Sammy was so much more than a bird, she was a part of me.
I have had Sammy since she hatched in 2006, and she was rarely in a cage. When I was in undergraduate, she would frequently sneak into class with me. In dental school, she would spend many a lecture hidden under my shirt.
She lived inside my shirt and would remain there quietly without making a peep! This means that I could easily take her places where pets are not allowed. All I had to do was tell her to “go in my shirt” and she would dive down my collar! This worked out great because now she had a wonderful vantage point of the world around here without actually being exposed to any harm. Nothing could swoop down and steal her off my shoulder and a loud noise wouldn’t make her jump off of me. She was safe and content and spent most of her life right there.
This worked out great while I was a student and still a dirt dweller. When I graduated in 2012 from dental school, I had big plans to live aboard a sailboat and sail the world! Obviously, Sammy was part of the plan. Sammy adapted well to boat life because she didn’t care where I was, as long as she was on me. She did have herself a small cage inside where she would eat and where she would ride out bad weather (I didn’t want her getting blown overboard).
In all her years, the only time she fell in the water was when a kid jumped really hard on an aluminum section of the pier at a marina. Sammy was in my shoulder and about to go into my shirt when the loud bang scared her to flight (but she couldn’t fly) and she fell into the water right at the waters edge. I quickly scooped her up and all was well. In all her years, that was the only time she fell in the water; that is a pretty good track record!
Living aboard in a marina really isn’t all that different from living in a small apartment; the only difference is the view is much better! The big change came when Maddie and I decided to go cruising (oh yes, Sammy was around long before I met my wife). We set out and cruised down the Chesapeake Bay with our pets still aboard. When we got to the mouth of the bay, Sammy now 11 years old, went to live with my parents. Maddie and I decided that it would be safer for our pets (Morty and Sammy) if they lived with our parents instead of on an ocean going sailboat. My parents drove down to Deltaville, VA to pick up Sammy, beginning her life on shore once again.
Sammy enjoyed being at my parents house, and she got plenty of time out of her cage on their shoulders, but this phase of her life was short lived.
Sammy died on the June 8th, 2019. I was in the Azores at the time. I would fly home for a month at a time every few months and spend the majority of that time with Sammy who I missed so much. I had just flown back to the Azores to sail to mainland Portugal a few days before. We were getting the boat ready to sail to Portugal and return again in August to see Sammy again.
The voyage started off as a wonderful time with Sammy, who had always been a literal part of me. She was either on my shoulder or in my shirt for over a decade! Then we made the decision to leave them in the care and safety of my parents, but this was such a hard thing to do. I cried so much when my parents picked her up because I felt like if I was saying goodbye. Sammy always slept right next to me in her little bed, right by my bed. At night, the last thing I did before getting in bed was put her in hers; the first thing I did when I got up in the morning was get her out of her bed. To make the conscious decision to become separated from her was grueling!
I still remember coming home to visit the first time. Sammy was so excited to see me that she fell off her perch! As soon as I was home, the old routine was restored and she spent every moment attached to me. We visited as often as we could and for as long as we could, mainly because we missed our pets, but also to see our family.
I felt so sad when I left this last time because I wanted to spend more time with her. I told her that I was leaving again and that I would be back in about two months. As I arrived in the Azores, Wisdom was still on the hard and we were finished with our refit. We were splashing and setting sail to Portugal so that we could fly home for a family reunion in August. When my parents called, I was destroyed.
Suddenly, the dream of sailing across the ocean merely became a delivery to get me to the airport in Portugal so that I could fly home. A part of me had died and sadness poured into the necrotic hole in my soul.
Sammy loved strawberries. She would go berserk at the sight of the red fruit! She would always take a huge bite out of the fruit and mash it up with her beak, only eating a small portion of the original bite, then fling the red mash everywhere to clean her beak before the next bite. If you didn’t know, strawberry mash will stain everything it lands on, so I was always very cautious with how big of a bite she would take and promptly wipe her beak clean before she would shake her head with expert flinging motion.
Her love of strawberries didn’t just reach the fruit itself, she loved anything with strawberries in it! Strawberry ice cream, strawberry yogurt, even dried strawberries in cereal!
Since she loved strawberries so much, I decided to bury her in a planter with strawberry plants, wrapped up in one of my shirts. I might have not been there with her at the end, but she always loved being in the collar of my shirt, and while I wasn’t there with her at the end in person, this way a part of me will always be holding onto her forever. I figure that with time, a bit of her might end up in the strawberries, and that other birds might be able to take a bit of her with them. It really is a dumb idea, but it makes me feel better to think that she can still have her strawberries, even if it means her becoming strawberries!
And why the planter? Well, being how we live on a boat that is currently in Portugal, and being how I don’t want to leave her behind, I figured a planter was the best choice. Eventually, we will sail back into the Chesapeake Bay and our journey will come to an end. We plan to become dirt dwellers once more and have a home on land. If I were to bury Sammy somewhere in the Earth, that would be where she would remain. Somewhere far from where I am, and never somewhere I am going to be; so I decided to bury Sammy in a planter that way when we come back and settle down somewhere, Sammy can come along and be with me once again.