One day as I idly sat and watched Parker industriously chewing on the shoelace aglet of my sneaker, I thought, “You know, somebody ought to make a toy with a pant load of shoelaces on it!” And as I thought about it, I wondered if it was possible to get somebody to put aglets all the way up the lace so Parker could chew the snot out of them and lay off my sneakers. I thought, “You know, I could make this toy!” And so I went about contacting shoelace manufacturers to make the lace the way I envisioned it.
I bombed. I couldn’t even get them to return my phone calls, let alone my emails. I shelved the idea for a while but I was convinced that this was a toy birds needed to have. It just made too much sense.
Move forward to last year’s Houston Parrot Festival. I snagged Bonnie Jay of StarBird Toys somewhere between the ballroom and the women’s bathroom and I told her we needed to have a little talk:
On a bar napkin, I sketched out my idea for my shoelace toy. She had me go and explain to Ronny at the StarBird Sales Booth. Ronny runs the nuts and bolts of StarBird and does most of the shows and expos. I told Ronny what I had in mind. And they both got it immediately once I pointed out that Ronny didn’t seem to have any aglets left on his boot laces and gee, I wonder why… They both got the picture and set about trying to do the same damn thing I did: contacting shoe lace manufacturers. The difference was, they actually found somebody who was willing to make these short little laces with the aglets running up the entire length of the lace. With a few hitches and problems here and there, the toy was born:
Then we had to test it. Ronny sent me a box with six of the toys in it. I tentatively presented one to Parker, the “King of Sneaker Lace Destruction” and after about 40 seconds, (Yes, I timed him.) he began gnawing on the thing like it was a chicken leg. Here’s the video of that test:
And he kept playing with it for about two hours. It was then that I knew we had a winner. Ronny and Bonnie tested toys as well on their end of the country on every size bird from a Cockatiel to a Hyacinth Macaw. Same results there: “Jumbo Shrimp at the Free Buffet.” They loved it, especially the Greys they tested it on. Bonny actually named it, and that was fine with me because my mind came up with all of these strange names that we couldn’t imagine putting on a toy, but that’s another story. Well, not quite a year goes by and I was invited to speak at the Rocky Mountain Avicultural Society in Denver and I run into Allen Brelig who has a bird-related Distribution company. I had met him before but it was his booth that got my attention. There sat my toy! And it was for sale and everything! Now you can buy them in lots of bird stores but at the time, this was very novel and it was the first time I actually saw it for sale:
After this, people began sending me photos of their birds with the toy. Here again one of Christina Giordano’s birds with the “Ring”:
It’s one thing to see it sitting up on a website somewhere, but it is clearly another to see it physically sitting at somebody’s booth. This was something I really loved about the trip. It made me very happy to see the results of my twisted imagination come to a physical state and actually watch it sell and have birds really like it. I was thrilled. And in celebration of this toy that birds not only wanted, but deserved, I give you a little music to accompany your parrots jamming on their “Ring”:
And as for Parker? Well, he gets all of the “Ring-Around-The-Rainbow” Toys he can rip apart. Gee, I wonder what I’ll think of next…