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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Good-bye Buddy: Thoughts on Saying Good-bye to My Pet Rooster

Today, the first person I talked to at work was a random colleague. This happened seconds after I set my pet rooster, Zappa onto the front seat, said good-bye to my husband, and tried to compose myself to walk up the sidewalk, up our high school's front stairs, and into our building. I was nervous about this small journey today because no matter how hard I tried, tears were welling up in my eyes, ready to spill at any second. ...and how was I going to explain to everyone why I was entering work crying, and that the overflow of tears was for my pet...rooster?

My initial plan was to quickly and efficiently just make it to my classroom without talking to anyone or being talked to by anyone, but a kind, fellow teacher stopped me steps away from the front door, and asked what was wrong.

The conversation went something like this:

"Are you okay? Darcy, wait!"

"I'm fine. It's just that husband ...right there (pointing to our Subaru) is taking our pet to the vet to be put to sleep," I said.

"I'm so sorry. That's so hard," she replied.

"I'll be okay. Thanks. It's such an awkward situation being dropped off and work and saying good-bye to a pet," I said trying to explain how irrational I might seem.

"No, it's okay. What kind of pet was it? Dog? Cat?" she asked.

"It was my ... chicken," I said sheepishly.

She didn't know what to say, obviously surprised to find my furry friend was instead my feathered friend. When most people hear chicken, they think "yum!" Unless, of course, they've had the lovely experience of bonding with a day-old chick and watching him/her grow.

I tried avoiding the topic all day, but my puffy eyes and red nose weren't helping me keep this top-secret. I was embarrassed to be sad that my chicken was going to get put to sleep. But why? I had loved my little Zapster the same way I love my feline friends. Granted, he was an outside pet, and my kitties live indoors - but I looked forward to driving into our driveway every single day after work to see Zappa hopping to meet me. I learned what each of his sounds meant ~ I knew when he went, "Ba-caw!" he probably was just protecting his hens from...a butterfly or airplane. I knew his happy sounds. I knew that he preferred cranberries over raisins, but raisins over apples. I learned where to pet his little neck to get him to fall asleep, almost instantly. I knew how to hold my hand so that he could rest his chest comfortably into it and get cozy warm. I cared and loved him like I've cared and loved any pet. Why was I ashamed of that today? He was my little buddy ~ one that would answer with a loud, "Cock-a-doodle-doo!" anytime I said, "Hi Buddy!", even from the living room window.

Pondering this tonight, I've realized it might seem silly to most to be sad about a little rooster dying, but to me, it's even sillier to feel sheepish about shedding tears for losing a pet -- any pet. Anytime anyone sends love or compassion into the world, the world is happier. I'm happy to have given Zappa a wonderful life. I'm happy that I treated a rooster with compassion and kindness. I'm happy that he felt love and joy. That's something I can take comfort in tonight, despite my heavy heart, my tight throat, and my sore eyes. Zappa was loved, and for all of my anthropomorphizing tendencies (about which I'm happy to admit), I believe he loved us too.

Zappa died peacefully at the vet. Yes, we actually paid to have our rooster euthanized humanely, just like we would any other pet (after all, he was a pet -- he wasn't laying eggs, and he certainly wasn't ever going to actually protect our hens!). He began limping yesterday, and by this morning, he was unable to walk and had lost interest in eating. We've gone through this Marek's thing before, and so we decided to act quickly. Why prolong his suffering when we knew how this would end?

Regardless, it wasn't easy to say good-bye, and for now, I'm not embarrassed of that at all.
Zappa with Ani, just a few weeks old

A few months old

In all his glory
Look how big a normal hen looks against our little Zapster


  1. Its okay man. I feel you! My rooster looked just like yours and he was my lil buddy too. May yours and my pet roosters R.I.P. and see each other in the other world. : )

    1. Glad to know there are other rooster lovers out there. What was your little guy's name?