Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Two types of people in this world

One of my favorite comic movies is "What About Bob?" I watch it several times a year, usually when I have to do a long treadmill workout and want something that will help me pass the time -- although I do have to worry about laughing too hard and falling off. But that's another post.

I am not the type of person the quotes movie lines, but the exception is probably this film. One of my favorite parts of the movie is near the beginning when Bob (Bill Murray) is in his first session with his new psychiatrist, Dr. Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss), and explaining why he was divorced. Bob's explanation: "There are two types of people in this world: Those who like Neil Diamond, and those who don't. My ex-wife loves him." After listening to Bob's explanation, Dr. Leo Marvin responds by saying, "I see. So, what you're saying is that even though you are an almost-paralyzed, multiphobic personality who is in a constant state of panic, your wife did not leave you, you left her because she... liked Neil Diamond?" (I had to get the exact quotes here).

It's probably not exactly clear why I'm bringing this up. First, let me reassure you that there is nothing going on with Thomas's and my relationship, so don't worry about that! But recently I said to Thomas, "There are two types of people in this house: grey people and macaw people. I am a grey person." (His response? A sarcastic, "oh, really?")

Being able to interact with hundreds of parrots and scores of people over the past years I've been volunteering at the bird rescue has been quite interesting. While every bird is an individual, I've been able to notice personality trends within the species, and also to observe the way in which certain volunteers and customers interact with the birds.

In my experience, the types of parrots that seem to be most polarizing are cockatoos, macaws, and greys. I've rarely (read: never) heard someone say "Gosh, I really hate budgies!" but I've had so many people tell me that they hate cockatoos, macaws, and greys. Why is that? My thought is that it might relate to the fact that these three types of parrots can be difficult to keep in captivity. They are very demanding, and things can quickly turn bad when their owners are unable to understand their body language. They are also among the three types of parrots in which I've seen the most plucking, which signals to me that they might have a harder time adapting to life in captivity than, say, caiques, and therefore disappointment sets in with the owners when the bird doesn't live up to their expectations.

But getting back to why I made that comment to my husband. With the recent adoption of Stella, I've really been thinking about these kinds of things lately. While Stella has a decent relationship with Thomas, she does prefer me. We're working on this because we don't want her to become a one-person bird! But she has never bitten or struck at me, whereas she has, on occasion, struck at Thomas and even has caused him a bit of pain, although not broken his skin. I think this may be in part to my personality and the way that I am a grey person. Max also slightly prefers me, although she absolutely loves Thomas and an observer would probably say she has no preference. The ways in which she shows her preference for me are subtle.

I just seem to get greys, and actually share a lot of personality traits with greys -- I'm cautious when meeting new people, really open up once I get to know you, carefully think things through, etc. I see so many of my personality traits mirrored in my greys (of course, there's a perception bias since my greys also have many personality traits that I don't share!)

Thomas, on the other hand, is a total macaw person. I may have mentioned this before, but we joke that he is half-macaw. He has interacted with over 100 macaws, and every single one of them has loved him. You can read through this blog to see stories of him and Rocky -- that's how they all are with him! It's really quite amazing to see him interact with a scared or abused macaw. Within minutes they're putty in his hands. Once again, I see a lot of the macaws' traits in my husband. He's very hands-on, funny, he tests people before he decides they're ok, etc.

One of my favorite macaw/Thomas memories took place probably 3 years ago at the rescue. We had had an influx of female blue-and-gold macaws and probably had four or five at the same time. He took them out and placed them on separate stands in the back where he was working. Every single one of them managed to climb down from her stand to try to capture his attention. Several of them called to him by name and one would scream from the moment she heard his car until he gave her a proper greeting.

I hope the above paragraphs did not give the impression that I hate macaws or that Thomas hates greys -- nothing could be further from the truth! I have had connections with several special macaws, but I just seem to "get" greys more. Thomas loves greys (especially the ones that live in our house!) but is truly a macaw person.

If such a scientific study were feasible and we brought 100 greys and 100 macaws into our house, in those birds that had a favorite between us, I'd guess that over 90% of the greys would choose me and the same percentage of macaws would choose Thomas.

Volunteering at the rescue has also shown us that neither one of us is a cockatoo person! When we first started researching parrots, we intended on bringing home an umbrella cockatoo. In fact, we found a great deal on a cage before we'd decided on what parrot to purchase, so we had a "cockatoo-sized" cage before we had a bird. And we thought we'd put a cockatoo in that cage. Luckily for us we started researching and ended up buying Max, our timneh grey -- she really was the perfect first bird for us (and the right size for the "cockatoo-sized" cage which is too small for a cockatoo)!

A year or so after we brought Max home, there was a mutilating Moluccan cockatoo at the wildlife rescue where we volunteer. We almost brought her home because we felt so bad for her condition and thought we could improve her life. Once again, we really dodged a bullet by not taking her home! (By the way, if anyone happened to stumble on this and is reading all the way thorough, please visit MyToos if you're even thinking of adding a cockatoo to your house! If that doesn't scare you away, you might be the right home for one!)

I'm not really sure where I'm headed with this, except to muse, like in the title of my blog, on parrots. I find their interactions with us, and with each other, fascinating.

I often wonder what our lives would be like had we purchased the umbrella cockatoo we saw in the pet store. I'd like to think we would still have her and would be providing her a good home, but would that be the case? Maybe; perhaps I would have become a cockatoo person instead. But I doubt it. I really think there's a good chance that we'd be miserable, with a strain on our marriage, and we very well may have surrendered the cockatoo to a rescue. Ugh -- I'm veering off into depressing thoughts again!

In any case, I could not have asked for a more perfect match in our house than Max. Is a timneh grey right for everyone? Definitely not! I've seen about a dozen come through the rescue in bad shape because their previous owners were unable to meet their needs. And we certainly have not been perfect owners -- Max had a plucking issue, we allowed her to escape, etc.

Pretty much blindly, with only the web as our information source, we stumbled upon timneh greys and I truly don't think we could have made a better decision.


ashley said...


Stephanie said...

I think that's why there are so many birds in rescues - so many people just don't know what they are getting into. And even if you do have a good idea - well, every bird has it's own personality. I would not be able to tolerate living with every person in this world and it's the same with birds (and dogs for that matter although I think they are slightly easier to predict). Every time you add another pet to your household you are taking a risk that it won't work out. Best you can do is as much research as you can (including hands on like volunteering at a shelter) and then cross your fingers!

Stephanie said...

PS - I love What About Bob too. :)

Beloved Parrot said...

I love Timnehs, though I don't own one. And I love the bigger ones, too, but I'm perfectly happy with my three little cockatiels and my little brown-head.

The noise alone from the bigger birds would drive me nuts and I'd end up having to give them to a rescue because of it. But the little ones, even at their worst (which can be bad) are bearable, they don't make as much of a mess, and they're the perfect size to fit on your hand and snuggle to your chest.

But then again, I'm prejudiced because I have the most wonderful perfect parrots in the world.

ashley said...

I'd love to know what it is about Thomas that makes the macaws adore him! When watching the video of the mutual preening session with Stella, I realized that it was just instinctual for me to do that with both Katie and Pickles. Interesting...

Mary said...

Stephanie -- you are so right!

BP -- Your post made me smile. It makes me so happy when people are happy with their birds! Rocky can definitely get on my nerves with his noise. The worst in my house, IMO, was this green cheek conure that used to stay with us when my friends went out of town. I had to tell them we couldn't watch him anymore because his screech was at this pitch that I couldn't handle.

Ashley -- it's so amazing to watch, with Thomas. It's just something innate that I can't learn no matter how hard I try! K&P were lucky to have had you in their lives!