Today I had intended to write a blog post glowing about the success of our fantastic Open House last weekend. I had pictures gathered and had already formed a narrative of what I was going to say - proud, happy and excited for the future. But instead now I find myself creatively and emotionally stuck on today and in particular a bird named Tuesday.
This afternoon we said a final goodbye to Tuesday, a small and elderly Senegal Parrot. She had a mate named Lurch, was mostly blind and had little interest in people. Unable to live in our feisty Senegal aviary, Tuesday and Lurch had their own cage where they lived together for many years. But tonight Lurch will be alone, a reality that weighs heavy on all of us at the sanctuary.
Working in animal rescue, sanctuary or dealing with our own companions - the passing of an animal is inevitable. It is part of our burden as caregivers to watch and help these animals we love so deeply - or animals we barely even know - pass on in peace. Since being at the sanctuary I have been witness to a handful of animals passing away and it is always sad no matter the circumstances.
But sometimes their passing touches us differently than we expect.
Today my sadness was not just for Tuesday and Lurch, who were at the center of this heartbreaking moment, but my sadness was also for us. For the people who care for these animals. Today I watched 3 amazing and stunningly strong women struggle through the emotional and ethical battlefield of deciding on when and how to intervene on an animal’s inevitable passing. Huddled together in our small medical room, glancing down at Tuesday, then at each other, then back at Tuesday. Each of us shared our own stories trying to remember the “right” way to make this decision. We offered ideas of how we would want it if we were Tuesday, or what we think Lurch would want, or what Tuesday would want in this moment. The conversation circled. And circled again. And again. In the end our veterinarian made the decision for us.
No matter how clear the signs might be – this type of decision will never come clearly. To not be able to know for sure what they want or need. Are they thirsty? Are they in pain? To never have an end of life discussion with them, to not have a written and signed Will instructing us on what to do and how to do it. These animals have never had a choice over their own lives. And it almost feels cruel to have to make this choice for them too. But we do. And that is what hit me today while watching my friends and colleagues struggle through the gravity of a decision we have all made before. But no matter how familiar this feeling is, it never gets easier and it never lessens its sting.
Without trying to sound overly optimistic, I truly believe working with animals helps us see and experience our own humanity. With all of the heartbreak that can be found in animal rescue just remind yourself this heartbreak is a sometimes a painful reminder that you are human, you are sensitive, you are caring and loving. We are lucky to have this amazing ability to love so deeply any and all creatures - no matter the form. We just need to see the love in these moments, even when it hurts. I cannot thank our staff and volunteers enough for taking care of these animals with such heart and dedication.
Goodbye Tuesday – fly free wherever you may be.