Pamela Carter’s Bird “Parker”

I am sooo guilty of this! When Parker was a baby, I was shooting photos of him every time he so much as sprouted a new feather or even blinked. In my own defense, I knew that when he matured, he was going to look precisely the same or the rest of his life and I’d better shake a leg and take the photos now or it’d be the same African Grey shot over and over again. albeit in different environments and poses. So I shot:

Parker’s First Baby Picture

And shot:

And shot.

Until he grew into his “Adult-like” feathering:

And now I’m not only taking photos of him and Pepper, I acquired a video camera and take video as well. I think most bird people are much the same.

Nikki McDaniel Laurent’s Cockatoo “Lyric” playing with Piglet

Early on in my quest for making some sense of this “Having a parrot in the family” business, meaning I was learning everything I could about nutrition, husbandry, Vet care, avian diseases, behavior training and every other little thing I felt I needed to learn about aviculture.  I felt I needed to read and learn absolutely everything to make up for the boneheaded move I made by getting a parrot before I got the education.  Guilt is an amazing reinforcer!

I was zipping around the internet one morning and found an advertisement for a weekend course in Orlando offered by Natural Encounters Inc. on behavior training. It was called “Companion Parrot Training 1” and it was being taught by Dr. Susan Friedman (I had never heard of her at the time) and Steve Martin. (I had his training tapes.) Now, never having been to a Parrot-themed shindig before, I had now idea how to dress, or what to bring.  According to the schedule I was sent, on the last night of the seminar there was a “Banquet” the students were to attend. Banquet? Uh-oh. More wardrobe complications.

I emailed Natural Encounters with my questions and concerns and sent them this. It was dated August 18th 2004:

“What is the dress code for the weekend? I would think that the lectures would be casual business, but what about the banquet dinner? Are we talking about a nice dress here, or is this an evening gown competition? I’m just joking but I’ve never attended anything even remotely resembling this sort of thing and I have no idea what to expect.”

Debbie Huckaby’s Macaws after a bath

They were quite helpul and answered all of my idiot questions. I packed as best I could, drove to Orlando and attended the “Ice-breaker” happy hour on the first night. And I don’t know how to explain this, but the outfit I selected to wear, (blue oxford button-down shirt, khaki pants and brown suede shoes) was so dead on, it was precisely the same outfit Steve Martin was wearing. We looked like twins. I wanted to fall through the floor.

But I noticed, (aside from all of the Parrot themed clothing) was the fact that all of the other attendees had photo albums and were showing their photos to anyone who would look. And of course, Steve had to be shown all of these photos of their parrots. I not only had no photos, I had no parrot-themed clothes. But I was dressed identically to Steve, so you know, I had that going for me…

I forged ahead and introduced myself to Steve.

After complimenting me on my attire, Steve said, “Don’t you have any photos of your birds you want to show me?”

I replied, “Steve, I have an African Grey. Do you know what they look like?”

He laughed and said, “Of course I do!”

I simply said, “Well, mine looks just like one of those.” and I smiled. I think he was relieved as he’d been practically going blind looking at parrot pictures all evening.

To me, my African Greys, Parker and Pepper are very special birds. But to be honest, they look like African Greys and they pretty much look like every other African Grey. So I usually spare people the exercise of having to look at photos of my African Greys. Especially if they have one of their own. But it doesn’t stop me from taking photos of them.

My Literary Agent, Bully Buffett