There Can Be Sparkle, There Can Be Shine
A poignant story of how I lost my cockatiels, with some optimistic ending thoughts.
It has been almost twenty years since I lost my pet cockatiels, and this is the first time I'm writing about it after so long. This was always a difficult subject for me to put in words because, like any animal companion, they were part of the family and I never truly stopped feeling guilty about what happened to them.
Then I remembered all the times writing has helped me heal old wounds and discover the silver lining behind every heartbreak. The day my mother first spoiled the surprise was certainly anything but that. We were in Montenegro when my father, who had to stay home due to work, called her one night to tell her that two new feathered friends were waiting to meet us at home; naturally, she couldn't contain her excitement. Frankly, neither could I and all I did was count the days until I'd be home again to see them for myself.
When it came time to choose names for the birds, I knew I wanted to call the female Sparkle because the white specks she had on her wings made her look like she sparkled in the sunlight. I didn't know what to call her partner though until our neighbour at the time brilliantly suggested "Shine". These two words surely could have been associated with how I felt about my cute critters.
As enthusiastic as I was, however, I was still young and fairly inexperienced at caring for pets, so I wasn't always the most attentive or gentle owner ever. Having spent more time with my father, who possesses both of these qualities, the cockatiels justifiably loved him the most. Still, it didn't stop me from trying and learning to treat them better as I got older.
Mistakes can still happen, however, and some of them could mean the absolute end of a beautiful bond. Every summer for four years we would leave their cage covered with a towel in the backyard on clear nights so they could get some fresh air while they slept, and we didn't think one particularly foreboding night would be any different.
And foreboding it indeed was. The birds received an unwelcome visit in the middle of the night when we were asleep, so we were unable to prevent the damage it caused.
Only the next morning did we find out that not only was the cage opened and knocked over with their food and water spilled everywhere, but our pets were now missing. I was instantly plagued with thoughts that a predator must've eaten them until I saw Sparkle perched on a branch of our neighbour's tree. A surge of hope jolted through my heart as I quickly enlisted his help in getting her down.
With a pool net in hand, he climbed up his ladder and held it out for her. But it was no use. She became terrified and flew away.
My devastation took such a toll on me that I didn't realize until much later that a raccoon was sitting in another tree a few houses away, looking intently at my neighbour's.
Even if the cockatiels managed to escape, there was no way I'd let it hunt them down. I told one of my childhood friends, who lived across from me, everything that had happened and she volunteered to search for them with me. From our neighbourhood to the nearby forest, we spent the entire day calling for them, but to no avail. Reality had to catch up with me at some point.
I'd like to think that somebody out there must have found them and is caring for them better than I could ever have. Still, I had learned a very important lesson that day: to never take a gift for granted.
All these years I refused to have another bird, but as an adult I feel ready to try again, not because I want a replacement for Sparkle and Shine, but because I want another chance at giving proper love to a companion. And I'm confident that I could do it - I just have to remember that I too can, well, sparkle and shine.