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Steven J. Mepham

It is a strange thing to own a pet. No matter their form, they make a place in your life a little space that you don’t notice until it becomes a gaping hole in their absence. I had Chakuro for just over a year. Though I had thought for many years of getting another Cockatiel, in many ways he was a spontaneous purchase. I had originally gone with my good friend Antony to price up the cost of getting one. I remember we went to a couple of pet shops, few of which had any and none of which had cages. Finally, as a last on the list, we decided to visit Paws in Leigh. At the time, the paw’s had a large aviary section at the entrance. They sold a variety of birds, from Cockatiels to small parrots, love birds and finches. The cockatiel enclosure was in the middle, pressed between the budgies and the Love birds. If I remember correctly there were quite a few on the perches, most roosting or sitting quietly and then there was the Cockatiel I later named Chakuro.

From the moment we stepped into the aviary area his crest went up and he cocked his head watching us. He hopped between perches to get a better look and then as was his usual tendency when his inquisitiveness got the better of him, retreated to the back of the enclosure. We watched this amused for a few minutes, before pricing up the cockatiels, the cage and the accessories I would need and then left. Though the prices weren’t bad, we decided to go to pets at home to do a price comparison, with the intention of going back home after. Pets at home proved to be a wasted trip, they sold no cages and had the smallest area for toys and food. All of which was far above the price but with a lower quality than those that were on offer at Paws. While walking around we discussed the bright-faced Cockatiel that had been so inquisitive. It was then that I decided to go back for him. He was such a small inquisitive little thing, that I just couldn’t leave him there. On the way back Antony said I should name him Chris, Chris the Cockatiel. My response was that you can’t name other people’s pets, it’s not how it works. Which has pretty much become a running joke between us. Eventually, I named him Chakuro, after a character in the anime The Children of the Whales.

Chakuro was a delightfully cute pet, at times, and at others he was terrible. He would often sing and whistle which was a delight, but equally, he would squawk and screech when he didn’t get his own way. I think I spoiled him, by letting him out too much, to the point he expected to be out all the time. The mornings became a battle of wills and his tendency to run up and down the bottom of his cage in an attempt to get me to let him out. I don’t think he ever realised I loved the pattering sound of his feet.

In the early hours of the morning on Sunday 16th June, he fell from his perch. I had noticed he was a little under the weather late on Saturday, but he had previously had bouts of illness that he recovered from. Initially, I hadn’t thought it overly serious as he was still active, still eating and still drinking. When I lifted him from the floor of his cage around 1 am, I knew he was going to die and there was nothing I could have done to change it. Birds, instinctively hide their illnesses and only truly show symptoms at the very end. He was probably ill for quite some time without me noticing, despite the amount of time I spent with him. Chakuro lacked the strength to stand, his heartbeat, usually racing had slowed to a crawl. He had a mucus-like substance that had caked his head, turning his feathers solid. The only thing I could do was hold and speak to him. He nuzzled into me as he usually did when he felt like being snuggly. So I held him for four long hours until exhaustion forced me to go to sleep. I wrapped him in a towel and placed him in his cage. Hoping that he would make it through the night.

When I awoke barely two hours later, he was gone. I cannot describe the pain that I felt on discovering him. I have lost pets before, but never has the pain been as palpable as that, or as enduring. I cried more on that Sunday than I have in years. At least not since his death. Chakuro in many ways became a companion. He was there when I went to sleep and there when I awoke. he always seemed to know when I was having a bad day as he would roost on my shoulder.

Much of my daily routine revolved around him, from feeding and watering in the morning to saying hello the moment I got in. His presence permeated every aspect of my day, and I did not realise how much he meant to me until he was gone. Even now, I feel his absence as a palpable hole in my life where this cute, feathered buddy once roosted. Often I find I enter the room I kept him in and immediately start talking to him, or i’ll look over at where his cage was, wondering for a split second why he is so quiet, only to see it barren. It’s a hard thing to do and made worse by the logical part of myself that says, “he was only a bird, get over it,” or the thinly suppressed guilt that rises when I wonder if there was something I could have done to prevent it. I wonder if I had noticed in time, I could have taken him to the vet and maybe he would have survived. This time. I think though, that even if I had unless we had uncovered the underlying cause, there would be another. Conjecture on what may have been will seldom bear any fruit.

I am grateful to Antony who drove me to Rivington and helped me pick a spot to bury Chakuro, luckily it was a fairly clear day weather-wise. It was here that we buried Chakuro under the bowed roots of a tree.

I have however after much debate decided to get another Cockatiel. Not to replace Chakuro, no animal or person could do that, but to be a companion. This time, however, I will do better. I have opted to go for a Lutino or white-face as these will be far from Chakuro’s markings (he was a grey).

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