You wouldn’t think someone with my proclivity for being attacked by birds would ever have one as a pet. In fact, I have had three. One of them, Alan the Hanh Macaw, was the first and by far the best.
Alan sort of adopted us. When I was in college, I worked at a pet store. One day, when I came to open the store, I saw a cardboard box laying in wait. The cardboard box is the IED of the pet store universe. There is rarely something good in a cardboard box; usually it’s either a dead animal or a Tazmanian Devil someone wants to dump.
I looked down at the box and gave it a little rap with my foot. “What’s your problem????” The box squawked. It literally said that. This is neither artistic license nor metaphor. The thing in the box asked me what my problem was. Just so we’re clear.
“You, most likely,” I sighed. I unlocked the store and picked up the complaining box and brought it inside. Right then, manager Greg walked in.
“What’s in the box? Dead guinea pig or something?” He asked.
The box coughed like a smoker. We looked at each other. Greg opened it. Inside was a mostly naked Hanh Macaw. The only place it had feathers was on its head and wings. Also in the box was a partially chewed envelope, and a bell. I reached in to get the note, the bird snapped at me with its eyes flashing. I managed to get the note out and closed the lid. The box grumbled to itself and a bell rattled.
The note read: My name is Sweety Bird, I am a Hahn Macaw. My mom got sick and can’t take care of me anymore. Please find me a home. I can talk.
“Pretty good handwriting for a bird,” Greg joked. “You want him?”
“Me?” I asked.
“Gimmie a Kiss!” the box yelled, like a drunk frat-boy.
“Well just look at the thing; we can’t put it for sale, it looks diseased. And…” He pulled back the box lid and Sweety lunged at him. “And it bites.” He waited for an answer for a few seconds, then shrugged. “Well, put it in back for now, I don’t want it out where the customers can see it,” Greg said.
The back room of most pet stores is a sort of limbo for animals. It’s where the sick ones are hopefully nursed back to health, but mostly it’s the last stop on the way to hamster heaven. Oh sure, the big ticket animals might get to see a vet, but usually it’s up to the staff to do their best with the over the counter meds they have in the store.
After a brief fight with a towel, Sweety was put into a used cage. We looked at each other. “What’s your problem???” he demanded. He looked like a partially plucked squab. “Hello???” He squawked. He looked pathetic, but he stomped around the cage with authority. He also made creepy old person throat clearing noises. It was weirdly endearing.
I don’t know why but I agreed to take him home. I would sometimes take home baby birds that were being hand fed so I figured, what the heck? Dr. Wife at the time was a vet tech so she might be able to help him out a little. It was Greg who changed the bird’s name to Alan. We agreed that if I could get him healthy looking and less aggressive, we could sell him at the store and split the money.
When I got home Dr. Wife was sitting on the couch, both of her hands were heavily wrapped in gauze.
“What the hell happened to you?” I asked.
“I was carrying a cat back to the kennels when a dog got loose, and all hell did too.” She sighed and looked at her hands “I should have dropped the damn cat.” She eyed at the bird cage I was carrying. “What happened to that poor thing?” She asked.
“Box on the doorstep.” I said. “It rips out its own feathers, I’m guessing that he was neglected and went a little…cuckoo.” I waited for a laugh but got nothing. “Also it bites, so be careful.”
“What’s its name?” Dr. Wife asked.
“Pretty Bird,” the macaw yelled, like it was an insult.
“Alan” I said. She raised an eyebrow. Greg gave every animal in the pet store regular human names. There was no Fluffy, Mittens, or Sparky at our pet shop. There was Jerry, Roger, Beth, and Juan.
I set the cage on a table and opened the door to see what Alan would do. He climbed up on top and immediately demanded to know what our problem was. I moved my hand closer to see if he would step up onto my finger. He hissed and opened his beak. If you’ve never been bit by a parrot, I don’t recommend it unless you need a mole removed. Imagine a tiny pit bull crossed with an exacto knife.
A day later I came home from work and Dr. Wife watching TV with a perfectly content Alan on her shoulder, nestling in her hair.
“Wow, he calmed down!” I said and reached for him. He took up a defensive position and snapped at me.
“He’s afraid of hands,” Dr. Wife said. She held up her gauze wrapped hands. “He doesn’t know I have them.” She smirked.
Later, our room mate sat down on the other end of the couch, Alan made cute noises and waddled across the back of the couch to say hi. ” I think he likes me.” our roomie said. Alan bit him on the ear, ran back over to Dr. Wife, and hid in her hair. I swear he was laughing to himself.
We had Alan for six years. We also got him a bird friend to keep him company. Big mistake. MILK nicknamed them Adolf and Eva. More on them later.
Birds creep me out. I’ve had pet rattlesnakes and some crazy looking lizards over the years. But, a bird? Never. No way. The beaks… pointy little daggers… they haunt me!!
Birds… they’re just like octopuses, but with feathers, and no tentacles.
Not so fond memory of Alan – flapped off the top of his cage to “engage” with me while I was sewing at the dining room table. Looked so sweet coming to visit, then sunk his beak into the back of my hand (still have the scar). Fond memory – arguing with him about who had the “problem” after I came home from work. Such a friendly greeting “what’s your PROBLEM?” Never thought I would be telling a bird off.
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