Within the animal kingdom exists a somewhat incredible creature of God called a parrot. They come in all colors and from all over the world. Mine originates from the Amazon jungle, but thrives in my living room and on my patio in southern California. His name is Popeye. I walked into a pet store the day after my father's funeral, looked around and spotted him perched on bark in a black rod iron cage in the corner. He was eyeing me, and I was eyeing him. I had no business buying another bird (I already had 3 at home and a monstrous dog to boot), but I was in a daze and I needed something to fill the sudden empty space inside me. It was either him or a bottle of scotch. I opted for the parrot. I took him home and introduced him to his new family and he settled in with a natural bewilderment. He was 6 months old. Romeo, my 7 year old Mexican Redhead (also an amazon) was against another wall and Maxwell( my miniature maccaw) was to his left. Fritz the cockatiel hung from the ceiling in the front window, and my 100 pound dog Mashiek walked past them all with his nose in the air. I was almost happy. Popeye has stuck with me through thick and thin. He watched me fall apart when both Romeo and Fritz died, and he was silent (not easy for a parrot) for 2 weeks after he watched my dog die in my arms years later. He knows my moods well. I used to take Mashiek for walks with Popeye on his back. He was half chow and half akita, so his hair was long and Popeye clutched it easily. It was a sight to behold, and still warms my heart when I recall it...
He likes to softly nibble my eyelashes if I close my eyes when he is nestled on my shoulder, and if I don't respond, he nibbles my earlobes. If he demands attention, and I haven't the patience or time to give it, he takes a tic-tac off my tongue and sucks on it for an hour. I found a rat in his patio cage eating his almonds as he perched, silently watching (he likes to share). He eats everything I eat, including sushi. In fact, he demands a portion of every meal. We bond in the morning, and he drinks apple juice and devours oatmeal as I prepare his daily dish. He feels he is entitled to this, and I have to agree. If I don't, he sqawks, and his sqawking REALLY irritates me. There have been times when I considered swapping the juice with something lethal, but we won't go there.
I occasionally take Popeye with me when I go shopping. He loves it because he is so social and such a show-off, but I try to keep it as low key as possible because I don't want to risk being asked to leave (he loved going to Von's til we got busted in produce). Anyway, on this particular day we hit Target. He was perched on the basket handle and things were going quite nicely when he suddenly took flight and ended up in lingerie. He simply took off, flew past the thong panties, and smoothly slid right to the toes of a 200 pound African woman. The landing was flawless, and I was proud. The lady, however, froze and her mouth dropped open. I swiftly swept him up with two fingers and apologized, but she was too stunned to acknowledge me. We headed toward cosmetics in no time flat. I didn't have the heart to reprimand him. He had been so brave to even try such a thing ( after all, he does live in a cage most of the time). When we hit cosmetics, all he could do was look in various mirrors and say hallooooo to himself (so sad). Anyway, he rocks.
Parrots need alot of attention. Sometimes it is difficult for me, and the guilt can be deadly. But I do my best. After all, he is the only one left. When Chloe Louise died (my cocker spaniel), Popeye again fell silent for two weeks. Not a sound. He recognized my pain and showed birdie respect. I suspect he also missed her. He used to pigeon-toe up to her when she was sleeping and bite her on the ass. It always amazed me she didn't just whallop him with a pig-tail (it woulda knocked him flat), but instead she would simply get up, look at him with distain and find another spot. These memories bring a smile to my face now, but it's taken awhile. I have been blessed with pets who have all lived long lives, but when they die I tend to fall apart. I have decided that Popeye will be my last, and chances are he will probably outlive me, since his life span is 85 human years.
Picture this: a mountain bike with a rubber attachment on the handlebar, and a gorgeous double yellow headed amazon parrot proudly perched as I ride on quiet neighborhood tree lined streets. He is at the height of happiness. He feels the breeze (that in reality he should be flying in) and hears his fellow birdies doing their bird talk thing above and around him in the trees, and when it gets to be too much for him, he responds loudly and ecstatically with jungle jive the entire neighborhood can hear and only those in flight can understand. People look up from raking their lawns, or planting flowers as we pass and the joy on their faces mirrors the glee in his heart. And once in awhile I let him ride along with me in the car. He perches atop the passenger headrest and I can't imagine what goes through his bird brain as he watches all the speeding traffic, but I do know he enjoys it because he ruffles his gorgeous feathers and begins his jungle serenade to all who pass. He is quite a character. In the morning, he swings from antlers on the back patio and announces his arrival to all the low life crows and other various fly by's. He let's em all know what a REAL bird looks like.
Popeye has witnessed all the good and bad in my life for more years than I care to admit. He knows when I am sad, angry, hurt or happy. When my old desert tortoise died in my arms, Popeye again fell silent for weeks. He used to perch on his 16 inch shell and chew on a daisy as Max did his slow turtle walk over grassy grounds. And even though he was insanely jealous of my 15 year old cockatiel Samantha, he was truly anguished when she died. It's the only time he is ever quiet and still, when there is a death. So when I start feeling sorry for my losses, I think of Popeye. He went through it, too. Well, he shed no tears, but I am thinking he may have cracked a few walnuts with a ruthless vengeance.
It is winter now, and I am left with a 23 year old parrot. His name is Popeye, and I love him. I grab his beak and kiss him all over his little face and head, and he lets me. He trusts me and loves me unconditionally. When it rains, I light a log in the fireplace and perch him on the screen to watch it burn. I stand behind him and feel the warmth of the fire and we both stare at it. And in those few quiet moments, I believe we are both remembering winters past when the rest of the menagerie were around, barking and chirping and driving us both crazy. And oh, how we miss it.