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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

June 22, 2011

Jack: A Fine, Feathered Employee

By Elizabeth Creith

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We have a loud, demanding, argumentative employee that we can't get rid of. We opened in June 2005, and he joined our staff in August that same year. He's never learned to run the cash register or the pricing gun. He never helps customers find anything, and he can't even sweep the floor.

He's Jack, David's umbrella cockatoo, and he's possibly our very best piece of public relations.

Jack came to us as a rescue bird. David used to breed umbrella cockatoos, but he had to give them up when we moved up north, and he missed them. We got him when a woman came into the store to say that she had a male umbrella cockatoo that needed a home.

A ciockatoo can make a great store pet.
It was luck that she came to us; she'd had two other eager potential owners on her list, but when she called, both of them were away. She offered Jack to David on one condition—he absolutely could not be sold. No argument there—David was happy to have a cockatoo again.

Cockatoos are the love-sponges—or alternatively, attention hogs—of the bird world. Our store is the perfect place for Jack; he adores David and he even loves me, in spite of the fact that I'm not really a bird person. Best of all, during store hours he gets attention from every single customer he can wrangle it out of—and Jack is an expert wrangler.

“Hello! Hellllooo-oooo? Hello?” This is his invitation for someone, anyone, to pet him. He follows it up by climbing down his cage—he's free in the store all day—and scratching his own neck with one foot to show exactly where he wants to be petted. I'm sure there are customers who come to us in part because they can pet Jack.

Jack's been more than our best PR; he's also been an ambassador for birdkind. Every now and again we get someone in the store who's afraid of birds. Several of these people have overcome their fear enough to pet Jack or even hold him. That says a great deal for his gentleness.

Cockatoos aren't the best talkers, but Jack has picked up quite a few words since coming to us. He says, “Hello” and “bye-bye” (This last sometimes accompanied by a foot wave; guaranteed to get an “awwww!”) and his own name. He also learned David's name, my name and the name of our long-time employee, Victoria. He asks her, “Whatcha doing?” while she feeds the animals. At night, when it's time to go into his cage, he says “Jack's a good bird” and “I love you.” If David calls me at home, I can often hear Jack hollering “Da-vid! Da-vid!” When he really wants attention, he screams so loudly that you absolutely can't speak over him.

Most surprising, somewhere he picked up a little-dog bark. He didn't bark when we got him and our dog at the time was a large, quiet mongrel. A year or so later he began to bark like a demented Pomeranian. The fact that we laughed at it only encouraged him. Now he barks when he sees my Aussie, Sky, to coax her to play with him.

Although we had a dog when we opened the store, we hadn't thought of having a store bird. Now that we have Jack, we can't imagine the place without him. So I guess even if he's loud, demanding and no good at the cash, we'll keep him.

Click here to read about Jack's uncoventional friendship.


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