I love my cockatoos.
There, I said it. I love my cockatoos. To me, it's almost magic for my best friends to fly up to me, perch on my shoulder, give me kisses, then put their heads down and beg for scritches (a form of petting typically involving alopreening).
Parrots are feathered geniuses. They are extremely hard to raise properly, requiring a great deal of dedication. Among the hardest of all parrots are the cockatoos, an entire family of parrots known among aviculturists as "velcro birds" for their intense attachments and sometimes excessive need for attention -- any attention.
All parrots need more attention from their human (and bird) flock than your typical dog or cat. But cockatoos are needy and clingy even for a parrot. My birds, for example, won't let me put them down to shower, use the restroom, cook, or even change my clothes. If I try to put one or both of them down, it takes typically less than five seconds for my bird(s) to be right back on my body somewhere.
And yes, I do get pooped on sometimes, even though I've been working with them to communicate with me right before they need to -- so I can move them over to their cages or playgyms to do their business.
Then there is the chewing. No matter how many toys you provide, expect your bird to get into something you don't want her to. My 9 yr old cockatiel Mithril took advantage of my wee hour of the morning return home from an SCA event to get into my sheet music -- and chew to powder sheet music I had saved from my elementary school Shakespeare festival performance. This is what happens when you go to bed at 2am and don't have time to unpack and put everything away -- the curious bird with the busy beak wins out.
In other words, keeping a parrot is not for the feint of heart. It's hard work and requires a special patience and adoration for birds.
Unfortunately for me, I have not dated anyone who can love both me AND my birds.
When the man in your life likes spending time with you -- but isn't prepared for parrothood (as many aviculturists call it), feathers will fly, so to speak. The men I've dated have felt jealous of my girls and have felt insulted when I've told them that the birds are NOT negotiable. No, I will NOT give up my feathered child just because you don't like the noise, the mess, or the constant competion for my attention.
I get that maybe you don't find it completely fascinating to watch how one of my girls deftly extracts a sunflower seed from a sunflower head almost as big as she is, let alone how cute it is to watch her chew on the hull after she's devoured her treat.
But expecting me to consider you, a newcomer to my life, to be more important than this precious life I've devoted so many years of my life towards nurturing?
Sorry, that makes no sense to me. You may be out of my life in a matter of days, weeks, or months. But my girls will be with me for DECADES -- and adore me much more than you will. You may leave me, but their loyality has been proven.
And so I sit alone with my beautiful cockatoos. Not for the lack of dating, but the lack of finding someone who can actually love me AND my birds.
And I hope I'm not out of line saying that I feel that any man who would CONSIDER asking me to get rid of my birds as a condition for some level of committment from him must not really love me at all.
Doesn't love mean loving ALL of me? Including my need for feathered companionship? Including my need to have parrots in my life?
Why do men seem to feel this relationship I have with birds is negotiable? How can someone say he loves me but want to cut out my very heart and soul?
My need for birds in my life goes all the way back to the moment I saw my very first cockatoo. That was truly love at first sight and even deeper the first time I held a parrot.
I need to be a perch.
Does that mean I'm doomed to be alone forever?
Laurel A. Rockefeller, author
The Great Succession Crisis
E-Book ISBN: 9781476243344
Print book ISBN: 978-1479144808