Weird Pets: We Love Them Too

When I tell people I have a dog and a bird, I get raised eyebrows and strange looks. Sure, most people understand the dog, but a bird? They ask, “Why do you have a bird?” “Does it talk?” and “What do you do with a bird?”

A lot of people think a pet should just be a dog or a cat. Dogs and cats are “real” pets because you can play with them and/or cuddle with them. If you have a bird, reptile, amphibian, or any other animal that doesn’t fall into the traditional pet category, it’s weird.

These people should open their eyes (and minds) a little.

Friday afternoon as I sat in traffic, I received the call about my bird, Snowflake, passing away. She sat comfortably in her cage, where she used to lay eggs, and fell asleep for the last time. She did not suffer and simply died from old age.

Snowflake the cockatiel
She loved to explore our bedroom.

I won’t lie, it hurt. A lot. I cried the whole way home. I thought, if she wasn’t a real pet, this wouldn’t hurt so much…

We adopted Snowflake 15 years ago when she landed on someone’s head, and they brought her to us. Growing up, I only had dogs and maybe a cat, but there was no way I would let her just fly out a window. She needed a home, and I was happy to care for her.

Snowflake was more than just a pied cockatiel. She was sweet and affectionate. She was moody and hostile. She hated men of her kind and mine. She loved heavy metal, hated the answering machine, protected the women in the house, and only wanted to socialize on her terms. She loved popcorn and Doritos. Snowflake had personality.

Snowflake the cockatiel
Snowflake rubbing her head on my cheek.

When I got married and moved into my current house, she was the only thing – other than clothes and a few posters – that was mine. Sure, she was the family pet, but we shared a special bond. I talked to her like she was a person, I let her fly around my room, and she loved to walk on my bed. And she’d fly back and forth, from one window to another, when she didn’t want to go back into her cage. Sometimes I’d cuss at her for that, too, as I balanced on chairs and my bed while offering my hand as a perch.

No matter the animal, we grow attached to them. Sometimes we talk to them when we can’t talk to anyone else – animals can’t gossip or argue. In fact, they may be the only ones in the world we can completely trust. There’s no judgment or criticism.

So, to those who don’t understand why someone has a nontraditional pet: Think about having a confidant who is understanding, loyal, and can offer peace and normalcy during the toughest times. We depend on them, whether we realize it or not, just as they depend on us for food, shelter, and water. We need them as much as they need us.

A special thanks to Snowflake, one of the best pets I’ve ever owned. The house won’t be the same without her…

Snowflake the cockatiel
Perched on top of my curtain rods where she’d spend hours in my room…

Off the Top of My Head #7: The Thanksgiving Bird is the Word

Off The Top of My Head

Last Thursday was Thanksgiving.  That usually means family, food, and time off work.  And typically when people say “the bird is great!” they’re referring to a roasted turkey they’re eagerly devouring along with various vegetables, pies, rolls, and sauces.  It’s as often as not a bald-faced lie too as, it turns out, turkey is apparently rather difficult to cook to perfection.  My dad usually has a good-turkey trick, but I’ve heard not everyone has as fool-proof a poultry plan.

This year, however, when I think of the “bird” from my 2012 Thanksgiving, I’ll think of THIS:

Hawk

After our Thanksgiving food-fest, I went to a store for a major caffeine hit, and when I returned this guy was waiting at the house.  He swooped down in most magnificent fashion, then performed daring, aggressive leaps at a small bush at the terrified little birds hiding within (he didn’t get any of those).

He then flew to a nearby powerline (where he imposingly glared down at me) …

Hawk
I took this pic and the above pic with my phone…which is why it’s as grainy as it is. Don’t believe the hype…phones aren’t cameras…

…and then to a pole where he regally surveyed the surrounding terrain for more accessible prey.  He stayed there long enough for me to run inside, grab my a55, and run back outside telephoto lens attached.  I was in such a rush I didn’t have time for the tripod set up.  Fortunately he lingered long enough for hi-drive speed to net me some good pictures!

Hawk HD

Hawk

I was able to get over 150 photos of him perched up there before he locked eyes on something a hundred or so yards away and again dove impressively out of site to either another near miss or on top of a less-fortunate small animal than the birds hiding in the lucky shrub.

I learned a few things from this:

1.) There’s something unique about seeing a natural predator like this in the suburbs.

2.) Birds of prey are fearless and seem naturally pretentious, the whole time he looked at me it was as if he was thinking, “Look at that clumsy mammal down there staggering around me for no reason…”

3.) No matter how old you are if you see such a thing in action the only thing you say is, “Wooooow…”

I think he was a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk, but can’t say for sure.

Seeing him definitely changed my definition of the Thanksgiving “bird” for a while!

To see more on strange avian holiday visitors see Story of the Month for November written by my lovely RevPub counterpart!

Next week will be a requested Illustrator tutorial, and the following week a return to Life-Lessons from Video Games!