It's so hard when penguins die. It really is.
The first thing I'm kicking myself over is I have no picture of Cookie to share with you here. Sure you can argue that all penguins look pretty much the same and you would be right for the most part, but shit, I can tell them apart.
Next Saturday, I'm going to concentrate on getting decent pictures of all the birds.
Cause of death: he had a disc protrusion of the spine. It was causing him huge problems with his left leg in that he couldn't really use it. We started giving him meds and he was able to use the leg for a long time, but lately things had been getting worse. The last time I saw him before he died he was in so much pain that he couldn't stand on his own two feet long enough to even get out of the water. He'd spend a lot of time swimming in the jets. They must have felt good to him in the same way sitting in a jacuzzi feels good to us. Nature in her wisdom and mercy caused things to go downhill fast for him. His body shut down quickly.
I am thankful and pleased that the end was quick for him. I'm even more pleased that he's no longer in any pain.
Cookie was always a nervous bird. Legendary for his skittishness, he still managed to surprise us. For example, he had an odd relationship with Pierre the Alpha Male. Given Cookie's nerves, I would have thought Pierre would either ignore him completely or enjoy chasing him around, but they had an understanding. Often, Pierre would allow Cookie to enter his territory when no one else was able to. And in a funny twist, the two took to preening each other every once in a while. Penguins who preen each other are almost always bonded couples so preening each other is the penguin equivalent of making out. Pierre was at the time, and still is, without a mate.
Cookie had a very specific feeding pattern: swim around in three circles as you approach the person holding the fish, pop your head out of the water and gobble down a big herring as quickly as possible, then swim away. He would only eat very large herring. This was probably because most people could only get him to eat once each feed.
His parents were Flash (female) and Oreo (male, and one of my dearest penguin friends). Both are dead. His mate is Homey, a sweet soul and a very big girl. Cookie lived his whole life at the Aquarium. I was fortunate enough to be around when he was conceived and hatched, and I spent much time raising him from when he was a nervous little chick.
Homey is at present mateless, but will likely pair off with Pierre at some point. The problem is Pierre is behaving like the cranky old man that he is. He's going to have to stop beating her up and start turning on those courtship rituals that he's so skilled at to win her over. We'll see if that happens.