Sherrie Dennis - Animal Enthusiast
|Posted by [email protected] on April 19, 2014 at 3:20 PM|
His name is Rudder.
Rudder is my aunt's 15-year-old Congo Gray. Cantankerous and plucked. Not having been quite ready for the realities of hormonal aggression, the owners developed a detachment regarding any handling whatsoever, and Rudder is under-socialized and very distrustful of the world outside of his cage. And he growls at my camera.
I moved in a little over a month ago. Despite the warnings from family and the growly bird himself, I've begun developing a mostly fun, sometimes rocky relationship with him. One moment a beak nuzzle, the next a murderous death lunge. But we cope.
A month later, his bad habits are still there. But they're softer these days. And bit by bit, Rudder the Congo Gray is begrudgingly accepting new things I've been introducing into his life since my arrival. Better quality food, vitamin powder which he hates, a calcium block which he unsuccessfully tried to kill last week, and a little corner of dry toast on occasion, which he devours with gusto.
And I'm accepting new things he's adding into my life. He has a name for me. "wooOOoo." Unlike the words and phrases he's picked up from other members of the house, his name for me is in no one else's voice. He greets me with his own, specially made noise just for me, in his own voice. To my knowledge, I've never been named by another animal before.
What else is he adding? Bird humor. He's the raucous peanut gallery for the household. No one is exempt from his mockery. Teasing my aunt by mimicking her smoker's cough, and her saying, "alright" and "oh, well." He'll say other things in her voice as well. "Birds are smart. Dogs are stupid." In my uncle's voice he'll say his own name repeatedly, and then scold my little second cousin, whether he's visiting the house or not. "Braden! No! No! NO!" He'll mimic perfectly the sound of my uncle sniffling, or my other late uncle's voice asking "where's the wolf, Rudder?" And then following up with a wolf howl. Babbled, garbled snippets of conversations, various things that beep in the house, a bluejay mimicking a hawk (yes, mimicking another mimic), the sound of a Coke can opening, the pantry door squeaking, the basement door latch. Endless, wonderful bird prattle.
And now I'm teaching him things. The Andy Griffith Show theme song, which he loves to listen to. Calls of various song birds, which he also loves. And he's teaching me things. Here's a list of what I've learned from life so far with a Congo Gray:
- With enough time and patience, we'll stop fluffing our feathers and trying to bite each other.
- We should listen keenly to the world around us, and repeat the fun stuff we like the most.
- We really need to get a good dose of sunlight every day.
- Calcium isn't trying to take over our personal territory. It's safe.
- It's okay to try new food.
- Toast is wonderful.
- We should all learn as many songs as possible and sing them as loudly and lustily as we can.
- It's okay to cover our cage for a little bit and take a breather when we're overloaded with too much stimuli.
What will I teach Rudder? What more will he teach me? Who knows? There's decades ahead. I think he's wonderful.