I have been scared of animals and birds for as long as I can remember. But I gave into that fear when we brought home 4 chickens three years ago. I was terrified of holding them and petting them only under supervision. But I loved them fiercely right from day one when they were barely little chicks and I cooked them spaghetti (that they wouldn't eat). She was the first chick we picked at the big coop. She was Mario, layer of double yolk eggs, leader of the pack, fearless and beautiful.
Three weeks ago she stopped eating and drinking. We thought she was broody at first but gave her medicine and probiotics anyways. In just a couple of days, she went from bad to worse. Three days after first realizing there was something wrong with her because she wouldn't leave her nest, the vet declared that she had a tumor and that the invasive surgery would be painful and she would still not make it. We had to make the most gut-wrenching decision of putting her to sleep. Never in a million years had I expected to feel such violent grief for the loss of a bird I was too scared to touch. Love is weird like that. RIP Mario. You will always live in our hearts. I will miss you dearly!! Our first chick. Leader of the pack.
It has been three weeks and the random tearing up has finally reduced. I often find myself wandering out to where the makeshift grave marker composed of fallen gum branches still stands undeterred. The petals have long blown away, the mound of dirt the only indication that she was no longer looking up at me through the window while I worked at my desk. A week after she was gone, I cracked my last double yolk egg and instantly gave in to deep sobs.
Earlier this morning when I went to collect the eggs, I choked up but didn't cry. It is getting better. In time, we will be ready to bring two more chickens into our coop. But until then, the mound of dirt is a fixation with my cup of tea every evening. Life goes on, no matter how strange it can be. And I feel grateful for the chance to live it, surrounded by the people I love and wonders to be discovered every single day. Thank you all for your warm messages and comments. Thank you for sharing stories of your beloved pets, past and present. Your words mean the world to me.