for pages and pages, but could never fully capture all the memories, stories, and joyful moments. Her flinging coffee mugs off the counter (which she viewed as rivals), chewing on books and purses she got a hold off before we could catch her. In some sense I’m glad she’s free of life in a cage in a house. She could fly, and took many opportunities to do so when she was out (while we were home). But I often felt sadness and guilt about her confined life that she had lived for 30 years. We were different species but shared a bond, no question about it. I offer to her love, light and courage in the next phase of her travels and dearly hope I get to meet her again. She mattered and her life mattered. I feel lucky to have known her.

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