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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 10-30-2016, 12:24 AM
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U2-Poppy(Poppy lives with her new mommy, Misty now) CAG-Jack, YNA, Bingo, Budgie-Piper, Cockatiel-Sweet Pea Quakers-Harry, Sammy, Wilson ***Zeke (quaker) Twinkle (budgie) forever in our hearts
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When Harry Met Allee

WARNING: Adult Language and Violent Content

*1) When Harry Met Allee

The day I met Harry, I wasn't looking for the first member of my current flock, quite the contrary. I had had a heartbreaking experience with a beautiful male eclectus a few years before. The Ekkie had lived in horrendous conditions for eight years when we adopted him. With the help of a very good avian vet we made him as comfortable as possible for as long as possible, ironically that turned out to be only eight months. He died of long term starvation, neglect, and exposure to extreme weather conditions, his major organs could not recover. I understood his chances were not good when we took him in, that didn't lessen the pain. I wasn't looking for a bird. I had a reasonable amount of experience with Avians before we took in the Ekkie, I had actively decided not to use that experience ever again. If only I'd had the courage of my convictions.

I walked into a filthy local pet store more than three years ago to look at a baby tortoise for my husband. While I was getting out of my car, I noticed a very young couple, a toddler, and something small and alive in a flimsy parakeet cage, whatever the creature was, it was screaming it's little head off. The couple with the toddler, minus the cage passed me as I was entering the store. The cage with the mysterious bird was sitting on the counter. My first glimpse ever of a monk parakeet. A pitiful looking little creature, that's the first thing I noticed. I made myself walk away. That's when I met the store owner who shall remain nameless.

I had a talk with the store's proprietor about the baby tortoise, I tried not to notice the green aquariums, floating fish, the disgusting smell in the store, the tiny cages, no perches, only seed in the cups, the reptiles housed within spitting distance of the birds, the nasty carpet or the screeching sugar glider that I could hear but not see.

I asked the owner about the bird in the cage on the counter. He told me the bird would never be a good pet. I asked him what he knew about the bird. He told me the bird was meaner than a one eyed snake (his words not mine, no offense intended to one-eyed snakes), a vicious biter that would do better as a breeder. The little Gollum creature was clinging to the side of the cage, his plaintive cries piercing my heart. I could hear the desperation in his high pitched tone and I got the eerie feeling he knew exactly the sorry situation he found himself in. Other than the occupant, only a single dowel perch, two tiny plastic food dishes, one a third full of empty seed husks, the other covered in green slime, a rusty metal globe on a key chain and several months worth of built up poop graced the tiny cage. I noticed a huge spot where the powder coating was completely peeled off the wire of the cage just above the only perch, a heroic attempt by the bird to escape the confines of the filthy trap? I thought so. The two tiny doors were wired closed with twist ties.

I went home without the tortoise or the bird, two famous quotes warring in my head, the first by Antoine de Saint, "You become responsible forever, for what you have tamed," the second, a line in a hauntingly beautiful song by Michael Jackson, "Who am I to be blind? Pretending not to see them need."

I didn't sleep well that night. I looked up info on quaker parakeets and immediately discovered they are illegal to own in some states, Texas wasn't one of them. I was intrigued. Such a small bird, how hard could it be? Nothing compared to some of the things that had already happened to me, the loss of a child, another infant with meningitis, caring for a leukemia patient for the last months of his life, many long, long, hours by his side in a chemo center, he was my father, the loss of a brother to suicide or a million other things that can happen to a person on the often bumpy path of life. My father had passed away only three years before. I had also said goodby to a St. Bernard, a German Shepherd and a Yorkie within a five year span, they had all been constant companions for their entire lives. I considered the bird's possible fate if I did nothing. I'm older, I choose my battles wisely, I no longer believe I have the ability to save every creature I encounter.

I didn't consider the quaker a battle at all, a mere skirmish. Boy, was I wrong!
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  #2 (permalink)  
Old 10-30-2016, 12:25 AM
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Re: When Harry Met Allee

*2) When Harry Met Allee

I approached the store with an open mind the next afternoon, secretly hoping the bird would be gone and I would be off my self inflicted proverbial hook. No such luck. I heard the little guy screaming as soon as I opened the door. His cage had been relocated to the dark recesses in the back of the shop. His food cup was exactly as it had been the day before. Still only an inch of water in the slimy plastic seed cup. My temper was starting to rise. The owner was intent on selling me the tortoise, I had other plans. He warned me again, the bird was a terrible choice for a pet. He finally agreed to sell the bird to me as long as I understood he would not take him back and the bird's questionable health was of no concern to him. He told me I could have the cage the bird occupied. I still regret my next decision because of what happened after I made it. I told him I didn't want the cage and suggested he destroy it, I chose the largest new budgie cage the store had to offer and even that was at best a transport cage for short trips.

The owner's assistant opened the door to transfer the bird to the new cage. That was the first time I saw the bird defend himself. The assistant sustained three bloody wounds to his hand before letting go. The bird wiggled free and took off in a mad panic. I'm not sure what impressed me more, his fighting skills or his flying skills, either way, there was something very compelling about this little creature. The owner and his assistant chased the tiny pilot down and captured him in a butterfly net to my extreme horror. They got him into the new cage and I turned my attention to emergency provisions that the bird would need while waiting for something better. While I was choosing toys, perches and pellets in the back of the store, the owner's assistant came back to tell me the owner was going to clip the bird's wings for me, free of charge. At about the same time I heard the bird's panicked screams, I panicked too and ran for the front of the store yelling No, No, No, I don't want them clipped. Sure enough, he had the poor little fellow's body pinned to the counter under his huge hand, wings spread, a pair of wickedly sharp scissors poised in the other. The owner looked at me with pure disdain and informed me he WOULD charge me when I brought the bird back for a clip. I happily paid the substantial ransom and three times what the supplies should have cost. I couldn't wipe the smirk off my face while the guy dripped his own blood all over his cash register. The bird had fought hard to keep his wings.

I took my newly purchased albatross to my blazer and strapped the cage into the passenger seat. The drive home was half an hour, the scenic route, the only choice. I can't remember word for word, but I do remember quite clearly giving my 'Hello' talk to my new pal. It went something like this. "I don't know what you were thinking. I know you didn't see a lot of options but you should have waited for a better candidate to walk through that door. You can't just velcro yourself to a stranger and expect a good outcome. You've earned my respect though, you impressed me back there, gave those mean men something to think about, huh? I have no idea why you insisted on following me home. I'm sort of a mess right now. I have my own stuff to deal with and I have dogs, I hope you don't mind, but if you do, remember they were there first, I need them. I'll get you everything you want but don't make it weird, okay? I have room in my home, my heart's a little crowded. I can't get emotionally attached right now or maybe ever. Do you understand?" I glanced over at the little green urchin clinging to the bars, as close as he could get to me while still inside the cage. He bobbed his head like he agreed to the conditions and said very clearly, "Be a good boy". I kept rattling, most of what I told him that day turned out to be lies but it didn't matter to him in the least. He fell asleep clinging to the bars, his little legs spread wide, his tiny toes clenched in tight fists.

When we arrived home, I placed his temporary cage on top of an antique phonograph, the cabinet was tall enough to keep four legged curiosity seekers away. He was able to see what was going on but a safe enough distance so he didn't feel threatened. He ignored the pellets and gorged himself on the seed mix. I took a closer look and noticed for the first time the little guy's legs were bare of feathers, the skin looked raw and irritated. His keel bone was protruding enough to notice without touching. His breast feathers looked a little wonky and I wondered why. He ate ravenously and perched himself on the dish obviously guarding it from thieves. He was very curious and aware. I played music for him and he seemed to enjoy it. I clearly remember the first song he reacted to, it was Clint Eastwood by The Gorillaz, the bird imitated the monkey noise at the beginning of the song, he sounded like a real chimp. I covered his cage on his first night in his new home and he didn't seem to mind too much.

Late that night, I walked past his cage and heard him softly mumbling to himself. I mentioned in passing he should probably get some rest. Seven feet away from his cage and a deep, deranged male voice uttered two words so clearly they froze me where I stood. He repeated himself twice more in case I was intellectually challenged and didn't understand. What I found disturbing was this, what does a human have to do to teach a bird to say those two words in that particular tone? I was still naïve in a sense, I had never heard a quaker talk. I later learned baby quakers sometimes say their first words as young as six weeks. They often pick up words, phrases or noises after hearing them only once then use them in context, I had never heard a parrot speak so clearly. The two words started with F and ended with, YOU! Harry can put five syllables into a one syllable word, use your imagination. I hate to use such language but it's important to Harry's story and the complete but temporary erosion of my pride.
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  #3 (permalink)  
Old 10-30-2016, 12:26 AM
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U2-Poppy(Poppy lives with her new mommy, Misty now) CAG-Jack, YNA, Bingo, Budgie-Piper, Cockatiel-Sweet Pea Quakers-Harry, Sammy, Wilson ***Zeke (quaker) Twinkle (budgie) forever in our hearts
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Re: When Harry Met Allee

*3) Food Fight

Harry had to wait several days before meeting his new dad. I think Joe's first question was, "What kind of bird is that?"

I told him it was a monk parakeet or quaker parrot, I was honest, I told him, "He bites, he plucks, he cusses, he's almost feral, he's very angry and he hates me!"

My husband's second question, "Why did you bring him home?" I had no good answer.

While we were discussing our charming new family member, said Charmer let himself out of his locked cage, flew around the room, hit Joe in the top of the head in a fly by attack, then landed on my shoulder and rubbed his face against my cheek. We named him Harry for Houdini.

It was immediately clear that Harry and I had a lot of work to do. Harry was one of the smallest, angriest creatures I'd ever met, he was outraged, constantly in a hyper state and beneath the brave facade, terrified of what might happen next. We provided a comfortable, spacious cage with a variety of perches and toys. Harry moved right in and made the room his own.

My husband was one of Harry's first and most adoring fans in the new chapter of Harry's life. The little snot treated him awful. He would land on Joe's head and push with both feet while pulling his hair. Happily, Harry eventually agreed to let Joe live with us as long as Joe agreed to Harry's house rules.

Harry's new cage had four SS bowls and doors that opened out. He loved the bowls, the contents not so much. The only food he appreciated was the cheap stuff sold off the shelf at the nearest super store. I knew we had to do better. I made organic veggie shakes, I sliced, diced, chopped, steamed, sautéed, baked, begged, shared, laughed, cried and wound up wearing most of my gourmet birdie cuisine. Not long after Harry moved in, I was grooming my golden retriever and noticed something sticky and green in her silky coat. It was cooked peas. Harry would whistle for the dogs, when they showed up, he would launch his most hated food at them, Harry has a very accurate aim. Pellets were right out, no way would Harry touch any kind of pellet except to throw it as far as possible.

One morning before dawn, I heard a horrendous noise, the kind of racket that lands you on your feet before your brain kicks into gear. I stumbled into Harry's room and whipped the cover off his cage. The foul tempered little bugger had somehow wrestled his food dish out of it's metal ring and thrown it to the floor, he had followed the dish down and now had it clamped tightly in his beak and was raking the bowl against the bars of his cage. Very funny, Harry.

The first food Harry found acceptable was mashed sweet potato seasoned with cinnamon and coconut oil. Organic apple juice, diluted with bottled water and served from a crystal glass also became a favorite, then Zupreem natural pellets soaked in diluted apple juice. I will always be grateful to PF's own cnyguy for the pellet trick, and Bird Street Bistro, Zupreem and Mayan Harvest for their products, but for them, Harry may well have starved himself to an anorexic state just to spite me.

One of the negative side affects of introducing a healthy diet to a malnourished adult bird is a rise in hormone levels, when food is abundant, a bird's internal clock will kick into gear and send a signal directly to the bird's brain telling the bird to go forth, prosper and reproduce. I think this is a part of what happened to Harry.

Harry's viscous attacks escalated and far worse, his plucking reached a new and disturbing level. Everything was a battle of wills, daily cage cleaning often left me bleeding. I would open Harry's door, he would come out, fly to my shoulder and offer advice while I cleaned. I made a series of mistakes that left permanent scars, on me not Harry. I innocently asked Harry to Step Up, he shouted, Step Up, right back at me and attacked my hand, he bit with everything he had, he would clamp down, shake with a sawing motion until he saw blood, then he would fly to his cage and scream, 'Cameron', in a plaintive, heartbreaking voice. I'll never know who Cameron was to Harry but I've often wondered if Harry may have killed Cameron and disposed of his body. Another favorite trick of Harry's was to sit on my shoulder long enough for me to be comfortable and then casually stroll down my arm, rub his face on my hand, then attack. During the same period of unrest, Harry surgically removed three moles from the back of my neck with his beak, lots of bloodshed. For those of you who are squeamish, the moles have been checked by a licensed physician and I've been assured they were cleanly removed, benign and would not lead to my demise. I have a patchwork of fine, pretty, lace-like scars on the back of both my hands, a testament to the stormy relationship Harry and I once had.

In stark contrast to his anger issues and aggressive behavior was his obvious intelligence. He was fully flighted and quite by accident I discovered he responded to voice commands, he learned rapidly and once a behavior was learned he would repeat it almost without fail.

At the same time Harry was inflicting bodily harm on my person, he was doing far worse to himself. Quaker Mutilation Syndrome, it couldn't be! It was! I kept the cage floor covered with white paper towels, so I would know when to check for broken blood feathers or chewed flesh. Harry's legs were shaved clean now and fire engine red. I kept a bottle of aloe spray to mist him with. When I brought Harry home, I noticed that he didn't have the adorable classic quaker ruffle at the top of his breast that I could clearly see in all the photos of healthy quakers. The wonky breast feathers that had worried me became a serious concern, now there were many missing feathers and the remaining ones stuck straight out.
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  #4 (permalink)  
Old 10-30-2016, 12:27 AM
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U2-Poppy(Poppy lives with her new mommy, Misty now) CAG-Jack, YNA, Bingo, Budgie-Piper, Cockatiel-Sweet Pea Quakers-Harry, Sammy, Wilson ***Zeke (quaker) Twinkle (budgie) forever in our hearts
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Re: When Harry Met Allee

*4) Bloodshed

One morning, a turning point and extreme low in Harry's saga, I found four bloody spots on the paper towels at the bottom of the cage, they looked like Crimson Rorschach stains, Harry had a bare spot on his lower belly that morning, a pile of feathers near the blood. His voice held a disturbing note of hysteria that broke my heart. He looked me right in the eyes, shook his head and said, "feathers, feathers, feathers".

I went to the back steps to cry alone. My husband found me there, I don't cry often and I seldom admit defeat, my companion was obviously alarmed. I tried to explain through my blubbering. He listened intently then he cocked his head to the side much like a parrot would and studied me for a moment or two. Then he said, "Are you kidding me? Well, I'll be damned! You never back away from a good fight and you dont cry, you take action, that little bird is counting on you, wipe the snot off your face and step up to the challenge!"

I did, I made an appointment for Harry but there was a two week wait before the closest avian vet could see him. The two week wait was torturous, the floor of the cage was decorated with chewed feathers every morning, the bare patch grew bigger, the feathers Harry was still wearing were covered in an oily aloe sheen. One weekend before the appointment, Harry scared the living daylights out of me and my husband. He bit through a growing blood feather, a large flight feather. Blood was dripping off his wing at a startling rate. I wrapped him in a towel, amazingly, he giggled, the mangled feather shaft was dripping like a faucet, it had to be removed with a pair of pliers, Harry understandably delivered a nasty bite to Joe's thumb, the bite went unnoticed due to sheer relief.

A couple of days before the appointment Harry did something that changed everything. I had been slightly suspicious of Harry's true gender due to a bump on his abdomen that had appeared a couple of days before. I found Harry on a perch panting like a puppy, feathers fluffed, repeating, "Pee-Pee-Poo-Poo?" Sure enough, Harry laid an egg and I was there to witness it first hand.

Joe insisted on accompanying us to the vet, I'm not sure which of us he was most worried about, me or Harry. Harry laid the second egg during the trip, she dropped it from her perch without a glance. She loved the road trip, she went through her growing vocabulary of animal noises, giggled, chirped and chatted until we finally arrived.

When Harry is in the presence of greatness she will put the tip of her beak on her breast and sit very, very still as if in deep thought. We sat down across from a huge Ekkie in the waiting room, Harry put her beak to her breast. A few minutes later, she put her butt to the wires of her carrier and pooped all over her Dad's leg. That is a well loved trick of Harry's and she still enjoys pooping in inappropriate places although she is potty trained.

The avian specialist turned out to be a skilled and experienced veterinarian, we liked her immediately, her assistant was well versed in handling wayward parrots and had a very kind and gentle manner. Harry allowed herself to be toweled and giggled during the physical exam. There was little information to be given, we knew she was a female quaker, her age and history was anyone's guess, the vet thought she was pretty young, maybe just reaching adulthood and the onset of hormones. One question asked by the assistant was, "Does she bite?" we both answered with a resounding, "YES!" The assistant thanked us for our honesty.

On one wall of the exam room there was about a foot of space between the top of a row of cabinets and the ceiling. The assistant placed Harry on the scale's attached perch to check her weight, Harry said, "pee-pee-poo-poo", then pooped on the scale, she then said, "Be A Good Boy", flew off, made a loop and landed on the cabinet top. She fluffed her feathers and started pacing like a drill sergeant. I patted my shoulder and said, "Come to Mommy." After only a few seconds, she complied. The exam was completed, panels run, the assistant gave me a bag full of syringes with pre measured vitamins and a tube of ointment for Harry's future self inflicted wounds. The vet gave me a lot of incredibly good advice and outlined an appropriate diet for my underweight plucker. She also offered to clip Harry's wings, again I chose not to. Harry had lost enough, I would not take her ability to fly. That was the first of several visits before Harry was healthy enough for only regular health checks. Every time we took her in, I held my breath waiting for Harry to have a tantrum, I was delighted when she didn't.

Fast forward to about two years later. I knew Harry better. I was feeling brave, I took Harry, Zeke (quaker), Poppy (U2) and Sweet Pea (cockatiel) in for a well check, alone. Yeah, not a great idea. I had driven a school bus in the DFW metroplex and transported little league soccer and baseball teams, I had driven for field trips, bus loads of angry teens. A road trip for a well check with four pets should have been a stroll through a park. If I had left Harry at home, it would have been.

All my birds took their turn for exams and behaved perfectly. I had the good sense to wait until everyone was examined and back in their carriers before I released the demon.

She came out of her carrier in the mood to perform. She parked her fluffy green butt on my shoulder and ordered the doctor to, "Come here, C'mon!" The doctor walked closer to admire Harry's new feathers. Harry rubbed her cheek against mine, lowered her head, raised a foot to her face and started to cry like a human infant. I knew the drill well, we had developed the routine during training sessions, Operation Rehab Harry. The comedy routine was a favorite part of Harry's day. Harry loves an audience. I said, "Please don't cry!" She cried harder. I said, "Harry, where is your monkey?" She hooted like a wild chimp. I asked, "Harry, where is your puppy?" She yapped like a yorkie. "Harry, do you have a duck?" She quacked loudly, Zeke quacked with her from his carrier. Poppy can't quack so she 'kwocked', from her carrier. By now the Dr. and assistant were cracking up, I wasn't, I knew Harry was probably planning something evil. I decided to wrap up her performance while I was still in control. "Harry, where is your kitty?" She meowed pitifully. Harry you have lots of pets, you should build a cage. Right on cue, she turned on her version of an electric drill. The assistant started clapping. Harry let him get by with it.
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  #5 (permalink)  
Old 10-30-2016, 12:29 AM
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U2-Poppy(Poppy lives with her new mommy, Misty now) CAG-Jack, YNA, Bingo, Budgie-Piper, Cockatiel-Sweet Pea Quakers-Harry, Sammy, Wilson ***Zeke (quaker) Twinkle (budgie) forever in our hearts
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Re: When Harry Met Allee

*5) Where did this bird come from?

Immediately after Harry's impromptu performance it was time for her exam. I'm sure the last thing Harry expected was to be shoved unceremoniously into a microwaveable plastic popcorn cooker, but shoved she was. The container was improvised for small parrots, those too uncooperative to sit on the scale long enough to accurately have their weight recorded. The vet wrote Harry's weight on her chart and removed the lid of Pandora's box. Harry exploded out of the cooker screeching like she'd been scalded. She flew to the top of the cabinets and started strutting.

"Harry, come to Mommy!" This command had worked often to get Harry out of sticky, dangerous or embarrassing situations, this time, I knew it wasn't going to work. Her head feathers where so poofy she looked like she was wearing a helmet. "Harry, hurry up!" That did it! She let go a string of words that started with F and ended with YOU. I was mortified, there she was in all her green glory, marching across the cabinets, about nine inches tall, tip of her tail to the top of her head, she was shouting in a deep, demented baritone. The Dr. and her assistant were laughing so hard I felt bad for them, at least they were professional enough to turn their backs to Harry. I had to gain control but first I had to get Harry to come down. Harry was still cursing a blue streak, same phrase, louder and louder. From the confines of her carrier, Poppy decided to defend her friend, she said the only curse word she knows, "Basss-derd."

I politely asked the staff to give me a moment alone with my birds. They left the room. I said, "Punkin', please come to Mommy. We'll get ice cream." She un-fluffed herself, gained control of her emotions and flew to my shoulder. I pointed to her carrier and said, "Go back!" Bless her sweet butt, she did. I tried not to slam the door of her carrier too hard.

I retrieved the staff from the hallway. A crowd had gathered at the door. The vet and assistant were both red in the face and still snickering, the veterinarian had the audacity to suggest we test Harry for a particular psychological disorder, I failed to appreciate the good doctor's sharp wit. I forgave her but only because I was overjoyed that Harry had finally closed her beak. I apologized profusely for Harry's fifty amp meltdown and reiterated that I had not taught her or Poppy to curse. Did the vet believe me? I seriously doubt it.

On the way home, the Fids were mostly silent, I was completely silent. I had been worried about Poppy behaving badly at what may have been her first vet visit ever. I broke my promise to Harry, as far as I know, she's never tasted ice cream. I would have promised her anything to get her off those cabinets.

By the time we safely arrived home, I was wearing a big grin. Just a twist of fate that I entered the store at all or at the same time Harry was dropped off. Instead of being humiliated by Harry's performance, I decided I had never been prouder. Harry is an enigma and I'm very fortunate to know her.
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  #6 (permalink)  
Old 10-30-2016, 12:31 AM
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Parrots:
U2-Poppy(Poppy lives with her new mommy, Misty now) CAG-Jack, YNA, Bingo, Budgie-Piper, Cockatiel-Sweet Pea Quakers-Harry, Sammy, Wilson ***Zeke (quaker) Twinkle (budgie) forever in our hearts
Join Date: Oct 2013
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Re: When Harry Met Allee

*6) Highlights Harry and Me

When I first brought Harry home she was in such a state I was desperate to make a connection, any connection other than her beak connecting with my flesh. Her anxiety level was over the top, she just couldn't seem to find a calm state. Evening was the worst, normal flock calls would have been welcome, Harry wanted to kill something. I had a well-worn t-shirt that Harry loved, she would chew the cloth every time I wore it. I cut the t-shirt and devised a pink tent in Harry's cage. It was a while before I would trust the little beastie with any kind of hut. She loved it, she played in it, slept in it and hid in it.

I had another great idea for our daily suicide hour. I went to my library shelves and found a long forgotten favorite read aloud book that had belonged to my youngest son. It hadn't been touched other than to be dusted for a very long time. I pulled a chair close to Harry's cage and started a tradition. Sol Silverstein's, "Where The Sidewalk Ends." She was instantly mesmerized. She would go inside her tent, peek out and listen to every word of the silly poems.

I discovered music also had a calming effect but Harry has strong opinions of music. I played songs from iTunes for her and she soon had her own playlist. If she really liked a song she would come out on her door to bob her head and dance. If she hated a certain tune she would run for her tent, announce her intentions, 'Pee-Pee, Poo-Poo,' and then turn her back to me and do just that.

I think baths were brand new to Harry, in addition to the mist baths I gave her, when her plucking would escalate she would bathe herself in her water bowl, it must have been soothing to her irritated skin, after she soaked herself she would run to a toy and suck on it with her eyes closed. One day I returned home to find the tip of Harry's beak stained crimson red. She came out to dance on her door while I played her absolute favorite song, Christina Aguellera's, "I Am A Good Girl". The irony didn't escape me. The picture of Harry dancing, her beak painted red, is imprinted in my heart. Finally, Harry was having fun!

Meal times were epic battles for a while. I would put veggies in a saucer before I let her out. I would share the food with her or try to, if I didn't pay close attention, Harry would drag the saucer to the edge of the table, shove it off and giggle when it crashed. At her vet's suggestion I added herbs, flowers and chamomile tea to Harry's menu, other foods followed, I finally coaxed her into tasting birdie bread, another favorite, another milestone. I stuffed all kinds of good ingredients into the bread. Harry was eating well and having fun!

I'll never forget the day Harry stopped biting, it was not gradual, it was sudden and rather unexpected. After a particularly violent attack, I had walked away from Harry and collapsed in a chair, exhausted and out of fresh ideas. I didn't even clean or bandage the new wound. As was often the case, Harry joined me! She was sitting on my knee, her head cocked to the side. Time for a heart to heart.

Again, not word for word but the conversation as I remember it. 'Harry, you're wearing me out! This can't go on! You really have to stop attacking me. I love you, and I love that you're here with me but come on, you have to stop this nonsense, like right now! You are so smart and so very brave, I know you've been through a lot. I know you miss your people and your Cameron but I'm trying hard to make it better. If you could just stop biting it would be very helpful. I will never, ever hurt you, Harry, I will never imprison you in a cage and forget you exist, I will never have your wings clipped, all I expect in return is for you to stop hurting yourself and me. It's a good deal, you should take it." She had sat very still for the chat. She flew away and I could tell she was getting agitated. She left the room only to swarm back in a feather flapping rage, she hit the rim of a full glass of iced tea and knocked it to the floor in a satisfying (for her) crash and splash. She flew away, an outraged, feathered frenzy, leaving me with a headache and one more mess. While I was cleaning, she came and parked on my shoulder, nipped my neck, yelled, 'Owww', and took off. She repeated the maneuver several more times during the course of the afternoon. She sat down with me again, on my shoulder, and bit me hard beneath the ear. I stood up and walked her to her cage and told her to, 'Step Away,' after being asked twice more, she did step away only to fly right back. She bit me again, screamed, 'Owww' and returned to her cage on her own power.

The third time she landed on my shoulder and bit me was the last hard bite that I remember with only one serious exception that came much later. After the third bite I pointed to her cage and ordered her to, 'Go Inside'. 'Go Inside' means just that and much more. It means no more fooling around, no more breaking the rules, screaming, biting, or knocking things over. Harry knows this and knows she has crossed the line and has no way out. She landed on her door used her weight to swing it almost shut, climbed inside, and slammed the door behind her yelling, 'Pervert' at me over her shoulder. Once she was inside she starting batting her toys while I locked her door. Then the F word followed by YOU! All five syllables in the F word. I ignored her. She used a banana chip to scoop her food out of her bowl and sling it against the wall. I went to say, Good Night, Punkin, later that evening. She looked right at me from her favorite perch and said, 'You're wearing me out!'.

That very day, Harry stopped biting, she's since replaced biting with head butting and silently sneaking up and yelling, Peek-A-Boo in my ear. She's discovered a variety of ways to be rude and obnoxious without doing bodily harm.

Harry began hiding banana chips in her cage to retrieve and use later to scoop and sling her food out of it's bowl. I bought a plastic food dish with a tall clear guard attached. She examined the bowl and discovered if she parked herself on the edge, put her head inside the clear tube, leaned over and screamed, the cup worked as an amplifier for her beautiful voice, that way I could hear her call me names from anywhere in the house.

A few months after Harry had reluctantly agreed to stop biting, I was covering her cage, I leaned against the bars and Harry clamped down, very hard in a very sensitive place. Her cage is her own, when she is outside of her cage, I can scrub, rearrange, or add new things. If she is inside her cage with the door closed, anything that touches her cage is in danger of attack.

We still play Harry's game. Every night when I open her food doors, I am very careful to keep my body a safe distance from Harry's property. Harry keeps her cage immaculate, it's always the easiest to clean. She poops in a pile on the paper and no where else. Not long ago, I had both food doors open on one side of her cage, I was holding one of them closed with the back of my left hand, I thought I had outsmarted the little piranha, not so! I felt something warm in the palm of my left hand, she wasn't close enough to mangle my hand with her beak so she put her butt to the bars of her cage and pooped in my hand. That's Harry.

I know, I've always known that Harry's intelligence is not the same as human intelligence. I know that she doesn't understand human language or all the words I say to her but she has shown me time and again that she does understand much more than human language. Communication with a different species is a beautiful gift, something we should never take for granted. It was amazing to watch Harry teach Zeke and Sammy to talk, Sammy can say everything Harry can say with the exception of profanity, I've never heard Sammy swear.
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  #7 (permalink)  
Old 10-30-2016, 12:33 AM
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Re: When Harry Met Allee

*7) Harry and the cable guy

I've told this story before but it remains a favorite. Harry loves an unsuspecting victim. She solicits conversation with all who visit. I've watched Harry play this game with every innocent who will play along. For obvious reasons Harry is always incarcerated when we have company. If a family member lets her out, they do so at their own risk after a stern warning.

The first time Harry met the cable guy it was midwinter. A recent ice storm had caused a lot of damage and cables needed to be replaced. The repairman was a tall, red head with pale skin and freckles and a great personality. When a cute parrot tells a human to, C'mere in the human's own language, they will, almost without fail. The repairman was polite, he asked if he could approach her cage. With a lot of misgivings, I gave him a nod. Harry can be very seductive, she will tilt her head to the side, raise a foot and say very sweetly in a girl voice, C'mere, C'mon, C'mon. Once they are close enough, she needs my help for her pet noises skit. How can I say no, it's a cute routine that often leaves the audience speechless with admiration. After the show, the repairman went back to work. He was finishing up and running his checklist on the TV. He asked Harry what she would like to see. He had noticed all the recorded animated movies and I had told him the parrots love cartoons. He chose, Sponge Bob Square Pants, the worst possible choice, something about the cartoon instantly infuriates Harry. Her closest friends make sure to bypass the channels playing SBSP without ever stopping. Harry heard the hated cartoon and up went her feathers, she stomped a little and yelled, 'Pervert,' so loudly and so clearly there was no way I could convince the man otherwise, I didn't even try. Suspicious of the repairman's ability to fully comprehend, she repeated herself several more times. I was mortified, the repairman's pale skin was a deep shade of red that could have easily passed for a sunburn had it not been midwinter. Once more, I found myself apologizing for Harry, this time because she had unnecessarily embarrassed not me but an innocent bystander, I may have mentioned something about Harry being rescued from a traveling troupe of performers. Right! The repairman didn't believe me either.

The following year we had a rerun! Ice storm, repairman. Unbelievably they sent the same man that they had sent the year before. He remembered Harry, forgot her vendetta against Sponge Bob. She again accused the man of being a 'Pervert'. This time I was a little hurt. Pervert is a name Harry uses for me when she isn't calling me, Cameron. I've come to think of it as a term of endearment. Gotta' love Harry.
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  #8 (permalink)  
Old 10-30-2016, 12:34 AM
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Re: When Harry Met Allee

*8) Thanksgiving Day Disaster

My mother had agreed to spend Thanksgiving Day with us. Everything was prepared and we were looking forward to a nice meal on a special occasion. My mother has a strange effect on my pets, I'll take the blame, she has a similar effect on me and they probably pick up on it though I try to keep my emotions well hidden. Most of my beloved creatures keep a respectful distance between themselves and Mother. Not so with Harry. She adores my mom.

Mom was entertaining Harry while I set the table. I had shown her where the acceptable treats were and asked her not to overdo it. We were using the formal dining room so the flock was in their cages not too far from the table. I left the room during the meal and returned just in time to see my mom hand a miniature marshmallow plucked from a bowl of pistachio salad to Harry. I have no idea why she would do such a thing or why Harry accepted the unauthorized treat but I panicked, I had to open Harry's door and seize the marshmallow, it happened too fast for Harry to retaliate. A few minutes later, her mad rant started, the F word, of course, all five syllables followed by YOU! No way to shut her up until she felt justified. A meal to remember. I felt no need to apologize to anyone other than Harry.

I'll mention here that while Harry has never forgotten the favored, two word phrase from her former life, she only uses the phrase in context and only when someone makes her very angry. The same is true of Pervert, she rarely uses the moniker, when she does, she seems to think its hysterically funny and seems to understand the shock value.
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  #9 (permalink)  
Old 10-30-2016, 12:35 AM
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Re: When Harry Met Allee

*9) Harry and her flock.

I mentioned a very ill Eclectus at the beginning of Harry's story. My oldest son has a mobile grooming service, he had rescued the bird from the backyard of a client, he found the bird in a homemade cage wired to a platform at the top of a wooden jungle gym, three dogs occupied the yard. The bird was eating dry dog food and sunflower seeds. I had agreed to take care of the bird because the situation was desperate, Josh couldn't care for the bird himself due to his long hours and the canines and felines he already shared his home with.

The first time my firstborn son called about a needy umbrella cockatoo, I said, "No, I will not!" Then I hung up on him. When he finds a good cause, Josh can be as persistent as an ink blotch on a white tablecloth. He text bombed me with photos of Poppy, then he called and screamed, "Don't hang up!" The fractured argument went on for several weeks, interrupted frequently by hang-ups and call backs. Poppy's first family was determined she was a he. His name was Popeye. The argument continued until Josh brought out the big guns and enlisted the help of his father. His father approached me with a wicked grin and asked, "When are we going to pick up the big white buzzard?" As it turned out, we went to pick up the buzzard the following weekend. Poppy had been given away more than a year before due to chronic screaming. She had been returned to her original owners when the couple fled the state and preferred to move away without Poppy. When we arrived, the original owner was in a state of hysteria, or dementia perhaps, either way she was awful, between bouts of crying and hand wringing she wasn't able to give us any useful information. Her histrionics ended when she screamed, "Don't sell this bird! I know he'll start plucking!" She then ran screaming out the back door, after slamming Poppy into Josh's chest. She left us with her embarrassed husband.

The crazy lady's husband told us Poppy's little friend Zeke, a green quaker was part of the deal. He then shoved Zeke, cage and all out the front door and onto the sidewalk. Unbelievable, we were in the twilight zone or down the rabbit hole with Alice. We packed Zeke into an extra carrier and off we went.

Poppy was almost catatonic, we moved her into her current cage, the one our sweet Ekkie had only occupied for a short eight months. She would sit on her perch and rock side to side. Zeke had been in an accident with a happy hut that had left him with a damaged voice, minor respiratory problems and scar tissue around his neck, he was also overweight and cage bound. But this is Harry's story.

After quarantine when Harry met her new friends, Poppy stepped out on her perch and Harry put her beak to her chest. She cooed, pretty, pretty, bird over and over. She would land on Poppy's cage and stare down in awe. Harry was and still is charmed by Poppy. Thankfully Poppy doesn't have a mean bone in her body and has never attempted to hurt any of her smaller flock mates. An aside, I am overprotective of all my pets, they were closely supervised during first introductions and they are always closely supervised when out together.

Harry made friends with Zeke, she tried with some success to teach him to talk. She also encouraged him to fly, her methods were a bit unorthodox, his flight lessons started when he would take flight, Harry would then take off and chase him to the ground. Harry is proud of her flying skills. I made a hanging play stand for the flock and Harry demonstrated her skills by threading the needle, she would fly through the stand, never slowing down or bumping a feather. She had an unfair advantage over poor Zeke and I wasn't about to let her bully him. She was in mid chase one day and when she flew past, I reached up and snatched her right out of the air, only time I ever employed a barehanded, full body grab, she was so shocked she didn't even attempt to bite. After that she understood Zeke was off limits and bullying in any form would not be tolerated.

On a day trip with my mother, Mom insisted we visit the deplorable pet store where Harry had spent one awful night. She found Sweet Pea in a tiny cage next to a sugar glider, the store owner, still apposed to perches unless they were for sale, had left the little cockatiel with only one choice, stand on the bottom of the cage or cling to the sides, her tail was a mess. I let my mom deal with the charming proprietor, I went to the communal budgie flight. I heard my mother bellowing at the store owner, yelling at him like he was her own. I figured he had done something worthy of Mother's wrath, I left him to his fate. I found out later, the cockatiel had bitten him and he had thrown her to the floor. I was very proud of my mom that day.

Mother bought the cockatiel. I bought two bedraggled budgies, they were tiny and caged with about sixty bigger budgies, the little guys looked starved and they were being stomped into the disgusting floor of the cage. I couldn't leave them there. They have a beautiful bond, both females, I should have named them Cuff and Link, they are never more than a few inches from each other even when they are outside their flight cage. I named them Piper and Twinkle.

The cockatiel had been with Mom for about six weeks when I got the early morning, frantic phone call, "Come get this bird! I can't take it anymore!" Jaxon (her male yorkie) had terrorized the poor bird non stop for six weeks. Mom's solution was to send Sweet Pea home with me. Of course, I went to get the frightened little cockatiel. I understood Mom's decision, her intentions were good from the beginning, she got Sweet Pea out of that awful pet store and sent her to a home where she knew she would be loved and cared for. Thank you, Mom.

We continued Harry's evening ritual once quarantine was over and the flock was together. I would pull the cages close in a circle and read aloud, Where The Sidewalk Ends. All the birds would choose a favorite perch and listen like a group of preschoolers.

Most of you know Sammy's story so I'll only say, Sammy is my sweet, sweet boy. He's a builder, a talker, and a charmer. Harry is pretty easy going with Sammy. If Harry is in an ornery mood and catches him on my head or my shoulder, she will fly into him and knock him off his perch, making him squeal like a little girl and run for the safety of his cage. I know she likes him, she lets him go in her cage, play with her toys and eat from her bowls, plus she has never attempted to kill him and hide his body.

Harry is very protective of Sweet Pea, she will call Sweet Pea and sit with her on a play stand or a cage top. She will not allow Sweet Pea inside her cage.

It remains to be seen how well Wilson will adapt to his flock, but I expect good things. I'm happy to say, Wilson was my idea entirely, I wanted a baby quaker. Harry and Sammy are giving the little guy speech lessons, so far, no profanity. He can wolf whistle, he can say, Good Boy, You're Welcome, and Good Good. I was right, quakers learn to speak faster when their teachers are also birds.

All my birds have sweet personalities and Harry too has a softer side. She is not a cuddly girl but she will come to visit, sit on my shoulder, rub her cheek against mine and purr in my ear, I never, ever take that for granted, it's a gift, from Harry to me.

Had I not met Harry, I would never have adopted Poppy or the rest. I would have had no reason to join ParrotForums. I wouldn't know my wonderful friend, Terry and she wouldn't have conned me into being a mod, then I wouldn't know my amazing team or any of my friends from the PF community. I wouldn't be boring you to death with bird stories. Blame Harry, or give her credit, whichever the case may be.

All parrots have a story, all flocks have a story and all of us have a story, sometimes these stories intertwine in a magical way, funny, sad, strange, bazaar, beautiful, heartbreaking, all the above and then some. I encourage you to share your own stories here among friends and parrot lovers of all kinds.
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  #10 (permalink)  
Old 10-30-2016, 10:06 AM
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Re: When Harry Met Allee

My full and unreflected thanks to Harry for her long efforts at crafting the wonder of you!!! Love Harry's Story!
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