The Indestructable Mr. Zippers

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Last Sunday we noticed that Cynthia’s Quaker Parrot, Mr. Zippers, was acting strangely. He was not eating his favorite breakfast treats (Cheerios, or as we call them “Zippy-O’s”) and he was very lethargic.

His condition seemed to worsen as the day went on so I called the vet to see if they could see Mr. Zippers that day and they got us in around 3:00 pm.

The doctor on duty said that they would run some tests and keep the bird overnight. The next day the doctor called and said that the ultrasound showed his liver was abnormally large but detected nothing abnormal in his blood and fecal tests. He was still not eating and was being tube fed to make sure he stayed nourished.

I called Tuesday and the doctor said there was no real improvement but suggested they keep him for observation for a few days. She said it could be a tumor and that they could do a biopsy. I said “no thanks” as it seemed too extreme. I talked with Cynthia and we both agreed that Mr. Zippers should not suffer and she asked that I call the doctor to discuss options.

When I called on Wednesday there was a different doctor on duty and he sounded more optimistic. He said it looked like Mr. Zippers liver had shut down due to some event or another, but that he thought given a few days he might turn around but that there was no way to tell for sure.

I told the doctor to keep going and called Cynthia who by this point had resigned herself to the fact that Mr. Zippers was gone. I explained that I had not pulled the plug yet and gave her all the encouragement the doctor had given me.

On Thursday I called to check in and there was a THIRD doctor. She said that while she had not seen his condition previously that he did seem “feisty” and may have actually eaten a little food on his own. On top of that she indicated that Mr. Zippers managed to bite her pretty good. To me, this was very encouraging and when I told Cynthia that Mr. Zippers had bitten the doctor she smiled for the first time all week.

On Friday when I called again, the doctor from Wednesday who seemed so encouraging was back on duty and he said things seemed to be turning in Mr. Zippers favor and he thought we could pick the bird up on Sunday. He explained that while Mr. Zippers was not eating a whole lot, he was eating on his own and hoped that by sending him home he might get his appetite back.

We thought maybe we were just giving him too many fatty treats, but the doctor said he thought the diet was fine and that something just triggered a shutdown of his liver.

Well, we picked him up Sunday afternoon and the doctor explained the situation and they showed us how to administer the medicine he needed and sent us home. When we took Mr. Zippers from the pet carrier and put him in his cage he fluttered his tail quite happily and proceeded to eat a Zippy-O.

As of now, he seems fine. I think he definitely cheated death and so does Cynthia. In fact, Cynthia wrote a poem commemorating the experience:

Zippy we thought you was a gonner
And that you was gonna die
But ya screwed up all your courage
And you beaked death in the eye!

Sounds a bit like a Rudyard Kipling poem, what with the colloquial styling and all. At any rate we are happy to have Mr. Zippers back home. A bit poorer, but happy. Dooley also seems happy to have his friend to talk to.

Don’t Peep In My Ear

The one time Dooley tends to get territorial is when it’s time to clean his cage. He just can’t seem to stand it when I put down fresh newspaper or wipe the cage skirt. He doesn’t mind coming close for tickles, treatums or scritchums but hates when he feels his precious filth is being violated.

And what does he do to display his displeasure? He makes what I call the “sonic peep”. It’s not whistle, not a hoot or any sound effect. It’s a high pitched, super short “peep” sound. Imagine the quick toot of a coaches whistle…in your ear.

Dooley has mastered the “sonic peep” and knows how to execute it for maximum pain. He moves to a spot in the cage that puts him as close as he can get and peeps directly into your ear when you are quiet and distracted. And boy does it hurt! And I am fairly sure Dooley knows it.

Early on I discovered that Dooley had three criteria for executing the sonic peep:

1. The distance between him and my ear had to the shortest it could be
2. It had to be quiet
3. No eye contact. It is always a surprise attack.

This has lead to the creation of the “Don’t peep in my ear” song which I sing while performing routine maintenance and cleaning on Dooley’s cage. I also eliminate the element of surprise by looking at him frequently.


Dooley was doing his irritating “hoot” thing from the other room that indicates he’s not getting the attention he feels he deserves.

Cynthia commented that Dooley was being a very bad bird as she does when Dooley gets like this.

I responded by saying “fine, I’ll get rid of Dooley” to which Cynthia replied “but you love Dooley!” and I said “Not anymore” and without missing a beat Dooley said “I love you” in the most pathetic and heartwarming way you could imagine.

I guess I’ll keep him awhile longer…

Fight or flight

Dooley the African Gray parrot is African in name only. I purchased him from a breeder in Katy, TX. Suffice to say, he’s pretty much only known the inside of a cage for the entirety of his life. Sure, he comes out to explore on occasion or when I handle him, but the TV room is pretty much makes up his entire universe.

Dooley has never had to forage for food or defend himself from predators. His hardships, trials and tribulations tend to center around whether or not he gets some of the pasta we’re having for dinner or a piece of tasty pizza.

With that in mind, there was this one event that we still laugh about.

Since Dooley lives in the TV room he gets to watch a lot of TV. He loves the Simpsons and seems to get the jokes because he laughs in all the right spots. It has always been our impression that the TV holds no great mystery for Dooley. That was until the time we happened to be watching this show that featured a visit by Jack Hanna. If you’ve ever seen a guest appearance on The Letterman Show or Larry King Live you know that Jack brings out animals to show the host and the audience.

On this particular occasion Jack had some type of Owl. We weren’t paying all that much attention as it was going on.

We were fairly distracted. We tend to talk while the TV is on and Cynthia often just sit with me and read while I type away on my laptop. It’s a cozy little family scene.

So we’re all sitting there, just hanging out as we do, and that owl decides to launch itself off the arm of it’s handler and flies straight at the camera.

I guess with it’s wings outstretched and with it flying in the direction it was, Dooley must have thought that owl was coming to get him because he let out a lout HOOT and fell backwards right off his perch to bottom of his cage.

Dooley was unhurt and climbed back up the side of his cage to his perch once he determined the coast to be clear.

What does Dooley know about Owls? Much less any other predatory bird? I would have to say NOTHING. But his natural instincts just kicked in when he saw that owl and he did what comes naturally.

It’s also noteworthy to point out that Dooley is completely terrified of a small step stool we use around the house, squawking and retreating whenever he sees it. I guess roving bands of step stools once hunted the jungles of Africa, preying upon unsuspecting gray parrots and that genetic imprint also remains coded in Dooley’s DNA.