There’s no easy way to start this post but I need to let it out and who better will understand my sadness and sorrow then you guys, my fellow lovers of wildlife.
Her name was Banksia (named after a beautiful Australian plant) and she was a spectacular golden brush-tailed possum. I’d known her (and cuddled her) for seven years and although I love all the animals I work with as a wildlife education officer she was, I admit, a favourite. We made a special connection her and me. That’s how they get to you. They suddenly and somehow cement themselves in your heart. They become a part of you.
On the 24th of July, I was told that I’d be losing her, a beautiful friend that always listened to me with her gentle, knowing eyes. She was found to have an aggressive cancer at the back of her tongue and vets assured us that putting her to rest was the best thing to do for her.
As the time crept forward to the appointment, we took her out of her nest box that day and said many goodbyes with tears that fell onto her thick golden coat. We wondered if she knew.
Holding her box, we silently headed over to the vet hospital. The lump in my throat grew bigger as we walked up the path toward the building. Although well-meaning, the sympathetic looks made me feel even more sick inside.
The vets were thoughtful and allowed us time to understand the process, say our goodbyes and to get ready. Banksia was relaxed and seemed at peace, which made it much easier for us to let her go. She laid down on the table and I moved over to be with her. I didn’t want to see her pass but I wanted to touch her, so I held her warm tail that clung to my fingers when I caressed it. When the tail didn’t react to my touch anymore, I knew she was gone. I didn’t want to let go but I knew I would eventually have to.
Yesterday, the day after her passing, I walked to her enclosure and put my head on the side where her nest box sat and mourned her again. It was so empty without her in there. I haven’t cried this much for a long time. I feel silly, but she really was so, so special to me.
My wonderful husband knew too, he sent a bunch of flowers to work. Even more thoughtful was that he didn’t just address it to me but to the team, knowing full well that everyone who knew her, loved her.
I know time will soften the sadness I’m feeling but I’ll never forget her. What I try to focus on are the fond memories. I’ll always remember her peeing on me when I was pregnant (I must have been sending off some weird pregnancy hormones) and her always smelling my nose (almost giving me a kiss) when I stuck my head in her nest box to say good morning most days.
My most important memory will be that she was an ambassador for wild possums. She connected with and encouraged thousands of teachers and children to put nest boxes up, to help wild animals have a place of protection and somewhere safe to raise their babies. That’s a pretty important job and she did it well. She was always the star of the show. I’d walk into the room with her on my arm and people would connect with her right away. The Ooos and ahhhs always made me smile because she was so worth the love she got from an audience.
Her life had meaning and I was very blessed to have known her. Today I honor her life.
Have you lost a dear animal friend/family member before? Tell me about them and what memories you cherish. How did you deal with your grief?