Conversations With Coo

cooA previous post was about how difficult it has been adding a spoiled, anxious, African Grey parrot to our household. He’s tricky, he’s vicious, he’s latched onto me like a deranged stalker, and yet – he’s the best present my husband has given me in years. Although our introduction to parrot parenting has been problematic, I would recommend African Grey ownership to anyone who enjoys having toddlers around, but doesn’t want to deal with them growing up and needing college tuition. If you enjoy the whimsy of an insane conversation at midnight, if you like to laugh at animal antics, or if you want a pet companion that can talk back to you, an African Grey will fit the bill.

I’ve always loved having young children around, and Coo has many of the traits that make little kids so interesting and fun. I mentioned in the previous blog about Coo that African Greys have a child’s intelligence, and Coo displays this often. His previous owners apparently didn’t teach him or interract with him much, so when we teach him something new the dawning interest shows as clearly on his face as it would on any toddler. His glee at emptying a drawer all over the floor, or tearing up a box, or playing with a new toy are all things we saw in our human children. Its especially fun when he seeks approval for what he feels is a major accomplishment, like climbing onto the back of the couch all by himself.

He’s constantly surprising us with what he says. I’ve been told that the sounds he makes are the equivalent of shaking a Magic 8 Ball and expecting a rational answer, but sometimes they’re so spot on that we have to believe that there is a good deal of intelligence behind them. The other day I did something in the kitchen that made a big clang noise and I heard from the region of Coo’s birdcage “Oh my God! Crap!”. He’s never said it before or since. Recently I accidentally woke him in the middle of the night and he started talking and wouldn’t hush. Afraid that he’d wake the whole house, I went to him and had this conversation -

“Coo, it’s night-night, hush and go sleepy.”

“What?”

“Go sleepy, birdie, night-night.”

“No.”

“Birdie! Go night-night.”

“No!!”
“…………….” (Me saying nothing, having realized that I’m arguing with a bird)

“I love you?” (Something else he’s never said before or since)

When I woke up the next morning I was still smiling.

My favorite aspect of having an African Grey is his deep appreciation of the type of music I like. When my children were younger we spent many hours dancing and singing, and I’ve missed that activity now that they’re growing up and too dignified for swinging their hips in the kitchen with Mom. With Coo, who will likely outlive me by many years, I’ve been given the gift of an eternal dancing partner. Oh, he doesn’t exactly do the Roger Rabbit, but when our favorite songs come on he perks up and looks to me as if to say “Oh, there’s my jam!”, and then he dances with me for as long as I’m willing.

So, thank you, husband. It’s been weird, but I’m deeply appreciative.

Wendy Clyde

4 Responses to “Conversations With Coo”

  1. Bridget says:

    Oh I love parrots and stories about parrots. My dream when I retire is to get a grey, you can see why. I had a rainbow lorikeet for about 3 years and the bond was like nothing I could have known. Enjoy your little buddy, he sounds like a real sweetie.

  2. LeeB. says:

    As I was reading your blog, I kept saying “aww” out loud. What a sweet story!

  3. kathy says:

    I just love stories like this. Thank you for sharing Wendy.

  4. Lynda X says:

    Wendy, I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that your pet has no idea what he’s saying. Irene Pepperberg, a scientist, devoted years to determining whether her African Gray understood language and she definitely thought that he did. She was heart-broken when he died. Here they are on You-Tube:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/explainer/2012/05/talking_parakeets_why_do_they_mimic_human_speech_.html

    And here’s an interesting article on Slate about this question:
    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/explainer/2012/05/talking_parakeets_why_do_they_mimic_human_speech_.html

    I think humans are too quick to dismiss animals’ abilities and intelligence. For example, a few years ago, scientists announced that dogs and monkeys have emotions. Big whoop. Didn’t any of them have pets as kids?