Posted April 12, 2013
We weren’t very lucky with our family pets. I still remember the day the dog ‘played’ with my sister’s rabbit. Sadly, Snowy didn’t survive the rough and tumble of the game.
We told my little sister that Snowy had run away. For years afterwards we had to endure her tales of phantom sightings until someone (ok, me!) blurted out the truth. Harsh, but at thirty-two years of age, it was time she knew.
Then there was the injured kingfisher, rescued by my brother. He made a tiny splint for its damaged wing and filled a small plastic cup with water for the bird to drink from. He spent ages nursing it back to health and the bird appeared to be recovering well. Until the morning we found it slumped, head first, in the cup of water. How could this happen? I thought the whole point of a kingfisher was its ability to dive under water and scoop up fish.
“It must have had a heart attack,” was my brother’s bizarre conclusion.
My friends know of my tragic back story concerning pets. I assume that’s why they’ve never entrusted me with any of their own pets. My next door neighbours hadn’t heard any of these stories when they asked me to look after their budgie. I was so surprised by the request that I said yes straight away without having seen the budgie in the flesh (a crucial mistake, as it turned out). Did I say flesh? There wasn't a pick on it; this was by far the puniest bird I’d ever seen. And it was practically bald. It looked like a plucked, oven ready turkey - in miniature.
“This bird is ancient,” said my husband. “How long did you say they’re away for?”
“Mmm ... we’ll be lucky if it makes it.”
He was right. The day my neighbours were due home, I found the budgie dangling upside down in its cage, its tiny calcified claws still gripping the perch. The moment I opened the door of the cage, it released its hold and dropped with a thud. I prodded it, hoping for signs of life, but the budgie slid across the bottom of its cage. I shrieked and pulled back my hand.
What on earth was I going to do with it? My husband suggested gluing its feet to the perch - they’d never notice the difference. For a moment I was tempted. In the end I decided it was best to come clean. I intercepted my neighbours the moment they pulled up in their car and tried to break the news to them as gently as I could. They were totally nonplussed.
“Oh don’t worry,” was their response. “We’re not that surprised. She was very old.” Thanks for that! I’d been nervously rehearsing my story - the budgie had looked really chipper up until a few hours ago; it’s demise was very swift; probably a heart attack??!!
Following the budgie incident, I’ve never been asked to look after someone else’s pet.
I don’t get many requests to baby sit either. Funny that.
Image: emily.bluestar, Flickr