So I’d been thinking about getting an African Grey for a while now, and my b-day was coming up, so I dropped a few hints to Charlie, which were well received- likely even anticipated. There happened to be a bird show coming in about a month, so I figured that’d be where the deed would be done.
Except that after dropping my daughter at the airport I noticed a place that specializes in birds that I must’ve passed a hundred times, but since it really didn’t apply to me until this very moment, it just never registered. I figured, what the heck? I’ll stop in, get to handle a bird or two, make sure this is something I’m really interested in.
The place is just off a major commercial road in the area, in an old cinderblock building. I parked and went in, expecting, with a name like Birds Unlimited to find…well, unlimited numbers of birds.
Not so. Walking in, there seem to be unlimited cages,foods, treats. No birds. Except for this woman, Joann. She’s no more than 5ft tall, and there’s definately something avian about her; thin, wrinkled, sharp eyed, she immediately knows me for the novice I am.
Most likely against her better judgement, she points to the far corner of the store where the actual birds are. I tell her what I’m looking for as we enter the room, whereupon all hell breaks loose. Everything from three massive macaws down to dozens of teeny finches make an unbelievable cacoughany. I wince, barely managing to not cover my ears.
“Greys?” she says. “No greys right now. (pause) Well there’s this one over here, but he’s already got a deposit on him, so I can’t let you handle him.” She brightens. “I’ve got a brood I’m hand raising now, they’ll be ready in about six weeks.” Hmmm. I was really hoping to get to see (read:play with) one today.
“Well,” she says reluctantly, “there’s this one.” <!–more–>Joann points to the bottommost cage in the tier. “But he’s not a baby- he’s four years old. It’s better if you get them little, you know.” Well, I’m not really looking to get the parrot today, I just want to handle it, so what harm can looking do, right? “Alright,” says Joann. “I’ll see if we can get him out of the cage.”
Okay, when the expert says she’s going to <i>try</i> to get him out of his cage, you know you might have an issue. While she’s fighting to get him out, I ask what his story is.
“Oh, he’s not one of ours,” she says. “he’s on consignment.”
So I’ve stumbled upon the parrot pawn shop?
“Well, no, we don’t usually take consignment.” She’s and her assistant are now trying to pry the bird’s beak from the cage. Having succeeded, they then move on to tring to pry it from their fingers. “But in this case we made an exception. There’s three of ‘em- the Grey, that mccaw and the quaker over there.”
None of them look happy. Suspicious. Cautious.
“It’s true,” she says, still fighting with the Grey, “that he costs a little less than the chicks, and I’m sure the owner would come down a little more in her price.” She looks at me, confidentially, finding only a few dozen birds to overhear. “She’s pretty desperate.”
How am I supposed to resist a line like that? How, exactly, is she desperate?
And so follows a horrible story of degredation, debt and, yes, death. If you’re local, you’ve heard the story- a horrible tragedy on the North Shore- and now we have long-lived pets in need of a new home.
Now, understand that all of our pets are hard-luck stories. Pound puppies. Kittens with dead mothers needing to be bottle fed. I’m a sucker for the underdog (literally), and so I was a gonner. And Charlie’s worse than I am.
So now we have a new boy in the house.