Gracie, the African Gray, came into our lives two Christmases ago. She hatched, under the loving care of her parents, and spent eight weeks learning how to be a bird. Then she moved into her first home, a breeder’s cage. My son, Jeff, selected her to be his while she remained in the safety of her egg. His year long search for the perfect companion completed, he took her home two weeks before Christmas.
On Christmas eve, 2011, Gracie joined our holiday celebration. Traditionally, we attend church services as a family, return home for a special meal, and then open gifts. Gracie arrived in her two foot by 3 foot travel cage. Her trip across town unnerved her. Grays are slow to change and even slower to accept strangers. Their instincts protect them in the wild.
Gracie reluctantly abandoned her cage and settled on the perch set out for her. She trembled as she gazed around at the room full of humans. Her feathers puffed up and her eyes grew to small ovals. Jeff assured us she only required time to adjust to so many strangers.
We allowed her some space, trying to move around the perch in the center of the activity. If any one of us approached, her fear caused her to fly off. The poor girl, being new to flight, circled the room looking for a safe haven. Her ability to assess her location was in development. Her favorite landing sight was on the top of our mini-blinds.
That evening, we all learned how to approach her as she clung to a wooden slat, offer our hand, and ask her to “step up”. She attempted to avoid our help, but soon realized it was best to get a ride back to the perch.
Like many families, we grew louder as the evening passed. In response to one deafening outburst of laughter, she took off again. This time she flew into the kitchen and slammed into the wall. Reacting in fear, we all raced to her rescue. Jeff gently scooped her up on the back of his hand and said, “She’s okay. But it’s time for me to take her home.”
Over the past two years she has safely visited us many times. She is now very conversational, with a vocabulary of over one hundred and fifty words. She not only speaks, but she understands what she is saying. I will share some of her stories in the next few weeks. Gracie and Barkleah have become great friends. But more about that later.
Do you have a favorite pet? Please share your stories.