Doppelgänger

Doppelgänger
Doppelgänger

Amazona Oratrix

As he always does, Shimon started something in my head.  He’s bad that way.

What Shimon said was:  “Pity the poor parrot that cannot fly… hope that the advantages of living with a human outweigh the disadvantages…”

I don’t know the answer to that, and neither does Rita.  Her life was always this way.  At least, it was always this way after she came to live with me.  So it has been for centuries of parrot keepers and the kept.

I was walking through a local feed store ten years or so ago barely paying attention to the dozens of crates filled with parrots.  All kinds of parrots.  I was not interested in parrots.  Much less interested in keeping one.   What I knew about them was that they were loud, messy and would probably bite.  Then I heard somebody behind me yelling  “Ariba”…rolling the drawn-out “R” perfectly.  When I turned to see who was making the sound, she did it again.  There was Rita.  I laughed and walked over to talk to her.  She looked dead at me and said it again.  I thought she was being friendly.  On a whim, I invited her to come home with me.  She did.  Oh, she did.

She spent the next six months trying her best to teach me to respect a parrot.  She didn’t give up and I didn’t give up.  I lost a lot of flesh from my hands and arms in the process.  I read everything I could find about parrot care, feeding, taming, training…  I acquired a small library of books on the subject.  Most of it bunk, by the way.  Slowly, we became friends.  Either she gave up or I learned her language.   The most amusing thing I learned was that the Amazona Oratrix is “recommended only for experienced bird keepers”.  Ha!  So it was.  Finally, Rita had taught me how to be an experienced bird keeper.

I did not know she was wild and terrified.  She had never been handled kindly.  She had not known her parents.  She had not learned to fly.  She had never known  life in a flock.  I doubt she had ever seen the sun.  She was, no doubt, “tube-fed” as a chick.  Tube feeding is a process by which a feeder moves from one chick to another grabbing the chick and forcing a tube filled with a thin gruel into its throat to fill its crop.  Over-filled crops “burn” so he has to feel the crop as it fills.  If he overfills, the chick can develop crop burn.  It is called “burn” because it literally stretches the crop until the skin breaks open resembling a burn.  Chicks who develop crop burn are simply  thrown out.

When Rita survived to eat on her own, an aluminum band was slipped onto her leg to identify where and when she was born.  Breeders keep track of their stock by this banding method.  Rita’s band reads, “NICTX337”.   Her life began somewhere in Texas.  She will wear the band until the end of it.  She could live to be as old as I am now.

I should have named her “Nic”.

I offer this photograph from the old house to Shimon.  When you think of Rita, think of her in this way.

Rita

39 Comments on “Doppelgänger

  1. Sweet Rita 🙂

    And yes to keep a parrot, you must respect a parrot LOL

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  2. I love that top image! Completely beautiful and artistic. And the story I also love, told only as you can. Cheers George…and cheers to NICTX337 (aka Rita!) as well. : )

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    • Do I confess or let you think “artistic”? Hmmm…. Confess, George, you know you have to tell Alex! That photograph was SO BAD in color. Rita’s feathers were the rattiest I ever saw them. Talk about ugly! If I kept house in this box, I’d have deleted that thing long ago. I was messing around with black and white and converted this one for fun. I thought about it later and used it here. Anybody who knows parrots would find me out instantly. Hope no experts stumble in here. Ha Ha…. So that’s the real story! Sorry I missed your comment here. Thanks for thinking it artistic. I kind of thought it was interesting after I looked at it again. She looks like a raptor here!

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  3. On Thursday we made a stop at the pet store in Sudbury . I was looking at the blue budgies fluttering around. When I was a child we had taken possession of my Baba’s budgie. Took sometime to pull away from the cage,…….. delightful post, once again. Thanks for sharing your memories and adding some more kindling to mine. 🙂

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  4. It is so moving to read Rita’s story and about the deep bond you share with one another. Through your narrative and photographs, you have beautifully conveyed Rita’s dignity, loyalty, intelligence, and strong-headed character. You are so fortunate to have each other!

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    • Lord, aren’t we though! I think we were flock sisters in some previous life! 😉 I truly do appreciate Rita.

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  5. Very nice back-story of your friend…and your moniker. And now you’re an experienced bird-keeper…funny how that happens…kinda like being a parent. 🙂

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    • Exactly! I never thought of it that way, but you’re absolutely right. We learn as much from them as they learn from us. A very insightful observation there. Thanks. I’ll have to remember that.

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      • The more I read you, George, the more you remind me of my wife’s great-aunt Ruth…a precious lady. I’m so glad to have met you. 🙂

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          • Oh, no…the one who flew in the face of convention, was well-grounded, and knew why she thought what she did, loved life, fought back…witty, funny, and the genuine article…. 🙂

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            • Thanks. I am teasing you. She sounds like somebody I’d like to know! You’re lucky to have her. What a treasure she is!

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              • You’re welcome…and I got the teasing part…just thought I’d let you know. And yes, we were lucky to have her…a true treasure.

                Thank you for being you. 🙂

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    • Thank you, Pablo. Somewhere back there I posted a couple of very detailed photographs of her beak anatomy. Parrots are very interesting and sentient creatures.

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  6. What a beautiful story, George. You know, I’ve always believed that the longer it takes to earn someone’s trust, whether it be an animal or a human, the deeper the devotion runs. Words and promises when measured against time are poor opponents indeed.

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    • Your image, “Edge”? The one from the Botanical Gardens is stuck in my head along with the prose poem. I paraphrase here: Our psyches floating on an ocean beneath”. Like a Haiga-Haiku. I copied the quote to a word document so I could refer to it. I just looked at the bleached leaves. I love photographs of leaves, but I never in my life saw them interpreted in this way. Simply astonishing through your eye.

      Thank you for liking Rita’s image. She had fluffed her feathers for preening in that photograph. She was just before a molt so her feathers were ragged. I don’t think she likes molts much! Too much work.

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    • Well, Daisy, in my mind she was a “rescue”. In my heart, I know she would never have made it in a regular household. She would have bounced from one home to another and ended up God only knows where. I am happy she is here with me. What a companion she is! 🙂

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      • seems that if you’d known anything about Parrot Parenting, you’d have kept walking. very cool how that worked out…

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  7. Thank you, George, for sharing with us the story of Rita… and two beautiful pictures. The first parrot I got to know well, belonged to a young woman with four children who came from Peru. I had the impression that she could handle anything… and she certainly could handle the parrot. That parrot was able to fly… maybe not to great distances… But he or she (I don’t remember gender now), was able to fly short distances and to land with no problem. At first, we got on very well. I was amazed by his intelligence. But once he realized that I had a good friend who was a cat, the parrot tried to convince me not to bring the cat, when I came to visit. The parrot usually tried to damage some possession of mine, when I would come by with Fidel (for that was the name of my cat), though Fidel himself did not attack the parrot in any way. This behavior turned out to be something of a wedge in our relationship, and it never fulfilled its potential. But I still remember the parrot with fondness.

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    • I think I mentioned somewhere that Rita has taught herself to fly just in the last year. The first time I found her on her playstand beside my desk, I thought I was mistaken about where I last saw her. She had been on top of her tall cage playing. I dismissed it. Then I saw her flying across the house again. When I looked for her, she was sitting on a very large frog “sculpture” in the kitchen. I was thrilled. Finally, she could fly! She doesn’t fly often unless she wants to come to visit with me at my desk when I have forgotten to bring her along. She is trained to stay on what belongs to her. Otherwise, she would chew down the house! She is never confined to her cage. She sleeps in it covered at night and eats there, but she comes and goes as she wishes otherwise. She is a good girl. We are very close. She is my alter ego as I titled the post!

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      • It doesn’t surprise me at all that you and Rita are close friends. That is what I expected from the first… and I know how close a human can get to another living creature. You did mention that she could fly a little… and I assume that her life is good in your company.

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        • Yes, I think she is very happy. She makes me happy too. We are a great deal alike. She is as independent as I. 😉

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    • I completely understand your friend’s parrot. His behavior is typical of parrots who become jealous or protective. They can be sneaky and destructive if they choose to be. You are fortunate he didn’t decide to attack you instead of your belongings! Ha! So he didn’t like cats! 😉 When a parrot makes up his mind about a thing, it is futile to attempt to change it.

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      • Yes, that was the way I understood it. I would probably feel much the same way, if someone I liked came around with a friend I just couldn’t tolerate… and I have great sympathy for stubborn creatures, because I myself suffer from the same character flaw.

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  8. This story made me cry George. I wasn’t crying because of the fact that Rita never got a chance to fly or had a horrible start in life, though both of those things are sad. i cried because the love you two have for each other is so beautiful it bring tears to the eyes. Both you and Rita are indeed blessed.

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    • We really are, Sue. She understands me and I understand her. She’s so like me. We’re so close that I almost forget she’s a parrot! She will outlive me by many years. I worry about that. I just have not found a solution that works in my head. I hope Shari will take her. Rita would be difficult for anybody to handle. Shari could do it, but her health is not too good. Maybe her husband will take her for me. He is an expert too. They both love parrots. They would find a way to make her happy. Thanks for reading the blog. I appreciate that.

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    • Ana, that’s the way it happened. Thank goodness we are both stubborn. Most parrot-ignorant people like me would have been rid of that Rita straight away! I loved the light in her eyes. I knew a good soul was in that feathered chest. And I was right. Amazons are incredibly intelligent and loyal once they come to trust you. That just takes awhile since they are not naturally cuddly creatures. She is so much fun too. We even eat together from the same plate sometimes when she demands it! 🙂

      Thank you for your encouragement. I’m glad you liked her story.

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    • Thanks so much, Valerie! I love doing it. The people here are so gracious and kind. YOU are so gracious and kind. Come back. And, Thanks AGAIN!

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  9. Ack! I couldn’t remember what “doppelganger meant, so I had to look it up (okay, I googled it) and now your story is even more meaningful. You are a wonderful writer, I never want your stories to end!

    elisa

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    • Thanks, Elisa. Your approval really does inspire me. I’m not being polite either.

      I thought WP was boycotting my Gravatar too. I discovered that I had not signed in. Apparently, I replied to some comment and got in “the back door”. So I wasn’t recognized. I finally just clicked on my taskbar link and my Gravatar reappeared. Somebody told me to do that. I can’t recall who it was now.

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    • Thanks, Cowboy. Captive-raised, but untamed parrots are a little like green-broke horses.

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