My baby boy died during COVID-19. Patches was my 24 ½-year-old baby boy – a 98 gram feathered boy. I call him my baby boy – he was my child. He was my service animal. He was my day. He was my night. He was absolutely everything to me. I told my parents – what makes Patches different than my nephew? There wasn’t an answer. Patches had chronic health conditions since he was 13 years old. He saved my life on more than one occasion as I also did his. He took medications (more than one) 2x per day every day. He had his gym right next to the kitchen table and ate all meals with us. He travelled with me including out of state and on the airplane, his favorite location being Disney World. And in 2010 he even went into the park with me and got to meet Mickey Mouse. He loved travelling in his special carrier adorned with stickers where he had visited. He learned all sorts of new things at 23 years old when I fractured my knee and many modifications in his life were necessary due to my abilities. We got special permission so he could come see me in inpatient rehab every day. Nurses and therapists began looking for him when they would come to my room. People wondered how did this bond exist? Was Patches really that smart and loving? And then they spent time with us whether a few minutes, at a conference, travelling, or various other places and they realized that Patches and I were connected as souls. He was a human in a bird suit as we would term him.
I always wondered how could I live without him. When you have an animal who has health conditions you never know what is going to happen and when. Having anxiety I very often got scared and didn’t know whether to trust my instinct that something wasn’t right. Money was no object when it came to care for Patches – at least a 1-hour drive in to NYC in order to receive the best and most up-to-date medical care by his board-certified avian vet. Every New Year’s Eve as the ball was dropping I was in tears thanking a higher power for having him with me and being scared for the year ahead. We celebrated every day together – he and I seeing one another the moment we opened our eyes as he had to be able to see me from his carrier that he slept in. And sometimes things were harder than others. My therapist told me all living things die and when you get a pet you need to know they will die. I knew she didn’t understand. I would change the topic. Would you say this about your baby? Patches was not a pet. He was my baby.
Patches died on a day where there was no indication of a problem prior. I got him up just like any other day and we had breakfast. His cage was in my office and all seemed fine except a bit of a different sound with his chirp. We went downstairs for lunch and I noted again his chirp being a bit different. He ate his rice cake though. He did “fly off” his gym a few times but I didn’t think a whole lot about it. He was still his adorable cute self. When we got upstairs something went off in my head that there was a problem. This time I didn’t question. I began calling vets and everyone kept saying they wouldn’t see a bird. At this point I could barely talk as I was calling for help. I finally called the bird store in my area. Larry, the owner, told me where to go and I immediately called them. Meanwhile Patches was dancing back and forth on his food dish. The vet’s office said I could bring him down. I told her I would call from the car. I wanted my dad to go with me but he wasn’t available. My mom didn’t know there was a problem but as soon as she realized she offered to go but had to get dressed. I took Patches on my finger downstairs to his carrier. He had no trouble staying on my finger. I put him in his carrier and he went on his perch and began chewing on a treat that was left in there. I wondered if all was fine. Should I take him? It took my mom longer than I was comfortable with. I almost left without her. Thank goodness I didn’t. We went on our way and I called the vet from the car to advise them basics. In route he chirped, that little out of the ordinary sound but no other indication of a problem.
When we arrived at the vet my heart sunk to see parking spaces with numbers on them. I called and someone would come out to get him. Patches was not showing any signs of distress. I put my mask on to protect myself and the vet tech and then I handed my baby in his carrier off to them. I was so concerned over the tech with COVID that I never said I love you. I thought I would see him again. As they were walking with him I said “you will call me if there is a problem right” and I was told yes. I moved the seat back in my car and began reading. Then the call – “I’m sorry we gave him oxygen and did CPR but there was nothing we could do for him”. I began thrashing my head and entire body screaming in physical and emotional pain. I handed my mother my phone and she began crying attempting to talk to the doctor. He went into cardiac arrest. His chirp being different was due to congestive heart failure. When she got off the phone I called my dad. I couldn’t even speak. A tech came out with tissues and water in hand. I’m sure they could hear me screaming in pain. There were other cars in the parking lot but I didn’t even think about it. We were asked if we wanted to come in and I said I needed my mom. They allowed both of us and put us in a room with Patches, so peaceful and loving. They asked me my wishes and I knew I had to bring him home. I asked the cost and the tech came back and said no charge. They offered to drive me and my mom home. Thank G-d my mom had been with me. I cried on and off the entire way home and the only times off were because of absolute shock. I managed to text my close friends “Patches died.” One called immediately. I answered and said I couldn’t talk. She said “You don’t need to,” and I continued to cry. We got home and got out of the car and my neighbor said “Hi Patches” and I didn’t turn to say hello – my mom explained. We sat on the deck – my mom, dad, me, and Patches as I held him up to me.
We were hosting our 2nd Shannon Curtis Zoom concert that night. We did still host it though I was in and out.
The physical and emotional pain was like nothing I have ever experienced before that day, the next day, and beyond. I didn’t sleep and had no desire to eat. I cried, sobbed, screamed – there were no words as people expressed their sympathies from calls my dad and mom made. I nearly collapsed when I handed over my precious baby to his vet. Patches had an autopsy done so others can hopefully learn from him (his work lives on) and then was cremated. I received his ashes back 5 days later and to this day have Patches with me nearby when I’m in the house. I worked with animal communicators. I understand that Patches was not going to die with me around and that he was already watching over me when I received that awful call. There are no words . . . he passed during awful times though always being loved.
Thank G-d – my Rabbi asked if he could do anything for me. He did a Memorial Service for Patches. We stood on the deck with some people in person and others on Zoom. Due to Zoom, friends from out of state and friends who weren’t comfortable being in person came. It was a special time. Friends sent me cards that we put on posterboard. A couple of friends sent me flowers and another friend sent me a plant which for the first time in my life I take care of – it’s connected with my baby boy.
It’s over 6 months later and the pain isn’t awful all of the time though at times it’s still really difficult. I attend pet bereavement groups spending time with people who “get it.” I received autopsy results and the vet said that it was a miracle that he lived as long as he did and that was a testament to our love for one another. Patches was much sicker than we ever thought or realized. I confirmed with the animal communicator that he wasn’t uncomfortable. To this day I can’t say it’s easy – I am blessed that people didn’t judge me saying he was a pet or animal. They accepted my words and saw my heart bleeding and provided needed support.