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The Course of True Love

Posted: August 5, 2013, 9:30 a.m. EDT

By Elizabeth Creith

As I believe I've mentioned once or twice, there's a fair amount of sex in the pet store, especially of the back-room-rodent variety. There is not, as a rule, a lot of love. The exception is cockatoo love. We have two cockatoos in the store, Jack, who came to live with us shortly after we opened, and Lily, who arrived three years later.

Lily had lived all her life with the same woman. She adored her person and thought the feeling was mutual. And then – can you believe it? - Lily's owner took up with a male! And not even another cockatoo, which Lily might have understood, but to a big, clumsy, featherless human. To top it off, she invited him right into Lily's own home. And then they nested together and there was an unbelievably homely chick, a big, noisy one. When it started to hang around Lily's cage, she bit it, and after a civilized discussion, and a certain amount of screaming, Lily was booted out of her home.

Okay, perhaps Lily's owner didn't explain it quite that way to us, but we're bird people; we can see Lily's side of it. She's a sweet, pretty bird, and as far as she could tell, she'd been dumped by her significant other. We agreed to give her a home at the store. David used to breed umbrella cockatoos himself, and I could see that the idea of so-ugly-they're-cute cockatoo chicks was dancing in his head. But more than that, Jack was all starry-eyed. Starry eyed, did I say? Try supernova-eyed.

Cockatoo love. iStock/Thinkstock

"Hello,” he said, whenever he caught a glimpse of Lily. Jack has about a million ways to say "hello” from a fast, clipped greeting to a coy and seductive, "Hel-loooo-oo?” Just guess which one he was using on Lily. She was his dream girl, his Juliet, his – you get the idea. He preened and primped and chipped away diligently at the barrel that was his nest box, certain that she would have to fall for such a handsome and hardworking male.

Lily acted like someone who's been dumped. She sulked. She moped. She pined. It went on for weeks, while Jack strutted his stuff. She had to fall for him, right? He was the only guy in her world, after all.

And she fell, oh, yes. She fell like a ton of bricks. She fell for David.

I had to feel for Jack. Almost every large bird to come into the store has fallen to some degree for David. It's not like he even tries. Does he preen them? No. Does he build a beautiful nest in a barrel? No. Does he regurgitate food for them. Absolutely not. Maybe he puts out bird pheromones or something.

Whatever it was, within a couple of months Lily was swooning all over David. As for poor Jack, he was out in the cold. He still gave Lily the enticing "Hel-loooo-oo?” whenever he saw her; he was in love, and he couldn't get out. Lily never looked at him, even when David showed no interest in nesting with her. She began chasing me around the store, biting at my shoes, driving me away from her territory, which now included my husband.

Because Lily is so jealous, and because my work shoes are quite expensive to replace, David and I have had to start sneaking around, leaving the store separately, parking the car where Lily can't see it and so on. We have to talk in the back room, out of her sight. He makes excuses to her for my picture in her wallet.

Yup, I am now the  Other Woman.

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