What I Learned About God Through My Pet Bird

Charlie the bird - image courtesy of Rebecca Ruiz

My bird, Charlie, died last month.

Charlie was a beautiful little parrot, jam-packed with personality. Most days, my shoulder was her perch, from which she would plant kisses on my cheek. She loved having her picture taken, and my friend taught her to pose. When we would laugh, she would laugh—and she had a knack for knowing when the punchline of a joke was coming and would always laugh at exactly the right moment.

She also loved to snuggle. She would fly over, sit with us, wrapped in a hoodie on the couch, and watch movies and Mass with us. When my son would practice violin, she would be the metronome perfectly chirping out the beat. If he stopped practicing after only a few minutes, Charlie would squawk at him until he would start practicing again. My son used to joke that she was a music teacher in a previous life. At night, when we would turn out the light, she would say, “Good night. I love you.” She was full of life and love.

In the days after her death, I found myself surprised at the depth of my grief. The areas of our home where she had perched seemed to emit a palpable absence. I reminded myself that she was not a person. That didn’t help at all. The fact was, she was still a cherished member of our family for over a decade, and while she was only six inches long, she constantly made her presence known. I decided to just sit with my grief in prayer.

As I prayed, St. Ignatius’s thoughts on creation came to mind. In the Contemplation to Attain the Love of God, he asks us to reflect on “how God dwells in creatures: in the elements giving them existence, in the plants giving them life, in the animals conferring upon them sensation, in man bestowing understanding” (Spiritual Exercises 235) and to consider “how God works and labors for me in all creatures upon the face of the earth, that is, He conducts Himself as one who labors. Thus, in the heavens, the elements, the plants, the fruits, the cattle, etc., He gives being, conserves them, confers life and sensation, etc.” (236) Ignatius further advises that we are to “consider all blessings and gifts as descending from above.” (237)

Charlie certainly was a blessing from above, and she taught me about God. If God can pack so much love into one delightful little bird and if, as Ignatius indicates, God has created and continues to create all of creation as gift for us, how immense is God’s love for us?

It’s worth spending some time with that thought: God’s love animates all of creation, all the time, and all of this wondrous creation is a gift to us!

Have you ever had a pet that taught you about God’s love for you?

29 COMMENTS

  1. I have learnt much about God through our little girl cat, Bronwen. She often sits with me when I spend my quiet time with God, and she just delights in being with me (and I’m sure she knows that she is in God’s presence too), purring and thoroughly at ease. God says to me, this is how I want you to be when you are in My presence, not striving or talking, just enjoying My company.

  2. Hi Rebecca, your Charlie is amazing. I had a dog that could sense when I was depressed or upset & no matter where she was, she would show up climb in my lap…my Sierra was very connected to my heart and soul. She’s been gone many years & I still get very sad when I think of her. 😥😢

    • Hi Loretta,
      Thank you for sharing about Sierra. I’m always amazed at the abilities animals have to sense our emotions. They may not speak our languages, but they surely speak the language of the heart, don’t they?

  3. My husband died in August 2020. I have the dog, a smart Catahoula hound. I have noticed and accept the fact that she is my dog angel sent from God. She’s with me at every minuted of the day. She lets me know when she wants to take a ride to the park or run around the yard doing 60 mph. I think people think, she’s a dog. What’s with you and your dog? Does God really have anything to do with Bella as a guardian “dog angel” ? Absolutely. And after reading about Charlie I know God sent Bella to me Blessings to all. Thank you.

    • Thank you, Dr. Coelho. Yes, we will always be grateful to God for the gift of this sweet bird in that season of our lives.

  4. Your story of Charlie touched my heart. Our family have had many much loved pets over the years. We cherished them and mourned for them when they died. Thank you God for loving us and for giving us your Spirit of love.

  5. I so relate to this as I have companion birds and have grieved their loss terribly. Thank you for sharing about Charlie. She sounds absolutely wonderful and delightful. Such precious little creatures with huge personalities.

    I actually have a grief and loss counselling business for pet owners (website below). I often tell my clients that I believe our pets are sent to us to show God’s love in its purest form. Charlie was a little spark of God’s amazing love.

    • Hi Madonna, Thank you for sharing. Yes, I remain amazed at how much love and personality God packs into these little creatures. It’s so nice that you help pet owners through the grief process.

  6. Would an illyarrie gum count as a pet? I have a beautiful, living one outside on my verge. People walking past love it as well.

    • Hi Pam, It certainly sounds like a gift from God to you and everyone who loves and admires it. Sounds lovely!

  7. Rebecca: What a loving and incredible tribute to one of God’s magnificent, colorful and talkative creatures. Burrowing in your clothing, counting notes as a dynamic metronome for your son, kissing your cheek, and giving you a farewell wish every night. Not only was Charlie “educated” but he was a contributing member of your family. Most people have a cat or dog or hamster, but God blessed you with a presence your family needed and valued. Thoughts and prayers, Annette Lynch

    • Hi Annette, Nice to hear from you. Yes, God blessed us with a little creature that was perfect for our family. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. Peace!

  8. Lovely reflection. I too have had man y pets; Bird (Billy, a wonderful mimic and talker), cat,mainly dogs. All brought love, happiness and respect to our family and lots of laughs ,then deep grief when they went to God. All creatures Great & Small. Horses were a great joy and sorrow also. I used to say ;some of my BEST Friends were dogs. Non judgmental. I don’t have any pets now,as I can’t care for them.GOD BLESS.
    I feel your loss. A.M.D.G.

  9. Dearest Rebecca Ruiz, I am so sorry for your loss of Charlie, your little parrot. She was beautiful ! Truly a gift from God. Our pets give us so much company, enjoyment and love, I cannot imagine not ever having one. We have a shelter dog, for 10 years now, and he is with me everywhere in our home. Right now he is cuddling with me in
    our big recliner chair with his blankie .
    Thank you, God, for our time with our beautiful pets; unconditional ❤️ love.

    • Thank you, Kathleen. Your dog sounds lovely and I second your prayer thanking God for the time we have with our wonderful pets!

  10. I can understand and appreciate how much you loved Charlie and the grief you feel at his death. That is my thoughts and feelings as I think of my cat, Barney. For seventeen years he was my companion and especially after my husband died. Barney sensed that I needed the extra comfort that he could provide – yes, God sent Barney to me to let me know how much He loves me. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • HI Marge,
      Thank you – and thank you for sharing about Barney too. Cats are such wonderful pets – very adept at sensing our emotions and snuggling up when we need it. I’m glad God sent him to you to be with you during that difficult time.

  11. I’m so sorry for the loss of your dear Charlie. She was most certainly a gift from God. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  12. I loved reading about Charlie! My boy, Spike, a cockatoo, has been a wonderful companion for 36 years. And you are so right that God uses all creation to infuse our understanding of His love for us. I understand your grief at his death, and I understand your gratitude for his life.

    • Hi Barbara,
      Thank you. So nice to hear about your cockatoo, Spike! It continues to amaze me how birds can be such wonderful little companions – so packed with personality. God is good!

  13. God gifts s in many different ways. Charlie was God’s gift to you and your family. I felt that way about my dog, Lizzie, who was there when my husband left our marriage. What a gift her love and companionship was for me. Thank you for sharing your Charlie with us!

    • Hi Lynda,
      God certainly does gift us in many different ways! Thank you for sharing about your Lizzie too. I’m so glad she was there for you with her love and companionship.

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