Tuesday, April 19, 2011

grounding Pigwidgeon

The conclusion the Sober Husband and the children came to, after our African grey flew away and was lost but then found and returned to us, is that Pigwidgeon's flight feathers need to be clipped more often to try to ensure she won't be lost again. I had a different take. After she came home from her big adventure, she's been flying around the house constantly. She gets so much joy from flying that I find it highly depressing to clip her wings.

The take-away lesson I got from losing her was not to take her into the garden (which I find sad enough; the green parrot's happiest times are spent in the backyard. She spends hours climbing around in our magnolia tree, and on the few truly hot days we have, we spray her with the hose, and she spreads her wings out wide and beats them happily in the spray). I felt that if we were careful, she could have a happy life flying around in the house. We already have to be careful with the doors, as we more often than not have undersocialized feral cats staying with us from my volunteer work, so I felt it wasn't a big increase in surveillance and caution.

The Sober Husband found this attitude of mine maddening. "I refuse to be held responsible for the parrot escaping! If she gets lost again, you have to promise that you will never say it's my fault!"

"I can't make that promise; I'm a lawyer!" I said. "I can think of lots of scenarios in which it would be your fault."

"But what if it was an accident?"

"If it was your fault, it's not really an accident; it's negligence," I quibbled. He looked disgusted.

Later he said, "I just really don't understand it, because when we got the green bird, I was on the other side of this. I thought it was sad to clip her wings, and you were so firm about it."

"That's because Amazons really aren't great fliers; it's really enough for them to be able to climb. But Piggle's not an Amazon; she's from Africa. She's not as much of a climber." The children broke in to back up my statement, reminiscing about the time I put Pigwidgeon in the magnolia tree and she fell out.

In reality I have all along had Piggle's wings clipped, just not very frequently. I wait until her talons are too long, and I take her to have both her wings and talons done at once. The Sober Husband argues that now she should be clipped regularly, "every two weeks. It was stressful and expensive when we lost her." At the time we got Piggle back, he was happy to write the reward check, but now that time has gone by, the joy of the reunion has faded but the memory of writing that $500 check remains strong.

After some very intensive nagging from him, I took Pigwidgeon down to be clipped yesterday, even though her talons weren't yet in desperate need of a trim.

For the children, this was not done soon enough. In the morning I asked Iris to get me a cup of coffee, and a crazed, caffeine-craving Pigwidgeon flew directly at the cup in Iris's hand. Iris jerked her arm reflexively, and the coffee splashed everywhere, but still Pigwidgeon managed to get a few swallows of it. Iris went for a refill, and the same thing happened again. "Pigwidgeon's going to be terrible this morning; she's had coffee," predicted Iris direly. In actuality she wasn't discernibly different (she's usually manic in the mornings and then settles down by afternoon), but the children, who are usually at school of a morning, thought she was too noisy and crazy.

In the afternoon we took Piggle to get her wings clipped. To add to the general inconvenience of having the bird trimmed, the man I take her to has become semi-retired and now grooms birds only two afternoons a week. There's always a long wait (you can't make an appointment).

Another reason to dislike taking the birds for grooming is that I always get a guilt trip of some sort or another from the bird experts. Usually it revolves around my giving Pigwidgeon too much freedom (and yes, I am fully aware that the bird people have been proven right on this). Once they told me off for giving her an entire banana, which so impressed the children that they thereafter have treated bananas with the utmost suspicion and tried to stop me from bringing this suspect fruit into our home. Yesterday I was luckily able to head the incipient guilt trip off at the pass. The bird grooming man raised his eyebrows and looked at me over his glasses. "Don't you have two parrots?" Clearly he was expecting me to confess that the other one had died or been lost. "Oh, that one's my husband's bird," I said airily. "I can't get it into a carrier without him. And we're more worried about this one." Thankfully that went over well, and there was no guilt trip. Indeed I looked like a model bird owner compared to the ones who were ahead of me, who brought in four tiny birds in a shoebox. One escaped and had to be stalked and captured.

But there was no escaping the final thing I hate about taking Pigwidgeon to have her wings clipped: the same horrible, eternal conversation. "Oh! I see you have an African grey! How many words does she know?" It is so profoundly humiliating to be the only stupid owner of a stupid African grey whose stupid parrot doesn't talk. Yesterday was no exception, with the proud owner of a roseate cockatoo looking shocked and disappointed in me after his admiring sally, "You must have such conversations with her all the time!", was met with a shameful confession that the parrot only knows how to make cat noises.

At home, Piggle was effectively grounded. She can't fly more than a few feet with fresh, severely cropped wings. I felt sad for her, but everyone else felt that it was high time indeed. The children cited the coffee incident as proof that Piggle had gone too far. "She drank coffee!" Iris said repeatedly. "She flew right at me and stuck her beak in the cup!"


Jon said...

Tie a coconut to her!

NonymouseGoatsePants said...

More proof that bird is f-ing retarded. I don't care what part of the world you're from. No bird should fall out of a tree.

I'd make an exception for ratites, but that's pushing it.

Christine said...

What do you do about all the poop from free-flying birds? We have a free-flying parakeet, but parakeet poop is small and easy to deal with.

BTW, it's wonderful that you got her back. We lost our chinchilla for three terrible days while our house was being renovated, but eventually found that he had burrowed into some insulation in our unfinished garage and was quite glad to get back in his cage where he could get something to eat and drink.

the Drunken Housewife said...

Christine, I clean up after her a LOT, as do the children. I keep a ton of disinfecting wipes around.

Nonymous, you'd feel even more strongly if you'd seen her fall out of the tree. It was like I'd set a rock down on the tree and gravity did its thing. It was so pathetic.

It would be one thing if I had such a profoundly stupid parrot who wasn't A FRIGGING AFRICAN GREY, who are famous for being so brilliant. I keep explaining that "it's like people; you can have an Einstein, and then you can have a Snooki", but they never buy it. They just stubbornly insist, "Everyone knows African greys are so smart! The smartest birds in the world!" Evidently it's my fault as an owner that my bird doesn't know how to talk and is in general such a moron (but a sweet, loving moron).

Anonymous said...

Not to be off topic but what are you cooking for Easter? I need ideas!

NonymousGoatsePants said...

8:30 at night, and I'm still at work, but "...and then you can have a Snooki" made me laugh out loud!

the Drunken Housewife said...

No big plans for Easter cooking, except that it's probably going to be asparagus soup. There's an asparagus soup from one of the Greens restaurant cookbooks I love.

the Drunken Housewife said...

ps. The main food event of Easter for us is the gala egg salad which follows. There's a time-consuming recipe for "Creole Egg Salad" from one of the Greens Restaurant cookbooks which I make with the Easter eggs, and it's one of the Sober Husband's all-time favorite foods.