Anyone who has ever been to our house knows that we have birds.
And one special bird is Sundance.
When Ryan and I were first married, Sundance was given to us by a friend of a friend. I have always loved birds but hadn’t had a cockatiel before. We were happy to take such a friendly and cute bird. Of course, we weren’t supposed to have pets in our apartment, but I think the manager looked the other way.
He loved to sit on our shoulders and nibble on crackers and would whistle the theme from the Andy Griffith Show.
Sundance had been a member of the family since before our first child was born. He moved with us to Illinois and back (which was quite a production, including a vet visit in order to take him on the plane, and staying in the hotel with us for a week before we could move into our house).
Later on, we added other cockatiels to the family, including Zuzu (the only one I ever bought), and Linus and Popcorn. People started giving us their birds when they couldn’t keep them any more.
We’ve taken in Churt, Simon and Guido, and most recently Jack. Some bird have gone on to other homes or died. But we still had Sundance.
Sundance has been so gentle and sweet. When Megan was about two, I found her in her room with Sundance. She had pulled out all of his tail feathers. I couldn’t believe he didn’t even bite her.
Because he’s so old (at least 21 years old), I’ve often worried about him when I come home and can’t find him. Afraid he had died, I would call for him and go looking. I always found him.
Lately he’s been getting old, and we can tell. He doesn’t fly much, and walks slowly. Not grouchy, but an old bird.
Today, after church, he sat on the bottom of the cage, and we knew his time was near. We picked him up and petted him, and tried to make him comfortable. All the kids got to hold him, and they were all standing around him crying. I encouraged them to take Sundance outside, that maybe he would like to be outside one last time. I told the kids (and Sundance) that it was ok for him to go. He has been a very good friend to us, and we knew he was not comfortable, so I just wanted him to stop trying to hold on. All four kids were sitting outside on the grass holding him, tears streaming down their faces. They weren’t out there more than ten or fifteen minutes before they brought him in. He was gone. We all cried. We made a little coffin for him out of a kleenex box, but had to wait to bury him until after dinner, as we had invited over the new family who just moved in behind us. We had to put our sadness on hold for a bit. John wrote a letter to Cole to tell him the sad news.
After our guests had left, we were in better spirits, but still sad to bury our friend. We had a little funeral and burial in the back yard.
We are really going to miss that bird. Not many families get to keep a pet for over 20 years, and I know we were lucky to have such a sweet and gentle bird be a part of our family. When I think of all the conversations he has heard, all the family time he was a part of, it really is like losing a member of the family. For 20 years, he was a fixture in my kitchen. He would sing to me, share my lunch, and snuggle with you when you were sick. He really has been a friend.
Thank you, Sundance. We will never forget you.