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My beautiful, beloved pet Noble Macaw, McGee, passed over into Bird Heaven on Sunday night, February 7th, 2010, at the age of about 20. I found him dead, at around 10:30 p. m., on the bottom of his cage. It was very much of a shock, which has gradually been wearing off, with time, and a new pet bird, about who I’ve written below, as an update and sort of continuation with my love and experience with exotic birds. So saying, I’ve decided to start off by writing a memoir to my Noble Macaw, McGee. Here goes:
I had been wanting a pet bird for quite a long time. After doing some research and looking in various pet stores, we hit upon one in Boston’s Back Bay area called Back Bay Aquarium & Pet Shop, which is no longer in business. After looking at some Noble Macaws, I decided I wanted a Noble Macaw as a pet. After going on vacation for a couple of weeks, I picked out one of the young, green macaws, with a blonde beak, red under the wings, and olive yellow underneath closer to the body. Accompanied by my parents, I picked out the bird, selected a cage, reserved the bird and, then my parents and I went to lunch at Chang-Sho, a popular Chinese restaurant in Cambridge’s Porter Square. All during lunch, we kept throwing out names for the bird, and my mother finally asked me “What’s the name that Ian (my younger brother) constantly calls you out of affection?” “McGee”, I replied. So, the name stuck, and we all agreed that the name “McGee” was a good name for the bird.
The next day, Sunday, was a rainy, cold day, and I picked up McGee from the Pet Shop. The pet shop manager put McGee in a cardboard carrier, and I drove him home and put him in his cage, gave him food and water, and allowed him to become acclimated to me and his new surroundings. McGee squawked happily, and enjoyed himself. However, the euphoria was relatively short-lived, when a now ex- neighbor who worked nights and slept during the day, complained about the noise. The guy who lived with her was more amiable, and said that he’d prefer not to be woken up before 7:30 a. m. by McGee’s noise, so I purchased a dark brown cover for the bird’s cage, and made a point of closing my Venetian blinds with the slats facing outward to keep the early-morning sun out of the apartment. It worked, and that part of the problem was solved. Since I then had a fulltime job, I ended up confining McGee to my studio, which was an OK compromise. At the manager’s suggestion, I took him up to my loft to meet McGee, who immediately won him over.
Although the woman wasn’t satisfied, and continued to give me a hard time, it had to do. One day, as I was going out for a morning run, and the complaining woman had just finished her run, I decided to confront her, saying “Hey! If you’ve got any problems, it would be very much appreciated if you’d come and talk to me about it first.” The woman quickly ran upstairs. A little later, as I was finishing my morning run, I saw the woman going towards the MBTA station, in the opposite direction from where I was going. When she saw me, she fled to the opposite side of the highway, stumbling and almost falling as she ran across the road!
The manager called me downstairs afew minutes after I came home from work, and told me that he’d have to monitor the situation more closely, though he said he wouldn’t take any drastic (meaning legal) action. Shortly thereafter, however, the manager said that the woman who’d complained was moving out. Whether or not my confronting the woman had any bearing on her moving out, I’ll never know, but, thank heavens that’s history, since she hasn’t been around for almost 20 years.
On a more positive side, McGee brought me, my friends and family much joy. One afternoon, shortly after I got McGee, I invited an old teacher of mine over for lunch, to chat, and to meet the bird. We had a fun afternoon, with McGee on my shoulder, and me feeding McGee some broccoli, and my old teacher and I chatting about everything under the sun. Later in the afternoon, I put McGee back in his cage and drove my teacher to the MBTA station so he could go home. I thanked him for coming over, and for a wonderful day.
Eventually, I decided to get a new cage for the bird, which I did, from a company in California called Animal Environments. I got him the smallest cage there, but the biggest that was ideal for McGee. The first cage I got was a beige-painted cage, which I had some bad luck with, because the paint wasn’t baked on properly, and McGee, who liked to chew at the cage bars, chipped off some of the baked-on paint. I contacted Animal Environments, the company from which I’d bought the cage, told them what happened, and they gave me advice from there. At their advice, I took afew pictures of the cage, sent it back to them, and they wrote back saying that the paint had not been properly baked on, as it should’ve been. After much discussion, I returned the awful-looking cage, and, decided to put the money for that cage towards the more expensive stainless steel version of the same cage, which I was glad I did.
When McGee was about a year old, he developed a feather-picking problem. We tried everything under the sun to make him calm down, but nothing worked, or it got him all spaced out. Eventually, the feather-picking became a past time for McGee, and he was bare-chested, bare-legged, and bare under the wings. He was still beautiful despite that, and I love and accepted McGee for and in spite of what he was. I eventually tried monthly acupuncture treatments with McGee, which although it didn’t help the feathers grow back, kept the feather-picking under control so that there wasn’t a snowfall of feathers on the bottom of the cage the way there’d been before. Acupuncture calmed McGee down, and he was still a sweet, playful bird to have around. I fed him cooked sweet potatoes, apples, raw carrots, as well as roudybush pellets.
Whenever I went away somewhere for more than a day or two, I’d board him, and, for awhile, there were many available boarders of birds who’d board birds for a nominal fee. Then, when there weren’t random bird boarders available, I’d board him at a local animal clinic, and, then, at a pet shop out in suburban Newtonville, MA, which was a 20-25 minute drive from my house.
A neighbor of mine with a Red-Lored Amazon parrot and I exchanged loft keys and we’d take care of each other’s birds while either of us was away, leaving instructions on what to do. When her schedule changed, however, I ended up boarding McGee at Newtonville Pet Shop, out in suburban Newtonville, MA, when I went anywhere for long periods of time. The prices were reasonable, and the staff quite friendly and nice.
In late winter/early spring of 1991, shortly after I’d gotten McGee, my grandfather passed away after a long illness. I had a very friendly neighbor look after McGee, leaving her with instructions on what to do, and, I frequently left the TV or radio on when I left the house, for McGee. When I’d go running in the early morning hours, I’d sneak out of the house as quietly as I could, so as not to wake McGee, but I guess, as somebody put it, I couldn’t really fool him; he more than likely knew I was sneaking out, because birds do have a sense of what’s going on, and they can hear things that we humans can’t hear. That same winter, however, when I tore my plantaris tendon on the calf of my left leg, and my parents were stuck in AZ due to my grandfather’s passing, McGee was good company, especially because I could do little of anything except sit around the house, especially the first week, which I ended up taking off from work because i was in such agony.
One funny event occurred, however, when I thought I’d locked McGee’s cage door properly, and, when I got home, discovered, much to my horror, that I hadn’t! There was McGee, on his cage top pen, having the time of his life! I realized that I’d forgotten to latch his cage door, permitting him to escape and, ultimately, lock himself out of his cage! Fortunately, nothing horrible occurred, but, from then on, I was more careful about making absolutely positive that his cage door was properly latched closed and locked before heading out anywhere.
We had many more years together, and sometimes we’d take showers together, watch TV airings of West Side Story together, and even fun in a steam-filled bathroom together.
We had many good times together, McGee and I, and he’s sorely missed. I have my heart set on getting another exotic bird, but it won’t be until at least the spring.
It’s hard saying goodbye to a companion with whom I’d been together with for so long. Another bird won’t replace McGee, but it’ll certainly complete the healing process, even though fond memories of McGee remain. With all the issues that McGee had (his feather picking, a skin infection that I’d been told by the veterinarian would either go away or kill McGee, etc.), McGee was a loveable bird, and I miss being greeted by cheery squawks as I unlock my door and come in from wherever it was that I’d been.
R. I. P., McGee. I’ll always remember you with love and affection. You are missed.