For eight years, Pandora was the love of my life.
Pandora, the yellow, rosy cheeked cockatiel, lived with me in Durban. ‘Oh yes, Gaynor’s bird,’ you are thinking. Yes, she was a bird but she was far more than that. She was my companion. She shared my life, living the ups and downs with me. I loved her and she was equally just as demented about me!
One morning, I woke up and made myself some coffee. Pandora slept in a cage on a chair next to my bed. “Morning, Angel,” I said as I whisked her cover off. She was already awake and had got off her perch and was sitting on the ground as near to me as possible. I climbed back into bed and drew out something which always sent Pandora into a spin of delighted anticipation – Biltong! She was as mad about the stuff as I am. I had never heard of cockatiels eating meat. I had thought that they were herbivores with a diet made up of seeds and nuts. Pandora proved to be of the Vulture variety of cockatiel. Loved meat, bacon, chicken, sausage and was totally hooked on biltong!
“Look what I’ve got,” I said bringing out the biltong packet. She knew that sound and would normally start racing up and down her cage in high hopes and expectancy. Only that morning was different. She remained seated on the floor in her corner, her eyes watching me steadily.
“Hey!” I said “Look, biltong!” I waved a stick under her beak. No reaction. Well, blow me down! I opened up Pandora’s cage and placed the ramp down leading onto the bed. Pandora adored my bed. Normally scouted around, pecking at the quilt before finally returning to me. Then she climbed up my PJs and nestled into my neck. That morning Pandora didn’t budge. Not normal! Not normal at all. I reached into the cage and drew her out. “Angel-Face?” I said softly, putting her against my chest. That was when I noticed that her legs didn’t seem to be working. Fuh-lip! Instantly I was out of bed, Pandora clasped in my hands. “What is it, Pandora?” How I wished that she could speak. “Oh, glory”, I muttered as I placed Pandora in a comfortable position among my bedcovers and dressed quickly. “It’s alright, Angel. I will get you to the vet and she’ll sort you out.”
Ten minutes later, I left with Pandora cradled in my hands. It is about a kilometre away and I spoke to Pandora the whole time. People gave me the oddest looks. I must have appeared a sight. A woman talking to this bird in her hands while tears streamed down her cheeks. We arrived at about 8.20 and naturally there was no one there yet. “We will just sit here and wait.” Pandora closed her eyes. “Don’t die, Angel, don’t die!” I whispered fiercely.
On the dot at 8.30 the vet opened the door. I held out my hands and said: “My bird…she…she’s not well.”
The vet gently took Pandora from me. “I’m afraid she’s dead,” she said.
“No… no… she has just closed her eyes. Hasn’t she?” I pleaded.
She placed a stethoscope to Pandora’s chest and shook her head. “No, she’s gone.”
Gently she wrapped Pandora in a paper towel and handed her to me. I then walked the kilometre home, Pandora in my hands, sobbing unbearably.
Gone was the little bird who had laid an egg on my stomach. Gone was the bird who heard me mounting the stairs and squawked out her welcome. Gone was the bird who sat on the wash basket while I had my bath and lapped up all the water that came her way. Gone was the bird who loved biltong. Pandora was not a pet. She was a bird that believed herself to be human. Pandora was my close friend.
I buried her in the garden. I felt as if my heart would break.
Later I discovered that biltong is a death trap to birds. It clogs up their throats. Much as she adored it, biltong was the worst possible thing for her to eat. In actual fact, I had murdered Pandora!
Today I share my flat with Perdita, a Wire-Haired Dachshund, and Spencer, a cockatiel who continually launches into Bridge Over The River Kwai to get attention! These are my “children”. But Perdita is already nine years old. And Spencer is eight. Perish the thought, but these “children” of mine will die in the not to distant future. I attended a bible study in Durban where one of the women said to me quite bluntly: “Oh no, your pets don’t end up in Heaven with you!” A peal of laughter. “No, Gaynor, I’m afraid it’s just we humans in Heaven.”
Of all the egotistical things to say! I believe that she is wrong. There are definitely horses and angels together in the Bible. (Revelation 6) If there are horses in Heaven, there are other creatures! I know when I look into my “children’s” eyes that they know God intimately. I guess what I am saying, is that animals do have souls. So yes, I believe that I will re-connect with all the animals that I have loved and lost. They have simply gone on ahead of me. We will see each other again.
I smiled at this poem written by Rudyard Kipling after the death of his dog.
A Dog for Jesus
(Where dogs go when they die)
I wish someone had given Jesus a dog.
As loyal and loving as mine.
To sleep by His manger and gaze in His eyes
And adore Him for being divine.
As our Lord grew to manhood His faithful dog,
Would have followed Him all through the day.
While He preached to the crowds and made the sick well
And knelt in the garden to pray.
It is sad to remember that Christ went away.
To face death alone and apart.
With no tender dog following close behind,
To comfort its Master’s Heart.
And when Jesus rose on that Easter morn,
How happy He would have been,
As His dog kissed His hand and barked it’s delight,
For The One who died for all men.
Well, the Lord has a dog now, I just sent Him mine,
The old pal so dear to me.
And I smile through my tears on this first day alone,
Knowing they’re in eternity.
Day after day, the whole day through,
Wherever my road inclined,
Four feet said, “Wait, I’m coming with you!”
And trotted along behind.