Dealing With Pet Loss

You know what’s funny about life? You never know when it’s going to take you by surprise and knock you on your ass.

Last week, we came thisclose to losing our pet fish.

Wait, let me rephrase that. My daughter came thisclose to killing her pet fish.

It was by no means intentional. Actually, it was quite sweet.

I was changing the water in the fish tank, and had moved her little beta fish, Golden, to the tiny plastic cup that brought the fish home from the pet store a month ago. As I walked in to my daughter’s room with fresh water, she quickly threw her fish back in to the cup and started to look guilty.

I ran over to make sure the fish was okay, then asked my daughter was she was doing.

Petting the fish. That’s what she was doing.




Can you get any cuter than that? It was pretty hard to get angry with her, when I know that all she wanted to do was show her pet some love. I reminded her that fish need water to survive, and that they’re better off in the tank than in her palm.

When we checked the tank, Golden swam around a little, so we moved on with our afternoon.

But later, the swimming stopped.

The poor fish started sinking down to the bottom, finally coming to rest atop bright, florescent gravel. And I thought, “Okay, here we go. Get the ‘Circle of Life speech ready.”

My daughter felt absolutely horrible. Her fish sat listless at the bottom, but banging on the tank produced some flutters, so we hadn’t pronounced the fish dead just yet. We decided to wait and see how the fish was doing in the morning before making the crucial decision: backyard burial, or burial at sea.

Because I knew, I just knew that fish was as dead as a doornail.

The next morning, my daughter shuffled downstairs, hair in every direction, and swore she saw her fish swimming around during the night.

Oh, honey.

I walked in to the room, bracing myself for having to discuss death with my five year-old.

When sure as shit, that fish was swimming around the tank. SWIMMING. It was like a resurrection.

I have never seen anything like it, and my daughter was convinced that all of her love had brought the fish back from the brink of death.

So when our beloved parakeet started looking like crap four days later, it came as a shock.

Fish? Yes, I’m prepared for fish to live short lives. But our bird? I wasn’t ready for her to die yet.

Our little cutie, Coco

We adopted Coco two years ago. My husband (a.k.a. “Bubble Boy”) is horribly allergic to anything with fur, and this bird gave our kids the closest experience to a pet they could cuddle. Well, except for my daughter’s fish-caressing.

Coco was a social little bird, who greeted us every morning with tweets and chirps.  The kids adored her, often perching Coco on their shoulders while reading books or playing with toys. And my son loved to tell everyone he had a pet bird at home.

She was a wonderful addition to our family. And I thought we’d have more time with her.

The thing with birds is, once they start looking sick, it’s usually too late. So when Coco got all fluffed-up on Thursday night, I knew things would probably not end well, I just didn’t want to believe it.

Not seeing any improvement on Friday morning, I took our bird in to the vet. They diagnosed her with a gastric ulcer, which was causing her red blood count to be extremely low. By Saturday morning, she was so weak she couldn’t stand up, so I took her back to the vet, who suggested hospitalization in the hopes of getting the bird stabilized.

I left her at the vet at 10:30am, and at 11:30 as I was standing in line at Whole Foods, I got the call that our bird had passed on her own.

It was the first time I’d ever lost a substantial family pet. And it was the first time my children had ever lost a substantial family pet.

I wasn’t sure how the kids would handle the pet loss. My daughter cried, my son processed it slowly. And I took it worst of all.

I’m sure the folks at the vet think I’m The Crazy Bird Lady, hemming and hawing over how I’d like them to dispose of her teeny body as if I’d lost a dear relative.

Yes, I realize it was a one-ounce bird. But she was our sweet pet and she will be missed.

Through the whole ordeal, I kept thinking, “If only that miraculous coming-back-to-life thing had blessed our bird, instead of the $5 fish.”  But life never works out how you expect it to.

Surely, the swift and sudden death of our pet has made us stop for a few minutes and appreciate the brevity of life, and to hold tight the ones we love, for we never know when they’ll be taken from us.

I just need to tell my daughter that “holding tight” is figurative, and not literal. Or we’ll be dealing with another pet loss soon.


  1. Aw I’m sorry for your loss. Any loss of something or someone who was apart of your life is significant. Hugs.
    Julia recently posted…7 Things I Need to Get Back To This FallMy Profile

    • @Julia – thanks for your condolences and hugs. It’s just weird to come downstairs in the morning and not hear her chirping away. The kids, actually, seem quite over it now. Though I expect them to talk about her at random times.

  2. Sorry to hear about Coco. But yes, you will have to control the petting in future!
    Tarana recently posted…P is for..PeacockMy Profile

    • Thanks for your condolences, Tarana. We’re set to change the water again today…wish us luck!

  3. I am so sorry for your loss. :(
    My parents lost their dog 3 weeks ago, sigh.
    Alison recently posted…Through The Lens Thursday #35: TextureMy Profile


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