This is not good. Ms. Kramer seldom leaves her cage anymore. She used to climb around in there, pecking at the purple iron bars, eager to get out.

Now, even though I leave the cage permanently open, she sits warily on the entrance, staring out, scanning the kitchen floor, cocking her head to get a view of the doors to the hall and the dining room.

I know what she’s feeling. I know what she’s doing. She’s looking for Jack.

Ms. Kramer is a cockatiel, as in Nymphicus hollandicus, and that’s a very smart breed. Pet Smart in Augusta won’t carry them anymore, because they need too much attention. Glad I’m not a cockatiel.

This is the bad news, and let’s get it out of the way right away.

Our beloved sheepdog, Jack, died on Thanksgiving Day. It began the night before. He suddenly stopped just before dinner and stood in the kitchen staring into space, frozen into silence.

Forgetting that it was Thanksgiving, one of my least favorite holidays, I called the vet.

Unfortunately, I had no idea that our veterinarian hospital, like so many others, has no one on call for tragedies. So it was a Thanksgiving death watch. Not fun.

Jack’s ashes were handed over in a mahogany box befitting a beloved figure, and so he was.

Now we approach a holiday diminished, and Ms. Kramer, who is over 20 years old, sits at the end of her perch, eyeing the empty space that featured Jack.

She twists her head and looks down at where his shiny silver food and water bowls used to sit, where she would occasionally go for a risky sip when he wasn’t looking.

Jack is gone now, and she knows it. Birds are incredible creatures. They’re smarter than most humans.

Ms. Kramer was already here when Jack arrived. For years they were always wary of one another. Whenever I allowed her to join me at my desk on the dining room table, Jack sat nearby, his eyes glued to her movements as she wandered around the table, picking at my breakfast crumbs and pecking at the laptop.

It was then she developed the habit of strutting to the edge of the table and gazing down at him, at which time he would rise slowly, like a lion flexing his charging muscles, as if he had spotted a gazelle.

He would come to the edge of the table, and they would stare at one another only inches apart.

Ms. Kramer, ever the coquette, would strut back and forth like a chorus girl on the runway, teasing him. I had to keep an eye on those high-risk moves.

“What are you waiting for, Big Boy?” she seemed to say. “You want a piece of me? Let’s see what you got.”

Sometimes, Jack would slip his black nose up to the edge, inches from her beak, and then suddenly thrust forward.

Encumbered by mounds of gray and white hair and clumsy feet, he never had a chance. She, a few ounces of soft, light, yellow feathers and orange cheeks, would take to the air and circle him as he twisted about, bumping into chairs and tables.

He was clumsy in pursuit; she was feather light, swift and darting.

In the past year as his end grew near, they both stopped playing that game. I think it was then, unbeknown to us, that they fell in love.

Imagine such a love story. Jack’s common ancestor was a prehistoric wolf that lived in Europe or Asia anywhere between 9,000 and 34,000 years ago. They weren’t as cuddly and lovable as Jack. And what prehistoric hunter could imagine one of the gray-eyed wolves, who roamed snowy forests and terrified the world, laying by his mistress’s chair each evening, gently putting his head on her feet?

And then here is Ms. Kramer, descended from a Velociraptor, a small meat-eating dinosaur of tens of millions of years ago, perched on my shoulder as I decorate the tree.

It’s been decided that Jack, the beloved of She who was his queen, will be the last of the line.

We’ve decided that we’re both too old now to have our hearts broken by such early and sudden departures.

It’s growing dark now, the tree lights are on. Ms. Kramer, bored with my moves, has returned to her purple wire cage, while still scanning the empty space, one ear cocked for the soft, comforting sound of Jack lapping from his nearby water bowl.

Merry Christmas, Jack, wherever you are. You know we will always miss you.

But I suspect Ms. Kramer, in her tiny Velociraptor heart, may miss you more.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

 

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.