That darn keet

We’ve been wanting some sort of pet for a couple of years now; rothko more than me. We both love cats, but with my cat allergy that just wasn’t an option. (I’ve heard about a breed of Russian cat that supposedly lacks one of the genes that leads to the salivary protein that triggers the allergy in humans; however, they’re a pretty rare breed, so I haven’t encountered one I could test.)

I’ve grown to like dogs. I hated them as a kid, but I really liked Martha’s beagle. We considered an Italian greyhound. I gave one a thorough allergy test, sniffing deeply. No problems on that score. But it would have fallen onto me to walk the dog, and I just couldn’t deal with having to pick up feces.

For a while we thought we might get a couple of ferrets. We bought magazines, read books, and gave the matter careful consideration. Certainly they’re cute, entertaining, and I like all kinds of weasels. We almost went the ferret route, but ultimately we decided against it. The main problem is that our house just isn’t even close to ferret-proof, and it would be a massive adjustment to make it so. Plus, they need very hands-on constantly supervised playtime every day, and we couldn’t come up with a good location for the cage. Overall, I just didn’t think we would be able to do a good enough job of looking after them.

Then rothko got enthusiastic about birds.

I have to say that initially, I had no enthusiasm for them at all. But then we looked after Jennifer and Chris’s canary while they were away for a couple of weeks, and the little guy’s cheerful cheeping grew on me. He seemed to love the noises the Wii made while I was playing Super Mario Galaxy. I’d wake him in the morning and chat to him each time I walked past. He’d flutter around, tweet back, and eye me curiously.

We started with the research again, and soon started to focus on parakeets; specifically, American budgerigars. Unlike canaries, you can let them out of the cage, have them sit on your finger or shoulder, let them play on toys, and so on. They’re basically miniature parrots, they like to be talked to, and many learn to talk back–it’s not unknown for a parakeet to have a vocabulary of a couple of hundred words. They also like music and occasional gentle grooming.

There was a minor problem, though. Budgerigars were a huge fad in the 1970s in England, and even the word “budgie” immediately reminded me of the 70s–and not in a good way.

However, it turns out that there are two kinds of budgerigar : the English budgie is the larger bird with the fluffed up inset inbred face that I find unattractive, while the American budgerigar, more often called a parakeet, is more svelte and avian. Also, there are colors other than the yellow, green and blue stereotypical shades that make me think of flared trousers.

So, we looked at parakeets. We got a nice large cage. And last week, we went to a store that had a new shipment of birds, and selected a blue-gray one who seemed to have a reasonably nice boyish disposition. (The males are more likely to talk, but it’s impossible to sex them until adulthood unless you get them DNA tested.)

The store likes to keep the birds paired up while they get used to their new cage, and have you visit them for a few days to handle them and have them get to know you. I was a little concerned about our ability to tame him, as initially he was fairly flighty and bitey. However, by the time we left on Friday he would sit on a finger for ten minutes at a stretch while we talked to him, so I think he’s going to be fine.