Grover is my little feathered companion. He is vicious, foul-tempered, messy, and screams loud enough to wake the neighbors, but he keeps me company and fills my otherwise lonely days with cheer. He is an African Grey I purchased nearly twenty-two years ago and hand fed as a baby. I saw him in the pet shop and couldn’t resist his oversized wobbly head, feather-free body, and big, beautiful eyes. I held him in my hands as he looked up at me, mouth wide open in a plea for food, and I knew instantly I wouldn’t be leaving the store without him.
It’s actually kind of surprising that Grover is as aggressive as he is. Most hand-fed birds are sweet and lovable. Grover is loved (by only me, I think), but he is certainly not lovable! He tries his best to attack everyone who passes within biting range and has drawn blood with his assaults on my poor defenseless husband. My daughter fears him and does her best to keep a safe distance. In addition, Grover manufactures all manner of nasty noises – screams, squeaks, burps, whistles, and other annoyingly loud screeches. No, there are no adorable little peeps from this chick; he is loud and boisterous! Furthermore, he is the messiest creature I believe I have ever encountered. He throws his food on the floor and on the walls, shreds toys and paper and strews them about his cage and the room, and, well, “potties” wherever he pleases. (This is a nightmare for a neat freak perfectionist such as me, by the way.) He is an escape artist as well, and we have had to put locks on his cage doors to keep him from roaming through our house, in full destruction mode, unsupervised. In short, he is a beast.
But he is my beast. I raised him, and I love him despite his (minor) flaws. I love him because he is funny and silly and playful. He is a happy critter, and he makes no attempt to hide it or tone it down. I love him because he cannot be controlled. I can scream and threaten him all day long, but it makes no difference to him. Doesn’t bother him a bit! In fact, he finds it amusing. If he can get me all wound up and see me yell, he has accomplished his mission for the day. What I see as expressing my frustration, he sees as an entertaining show. He is never more excited than when someone is screaming back at him. Sometimes, when he is engaging in particularly bad behavior, and I make yet another futile attempt to stop him, he actually reprimands himself. When he sees me enter the room, he saves me the trouble of scolding him by telling himself, “Oh, my gosh, Grover, stop it,” or “Goodness, Grover, that’s a mess!”
Since he lives with someone who has a chronic illness and chronic pain, Grover has also learned the lingo that accompanies that. I often wonder if passers-by ever hear him sneeze, cough, clear his throat, blow his nose, moan in pain, or yell, “Ow,” and “Brr, I’m cold!” Poor bird is sicker than anyone in the house most days. (When we actually do take him to the veterinarian, whom he detests, he comforts himself by repeating over and over again, “It’s all right, Grover. It’s okay.” This is after he has given the vet a good cussing out in bird language and growls, of course.)
Grover does engage in more pleasant conversation throughout the day, though. He frequently tells me, “I love you,” when I enter the room. He also reminds me that I am a “good, good bird.” He asks me if I want my head scratched as well. On occasion, he will even inquire as to whether I would like a grape, cracker, or bite of apple. (He doesn’t yet understand the whole “gastroparesis” thing.) He speaks in the voices of my husband and my daughter, so most days it is as if I have a full house. I rarely feel alone. And if I get bored, he is more than happy to sing and dance with me, or just sit and talk. He is an active listener who peppers his conversation with “yeah,” “uh-huh,” and “oh.”
I have given up on molding Grover into the perfect, pleasant bird I first thought he should be, and I have learned to accept him for what he is. He may be obnoxious, but he is fantastic company, and he keeps me entertained. He has an uncontrollable personality all his own, and that is what makes him interesting and more human. I wouldn’t have it any other way.