2018 has been a very challenging year for me, in so many ways. One of the things that happened was having major back surgery, which included a fusion, in late July. I had no choice...I had reached a point where I couldn’t walk at all without excruciating pain. Successful surgery, and then I came down with pneumonia three weeks later. Another physical ordeal that I overcame over the ensuing weeks.
It has been almost three months since my surgery and my body is healing, but it has come with a price, and I believe it’s worth sharing with all of my friends who have parrots and other pets, for that matter. I suppose it could be called a cautionary tale.
I have five big birds. I have friends with many more than that, and some with just one or a few. I also had two elderly dogs at the time of my surgery. I have friends with dogs, cats, birds, menageries! I realize I’m not alone in this. And we all know the demands that our feathered babies and other animals put on us on a daily basis, and we all have a routine of feeding, cleaning, enriching, playing/training. What happens when we are physically unable to care for our flock, our animals? This is what I faced and still do today on a much smaller scale.
I came home from the hospital after five days. I couldn’t do ONE thing for myself. Nothing. I was incredibly weak. I could not take necessary healing steps without the support of a rolling walker. Balance and walk? Very scary stuff. I couldn’t get anything to eat or drink by myself from the kitchen. I could not move my body one iota in bed to get into a comfortable position. Everything required help. Everything. Fortunately for me, my husband was with me every single moment, there for every single need. I was nurtured and cared for 24/7. After a few days of being home, a dear friend of ours came and stayed with us for four days. His presence was a godsend. It wasn’t just to help me, but to cover the necessary things that were going by the wayside because Robert was totally focused on my recovery. And that included taking care of the Thomasson flock and dogs.
Our dear friend, Art, passionately loves parrots, and he “stepped right up,” pulling bowls, feeding/watering, twice a day. Changing papers, cleaning cages, and entertaining my miscreant crew in the bird room. He helped with our dogs as well. He walked them when they needed to go out (and that was not an easy task, as our 80 lb German Shepherd mix had suffered a debilitating stroke in his spine). He picked up, wiped down, and was totally focused on taking care of everything, including us. And then he had to go home and we were on our own again. But those four days of his help made all the difference in the world, and we are so grateful.
So, how lucky am I? Very lucky. I have a loving husband who helped me through my recovery. We had a dear friend who covered all “uncovered bases” for days. My birds did not lack for anything. Their needs were met and more so. My dogs’ needs were met. My needs were all met. (Even long conversations during the night when I couldn’t sleep, which was most of the time.). And, I didn’t mention that we had a neighbor, who also has parrots and dogs, who came over and tended our animals while I was in the hospital while Robert stayed by my side.
I know others who have had extreme surgeries this year. They have pets as well. I know I was not the only one who has faced serious health issues like this. But as I mentioned in the beginning, I was very lucky to have had support, for me, for our animals, for our household.
What do you do if you live alone or are the sole caretaker in your household for your animals and either suffer a debilitating accident, come down with a serious illness, or need major surgery? Do you have someone you can rely on who will step up and insure that your flock, your dogs and cats and rabbits, etc, are fed and cared for? You may want to stop and reflect on this and consider your options if something should happen to you. Here are some
things you may want to think about and possibly act upon:
things you may want to think about and possibly act upon:
FIND SOMEONE TO HELP YOU - A friend, a neighbor, your child, your children, husband or another relative
Have a plan. Start by engaging someone to take care of your pets, now, ahead of time, before you may need help. If it’s a friend or neighbor, and they also have pets, you can possibly set up a potential “exchange” of care, ie., “I can care for your animals and you can care for mine in case of an emergency.”
Your plan may also include the possibility of boarding your animals, or having someone take your animals temporarily into their homes. Be creative with your options. Whatever you do, create those options now. Remember: STUFF HAPPENS.
WRITE DOWN YOUR PETS’ ROUTINES - eating, exercise, medications, special needs, veterinarian’s phone number, etc
Make sure your helper knows your feeding routines and anything else necessary for your pets’ welfare. It’s a great idea to WRITE DOWN what your daily feeding rituals entail for all animals, including meds for your pets. Taking pictures of what the food/pills look like for a feeding may be helpful. Keep a folder handy in the kitchen with this information.Doing a couple of run-throughs for feeding and care with you present will help. There is a world of difference between explaining to someone what needs to be done vs having them actually do it with you a couple of times. I speak from experience!
FOOD PREP - stock up
If you know you are going to be infirm for awhile, and you make special concoctions (like “chop”) for your animals, make sure your freezer, fridge, or pantry is stocked up with everything a caretaker would need, and make sure it’s easy to access.
ADMIT WHEN YOU NEED HELP - don’t be a hero
Your birds’ and your other animals’ lives all depend on you. If you are incapacitated for any reason, their health, their well-being will suffer. And that is why we read sometimes of horrible ‘rescues’ of neglected birds, dogs, cats, etc. Many times it is not because the owners didn’t love and care, but that, at some point, the owners were physically unable to give their animals the care they needed. Be cognizant of when to ask for help...before things get out of hand.
IT’S NOT OVER ‘TIL IT’S OVER - recovery takes time, sometimes a long time, sometimes never
I am able to feed my dog, feed my birds by myself. I’m pretty healthy right now. But, since I’ve had back surgery, I am restricted as to how I can move...and getting down on the floor to change papers in cages and clean trays is a monumentally big deal. I can do it, but I ask for help from my husband a lot with this to avoid incorrectly moving my back. It’s going to take months for my fusion to heal completely - I know that there are things I need assistance with. If I’m careful now, and ask for help now, I will probably heal completely down the road...and the papers will get changed and trays will be cleaned.
Accidents happen, surgery happens, illnesses happen..and, darn it, we just get old! We can heal completely from some things, other things may impair us for life. If that is the case, we ALL need to take a long, hard look at what we are capable of doing and what we may need to let go of, either by getting assistance or by looking at re-homing at some point in the future.
I'm not trying to be a Debbie Downer....just trying to be extremely pragmatic and honest. I was and am very fortunate. I had help with me. I had help with my animals. If I hadn’t had all of that help, my birds and my dogs would have paid the price. I felt that extreme helplessness for those first weeks, and was so very grateful for what my husband and Art did to make sure that I thrived, and that my animals also thrived, without me...for awhile.
If you waded through this whole diatribe, you get a medal and I thank you. I hope that you take this blog to heart and consider how stuff, when it happens (and it most likely will!), will impact you, your animals, your family, and how you will be ready to respond.