I am writing this with a heavy heart. Yesterday, we had to put our dear, sweet Lulu to sleep. I seem to have cried out all my tears last night (although I know there will be more to come) and now just have a heavy, empty feeling in my chest. I may ramble and go on to excess but just wanted to put down in words what happened.
A week ago Lulu started having vision problems. She couldn't eat because she was trying to peck 2 – 3 inches above her food dish. Lulu could only eat or drink if I held the food dish up high enough to touch it on her neck so she knew where it was. I had thought she was having eye trouble because she had been eating a bunch of ant larvae and winged ants the night before. I thought she may have gotten stung or something by some of the ants. (Lulu doesn't usually eat ants.) Her eyes weren't swollen or discoloured so I decided to just keep an eye on her and help her to eat.
Lulu started panting a lot which on hindsight, she has been doing a lot this month but I put it off to the hot weather we've been having. She would pant less if she laid in the corner of the couch with her head up. She was also sleeping a lot more than usual.
Lulu ate and drank less and less and her breathing didn't improve so I started trying to find her a vet. It is hard to find a vet that treats birds. When I had tried to find a vet previously, vets in Kamloops gave me the runaround because none of them treated birds and especially chickens. Someone gave me a number to phone for the farm animal vet. That vet only dealt with large animals not chickens. Finally someone gave me a number to try at the coast. I tried that vet again on this occasion but couldn't get an appointment nor to talk to her because she was too busy. I got back on the internet and found a vet in Abbottsford that looks after birds and got an appointment with her for Monday this week.
On Sunday, Barry found out at noon that they were scheduled to 4 days off starting Monday. After working for 12 hours on Sunday, he drove for 10 hours so he could be home to be with Lulu and me. He slept for 4 hours and we were soon on the road to the vet Monday morning.
The vet was very gentle and tender with Lulu. She could hear respiratory problems. Dr. Borgmann said we could do bloodwork and diagnostics to try to find the source of Lulu's problems or we could start her on antibiotics right away to see if they cleared up. We decided to try antibiotics and I was shown how to use a feeding tube to get some nourishment into Lulu.
We took Lulu home and gave her 2 different antibiotics and tube-fed her. We arranged the bedding on an armchair so Lulu could sleep propped in the corner and she seemed to be very comfortable and slept well without panting.
Tuesday arrived and we all had a lazy day. Barry was exhausted from all his driving, and I was tired from not sleeping well at nights (partly from the heat and partly from worry for Lulu and getting up several times to check on her.) Lulu was more alert and talkative than she had been in days. She looked around as seemed aware of her surroundings. Lulu even started eating and drinking on her own. She loved the new high-protein mash we got from the vet so I fed her as much as she wanted. Lulu also ate corn and drank water and soy milk. Lulu wasn't panting but she wasn't able to stand up. I was hopeful that it was only because she was in a weakened state. That evening, we went outside when it was cooler and Lulu laid on the lawn. We picked some ripe blueberries and Barry gave her a whole handful. She gobbled them down with relish. Even though she had eaten a fair bit all day, Lulu still could not stand or use her legs. When she would poop, Lulu would get frustrated and flap trying to move away from the poop with no success.
That evening her breathing worsened again and Lulu would almost seem to have panic attacks. She would flap and struggle until we would hold her to calm her down. I spent much of the night laying on the couch with Lulu snuggled on my chest. I talked to Lulu a lot through the night telling her how much I loved her and would miss her but was releasing her if she felt she needed to leave. I told Lulu she would always be a part of me and I knew we would see each other again. Lulu would look at me while I talked and seemed to understand. Lulu always loved to snuggle and to be close to me.
When Barry got up at 6:00, he found us laying on the couch. He sat with Lulu while I had a couple hours sleep. He said she was fairly calm and he was able to give her some relief in her breathing by propping his hand under her chest. Barry said he talked to her and told her goodbye.
I called the vet when I got up and we made another appointment to take Lulu in that afternoon. Barry drove the 3+ hours while Lulu sat on my lap. For most part, Lulu was comfortable with no more breathing panic attacks. Lulu loved car rides and being close to mom.
Dr. Borgmann checked Lulu over and noticed Lulu also had trouble holding up her head or if she did, she held her neck at an unusual angle. She said that the antibiotics should have made more difference to her breathing if they were working. Dr. Borgmann said these new symptoms suggested possible neurological damage. When we told her we had decided to put Lulu to sleep, she said that she would have made the same decision if Lulu was hers.
Dr. Borgmann gave Lulu the shot and left us to say our good-byes. Lulu was comfortable in my arms and quietly fell asleep. Both Barry and I petted her and told her we loved her and would miss her with our tears flowing freely. She was one special little sweetie and will be missed immensely.
We wrapped Lulu in a towel and in her favourite fluffy throw rug and took her home to bury her. Barry and I talked about her and remembered so many cute and funny incidents that happened in Lulu's and our lives. Lulu made us laugh many, many times and surprised us with her intelligence on numerous occasions.
Before we laid Lulu in her final resting place, I unwrapped her so we could once more pet her and say good-bye. She looked peaceful and we knew we made the right decision no matter how hard it was for us – we didn't want her to suffer anymore.
We rewrapped Lulu and laid her in the grave. I had collected some of her favourite foods to send her on her way. Lulu loved sunflower seeds, corn, blueberries, cashews, and of course, peanuts. Barry and I each said our heartfelt words as we stood there with tears rolling down our faces. We loved our feathery sweetheart, Lulu. We filled her grave and covered it will a variety of flowers from the yard.
Lulu had a very full life for a lame little chicken. She touched the hearts of many people and made them laugh as she did it. Lulu helped people realize that chickens and other creatures are often more intelligent than people give them credit for.
Lulu travelled to three provinces and met people from all over the world. She was funny and spunky and learned to live her her lameness. Lulu not only had the run of the house and the yard, she had the run of our hearts. Never a day went by with Lulu when she didn't make you feel the happiness and love she brought to our lives.
Lulu loved to talk to me and made so many sounds I'd never heard a chicken make. I wish I had been able to tape her talking so I could hear her once more. Barry often said that it seemed like we were having real conversations. Sometimes it did really seem like we were. I would talk to Lulu while she would look at me without interrupting and when I was finished speaking she would say something. We could go back and forth like that for a long while.
Yesterday Lulu was 4 years and 1 month old. That seems a very short time but it is hard to remember life without Lulu. I love her and will miss her something awful. She has left a big, big hole in my life. But I have to believe that somewhere, Lulu is in the sunshine, chasing grasshoppers on two good legs, happy, healthy and full of life and love. Goodbye my feathered angel goodbye.
NOTE: I will not be publishing my blog for awhile until I feel less sad. I have more photos of Lulu that I took on our travels and will publish them later. Some I had already written the captions but can't do them right now. Thank you for your patience and understanding. Joan (Lulu's mom)