The Time finally came yesterday--the time to put Stripey to sleep. She had lived for ten months with a medical condition that usually kills cockatiels in 24-48 hours.
But that's how Stripey was: indomitable, bombastic, contrarian. Not only did she run the sexual pursuit and mounting of Lemon as if she were the alpha male, but she built nests, laid eggs, and sat on them for 3 weeks at a time. (Periods that were a merciful respite from the tyranny of Stripey, for both Lemon and myself.)
Stripey's flight and walk were impertinent, demanding, devil-may-care. I could tell the difference between her arrival and Lemon's on my bed or on the back of my chair: Lemon is dainty and gentle; Stripey was full of bombast and bluster. She would have made a great solider of fortune.
Before placing her in the vet's gas chamber I involuntarily whispered, "Stripey, you made me a better person." Who would think that 98 grams of blood, muscle, beak and feather could do that? Caring for Stripey and Lemon enlivened a selflessness and unconditional love in me that I hadn't thought possible for an unmarried, child- and spouse-unencumbered person like myself. I finally got the smallest inkling of what parenthood can provoke in a person.
I really thought Stripey might just wake up after being put to sleep and proclaim, "Hi, I'm back!" That's how crazy and defiant and untamable she was.
I'm okay with this but know that I will be an inconsolable mess when Lemon dies. She is vastly sweeter and more vulnerable than Stripey and in turn provokes great tenderness and protectiveness in me.
Here is Striper in classic "What the FUCK you looking at?!" mode:
And here I am saying goodbye at the vet (shot by the singularly sensitive and sympathetic vet assistant to whom I'll always be grateful. She made what could have been an alienating and cold experience as graceful and sweet as was possible.)
Good bye, Striperific!