Saturday, October 15, 2011

Descent into madness.

When I was a kid, my mother owned approximately a dozen cockatiels, lovebirds, and parakeets. One of our regular household "kid chores" was to clean all the cages and feed and water all the birds, which took forever. She kept them in the tv room where we used to watch cartoons. Looking back now, I realize that the birds all lived in cages that were much too small and had no toys or anything to entertain themselves with. They desperately tried to stave off boredom and madness by making a lot of noise. As a kid, all I knew was that they were loud as hell. They were messy and horrible, and I hated taking care of them.

People who own birds tend to become bird-magnets. Other people foist birds off on bird-owners because hey, what's a few more? This is how my mother came to own Petey. Petey was either a gray-cheeked parakeet or a bat out of hell, or possibly both. In hindsight he was a miserable animal, but as an eight year old, all I knew was that he loved to escape from his cage, fly across the room to land on my shoulder, and then bite my face severely. Any attempt to remove him from my body resulted in my hands getting chomped as well. Unsurprisingly, I developed a fear of parrots.

Eventually most of the birds died or were given away, and I grew up and moved out and got married declared that I would never own birds. Ever. I hated birds. Birds were bad. Then I went back to visit my parents and heard one sad little chirp. Ernie, the cockatiel my mother bought when I was three, was still sitting sadly in his little cage in the corner of the kitchen. I had since learned all about bird care and have an uncontrollable urge to take care of animals in need. Ernie was 22 years old.

You know how bird people attract birds?

A lot of birds get dumped at the local bird shop near our old house.

And that is how I ended up with a house full of decrepit, defective, and ugly birds. They're still pretty messy, but they're not too loud when they have lots of toys and fresh foods to occupy them. The parrots have their own room where they can be as loud as they like, and huge cages for the times they can't be out playing. At 25 years old Ernie has a girlfriend, and he spends all his time preening and arguing with her. It's a good retirement for the old guy, fueled largely by my guilt over the way he spent his first couple of decades. Every so often though, I sort of wonder what happened to me.

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