Animal Stories from

The Saddest: Today, we said goodbye to our sweet Birdie

From Jasmin Singer,
October 2022

My memories of her still feel tangible, like they’re right there, and I can somehow reach them if I try hard enough. I blink, and there we are, navigating a socially distant hand-off in a parking lot in March 2020—the day Birdie became ours. That night, we put her in the doggie bed beside our human bed. Within 5 seconds, she ran up the tiny stairs and made her way in between me and Moore, pawing at the blanket until I lifted it up so she could nestle between us, where she has slept for the past 2.5 years.

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Dog Birdie

This is not a message I thought I’d write anytime soon. We are dizzy and delirious. It doesn’t seem real. We were not prepared.

We lost our Birdie this morning very suddenly. She was a soulmate. We are devastated.

Since Moore and I adopted her 2.5 years ago when Birdie was 13, this little doggie and I have been completely inseparable. Some chihuahuas choose a person, and that person becomes their magnet. Being Birdie’s person has been the most meaningful role I’ve ever played. I am completely at a loss as to how this happened so quickly.

Birdie had been completely stable, even though she suffered from a very bad heart murmur. She was so stable that her cardiologist said we could put off her next visit. Nothing was changing with her health; nothing was worsening.

But she was a delicate, sensitive doggie, which we knew. On Saturday, our incredible vet came over (we use a home-visit vet) for a standard check-up for Birdie, George Dog, and Stella Cat. They drew some blood from Birdie for a regular senior panel and they had a hard time finding a vein, which was uncomfortable for her (they kept poking). They also expressed her anal glands, which had always been an issue for her—and though she has always hated getting that done, she was much more comfortable afterward. Nothing else notable happened during the visit. They cut her nails and just checked her in general. Her blood work came back picture-perfect.

Dog Birdie

And yet, the stress from the vet visit got to her more than she let on. Shortly after the vet left, I noticed Birdie wasn’t acting like herself. She was very subdued and, at one point, flopped over on the couch and didn’t right herself. We took her outside and she could hardly use her legs. We took her back inside and she threw up. We alerted our vet as to what was happening and all agreed to just keep an eye on her.

A few hours later, I was becoming increasingly concerned. Her breathing started to become very fast, and she couldn’t get a full breath. So we took her to the emergency vet, and after just once glance, she was treated as the most urgent. But the ultrasound and X-ray didn’t show anything, so at 1am, they returned her to us.

On Sunday morning, I tried to get in touch with her cardiologist, as we were told it was likely a heart issue. We were able to get an emergency visit with our cardiologist for Monday (today) at a location about 2 hours away. Sunday night (last night), Birdie kept getting worse and worse. Her breathing was labored and she was mostly limp. Our appointment could not come fast enough.

So on Monday morning (today), instead of waiting to take her to the cardiologist, we took her back to the emergency vet. By the time we got there, she was clearly having a neurological event; her legs were basically stuck straight out and her head was bent back. She was hardly responsive. They took her into triage and came back to tell us what we pretty much already knew by then. She wouldn’t be able to continue to breathe on her own, and her state was extremely unlikely to be reversible.

We made the heartbreaking decision to let her go. It was not a decision I thought we’d have to make any time soon. Everything led us to believe that she’d likely make it to around 17—that’s what we hoped for, and that’s what seemed realistic.

Dog Birdie

There are no words to make sense of this. But I will say this …

When people find out that Moore and I have adopted two seniors (sweet George is still with us)—and we already had a senior dog (our darling Lucy left us earlier this year)—they would immediately say, “I could never do that.” What I am sure they meant is that it would be too heartbreaking to have a dog for such a relatively short amount of time and then quickly be thrust into the oftentimes heartwrenching end-of-life care.

I’ve thought about that a lot. And, of course, I can see what they mean; there’s nothing I wish more today than for Birdie and I to have had many more years together.

Now, I am at least months away from being able to make sense of any of this—or maybe I’ll never make sense of it—but I do know this: the entire time we had Birdie, it was the abundance and joy I was focused on. It was the vitality, the silliness, and the great big love. Birdie and I brought each other so much adoration, comfort, and connection that it’s hard to believe she hasn’t been with me my whole life; I think maybe she has, somehow.

It was never the pending loss I was thinking about when she’d do the backstroke on the rug each night after her walk, or take long walks with me every morning when we lived in West Hollywood, or wedge herself between me and the side of the couch whenever I’d do my early morning writing. It was her presence, not her potential absence, that filled our days and nights.

My memories of her still feel tangible, like they’re right there, and I can somehow reach them if I try hard enough. I blink, and there we are, navigating a socially distant hand-off in a parking lot in March 2020—the day Birdie became ours. That night, we put her in the doggie bed beside our human bed. Within 5 seconds, she ran up the tiny stairs and made her way in between me and Moore, pawing at the blanket until I lifted it up so she could nestle between us, where she has slept for the past 2.5 years.

I blink. Birdie is on my outstretched legs on the small patio of our apartment, staying with me for hours as I did my work under that hot LA sun. It was soon after that the storefronts in my city were literally boarded up because of the threat of riots, and our city’s curfew was set for 4pm—forcing the dogs to do their business in our building’s courtyard. We snuggled extra close on those nights.

I blink. We are moving back to the east coast, spending our days in a rented RV, traveling from West Hollywood to New York’s Catskills. Then: We’re all walking in the woods, Lucy and Birdie spending so much time sniffing around that we made it about an eighth of the trail before having to turn around before it got dark.

I blink. We are all taking real estate reconnaissance trips up to Rochester, the dogs in the backseat dog bed, happier than ever about the long days on the road.

Then: We found a new home. We moved in. Birdie spent those first weeks in a sling attached to me. Before long, she developed her routine. This is when she does the backstroke. This is when she eats. This is when she gets the zoomies. This is when she barks at the cat. This is when she insists I pet her with both hands. This is when, how, and where we sleep. This, this, this is how we live and how we love.

Her adamance about being petted when it was time was hilariously demanding. It reminds me of a time I was babysitting my niece when she was about four. I was caught up in some personal drama, paying more attention to my phone than to her. She came into the room I was in, furiously crossed her arms, and reprimanded me: “Auntie Jasmin, you’re going to waste all of our time together!” She was right. I put down my phone. I was back in the moment.

Birdie was similarly demanding, always insisting I remain firmly in the moment with her. Cuddling her. Petting her. Loving her with my whole self.

And so I didn’t have much time to focus on the possibility that one day, her loss would break my heart.

I get it, I do, when people say they can’t adopt a senior. To be totally honest, I’m not entirely sure I’ll do it again.

But my time with Birdie was full, all-consuming, and created enough love to fill the universe. As I type this from my backyard—by my hammock that just yesterday I stayed in all afternoon with Birdie on my chest—my sweet old George Dog is staring up at me, giving and receiving love in his own sweet and subtle way. There is no world where I could possibly understand not having these old darlings. There is no moment I won’t cherish.

And today, on this day that I could not have predicted in a million years, Moore and I are heartbroken. Birdie was my very best friend. We were each other’s emotional support animals. Our love was as powerful as it comes. And her loss has left me bereft.

But I know that our connection was a gift of epic proportions. Thanks partly to the lesson my niece taught me all those years ago, with Birdie, I was always firmly planted in the moment.

Today, I feel like the saddest person in the world, but also the luckiest. As my grandmother, who was twice-widowed, used to say, “I don’t think ‘I lost them; I think, ‘I had them.’”

I had Birdie. She had me.

And her connection with Moore, though different, was also incredibly profound, laced with a deep care, affection, and silliness that brings on a whole different layer of grief. Because when we see those around us mourning, it cracks us in an entirely different place. And so my heart breaks for Moore because that is its own great big loss. And for George Dog, who spent much of the past 2.5 years sleeping curled up with his sister. And, on some level, my heart breaks for Stella Cat—whose favorite pastime has been playfully (and perhaps a little maniacally) bopping her sister, Birdie. (George, you’d better get ready, buddy.)

Now, I am an atheist, but I am also spiritual and, to an extent, witchy. The only way I got through the great big loss of my grandma (another soulmate) was by deciding she was with me at all times. I don’t mean with me like some ghost would be, but with me as in, I feel her. I feel her worldview informing mine. I feel myself trying to live up to her values, her generosity, her kindness.

It is the only way I know how to get through loss. And so that is how I will get through this.

Birdie taught me about unconditional love in a way I’d never experienced. I am better for that, and I believe Birdie was, too. She knew when to be demanding when she had a need, how to effectively communicate everything from dissatisfaction to deep affection, and what it looks like to be truly devoted. She was an empath, an explorer, and a truly perfect companion. She was as cute as she was smart, and even though she was deaf and mostly blind, she always knew how to get to where she wanted to go.

I will miss her when I sleep, when I work, when I write, when I get ready in the morning, and when I come home from being out. For the rest of my life, I am certain I will think of her every single day. Eventually, the tears will transform to smiles, and I will continue to feel Birdie in the sun, in the trees, and in the lake. 2.5 years ago, she came into my heart, and even though she’s gone, she will remain there forever.

Birdie, thank you for being ours.


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