Enter Alfie, the Blue-Crown Conure

A few words about why I haven’t written: First, foremost, this semester is kicking me in the ass; I’m busier with work than usual, try as I might to cut back my workload, streamline, etc. When one has spent days on end writing comments on 80 students’ papers — and this one believes in giving useful comments — then one does not feel as inclined to do the writing one does enjoy. Second, perhaps more importantly, I sometimes hit writing snags because I think I must present events in order. It seems rude to introduce Alfie when I haven’t properly completed the Mango story. But I’ll ask that you bear with me and try to understand that even though that little old lovely Senegal has died, he remains with me — ineffably, yes, but with me nonetheless. And I’ll tell his story eventually, I’ll write in detail about his death, but now is not that time.

I met Alfie on August 4th, the day she and her newly weaned clutchmates were brought to the bird shop. She had sleepy-droopy eyes and let me scratch the top of her head. She looked plump, she looked to have a receding chin, and in profile she looked to me like Winston Churchill or Alfred Hitchcock. I didn’t want her right away, but every time I returned to the shop, I held her, and she had the same sweet, sleepy, laid-back attitude. I taught her to step up and give me a kiss immediately after. And even though I still mourned Mango and even though I couldn’t convince myself I needed a third bird, I took her home September 8th.

My love for her has been slow to develop. That doesn’t mean I don’t love her. It’s just that I loved Niko instantly. I loved Mango instantly and deeply. When I brought Ruby home, I loved her with a respectful reserve; that love has only deepened and become more richly affectionate. I feel the same sort of thing taking place with Alfie, a slow love.

I named her Alfred Hermione Winston. No, Hermione didn’t come from the Harry Potter character. The first time I saw that name, I thought it was pronounced Hermie-on. It had a pompous look to it. Then I learned its true pronunciation; it didn’t lose its pomp, but it gained music. Alfie is more honestly named after the song, one of my all-time favorite standards, a true love song. I’ve long wanted a pet named Alfie. Now I have one.

This week she started making kiss noises. She also chuckled. Either that, or she was imitating the monkey we don’t own and have never met. Yesterday throughout the day she practiced saying hi: “Hi—-i–i–yi–iiiii.” She sounds like a squeaky baby doll, a little child. This morning when I woke up, she stood on my shoulder and babbled. When I got home from work, she babbled some more. Her noises up to this week have been an annoying repeated loud (but not piercing) squawk — mercifully, she stops after 30 seconds or a minute — and a “huh?” sound that I can’t figure out how to write phonetically. It’s a dunce-like sound, very silly and fetching.

I’m too tired to say more tonight. Only, the sorts of imitative sounds Alfie has adopted lead me to believe she’s going to have a good life. Kisses, chuckles, “hi–i–yi–ii.” I may not have needed a third bird, but I like having this one. She doesn’t replace Mango — she was never meant to — but like him, her personality is entirely different from Ruby’s or Niko’s. And like all of them, she makes me happy.

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The Bird Who Loves Me

I continue to postpone the inevitable entry. Mango died two weeks ago tomorrow. I cried in a way I haven’t cried since my father’s death. Amazing that a little old semi-bald bird with a gnarled foot could be part of my life for eight and a half months and blow such a big hole in my world with his departure from it. But finding myself the beneficiary of such sweet gentleness on a daily basis makes me want those days not to have ended so soon, and I feel his absence and hear it in the silence where his cage once stood.

So to tonight’s entry. I have already said I am convinced of the sentience of birds and especially of Ruby. My mother is here for a visit. She showed up a day early and plans to leave a day later than we originally said. I will avoid detailing the stress and neurosis she brings with her. Only, think of it this way: It’s the opposite of what I just described about Mango and what he brought to my life. But it’s a big deal that my mother is here at all. She made the drive herself, more than 750 miles; this is her longest trip by many, many hundreds of miles and the first time she’s visited here since my father died three and a half years ago. In that time, I have made every visit to her home, and I have always brought along a pet or two or three.

In my mother’s house, Ruby is often quiet, vigilant, perhaps not entirely uncomfortable but certainly not “at home.” I worried that Ruby would behave similarly during this visit. So far I’ve been wrong. She has been happy and communicative, a vital part of the goings-on no matter the stress. And she has made a point of being super-loving toward me, nuzzling down into my collarbone both tonight and last, reassuring me that there is such a thing as love recognizably and generously given. She has lain there and turned her head to gaze at me and coo at me, and she has let herself be petted for minutes on end. She knows — oh yes, she does! — just what I need.

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We’ve Won an Award!

Thanks to Shiba Mistress (my friend Lisa) at fromthehouseofthefoxdogs.wordpress.com for passing along this award. I’m certain it’s as much for my pets as for me, if not moreso! Now it becomes my job to pass it on to others whose blogs I enjoy. That will take some time. I will also have to spend some time thinking of 15 things about myself to share with you, though certainly the first five that come to mind are the pets themselves!

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Life with Five

This afternoon I sat outside on the back patio and finished the last fourth of a quite satisfying book, Man in the Woods by Scott Spencer. The air was as clear as it’s been this past week, since the smoke from the Arizona wildfires has pushed its way across New Mexico and polluted our blue skies. If it’s this bad here, I keep thinking, how bad must it be for those closer to the soruce of the smoke? Anyway, the view of the mountains had only the slightest scrim of haze from the smoke, and while the day was hot, being in the shade was pleasant.

I took a chance and brought Mango outside with me. He perched contentedly first on one hand and then on the other as I read. He did some light preening, he twittered from time to time, he stood on one foot and curled the other into his body, and eventually he fell asleep. We were outside close to two hours, and he was as peaceful as I’ve seen him recently.

Try as I do not to worry about him, I worry about him. He’s been so crazed these past couple of months, and most of our time together has been upsetting for him. He can’t rest. He darts from one shoulder to the other, up and down my arms, onto my knee and back up again, and his expression is nothing shy of frantic. When I return him to his cage after these failed attempts at spending quality time, he dashes about the cage, shreds his papers so that the bits fly out and litter the kitchen floor, and can’t settle down. I tell him night-night, fold the towel over the top of the cage, and turn out the light. That calms him.

So it was good to have tranquil time with him today. He seems to like it outside.

The dogs were also outside with me. Yes, dogs. I got the border terrier puppy. I named him Truman. I just finished reading the post I wrote trying to dissuade myself from adding to my family of animals, but when I met him, I found him irresistible. I also met four adult border terriers and fell in love with their personality: curious, social, but not annoying in their affection. He is fourteen and a half weeks old. He is delightful. And he has been very, very good for Gideon. Gideon plays well with him (considering their huge difference in size) and treats him as both a responsibility and a friend. The puppy has a fantastic personality, but he keeps me very busy, distracting me from many other things I’d rather be doing. That means he pees and pees and pees and chews on this and that and the other thing, and I haven’t had a complete night’s sleep (though he isn’t waking me in the middle of the night any more) since I got him, nor have I been able to drink my coffee in peace.

The birds don’t like him. But he spent his first weeks of life around pet birds. Truman wants to play with them, though he is very cautious in his approach. He has met them all face-to-face, and I have held each of them close to introduce them. Ruby turned herself into a big gray puff when she first saw him, and she registers terrific offense any time he is within her line of vision. She tries to bite him. I monitor them carefully. Inevitably, Truman could do far more damage to her than she to him, but she cranes toward him and hopes, it’s obvious, to peck at his eyes. Smart bird that she is, she knows where other creatures’ vulnerabilities exist. Niko and Mango are also clearly offended by the invader, but Truman seems able to detect that they are the less loved among the birds — though I’d venture that they suffer no shortage of love — and doesn’t appear as intimidated by them. At the same time, I worry about them a little more, as they have brighter plumage (yes, even in his baldness, Mango has bright plumage), are smaller than Ruby, and might be more readily mistaken for toys.

I love the pup. I believe he will prove a wonderful, amusing addition to the family. But he does require a lot of energy and attention, and I look forward to calmer times with him and the rest of the gang.

As for my afternoon, it was lovely. I wish the wildfires would abate and the smoke would clear.

Posted in Gideon the German shepherd, Mango the Senegal parrot, Niko the green-cheeked conure, Ruby the African gray parrot, Truman the border terrier | 1 Comment

The Multiple Meanings of “Night-Night”

Mango is having another crazy day. This morning when it was his turn to spend time with me, he sat calmly for a few minutes and then began saying, “Night-night.” The more he said it, the more urgent it became. I told him, no, it wasn’t night-night time, but I decided what he wanted was to return to his cage.

There, he spent the day quietly.

I opened the cage door about a half-hour ago, and he instantly climbed down and walked over to me. I was washing dishes. I put him on my shoulder and completed my chore. Then I moved to the computer. He did not remain quiet or still. He wanted to be a little bit of everywhere all at once. He ran down my arm, ran around the table, ran across a stack of papers, ran up my arm. I tried to hold him, but he didn’t want to perch. He tweeted and peeped and ran away again and soon started saying, “Night-night.” Repeatedly. So I took him back to his cage.

He has a variety of noises, everything from his sweet sounds to semi-honks to the screeching that announces an arrival or departure. (I think this last noise represents the door opening.) At  times I wonder whether he’s trying to say his name — there’s a certain two-syllabled sound he makes when I hold him and say his name to him. But the only word(s) he knows is “night-night.” Michele has told me that she tells the birds “night-night” before shutting up shop (it closes at about 6:00 p.m.), and Ruby has always said it too. (I picked the phrase up from my parrot and not vice-versa.) But I’ve come to believe that the phrase has multiple meanings for Mango.

He does say it most nights when I’m telling him goodnight, and he does most often say it at night. He still puts himself to bed rather early for our household. But I think it’s also his way of telling me he wants to be in his cage. And given how wild-seeming he becomes if his “night-night” isn’t heeded, I really do think it means he’s done with our visit; he’s ready to be alone.

Ruby has started saying “night-night” more often too, but hers has little to do with a time of day, a desire to return to her cage (she never has that desire), or a parting gesture. It may be her name for Mango. She’s never said his name. It doesn’t much surprise me, as she doesn’t favor the long a sound. And though she’s heard me say his name to him often, she may have decided that “night-night” is preferable.

He really is having a wild time of it. Shortly after I put him in his cage, I turned the kitchen light out and draped the towel over the top of his cage. But he’s on the cage floor, rushing about and tearing at the papers. I don’t know whether it’s a game or a neurosis.

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But Do I Really Need a Fifth Pet?

A month or so ago, at a specialty pet store, Lisa and I encountered our first border terrier, just under a year old, leashed, strolling about with his owner — and this is where our story begins. We liked the dog so much that we came home and instantly started researching them. Lisa, (bad?) influence that she can be, did most of the research, sent me links, found the sites that described border terriers as less terrier-like than others, less barky, less willful, less all-around difficult.

This past weekend we went to the dog show at the State Fairgrounds, and the first dog that caught my eye was a border terrier. “Is it a sign?” I asked, thinking no, it can’t be. We made sure we were there for the border terrier competitions. When we stepped outside to eat, two women whose dogs had done well in their shows were sitting at a picnic bench nearby, and I stopped to talk to them. “I have puppies!” the woman whose dogs had done best piped up. She has puppies. They’re ready to go. She also has birds. The puppies are being socialized amid birds.

Truman, I thought. I’d name him Truman. Later in the day, I thought Archie. Or Nigel. Ruby already says Nigel. Or maybe a more common human name, Joey or Billy as in Charming Billy. I like to name things. I had to wonder whether I just wanted something else to name.

Thing is, I’m overwhelmed with how much stuff I have. I’ve just ended a semester in which I misplaced or “lost” my glasses eight to ten times, three times in one recent week. If noticing a border terrier amid a huge collection of dogs when border terriers are what I’d gone specifically to look at is something that makes me ask, “Is it a sign?” this habit of losing my glasses certainly should be interpreted that way. I’ve got to get myself organizized. I need to sell things, get rid of things, clean things. I need new carpeting. I need to groom that damned yard. I need to dedicate a lot of time to writing. Those two absent, evasive friends of mine whose wedding I’m supposed to officiate next month need to sit down with me and tell me what they want me to do and say and, more importantly, what they don’t want to me do or say. My mother is coming. Do I need to bring a puppy into the mix?

And on top of everything else, can I afford one financially? I could find the money, yes, but it would seriously deplete my resources — especially once I add the cost of carpet and general summer expenses. And there’d be vet bills. And there’d be training. A new collar, a new leash, a new bowl, a new crate, a new bed, new toys, new grooming tools.

Years ago, I decided I needed to become a one-dog family again. I love my German shepherd, but I really really loved my golden retrievers. The latter were easy, pleasant dogs, less cloying, thirty pounds smaller. I also decided I needed that one dog to be a golden retriever. What has attracted me to the border terrier is that I’ve also been thinking about a smaller dog (though not necessarily that small), more easily transportable. Yet I also think of my dogs as my primary form of protection and alert for myself and the house. Would a small dog suffice in that role?

Gideon did show signs of depression after Jasper’s death last August. It manifests mostly as boredom, and even though he gets to go for short walks in warm weather and has the ball thrown for him a few times a day, it’s not enough. When Lisa got Oskar, Gideon had someone to look after for short bursts. Even now that Oskar has grown larger than Gideon and there’s a certain roughness in their greeting, it’s obvious that Gideon likes having someone to play with. Someone = another dog.

I think, though, that the answer will have to be no. Even though I’m seeing the vet later today and intending to ask about border terriers. Even though I’ve contacted the breeder about meeting the pups. Even though I’m planning to meet the pups. Stay tuned….

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Faking It at the Drive-Through

So we’re coming back from Psitti Scenes, Niko and I, and I’m hungry, so I pull into the drive-through at Taco Cabana. Niko usually travels to and from his appointment in a dashingly pink Ed Hardy shoebox, but because we’re so close to home, I’ve taken him out and put him on my shoulder. He hasn’t started with the courtship feeding — he gets excited in the car — so he’s okay up there.

I order my food, I pull up in line, and I go to hand the guy my money. “Oh,” he says, “it’s real. I thought that was a fake bird.”

It took me a second and a half to process the implication. That is, that I’d decorated my shoulder with a fake bird. What, some taxidermist had made a broach of some sort, and I’d affixed it to my black hoodie, propped it on my shoulder? I mean, I know it’s strange for me to be driving around with a real bird on my shoulder or perched on my hand, but wouldn’t it be odder still for me to be wearing a fake bird?!?

That’s one bird story. I have another. Michele showed me a cockatiel in the shop. It was bouncing about the floor of its cage, popping its head up over the rim and trying to raise the (secured) sliding doors for the absent food bowls. I couldn’t see its feet, but Michele explained to me that one leg was just a stump and the other was missing toes. The husband of the previous owner left the bird outside during the hard freeze we had here in early February — a rare thing for us, but we were at zero and sub-zero temperatures and wind chills for a few days one week — and the bird got frostbite. Nothing enrages me so much as acts of easy cruelty. I don’t know whether the guy’s wife was already planning to divorce him or has now decided to divorce him, but she was away, doing military service in the Middle East. The cockatiel looked to be in good health otherwise, but he’s evidently mean, a biter, bitey enough to have taken a chunk out of Michele’s son’s hand. Question: Was the bird mean before, too?

A good bird story: I held Maya for about an hour today. Maya is a macaw. I’m scared of macaws but charmed by this one. She’s a tease and a flirt, and I sweet-talk her every time I’m in the shop. Today when she strolled across the floor toward me, I asked if I could step her up, then braced myself and followed through. She sat on one knee or the other most of the time I was there.

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Just Another Manic Mango

Last night I had an email from a student, wondering whether she could have a few moments to speak with me privately after our small-group conference today. Oh no, I thought, oh no. It could have been anything — anything having to do with our class, an assignment, a request for a letter of recommendation, a concern over another student, a gripe with me (though I couldn’t think of any issue there might be between us). Whatever it was, it was going to cause me either some mild headache or more work; that’s what I figured. Years of experience, you know.

What she wanted was to let me know that her father has multiple sclerosis, that it’s recently worsened, and that he can no longer take care of his six pets. They’ve been able to place the cats and dogs, but the two birds were another story. The student told me I was the only person she knew who had birds. Would I by chance want two more? Parakeets, she said. They were hers, she said, but she couldn’t keep them where she lived.

I showed enormous restraint. I told her no. I also told her about Psitti Scenes and said I’d talk to Michele tomorrow when I take Niko in. And I thought about the birds I have, how one of my prayers is to stay healthy enough always to care for them.

Mango has taken to standing on one foot on my leftt shoulder, tipping his head back, closing his eyes, and falling asleep. Sometimes he stays awake, drowsy-eyed, and grinds his beak. “You have a home now,” I said to him a couple of nights ago when he was in such a state. I’ve started to register a different comfort level in him. We’re learning each other’s routines. Well, maybe I just mean I can tell when he’s about to poop, so I can move him away in time not to be doused.

It’s Ruby who’s with me now. She’s poised on the arm of the chair, letting her neck and head be scratched, letting me pick at the tips of her pin feathers. She’s full of pin feathers. Perhaps she’ll maintain this affection. Perhaps it’s a ruse intended to draw my attention away from my writing and the computer. She could start biting — nipping, really — at any instant, depending on how offended she gets by the split in my attention.

Even though I feel I’m much more familiar with Mango’s routines now, I’m also still learning who he is. Last Thursday night I got home late from a friend’s birthday gathering, and when I took Mango out of the cage, he was in the throes of ecstasy over seeing me again. He dashed from one shoulder to the other and back again, again and again. He peeped and tweeted and scrambled down my arm onto the couch where he stood looking up at me. Then he ran back up my arm, across my shoulders. It made me laugh. But he was sort of crazed too, and eventually he started preening, sort of. He yanked at the feathers on top of his wings. He ripped at them. Tiny bits of fluff came loose. He behaved as though his feathers were attacking him instead of the other way around. And that behavior continued for a while. Manic, ultra-excited. I’ve never seen him like that.

The next night he was the same way. Happy to the point of mania, happy to the point of biting and ripping at his feathers. When the mania showed no signs of stopping, I put him in his cage, draped the towel over the top, and told him, “Night-night.” “Night-night,” he replied, his only words. He said them loudly. “Night-night, night-night.” The excitement remained in his voice, but he settled down fairly quickly.

The next two nights he was normal. No, wait, I’m still not exactly sure what “normal” is for Mango. I decided I’d probably had him up too late. Maybe he needs his sleep, and it was well after his bedtime when he was rushing about, tweeting madly and yanking at his feathers. Maybe I need to make sure he’s in his cage by 9:00 p.m., quiet for the night even though I’m often up four hours beyond that. But last night, early in the evening, he was at it again, manic Mango. So I suppose he’s just showing me another facet or two of his personality.

In addition, just this weekend, he discovered how to descend from his cage and come looking for me. Problem is, he’s not a very good navigator. He doesn’t announce that he’s on his way (Ruby has a few sounds that herald her arrival on the scene), and he’s also prone to taking wrong turns. The second time he came looking for me, I was in the living room, but he’d wandered down the hallway and was near my bedroom door. And add this: Now that he can confidently leave his cage, I can’t risk having his and Niko’s cage doors open at the same time. Though Ruby and Niko seem only vaguely irritated at Mango’s presence and don’t appear to harbor intense enmity for him as they do for each other, I just can’t trust them to continue to (a) get along or (b) ignore each other.

In the time I’ve been writing this, Ruby started with the pay-attention-to-me nibbles, then climbed up my arm and came to rest on my shoulder, where she bit at my glasses a few times and then plopped herself down. Now she’s on the back of the chair and doesn’t seem in need of my affection.

As for Mango and the drama of his feathers, he’s full of pin feathers too, but because he’s so bald, I can see the way they grow. It looks so painful, so many of them trying to spring from the same source. They lie crisscrossed over one another on his back and legs and shoulders, and some are scattered about his neck and breast. I imagine he’ll return to his wispy-feathered look sooner or later. I imagine that someday I’ll have a better sense of his habits. Whether or not I learn to understand them is yet to be determined.

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Ruby’s Review of “Judas” by Lady Gaga

Readers who know me can skip this part: I’m a Lady Gaga fan, a pretty big one, and have a second blog at professorgaga.wordpress.com.

Yesterday, minutes before having to leave the house, I learned that Gaga’s new song “Judas” had leaked a few days before its official release, so Gaga and her Haus decided to release it to iTunes. I read the article, clicked the link, raised the volume on the laptop speakers, and listened.

It doesn’t matter what I think of the song, not here. It matters, however, that Ruby loved it. She didn’t stop singing the whole time it played. She sang along with her semi-operatic aaaahhhhhs, and though I didn’t have the chance to look at her, I’d bet she was also bobbing along in her cage.

I had just enough time to play the song a second time before I left, and once again, Ruby raised her voice in song. A beautiful thing!

I was gone nearly twelve hours. When I returned, I played it once again. It was late now, near midnight, not a typical hour for the birds’ vocal participation. But this third playing of the song inspired the same reaction from Ruby.

Lady Gaga sings, “I’m in love with Judas.”

My interpretation of what Ruby sang: Ruby’s also in love with “Judas.”

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Mango Goes Commando

Warning: I don’t know, I haven’t written it yet, but this post may head in the direction of too much information.

So yesterday I was at Psitti Scenes with Niko (for his beak work), and I told Michele what a baldie Mango has turned himself into. I kept my voice light, just as I’m trying to keep my mood light, even though my poor old-man bird has stripped his body very, very bare and has pulled the feathers off his shoulder tops. “I keep telling myself he’s been doing this all his life,” I told her, “so why would he change now?”

“Exactly!” Michelle said. So she expressed no concern. She didn’t suggest preventative measures. She set to work on Niko’s beak. She did add, “I bet he’s still got that look in his eyes” — that spark of contentment. Yes, he does. He’s happy as can be. Yesterday afternoon while I was reading essays for my class, he perched so long on my shoulder that he fell asleep standing on one foot, his head aimed beatifically heavenward. He was so still for so long that I nearly forgot he was there. Yes, he’s happy with me. And I’m happy with him.

But I have told him he needs to save a few feathers so I’ll have something to scratch when he bends his neck and requests a good petting. Contact with his warm, bare skin hasn’t been particularly pleasant, and anyway, I start thinking about all I’ve read, about how sensitive bird skin is, how one should stroke the feathers against their lay and avoid touching the skin. But that’s for birds with a healthy lot of feathers. Perhaps the pluckers’ skin becomes less sensitive as time goes on.

So his chest is bare. His naked craw bulges like a toad’s throat. His skinny bow legs no longer have the few wisps of feathers billowing over them. His shoulder blades show. His back, beneath his wings, has been plucked. And worst, there’s major frontal nudity. Well, in bird anatomy, it’s not exactly frontal, thank goodness. But the vent, the vent is right there, no feathers.

Before I continue to what may be the uncomfortably graphic part, let me say that though Mango persists in plucking, his feathers persist in growing. Tonight I noticed the painful-looking lay of pin feathers crisscrossing low on his back. I encouraged him to keep them. A few puffs have blossomed on his throat, and mercifully, a few more around his nether region too. I tried to compliment him on these tiniest of cottonball-looking developments. On his chest, the thinnest silken strands of something feather-like are visible in silhouette when I raise him up and look at him with the light behind him.

So a couple of things happened. (Last chance to avoid the possibility of descriptive overload!) First of all — and this is a story in itself — I’ve gotten better at taking note of the antsiness that precedes his bathroom-using. When I first got him, Mango had no manners and pooped where he stood, including on me, no warning wiggles. He has vile poop. (Yes, one day there will be a scatalogical post comparing my birds’ output.) I call his work “poop bombs” — they’re often very loose, wormlike expulsions colored lima-bean-green and released in a wet pool of, well, wetness. So I’m very, very happy that we’ve advanced in our relationship to the point that he starts to shift around, all ants in his pants (if only he had on pants!), and that allows me time to move him rapidly away so that the bomb falls in a proper, easily cleaned place, not on me! Anyway, the other day, I had him on my shoulder while I read, and when he began his little dance, I stepped him up and put him on the perch. Boom! a poop bomb fell. Good timing, Marisa! Unfortunately, though, I was watching him — unfortunately because of his unfortunate nakedness. I didn’t realize I was looking, but there it was, his exposed vent. (If you’re still reading, it gets worse!)

I’ve done a fair amount of reading about pet parrots, but I’m no expert when it comes to bird anatomy. I don’t know — or at least I didn’t know — what happens to the vent when a parrot makes. I have read enough to know that a prolapsed cloaca is a danger to a bird’s health, but again, I haven’t actually seen a picture or studied a diagram of a prolapsed cloaca. All of this is to say that when Mango released his poop bomb, his vent dipped out, a noticeable projection, and I feared he had a prolapsed cloaca or the beginnings of one. It hung there for a bit and did something that I’ve heard called “winking.” Actually, that term was used to describe something else, something having to do with female horses in a state of readiness for mating, but it was all I could think of as I watched in fear and horror while my bomb-dropping Mango sat there with his moving parts in too full a view. After 20 or 30 seconds of this, it ascended. It was hard for me, but I did what I had to do. I stepped him up as if I hadn’t just witnessed all that nastiness, and I returned him to my shoulder. But boy oh boy, that image hasn’t left my mind.

Another thing that happened within the past week was that I brought Mango into the bathroom with me while I took a bath. I put a small perch on the closed toilet seat, set him there, and went about my hygiene. Both my other birds enjoy spending time with me this way. We don’t do it every time I bathe, not by a long shot, but Niko has been known to stand on my knee in the tub, and Ruby has a habit of wandering into the room after me if she’s curious to see what’s up. She likes to stand on the edge of the tub and pretend offense at the driblets of water I drip from my fingertips onto her back.

Mango growled almost the entire time I was in the tub. His growl is a low, phlegmatic sound, and he has to open his beak wide to make it. It’s a noise appropriate for an obscene phone call. He has growled at me only a few times, usually when he feels I’m threatening his food bowl. That day, I decided he was growling at me because he wasn’t used to seeing me without my clothes on and he thought my nakedness appalling.

I tried to use it as a teaching moment — see how terrible it is for you when I’ve taken off my feathers?! — and I also pointed out to him that I had the good manners not to erupt in growls every time he stripped to reveal a new body part. I don’t know whether he learned anything from the experience. His pin feathers are shooting through, and for the time being, he’s leaving them there. Maybe he’s so traumatized by the sight of me bare that he’s working for a little carefully placed cover-up.

One can only hope.

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