Over the weekend, our remarkable parakeet died.
Before owning and caring for a little bird, I was slow to understand how people could get attached to them. It’s just a bird, I would think to myself, a bit callously, when people would carry on about how great their birds were. As if birds were somehow lower on the ladder of “real pets” than dogs or cats.
Oh, but I learned that is not the case. The noisy green and yellow creature that sat in my kitchen for 3 years was just as much a pet as the dogs I had growing up – excited to see us when we got home, happy to do tricks for us, content to be in our company, especially from his favorite vantage point on our shoulders. He loved our children the most, so comfortable with them that he would nuzzle their faces with his beak, never biting them. His song, eardrum-splitting in its volume, had been missing in recent months. But in his prime, there were times at 6:30 a.m. that I had to remove his cage from the kitchen and put him in the laundry room for a time-out. He had to learn to chirp quietly until the rest of the family woke up.
We told our children the upsetting news when they woke up Saturday morning. It is a difficult life-lesson for them. For anybody. Pets are not people, that is for sure, but they have a way of carving out little reserved spaces in our hearts. Every pet-owner knows, in the back of their minds, that one day you have to say goodbye. That’s just part of the deal.
My daughter tearfully prayed last night, “Dear God, please help Ollie to have a good day wherever he is. And tell him we said hi.” Of course, that pretty much broke my heart. Even adults can get all worked up about what happens to pets when they die. But I am content to know what Jesus said in Matthew 10:29:
“What is the price of two sparrows--one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.”
Two sparrows for a penny. You could get them for dirt cheap back then! A bargain.
One parakeet for $19.99 at Petco.
There are a million of them in the birdie bin! Seen one green parakeet, seen ‘em all. Not much value to them. Not at all.
Until one realizes that no event occurs in the natural world that is too insignificant for our sovereign God to notice. Not even a tiny bird falling to the ground. The Father sees. He knows. And if He sees the little birds who drop from the sky, then surely He sees me in my distress and my need. As that wonderful song says, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”
On a lighter note, as a little tribute to Ollie, I am re-posting the following piece (inspired by The Bachelor) that I wrote a few years back, the true story of how he came to be with us…had it been published in a tabloid.
After the Final Rose: Penelope Tells All
May 3, 2010
Last August, our family ventured into the waters of pet ownership. Since we were not ready to commit to a hairy animal, a bird seemed to be the most appropriate choice.
Below is the riveting story of Penelope, the dud parakeet who had to be returned to Petco...and Oliver, the far superior replacement bird.
Sadly, during the most dramatic rose ceremony yet, a rose was, in fact, NOT extended to anti-social Penelope. The Farris family traded her in today for a friendlier and more active contender named Oliver. Despite the snub, Penelope was quite glad to re-enter the communal living of her former home. At press time, she was dishing about her experiences to the rest of the Petco parakeets on "After the Final Rose," while the media were lining up to interview her for upcoming articles like, "Beyond the Birdie Bin: One Bird's Story of What Might Have Been." Reports are surfacing that a book deal is already in the works for Penelope, who will undoubtedly cash in on her rejection.
"She just wasn't working out for us," said one of the Farris children, age 5.
"She couldn't stand me," said Cade Farris. "I think she had issues with men."
Jennifer Farris had achieved limited success in breaking through to the problematic parakeeet, but agreed with the rest of the family. "The bird was simply not a good match," she said. "I never felt a connection."
To his advantage, Oliver, a bright green and strapping young specimen, does not have very big shoes to fill. If he does anything besides sitting dumbly in the corner, he stands a fighting chance to win the hearts of the apparently picky Farris family. In a statement this afternoon, Jennifer confirmed that Oliver will stay, regardless of his personality, which should be evident after the first 72 hours. "There is no plan C," she said.
Oliver Soars as Public Opinion Skyrockets
At a press conference today, Oliver went to great lengths to position himself in the minds of the Farris family as a more capable bird than his predecessor Penelope. Earlier this week, Penelope was returned to Petco, due to faltering public confidence in her abilities to carry out her duties as family pet.
Initially, the Farrises had plenty of reasons to believe that Penelope was “the one.”
“Unfortunately, the charisma she displayed in the Petco birdie bin did little to predict her future abilities as pet. She had the look. The charm. But I’m afraid it was all just a ploy to get chosen,” said Jennifer Farris. “Once we got stuck with her, we realized she was all fluff. It wasn’t long before her hidden agendas surfaced. Luckily, we were able to rectify the situation before the entire institution of family pet-hood was re-made in that bird’s image.”
Oliver, or “Ollie,” as he is affectionately known, was eating out of hands as soon as he reached his new home, and he happily puts on shows for everyone’s applause. Even his chirps and warbles have great potential. It’s what the Farrises want in their bird. They want one who will do what it’s supposed to do...who will serve the purposes originally intended for pet birds, as spelled out in the cornerstone document, “The Parakeet Pet-Owner’s Manual,”…without making any sweeping, or even sinister, attempts to overhaul the entire family pet system at once.
Though he does not bear Penelope’s distinction of being the first parakeet ever to enter the Farris home, Ollie is pledging to carve out his own place in history. By all indications, he is well on his way.