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Jessi talks about how she copes when an animal dies in her care.

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(Intro music)

Welcome back to Animal Wonders, I'm Jessi! Recently we had a tragic accident happen at Animal Wonders. I woke to find the vast majority of our Northern walking sticks were dead. I have spent over three years propagating and managing the colony through parthenogenesis of just two females. It was heartbreaking, seeing all these little bodies of these babies that I've watched hatch and eat and grow with each moult. Not only had I lost all of these beautiful, fascinating, agile creatures, but I'd lost years of effort and hope. It got me thinking about a question that I get quite often, people ask me how do I deal with the death of an animal. 

Like this one from toxicgraphix: How do you deal with death? I can see you develop bonds with your animals, but they all will eventually die. How do you cope? Having so many beautiful animals, you must experience loss. 

With this video, I'm not trying to tell you how to grieve, because in my life I've learned that people grieve in different ways. It's personal, and individual, and the same person can grieve differently for different losses. While this isn't a tutorial on how to navigate loss, I do hope that by sharing how I handle my losses, you might feel a little bit more comfortable talking about death, because death is a part of life.

Most of the animals I work with naturally have a shorter lifespan than humans, so I have experienced quite a bit of loss. All the animals that I've worked with have been my friend, and there's no easy way to lose a friend, there's always some level of grief, whether it's utterly heartbreaking, or something that just a good cry will help ease the pain. The part that I find most interesting about toxicgraphix's question, is when they mention that all the animals will eventually die. This is the plain and simple truth about everything that lives. Every living thing will die. I think this is where I find my comfort and how I'm able to handle and deal with the losses I've encountered, and will encounter. It's not death that makes me sad, but the emotions that I connect to the animal that causes my grief. But death is consistent, and I find comfort in consistency. 

Knowing I can't change the eventual outcome allows me to focus on things that I can control - how an animal experiences its life. I do my best to give a happy and healthy life to all of the animals that I care for, and inspire others with the same ambition, and teach them how to achieve that goal. Now there are sometimes when an animal dies in my care and I feel like I didn't do everything I possibly could to provide that animal with the life it deserved, and in these cases it makes the death more painful.

In times like this that I immediately want to know why. Why did this happen? Knowing why almost always helps because there might be something there that I can fix. Going back to my most recent loss with the stick insects, my mistake became obvious within seconds. It was the new ficus tree that I had given them two days previously that must have been sprayed by some kind of toxin. And while it was painful knowing that I had made that mistake, it did help knowing what had caused it so that I could change it in the future. From now on, I will only be ordering guaranteed non-toxic safe plants from an animal supplier. 

Now touching on a different kind of loss, one where I was not able to fix something - my good friend, Louie the sun conure, passed away after 40 long, hard-fought days of tube feeding. This was the most heartbreaking animal loss that I've ever had because there was nothing I could do about it. Louie's quality of life was gone, and so I had him humanely euthanized. He was my friend, and I miss him terribly. This is the kind of loss that many people experience when their beloved pet passes away maybe of old age, and it's these times when I focus on the life that the animal had. I know that Louie had a really good life. He was loved, he was happy, he had so much fun in his life, and I don't want to focus on his death because death's not what defined him. His life did. 

Nothing lasts forever. But we all live in such individual ways that that's what I want to celebrate: those fleeting moments that make the world amazing.

If you feel comfortable, please share your loss stories with me in the comments section below, and if you have any questions throughout the week, you can find me on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook. Thanks guys. 


I want to give a huge thank you to all of our animal gift givers! We received some of your packages in the last couple of days from our Amazon wish list, and the animals are so happy, and making the animals' lives a happy and healthy one is top priority. So thank you.