May 17, 2013


           I am the proud owner of an African Grey named Renfield.  For the uninitiated, this is a type of talking parrot.  He’s extremely friendly, as long as you’re me, and will not bite, as long as you’re me; although there are occasions when even being me won’t help you.
“Where did you get that horrible scar?” I’m asked regularly.
“Which one?” I counter.
         The questioner begins to feel uncomfortable pursuing this line of inquiry; the notion of some form of either current spousal abuse or long ago child abuse rearing its ugly head.  The subject is changed with a quickness.
The truth is, I rather like my parrot war wounds.  As a result of them, I rarely get lost.  Those on the back of my right hand are a perfect road map of the greater Phoenix area.  And, should I ever find myself in Bora Bora, my left hand will be invaluable.
“Why is your parrot so vicious?  What are you doing to him?” you cry, with all the outrage of an animal rights activist who’s just been gifted with an elephant foot umbrella stand.
The God’s honest truth is . . . nothing.  These little guys are the most intelligent of the parrot world, with the brainpower of a seven year-old human child, and a temperament to match.  I’m only thankful that he can’t pick up anything too heavy, or he probably would have shot me by now.
If you think tantrums by children are bad, you haven't seen anything until you’ve experienced a birdie fit of pique.  Parrot tantrums are much less spontaneous.  There’s a lot of planning that goes into a parrot tantrum.  For instance, Renfield will watch me carefully sweep the floor.  He will watch me mop the same floor.  He will wait until I’m almost through, then he plays a game with me.
The game is called, “Let’s Throw Everything in Our Cage Out Onto the Wet Floor!”
After that bit of magic, I have a kitchen floor lined with an attractive mélange of sunflower seed husks, dried corn cob, gifts from his feathered colon, a variety of half-eaten fruits, vegetables, and nuts, and pieces of dead bodies he was saving for later.
I could be the only woman in America who regularly shovels her kitchen.
Another Renfield game is called, “Telephone.”  Again, there’s timing involved here.  He doesn’t just play it willy nilly.  He waits until I am going out and I’m late.  He watches me rush around.  He watches me get dressed five or six times.  He watches me in my futile attempt to do my hair in 5.6 seconds and my makeup in 3.  He’s biding his time.
OK.  I’m ready to go and have just left the house when . . .
Guess who.
He’s insidious.  He knows that I’m one of those people who will drop everything to answer a ringing phone.  You never know who it might be.  Could be important.  Could be bad news.  Could be good news.  Maybe Publishers Clearing House.
Usually, a telemarketer.  But that’s fine.  It’s someone to take my frustration out on.
The minute I rush back into the house, I hear, “Ahahahahahahahahaha!”
He’ll do this to me seven or eight more times before he gets bored with it and goes to sleep.  And he imitates the ring of the phone so well, that I can’t tell the difference.
I’m now over an hour late for the funeral I was on my way to.  Since I’m already dressed for it, I briefly consider having a funeral of my own . . . a pet funeral.
But, no.  I really do love the little beastie, and I’ve found a new way to keep him in line.  Whenever he acts up, I just sidle on over to his cage and, with thumb and forefinger, gently test the firmness of his drumstick.
He gets the point.
Thanksgiving is never that far away, and he knows I can hold a grudge.



  1. The joy of birds! Their presence is a double-edge sword. One side brings joy, the other brings headaches.

    When I was a kid we had a parakeet who would watch for the dog to come into the room. Then he'd meow and drive the dog nuts. He knew the dog wasn't allowed to bark at him.

  2. Yep, birds are smart enough to know exactly which buttons to push sometimes. :-) I've had Renfield for 20 years this August. He's such good company, I wouldn't know what to do without him.