Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Winking Game

I noticed it first when I visited the pet shop and was introduced to Tori. He was so sweet, and pretty. And when I talked softly to him he paid attention. I winked at him. He winked back. Coincidence? I tried it again. He responded. This went back and forth for a bit. He didn't shy away from me, and he winked back at me. This was a good sign. This was the one.

A lot of the manuals tell you that for the first few days you should leave the bird in its new house, keep things quiet. Let it settle in before talking to it, attempting to hold it, and so on. This may be the case when you buy a bird at Petco or somewhere like that. But when you buy from a specialty breeder that hand raises the babies themselves, things are a little different. At least they were for me. Kay & Ralph are among the believers in prompt results. They know their birds. They are careful to match the right birds with the right people. They always answer any questions I have (and I have had soooo many) with such patience, and a sense of humor and compassion.

It's possible that a bird will not eat in the first day or so that they are in their new home. They are adjusting to their new surroundings. They are nervous. I hated the idea of Tori going hungry, so I was of the mindset that I would get him to eat at least a little bit. If I could get him to eat, then I knew he would be happy here. That he would be okay. When I brought him home I talked softly to him. He was listening. He sat on my finger. Eventually, I put some seed in the palm of my hand and he ate some. I was so relieved. I didn't want to put him in for the night, I just wanted to watch him. Let him know he was going to be okay, and, happy. Joe finally convinced me to tuck Tori in to his new house and let him get some sleep.

Over the next days I talked to him. Played different music for him. Got him to sit on my hand, and on my shoulder. We played the winking game. It was a secret way of communicating. If I blinked hard, squishing my eye down, he did the same. It was adorable. By the end of the week he was hanging out on my shoulder, and napping beneath my chin while I watched television.

With each bird since then I've followed the same idea. I try to make that initial connection - if they pay attention when I speak, or are intrigued by the rest of the birdies when we visit the pet shop, if they play the winking game, I know it could be a good thing. And, so far, I haven't been wrong.


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