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Friday, August 26, 2011

Are you a bird?

“Are you a bird?”

Fluff is still as sharp as ever. Fluff is an African Grey Parrot and I remember the day he came home, to his new home anyway, from quarantine. Fluff is from Zaire/Congo. Phil brought Fluff home thirty-seven years ago. That’s a long time to have a pet. And he’s not even to his typical half-way point yet.

Fluff came to live with Phil, Paul, and my then-boyfriend, now husband, Dave. During their years together the guys taught Fluff a number of clever phrases. They also used Fluff to ‘goose’ each other, if a parrot can be said to do such a thing. “Wake up, Paul” was quickly countered by “F you, Phil.” This became a problem. No parent comes to Chicago to visit and likes to be met by a swearing bird. Fluff eventually lost his irregular vocabulary through lack of reinforcement and use.

So I worried that he had forgotten what I taught him, too. After over 25 years of absence, I was thrilled to encounter Fluff again this week. Don’t tell her this but I’d forgotten all about her until she whistled to get my attention. I like being whistled at. Even if it takes a bird to do it.

“Are you a bird?” Funny thing: I say this all the time, “are you a bird?” It is rarely germane to the conversation at hand but that doesn’t stop me. I say it in Fluff’s voice, “Are you a bird?” So the big test. Would Fluff remember it. Phil said it had been years since they tried it. Fluff has a clear identity of his own; he is excellent at telling us, “I’m a bird,” and he also knows that “birds can’t talk.” He says so.

The moment of truth. The Cheerio box was rattled, the treat in my fingers. “Are you a bird?” I asked Fluff.

“Are you a bird?” he asked me back.

Yes. Of course. “I’m a bird.”

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