This is a long one, so hold onto your hat!
Pets can be a real blessing in our lives. They bring us joy, companionship, and sometimes even protection and assistance with our tasks. Sometimes, though, they can be a pain in the posterior, like the neighbor’s dog barking at 2am or the cat that scratches up the furniture.
My family has had a number of different kinds of pets: dogs (Amber, Tiffany, Daphne, Nosey, Belle, Sasha, 2 Dalmatians I don’t remember the names of, Katie, Chanel, and Ginger), 3 rabbits (Midget, Phydeaux, and Kitty), a guinea pig, a crawdad, Renfield the lizard, and an assortment of pet stuffed animals.
For myself, though, I’ve only had one dog, and that only briefly. He made me sneeze brain cells and he upset my bird, so he happily went to another home where the kids there will have a grand time with him. The rest of my pets have been birds. That’s why B is for Pets.
I have had very many birds, and although I would like to have very many more, I may be on my last one … unless I can convince her that other birds are not out to steal her territory.
My first birds were a pair of cockatiels, Sijon and Lockheed. Sijon was a gray cockatiel, and Lockheed’s pictured below (I don’t have a pic of Sijon). Sijon was deadly serious. He could wolf-whistle, which he did often. My duty was to answer him exactly as he whistled, or he repeated the whistle until I “got it right” and sometimes he hissed when I was “wrong.”
For the longest time, I thought Lockheed was a dude, but then “he” laid an egg and solved that bit of confusion. Lockheed is the source of my online gaming moniker “GeriatricTiel.” She lived to a very old-for-cockatiels age of 30. She was the sweetest little bird, the only one I could trust with kids. Whether or not I could trust the kids with her was another matter. Her favorite hobby? Making spitballs out of whatever paper she could get her beak on.
My next bird was a cockatiel named Spot. She was a graduation present from some friends. She would have been excellent at Avian X-Games. That bird was either ADHD or an adrenalin junkie. She would walk to the edge of the cage and step off … and only start flapping halfway to the floor. When I put her back on top the cage, she’d do it again. She would also unload my purse for me, taking everything out one object at a time. I guess she was looking for a nest hole and had to get my junk out of the way.
Freebie, too, was a cockatiel. He was, as his name implies, free! I was working at a pet store when he arrived with injured feet. The manager was convinced the bird had gangrene and was going to have the vet put the bird down. I asked if I could purchase the bird at cost and take him to my own vet. The manager just gave me the bird with the caveat “When that bird dies, I don’t want to hear about it.” I called my vet, who had an opening that evening, and I brought the little ball of yellow fluff in. The green gunk on his feet? Bird poo. Yes, his feet were a bit cut up from the cage mesh, and he was missing toenails, but he lived on for many years and regaled me with “Good morning!” no matter what time of day it was.
Then came the white-capped pionus, Johnny. He worked with me at the pet store until the pet store got tired of him not selling. The breeder wouldn’t take him back because he was too old, so I bought the bird for just over cost. Johnny was a terrific bird. He was goofy, chatty, and at times even cuddly. He loved his jalapeños, seeds and all. The most interesting thing about this bird was how defensive he got. On a couple occasions he flew off my hand or shoulder and went after someone who showed some aggressive body language.
Another pionus, a Dusky Pionus this time, came into my world. He was a fledgling. Tiercel was a sweetheart … until he came of age. Then he became a sharkbeak. I tried several ways to calm him down, but he wasn’t having any of it. In the end, I rehomed him with someone else, and he’s doing much better there.
That brings me to my current goofball. Masika (formerly named Rebel) is a Timneh African Grey. She’s a rescue baby with a rough past, and so she isn’t exactly hand-tame at this point. We’re working on it, though, and she has made terrific progress, especially now that she is the only bird.
Masika’s breed is known for their phenomenal talking ability, but she rarely says a word. She can say “Hello” or “Wow” or “NOOOOO” in several different pitches, and I’ve been told that she says “Howdy, pilgrim.” I’ve actually heard her bust loose with a “Hello, baby!” She doesn’t talk much, and I think that might have contributed to or resulted from her poor treatment as a younger bird.
She’s quite the whistler and sound effect queen, though. In addition to door clicks, car key fob beeps, and the smoke alarm, she can whistle the first few bars of a couple tunes, namely the musical scales (both upward and downward), the Airwolf opening theme, the characteristic whistle of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and even a wee bit of Doctor Who. Imitations are within her range, too. She does a small dog yipe, doves, cockatiels, and owls. She’s rather shy, though, and will not perform on command. I can’t even manage to record her because she stops being cute and amusing if she thinks I’m recording anything. Even if I hide the recorder, she seems to know and will drastically reduce or stop her chirps.
We – being me and her previous owners who rehomed her with me when they retired – think she’s 30 or so, if we’re doing our math correctly and our assumptions about how long she spent in the dark, bug- and rat-infested warehouse are correct. I am Owner #4 in her world, and if it’s up to me, she’ll only go to Owner #5 if I die before she does. Greys can live to be 80 or more, so it’s possible.
Because she is so terribly territorial, I cannot get another pet, avian or otherwise, at least until I tame her down a bit more. I had Freebie, Lockheed, and Tiercel when she came to me, and I had to take drastic measures to keep her away from them or she became irritable and went into attack posturing if she saw or even heard the other birds, and when I had the pup for a couple days, she was a perpetual grouch.
She’s a cute little goofball, and I can adapt to her idiosyncrasies while I work with her. We’re making progress! When I first got her, changing her food and water caused full-on panic. These days, she’ll actually step onto the back of my hand and go for a ride … for at least a few inches before she hops off. It doesn’t sound like much, but slow but sure wins the race.
For next time, here’s your prompt: C is for Map