Friday, February 27, 2009

FLY AWAY HOME

We’ve never been of the Pets-are-Disposable persuasion---once you have them, they’re yours forever. And we have one now that we’ve had for ten years---our big old blue and gold bird. And he’s getting to be too much for me, with a baby in the house most of the time. He needs social activities and dancing and lots of attention, and I find that at my age, I have to dig deep to find enough for the lively little one I’m entrusted with. I just can’t give Rich the attention and time he needs, and he deserves so much more, plus macaws sometimes live to be eighty, and he needs bright, new things to do and see and people to be with.

So, we’ve found him a new Family---a Family who lost a bird just like him under tragic circumstances, and has longed to have another someday. We met them yesterday, he and I---a gracious young woman and her just-teen daughter. There’s a kind husband and a pre-teen son at home, and they are all a-whirl in the planning and the placing and the getting-him-home with the fervor of any adoptive parents---they have the rooms all laid out---where the big cage will be, in the bank of big sunny windows, and his perch in the den, and the outdoor cage in the shade of the patio. They were amazed that we're giving him to them, but you just don't SELL a relative.

She had called the vet one day, asking to be put on the list to re-home a blue and gold, and they said that they didn’t have a list---no one had ever asked that before. We happened to call them the very next day, and when they called her back, they said, “You must be absolutely meant to have this bird---it’s Karma or Fate or something.” And I’m convinced that they are. And it is. Something.

He’s eleven years old, and we met him before his eyes were open. He was a tee-ninecy baby, with a huge head and little teensy body like Tweety bird, though not as big. He had been hatched for several days, and was in the incubator at the store. All the babies were in shoebox-sized clear plastic bins, with a little fluff of paper in the bottom, and he was sitting backed up to one wall, with his little round belly and his scrawny legs splayed like a tiny drunk on a sidewalk.

I was surprised to see that his beak looked reversed, in that the bottom lip was a little square shelf, into which the delicate little curl of the top one fit, belying the magnificent fierce scimitar-curve of beak to come as he grew up. He was trying SO hard to sleep, but he was growing in some of those stiff old feather-casings, and every time he’d nod his head, one would poke him under his chin. He’d jump awake, then nod off again. I felt so sorry for that sleepy baby---he just took my heart.

He’s big on “Hello!” and says it in all our various voices, as well as “Hola!” on occasion.
He has a fairly interesting vocabulary---lots of food words, and admonishments to himself. You proffer a bite of food, and he parrots the question we've asked so many times: “What IS it? Is it a cookie?”

He takes a bite or two as you hold on, then grasps with one big foot. He asks: “Ya GOT it?” and follows that with an appreciative “MMMMMM!!! YUMMY!”

He's a terrific dancer, as we sing Louie, Louie---though neither of us knows the words, so we just sing OH-Oh-Oh-OH-OhOh on the beat, as we shake our tailfeathers and wave our arms. I can hear him nearly every day, singing away, saying "C'mon! Let's Dance!! C'mon! Getcha Arms Up!" in my voice, as he prances the perch, bobbing and waving, til a final ascent into the top of his cage, where he hangs by one toenail and swings back and forth, yelling about arms, waving his wings in great swoops.

All meat is “Chicken”---he’s allowed a rib bone occasionally when we grill, but I was always afraid those powerful jaws would shatter a chicken bone to splinters and harm him. He’ll gnaw and gnaw til there’s barely a scrap left on the bone. Bacon, however, is a separate, sacred entity---he can smell it cooking in a campsite in Montana, and will start calling out for his share. A clink of fork-on-plate will also bring on several requests for a taste when he hears you start to eat.

All vegetables are “Salad.” Fruit is “Apple,” and anything sweet is “Cookie.” He’ll ask for those at regular intervals all day. He likes bananas, strawberries, grapes, apples---he also loves tomatoes. Just hand him a grape or cherry tomato and he will leave just a skin. He always gets the stem-third of a banana, peel still on, and he’ll hold it like an ice cream cone, munching away til even the stem is gone. When you serve him warm scrambled eggs, he will stand with his face in his food bowl (as opposed to getting a bite and back on his perch to eat) and will eat until there's not a scrap in the bowl, making intricate contortions with his head to get his beak placed just so to lick up all the crumbs.

A couple of summers ago, a strange thing happened---we were going somewhere, and I was already upstairs at the door. I always snug my glasses and my sunglasses into the neck of my T-shirt, since I haven’t carried a purse in YEARS and don’t like carrying them in a pocket. I got up there without my sunglasses, and I called out to Chris, “Please bring my sunglasses when you come up!”

He called back, “I don’t see them anywhere!” And in this throat-tight little squeaky voice, Rich said, plain as day, “In Yuh PAAAH-ket.”

I just automatically reached in, and there they were, though I’ve NEVER carried them in my pocket before or since.

I come in the door---he says “Hello.” Chris comes in---Hello. But if we both enter together, his greeting is “Cookie?”---he always assumes that we’ve been out for Chinese. And we always read him his fortune. Once, in a Twilight Zone moment, as I wondered why on EARTH that would be in a fortune cookie, assumedly to be read by a PERSON, it read, “Beware of those who collect feathers.”

Any trip to McDonald’s brings home a bag of fries, and I love to see his golden eyes dilate and expand at a rate faster than a mouse's heartbeat. He coaxes with kissing sounds, begs for "Frenchy Fries" and strides up and down his long log of a perch, ringing every bell and swinging every mobile perch in reach. He politely tugs one from the extended greasy nosegay, grabs it in one slender foot, asks, "Ya got it?" and happily munches, all the while saying "MMMMM!!!! Yummy!!!" in a throat-constricted tone like a tenor reaching for a note beyond his range.

And of course, I have to join in for companionship's sake, munching a few of my own, while we dance a bit, his wings dipping and a bit of Ray Charles action with his head while we listen to the Oldies station on his radio.

So this weekend, he goes to his new home, with two cages, his food and litter-pan stuff and all his toys and cookies and the big bucket of nuts. We've been given visitation rights forever, and I know he’ll be happy, but I’ll probably be a wreck for a while. And I don’t know WHEN I’ll ever be able to listen to Louie, Louie again.

2 comments:

Tonja said...

What a wonderful story! I guess I have never really thought about having a relationship with a bird sort of like a cat or dog. He sounds delightful. And from all you have said, it sounds like he has truly been a member of the family. Do you think he will have any trouble adjusting to leaving y'all? How fortunate that he has such a fine home to go to.

racheld said...

They just laughed and talked and played with him like old friends. And he outdid himself in charm. Sometimes he's grumpy and standoffish, like the kid you want to recite, and he just stands there till the company goes home.

This time, he sang, he danced, he preened and showed his wings and climbed the cage and went outside it and climbed all over it, chortling and throwing in practically every word he knows. And that doesn't happen often with people in the house---he usually saves that for long soliloquies when he thinks he's alone.

They are lovely people, and when I answered the door and he called out "Hello!" they headed straight for his room and we stayed there for two hours. They fed him cookies and Frenchy-fries and read him his fortune, and the young lady sang along with EVERY country song that was playing on his radio---how often do you find THAT?

I've been really down about this, and it felt like abandoning part of the family, but they're such kind folks, it just feels RIGHT. Or at least THEY do---it will take a while for me to accept and absorb the actual process.

And we'll visit soon.