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Parrot Games

Monday, December 4, 2006

Either Chet is preternaturally smart, or he got bitten on the schnozz as a puppy. All I know is that he was intensely curious about Charlie, always standing up on his hinders to take a closer sniff, and then all of a sudden he wasn't curious about Charlie any more. And, like most dogs in parrot-ruled households, he lets Charlie do whatever Charlie wants. Which includes chasing him at low speed in circles around the flat file, Chet play-bowing and yodeling and scuttling backward, Charles pigeon-toeing ticka ticka ticka as fast as he can go (which isn't very fast).

Charles is my 20-year-old chestnut-fronted macaw.

It's counterintuitive, really, for a 14-oz macaw to hold sway over a 22-lb. Boston terrier. It's all about the psi of Charlie's bite, which needs to be felt but once to make a permanent impression. Macaws are all attitude, with the bite to back it up. Don't get me wrong. I love Charles, and he loves me, and there's something really nice about having a bird on your shoulder while you're drawing birds all day. But they are, to put it kindly, insular, territorial, loud, and incredibly sloppy creatures. They throw what they eat; they shred paper and anything else they can get their beaks on. When properly fed, they strew fruit, vegetables, cheese, nuts, seed, pellets and occasional bits of meat and bone over a startlingly wide area. Charles starts each morning with 10 hours' worth of poop splatting onto newspapers beneath his perch. Think about a tureen of pea soup dropped from 8' up and you have the mess that greets me every morning.

I've had Charlie since he was 4 1/2 months old, a hand-fed child of captive-raised birds. He came into this world plucking his feathers, and will doubtless go out plucking. I'm just glad he leaves most of them. I sometimes confess that I bought this bird the first time my biological clock rang, in 1986. I didn't know it was going off, of course, I just knew I wanted a baby to take care of. I'm just as glad things have worked out the way they did. I'm glad I waited to meet Bill and have these particular human babies, the best ones I can imagine. But all these years later, I'm still fixing a hot breakfast for Charlie every morning.

A macaw's idea of a good time is to lord it over somebody else. That, and to hide under blankets, chuckle, regurgitate your breakfast, chew somebody else's possessions, and terrorize that somebody. Most of the time, peace reigns in the studio. Chet snores gently on his cushy bed, and Charlie preens and whispers in my ear from his station on my right shoulder. They're good enough friends that I can hold Chet on my lap while Charlie's on my shoulder. But every once in awhile, Charlie takes a notion to kick Chet out of his bed and steal his toys.

Baker, he of the expressive mug, tells the whole story with his eyes. And his posture, which is frankly horrible in these pictures.
There he goes again. Messing around with my blankets, in my bed. Rrrrrrr.

And you! You just laugh, and take your dopey old pictures. Do something, dammit! He's in my BED.

He is chewing my new Nylabone corn on the cob. Mother. He is shredding my very favorite toy. This situation is becoming intolerable. MOTHER!

One of these days, Charlie, you tatty old rotter. To the MOON!


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