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Pickle: the Short, but Joyful, Lives of Pets by Laurie Schultz 

I needed inspiration for a topic for this newsletter post. Usually a personal interest or something nostalgic is an effective writing prompt; but, this week, I couldn’t take my thoughts away from the troubling events unfolding throughout our nation. I had no focus for finding something entertaining or interesting.  

But that changed on Tuesday. We had a very terrifying experience with our pet cinnamon green-cheek conure, Olivia, who got spooked and flew off my shoulder through a small door opening. First she flew to the neighbor’s roof and called out in fear. She would not fly down to us because we had never worked on recall training. She only flew when startled, and always came to one of us or flew to her cage. She has never been outside. When the garbage truck roared up our street, she got scared again and flew higher to a nearby tree. Birds will always seek high places when frightened.  

After no success talking her down, we called the fire department. As the fireman slowly approached on his ladder, she panicked again and flew out of sight. We had made the wrong decision. We were devastated and thought we lost her forever. Such a weight of fear and guilt. She was so important to us and a delightful companion, very sweet and cuddly. She couldn’t fend for herself and would die frightened, exhausted and alone ... 

Fourteen hours of desperate searching, calling and whistling through our neighborhood, calling every vet in the area, posting info with neighborhood Facebook groups, Humane Animal Rescue, Animal Friends, ads on Craigs List, etc. During my frantic wandering, I heard her from more than block away and finally pinpointed the tree where she had fled.   

One of the people who had responded to my “lost bird” post on Facebook just happened to have the same types of birds, and experience with parrot rescue. He was riding his bike through my neighborhood looking for her and also heard her calls and rushed to help. After several hours, and climbing on a stranger’s garage, he was able to talk her down. A miracle that a bird whisperer lived in my neighborhood and gave up his time to search for and save our pet!  

The death of a pet is a terribly painful experience, and losing a pet creates such guilt and emptiness. You can’t stop searching and never give up hope. The joy of having her back safely with us is indescribable. I finally had my writing prompt! Find something cool about pets, and how they touch our lives forever. I have always been a pet owner and we never really stop grieving and remembering things about our pets who have died.    

I can always find something wonderful on Kanopy. Rather than search birds, because I didn’t really want to watch nature videos, I searched “Pets.” The first video that appeared sounded interesting, and it was only 16 minutes! I thoroughly enjoyed Pickle: the Short, but Joyful, Lives of Pets. Here’s a description of the award-winning video and Kanopy staff pick:  

“A couple recounts the various animals they have adopted as pets over the course of their marriage, including a paraplegic possum and a fish that couldn't swim. PICKLE explores the human capacity to care for all creatures throughout their sometimes greatly protracted lives until their occasionally sudden and unfortunate deaths. 

Winner of the Audience Award and Special Jury Prize for Best Documentary Short at the Boston International Film Festival. Winner of Best Documentary Short at the Traverse City Film Festival. Official Selection at the Hot Docs Festival.” 

The film captures, with dark humor and personal narratives, the endearing little quirks of our pets, and how we accept that our animals’ lives, though brief, have a powerful impact on us. At the close of the film, after telling numerous stories of love and loss, this quote by the husband captures the tone of the film and the eternal question: 

"People think about animals as living forever, but most animals don't live very long. I think that anything, when it dies, it just dies, and that's it, you know." And his wife responds, “I don't ... I believe it's one huge ball of energy. And I think that all living things go back there.”  

Take a few minutes to watch this film and reflect on the wonder and humor our pets have given us. 

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