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Monday, August 19, 2013

Shine the African Grey Parrot- A Bird for All Seasons

by Sandra Gallimore, Guest Blogger

Intoducing Shine with a bone the size of his head. 

Parrots love bones to chew on, and Shine is no exception.  He loves to gnaw. and it's good for his beak, plus keeps him occupied.  

Shine was born January 8, 1998 making him 15 years old, and I have had him for 14 of those years. He was born on Elvis Presley's birthday so it looks like they would have named him Elvis -- but they chose Sunshine.  He's just happy with 'Shine' though, and he does shine when his winning personality comes through. 

I have been lucky, as Shine's friend, to be able to work all that time at home before I retired.  He has not had constant attention in these years, but much more than the average parrot would have with working owners, so there are many bored and lonely parrots in the world . I think it affects being happy or unhappy and how long they live.  

It took Shine a while to start talking, but then I was surprised to learn he had been listening all along!  Shine has a large and varied vocabulary, including sentences when he so desires.  Some of these are as follows: "I want to go outside and see birds",  "I want to go for a walk",  "how's my boy?, "I want a chip",  "Get outta here!"(to the dogs and cats), together with phrases such as "come on", "go on", "stop", "quit", "scratch my head", and many more.  

While it is true that most birds and parrots mimic what they hear, it is also true that they learn.  As an example, I think of when my husband and I would run to get Shine when he flew into a wall or window. "Are you all right?" we would ask and see if he was.  One day I was in the kitchen and a lower cabinet door was open. When I turned around, I hit my leg on it and yelled.  When I did, Shine yelled "Are you all right?" 

I love that story. So as smart as he is an owner must realize that a parrot, especially a Grey, has the mental age of only about a 2 1/2 years old.  So he has moods and little patience and a short attention span. 

Recently, I had Shine outside for fresh air. Somehow he had gotten out of his smaller cage and had flown away.  Of course, I was in a panic. Birds in captivity cannot care for themselves -- may not find food or water, and many die.  So it is of the utmost importance to start looking for them immediately --just as it would be for a child.  Time is the enemy of a lost animal or child.  We started immediately, first looking up and down the highway in front of our house to see if he had been hit, as he would have flown low.  But no Shine.  To make a long story short, we looked all day until dark with no luck.  Too many trees and too much noise.  So I spent the night having to think the worst. 

I started again at first light the next day. I went back for the third time to an area I felt he might have gone as it was a straight flight path from our house.  Just as we gave up and pulled away, a lady came running from her house.  "I have it --I have it!" she yelled.  And she did!  Her family had done yard work until dark that day before, and when they went in her little boy said: "Mom, there's a big bird on the porch!" The lady went out, and it seems she looked enough like me that Shine immediately walked over to her and climbed on her shoulder to her surprise.  Then her husband said 'That bird belongs to someone if it came to you." So the family made a makeshift cage and tried to care for him all night.  When she saw us looking she knew we were looking for him. Needless to say, Shine came home unscathed after his night on the town -- and the next day I treated that family to pizza and ice cream! 

As I am older I must plan ahead for Shine when I am no longer able to care for him.  He will live another 30 or 40 years.  Since he is pretty much a one person bird, I am going to try to find him a bird sanctuary since he knows birds are like him.  So one day, if you happen to see many birds together you just might hear them say to each other, "Are you all right?"

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Many Faces of Bow

Sometimes Bow is very active. He is a young chimpanzee with lots of energy and he goes outsides and exercises and releases his pent up strength.

A picture of Bow outside this morning, being active
When Bow is feeling especially active, he sometimes engages the dogs in a game of chase. He can be so active that some of the best pictures of him taken when in this mood are kind of blurry. That's how active he is!

Bow vocalizing this morning

Then, when Bow has had his fill of activity, he calms down, and sits on his bench, and becomes very thoughtful.

Bow seeming thoughtful this morning

After he feels he has been outside enough, Bow asks to go inside. He asks for his rug. And he curls up for a nap.

Bow napping this morning after being outside
When he wakes from his nap, Bow is lazy, but affectionately playful.

Bow lightly grasping my hand with his toes this morning after a nap

When he wakes from a good nap, Bow has a happy smile on his face, and in no time at all he is ready to get up and be active again.

This cycle repeats itself many times each day. It is the normal way of life. When you see Bow active, it means he is having fun. When you see Bow napping, it means he is recharging for more fun. Bow has many, many different faces and moods. They are all equally a part of who he is.

Some readers remark on how daintily Bow eats or on how gentle he can be while grooming me, but are taken aback when they see a display or a vocalization. But all these behaviors are normal and natural for Bow, and it is precisely because he is not hampered in expressing his true nature that Bow can feel happy and secure. I think many little boys in America are a lot less free to show who they truly are than Bow is.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Rain, Rain Go Away

Taken this morning 8-6-2013
For days now it's been raining every morning. It starts before dawn, and often it does not stop till the afternoon. Then it resumes again in the evening or at night. The effect has been very good for our fruit, so I am not really complaining, but for Bow it has been a trying time. A thunderstorm woke him in the night, and he was upset for a while. This morning, while it rains, Bow naps.

Outside the gentle drone of the rain's pitter-pat drowns out any other noise.

It has been raining so much that everything outside is getting greener and greener, like something in a tropical paradise. Even Bow's bench is turning a little green.

When he goes outside in the afternoon, during lulls in the rain, Bow is careful not to walk on the wet parts.

Taken yesterday afternoon -- 8-5-2013

He looks for safe place to put his foot down, on that is neither wet nor green.

Taken 8-3-2013

No matter what else is going on, Bow wants his feet to stay dry.

taken 8-3-2013

Puddles are starting to form everywhere. The ditches at the sides of the road on my property are full. A friend reported 2.5 inches of rain yesterday and another 2.5 this morning so far.She said the fish in her pond were hanging onto weeds to avoid being swept away.

A puddle on my property

Last year, we had a terrible drought that killed fruit trees and caused a shortage of hay for cattle and horses. Let's hope that this year's rain does not turn into a flood. It's good to have plenty of rain. But we don't want too much of a good thing.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Let Grandma Live Here

My mother was recently here for a three day visit. Bow, as usual, was thrilled to have her come, enjoyed the special treats she gave him and the dishes she made, and generally was happy in her company.

There are times when Bow was the focus of attention, and my mother spoke directly with him and to him, but there were other times when Bow was content to listen to the grown ups talk, and one topic my mother spoke about is her interest in secure housing for seniors with an independent lifestyles. She brought some postcard ads that she received from such places, and she even showed Bow what she was talking about. 

Yesterday, when the time to leave was drawing close, my mother said casually that she would love to invite Bow to come with her, but I said Bow could not come, because he has to stay here.

"Yes. Of course," my mother said to Bow. "You have a very strong house here. It is very secure. It keeps you safe."

Bow, who had been mostly silent, listening to the conversation, took my hand suddenly, brought me to the glass and spelled: תני לסבתא לגור פה.

"Let Grandma live here," he was saying.

"What here in the cage?" she asked. He indicated yes. It was a nice idea, but hard to reply to. 

When we didn't immediately respond to this proposal, he repeated it again verbatim. And later, he just wrote: תני לסבתא להשאר

"Let Grandma stay."

My mother told Bow she had to go home now, but that she would be back for Thanksgiving. He accepted this, and when the airport shuttle came to pick her up, he stood watching through the door until the van drove off.