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 bestthing 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.
Animal friend loss
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?
[email protected] says
Penny, I am in tears reading this post. Banksia was such a beautiful creature; it’s little wonder why she was loved by so many. When I lost my dog, it was like my heart had been ripped out of me. It’s been over a decade, but I still get teary sometimes thinking about him. They become part of our lives and always have a special place in our hearts. xo P
Thanks so much P. That’s exactly how I feel. I am so sorry you’ve experienced this too.
Although I’ still tear up about it quite a bit, I already have some lovely ways I think I’ll honor her memory. I can’t wait to start on them and share them with you all.
Sending you a huge hug from my side of the world, Penny. I sobbed just reading this, so I can’t imagine how tough it must be on you & your team right now. This post was a lovely way to honor your dear friend, so thank you for sharing.
I have lost two animal family members in the past five years (both cats) & I still think of them almost every day. I miss their spirits and companionship. That space they still occupy in my heart helps me when I get sad. It’s my way of knowing they’ll always be with me.
I am so sorry to hear of your personal loss and that of your team. It sounds like Banksia achieved a lot during her time there and I am sure her memory will continue to achieve much, and maybe another little possum will step up into those big Banksia shoes?
I was sad to read about Banksia – I never knew that type of possum even existed. So beautiful, as was the knowing expression on her face. It’s wonderful that she helped you educate so many people about looking after our animal friends.
Thank you for sharing this post. Beautifully written. Hugs from far away.
I’m so sorry for your loss! I’ve never seen a possum that is so beautiful!
One of our boy cats died unexpectedly 3 years ago and I still miss him dearly. He was too smart for his own fur and loved vegetables. It does take time, but our special fur friends are never forgotten.
Karen Hannah says
Oh honey, I really feel for you. I hope you can find strength amongst your team and help each other to honour her memory in a beautiful way x
kirri @ kirri white coaching says
Seven years is a long time to have a close relationship with someone. I’m so sorry to hear about Banksia 🙁
Thanks Kirri. It was very, very sad. 🙁
hi penny I had a dog that was really special. She stopped me from going down the stairs because she knew that I could get hurt. As a baby she would watch me sleep. Sadly she died from a really sick and had to be put down 🙁 She was an AWESOME DOG!!!!! she had her spot in the front of the ute and would not let mum sit there. She was very clever. After 3 weeks that my dad had owned her she could already sit and stay and by a couple more weeks she always listen to dad, dad had to tell her she could until she went anywhere. She was amazing but it is better to of loved her than not loved at all.
Penny Whitehouse says
Thanks Holly. It most certainly better to be loved. She will always be in my heart that’s for sure 🙂
I read this post a while back and thought how very sad it was. It’s ironic now that I saw it again while looking at your amazing kids craft ideas as I have now also recently lost a much loved furry friend, my cat Ollie. He was brought to me almost 11 years ago, a tiny little unweaned kitten who was so dehydrated that his suck reflex was virtually non existent. The vets told me that he wouldn’t make it, but through love and perseverance he grew into a fat, happy old tom cat. He was never much of an adventurer and preferred to stay at home, but then over the festive season a new couple moved into the flat next door to our downstairs neighbour and brought with them thier 2 cats. The female especially antagonised my cats, even climbing up onto our balcony and upsetting them and my boys started to act strange, fighting each other etc. On the night that Ollie went missing (a week ago) we heard cats fighting and then our downstairs neighbour came to tell us that Oliver had been in his yard fighting with the male from next door (SO unlike my Ollie! I think they’d probably been trying to get onto our balcony again) and that he had startled him when going to investigate, so Oliver jumped over the wall into the street behind our complex. My husband immediately got into the car and drove around to that street to find him but Ollie had already dissapeared. I spread his picture everywhere, we searched for him but he didn’t show up, then 2 days after he dissapeared a lady contacted me to say that she had seen a dead cat by the side of the road. She sent me a photo and described him and it was my baby. He had been hit by a car and probably died instantly. But by the time that we got to the spot he’d been seen his body was gone. I’ve called so many organisations to find his body and nobody has any record of moving him so I can only hope that he has been buried somewhere with dignity. To deal with my grief, and try to explain things to my 3 year old son who doesn’t understand that Oliver isn’t simply “hiding”, I have written a story about Oliver which I shall illustrate and hopefully get published, then proceeds can go to a suitable charity. Maybe I’ll even start my own, something dedicated to unweaned animals or maybe to raise awareness about microchipping and correct procedure when finding a stray whether dead or alive – if whoever had moved Oliver would have just taken him to a vet then they’d have found my information on his chip and I’d have been able to give him one last hug and bury him somewhere that I could visit him. Not being able to properly say goodbye has been such cruel torture. Anyway, sorry for the essay, but it felt good to get all of that out. xxx
Penny Whitehouse says
Oh Sam, I just want to give you a big hug! Poor Oliver, that’s just heartbreaking to read and I’m so sorry you couldn’t bury him and say goodbye in that way honey. That must feel so awful. Sending you and your family love. I think it’s inspiring that you want to want his memory to live on. xx
Thank you Penny.