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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

October 30, 2012

The Animal Odd Couple

By Elizabeth Creith


Jack, David's umbrella cockatoo, has been a fixture in our store since August 2005. When one puts the concepts of “bird” and “dog” together, the usual association is “bird dog”—dogs who detect, flush and retrieve birds. Jack reversed this concept. He was a dog bird.

At the time we opened the store, we owned Garm, a big black mutt. While people sometimes described Garm as a hairy Lab, he was a much gentler and more laid-back dog than that. We believe he had some Newfoundland in him, based on his webbed feet, his droopy eyes and his intolerance of us snorkelling. (You haven't been snorkelling until you've been “rescued” by a 70-pound dog swimming over and standing on your back to alert you to the dangers of water.)

Jack initially ignored Garm, but as the months went by, he began to take a fiendish delight in teasing him. Garm was easy-going in the extreme, and when Jack climbed down from his perch, pigeon-toed his way across the floor and bit Garm's tail, Garm simply moved.

Cockatoo and dog make friends
For a while, this was enough. Then Jack started staking his ground, and whenever Garm lay in certain places in the store, Jack would casually walk up and bite Garm's tail. Garm learned not to lie down in certain parts of the store.

Having got his way on this, Jack upped the ante, and as far as we can tell, he did it for the pure pleasure of persecuting poor Garm. Jack began to bite Garm at the hock of the back leg, then run behind something and laugh. There was something pathetically funny about a two-pound bird intimidating a 70-pound dog.

Then Garm met his maker, and after several months we acquired Sky. I was concerned about Sky and Jack. She was only 10 pounds, after all. Jack could hurt her seriously if he bit her.

I needn't have worried. The first time Jack came down to the floor to investigate, Sky bounced all around him and did a play-bow, her stub of a tail wagging as hard as it would go.

Jack loved it! He bobbed and bounced at her, and the two of them played chase back and forth across the aisle of the store. Sky seldom barked, but Jack would make the breathy “sha-sha-sha” sound that told us he was enjoying the whole thing.

Then one day, while I was pricing dog food, I heard “yap-yap-yap-yap-yap!” Uh-oh, I thought. Someone's little dog is harassing Jack. I hurried up to the front of the store, my concern equal parts for Jack and the little dog. Maybe the dog would bite Jack. Maybe Jack would eat the dog. I didn't think that would go over well in the public-relations department.

I got up to the front of the store. No dog, except for Sky snoozing on the rug.

Then the “yap-yap-yap!” started up again—from above my head. I looked around, and there was Jack on his high perch, leaning down and craning to see Sky. “Yap-yap-yap-yap-YAP-YAP-YAP!” he said. Sky looked up, yawned, stretched and trotted over.

Jack climbed down his perch. “Sha-sha-sha,” he said. He might have been saying, “Great, let's play!” But the look in his eye told me, “See? It's always useful to have a second language.”

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