Denver - November 26, 2013
You may remember that when I interviewed CCI breeder girl Ghita last week (http://www.thedenverchannel.com/lifestyle/pets/jebs-dogblog-two-hundred-puppies) she suggested that I interview her family’s African Grey Parrot named Jitterbug. I thought that sounded like an interesting interview; I’ve never met a parrot, much less interviewed one! Jitterbug kindly agreed to answer all of my emailed questions, and in a minute I’ll share our conversation.
But first I have to tell you a little bit more about Cath, Jitterbug’s human. You see, one of the questions I asked was how Jitterbug came to be in Cath’s life. He responded, “Cath had “bird sat” a friend’s (Peg) African Grey Parrot named Ernie Ray and fell in love with him and his chattering. He made her laugh a lot. This was after the accident with the drunk driver that killed Cath’s family and she loved hearing “talking” in the house again.”
WHOA. WHAT? Hold up a minute. I ran to find Marianne for an explanation.
“Oh, Jeb, it’s a very sad story,” Marianne said as she sat down on the floor and pulled me into her lap for a hug. “It happened in November, 1987. Cath and her husband Brian, her mom Aggie and her best friend Nancy were on their way to a CCI graduation ceremony with two CCI pups named Kate and Kelly. A drunk driver ran into their car and everyone in the car except Cath was killed.”
I gasped. “Everyone? Oh, how awful.” I gulped and my eyes got teary. “Is Cath OK?”
Marianne hugged me tighter. “I think so. Cath says it was really, really hard, and she credits her CCI friends, pets and CCI dogs for helping her heal. And she continued following one of her passions, skydiving, where she met Jim. They fell in love and got married a few years later. Fortunately, he loves CCI and the pups as much as she does.”
I took a deep breath. “No wonder you admire her so much.”
“Yes, she’s pretty amazing,” Marianne nodded. “Now, off you go. Finish your post.”
As promised, here’s my conversation with Jitterbug:
JITTERBUG: Hi Jeb! Thank you for interviewing me. I have never been interviewed before, but I LOVE to talk so this should be fun!
JEB: Hi! Please tell me a little bit about yourself.
JITTERBUG: I am 21 years old and am an African Grey Parrot. We are the best talkers (actually mimickers) in the Parrot world. We learn to mimic all kinds of words, sentences, noises, etc. We learn the things people teach us (if we want to) but we also learn every day noises and things people say that they’re probably not aware of….at least till we start repeating those things…over and over and over!
JEB: Oh, boy. I want to hear more about that! But first, I understand that you became part of Cath’s family after a terrible tragedy.
JITTERBUG: Yes, I helped her to heal. After the accident Cath talked with her friend Peg about getting a bird. They went to a bird show, bought me and I went home with Cath! I was about 4 weeks old. She hand-fed me this gooey baby parrot stuff so that we would “bond.”
JEB: Well, I'm really glad she found you. Marianne says you have a large vocabulary. How many words can you say?
JITTERBUG: I know a very long list of words! Cath has tried to video me many times so she can prove all the things I say but I don’t like cameras and always know when one is around. HA! I know each of Cath’s dogs by name and talk to them as they go by my cage.
JEB: What do you say??
JITTERBUG: When it is their dinner time and Cath puts down their food bowls, I tell them “OK!” but they ignore me and wait for her to say OK. I know all of the CCI commands and am darn good at using them at appropriate times! For instance, when Cath walks to the slider door with a puppy on leash, as she opens the door I tell the puppy “WAIT!” and then tell her “Good job!” and “Let’s go!” And Cath laughs. I also know to correct the pups by saying “Don’t!” when they do something they shouldn’t.
JEB: Huh. I don’t think I’d know whether to listen to you or Cath! What else?
JITTERBUG: When one of Cath’s breeders is about to come into season and she is checking them she always tells them “Sit” and then “Down” and I know what is coming next so I yell out “ROLL!” When Joley was her breeder girl, I made Cath laugh all the time ‘cause I turned “Joley, roll!” into “Jellyroll.” Sometimes little details escape us parrots.
JEB: Nah, I think you’re smart enough to make a joke out of “Joley, roll!”
JITTERBUG: I also love when Cath works on “Speak” with the pups. As soon as she says “Speak” I start to bark (yep, I sound just like one of the big dogs when I bark!) and I bark several times, then I tell myself “Quiet……good girl!” even though I am a boy bird, because all her dogs are girls.
JEB: If you were at our house and barked as loud as Meryl I bet you’d learn to say “Inside voice!” because that's what Marianne and John are always telling her. You mentioned imitating sounds. Like what?
JITTERBUG: Cath drinks sodas, so when I see her with a soda can in her hand I make the noise of her setting the can down on the counter…then the “snap” of her opening the soda can…then I make the noise of ice dropping into the glass…then I make the noise of soda pouring into the glass!
JEB: You are very talented!
JITTERBUG: I know! I also make the squeak noise that the kitchen door makes and sometimes I can make Cath and Jim think that someone has opened the door to the kitchen and they come running to see who is coming in uninvited. I also call them in each other’s voices. I say “Dear?” in Jim’s voice…..then again, but louder, “Dear?” and then if Cath doesn’t answer I yell “DEAR!” and Cath comes running from wherever she is to see what Jim wants and he is nowhere to be seen and then she mutters something about “Dang bird.” They had to quit watching the TV show “Cops” ‘cause I learned to make nearly perfect police siren noises! I scared them pretty good one time with the sound of a “siren” coming up their long dirt road. I also can mimic the song from Jeopardy. And one time they were watching the movie “Jurassic Park” and the dinosaurs on the movie were making a lot of noise and I had Jim and Cath practically on the floor laughing when I told those darned dinosaurs “QUIET!”.
JEB: (Snickering) You have a wicked sense of humor, don’t you?
JITTERBUG: You have no idea. Ask Cath about her favorite story.
JEB: OK, Cath – please tell me your favorite story. Marianne says it’s her favorite, too.
CATH: Jeb, you'll love this story from the M litter from several years ago. The pups were in the kitchen settling down for the night. I was folding laundry in our room and watching Survivor, when I heard a puppy run beginning in the kitchen and knew the fun was about to start.
JEB: What’s a puppy run?
CATH: It’s when all the pups get wound up and start racing pell-mell around the room. So anyhow, I heard Jitterbug yell "Mom," which I taught him to say to get my attention as long as he does not abuse it. A few seconds later he yelled "MOM" again. Now Jitterbug can be a little squawky at times, but he never yells or shrieks, so this really caught my attention and I headed for the kitchen. Again I heard "MOM!" louder and more urgent than before so I was concerned. When I got to the kitchen, Jitterbug's big cage on wheels was several feet away from where it usually sits in the middle of the kitchen. The puppies were running amok in laps around and around and around his cage, constantly moving it around the kitchen! Well, I took one look at this and was laughing hysterically at the sight! Poor Jitterbug, slowly rolling away from "his spot" yelling "Mom, .....Mom....Mom!" and the pups on a headlong run around his cage. I was on the floor laughing, which Jitterbug obviously did not appreciate!
JEB: What happened??!?
CATH: I was trying to regain my composure and rescue Jitterbug when suddenly he yelled out at the top of his lungs, "DON'T!” The puppies came to a screeching halt in surprise; I was in total shock! Then quietly I heard Jitterbug say "Good job." Well that did it...I was back in hysterics....I literally could not stand up I was laughing so hard......what a goofy bird!
JEB: What did the puppies do?
CATH: The puppies all came running to see what I was doing, which thankfully settled the situation down and I rolled Jitterbug back to his spot with him sticking his beak out of his cage saying "Give mom kiss!" Then just as I got back to folding clothes I hear Jitterbug say “Puppies, Puppies, Puppies!” And I thought “Oh no, not again!” but I giggled, laughed and chuckled the rest of the night!
JEB: Too, too funny. Jitterbug, what do you like to do besides wind up puppies?
JITTERBUG: I love playing with all my toys in my cage. But my favorite game is when I am on my giant ring set and Cath swings me back and forth. Cath and I both say “WOOOOOOOO” as I swing back and forth! Way too much fun!
Many thanks to Cath and Jitterbug for taking the time to chat with me!
Chow for now!