Charlie

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The male with whom I enjoyed the longest relationship, other than with my father, was named Charlie. Some of my friends knew him and others never had the dubious pleasure. Charlie was a large part of my life for almost twelve years. I met him in Dartmouth, when I was married to my first husband and he stayed with me through a separation, a divorce, a few failed relationships, and a move to Montreal. Charlie came into my life the fall after I got married to Gordon back in 1990. He was a scrawny l
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  The male with whom I enjoyed the longest relationship, other than with my father, was named Charlie.Some of my friends knew him and others never had the dubious pleasure. Charlie was a large part of my life for almost twelve years. I met him in Dartmouth, when I was married to my first husband andhe stayed with me through a separation, a divorce, a few failed relationships, and a move to Montreal.Charlie came into my life the fall after I got married to Gordon back in 1990. He was a scrawny little 6week old cockatiel with definite ideas abut how important he was in the world. We had met before hewas ready to leave his parents and I had to go back and get him when he was ready and eating on hisown. He cost me the princely sum of $40 at a home breeder.Upon arrival at the apartment, he was rather reserved, but that quickly changed. With an insatiablecuriosity and a huge capacity for trouble totally out of proportion with his size, he was into everythinghe could reach and some things I still can't figure out how he got hold of. It didn't take long for him todecide that his cage was a place of both refuge and exile. Refuge at night when the lights were off andexile when he was being bad. And the cage being covered meant he had really screwed up. The onlyreason he was banished to his cage at night was that I was scared I'd roll over in the night and squashhim if I left him out. And as a bird prone to night frights, being alone in the dark with no safety cagearound him would have been a recipe for disaster.At first I kept him in a small cage during the day that I carried around the apartment and set beside mewhere I was working. That got him used to having me around all the time. Frankly, with no other birdsin the cage, I figure he was lonely pretty quickly and I seemed more interesting than staring at the bars.One of the first things he did when the cage door was opened the first time while I was working in thekitchen, was stomp across the counter top and check out the sink where I was doing the dishes at thetime. That's when I discovered that to a young bird, anything floating on a liquid looks like it is asurface that can be walked over. The soap suds were no match for his weight and he was rather dismayed to find the fluffy billows of white dropping him down into the hot water below whereanything could have been lurking to eat him. After much flailing and soap splattering, I got him out of the sink unscathed, but lacking in any dignity to which he had previously laid claim. To say he wasdispleased would be understating the situation. Luckily the sink was practically empty and the water had cooled to just above warm by the time he took his flop. He did, however, decide that the towelwith which he was dried off was a thing of beauty to be worshiped. From then on, it was almostimpossible to keep him away from any floppy fabric...the brighter the better.Unfortunately, that was not the only time he mistook a floating layer of something for a solid surface.A bowl of tomato soup with a layer of crackers was the next victim. The crackers looked good andwhen I denied him this glorious bounty of salty goodness, he took it upon himself to just jump over myhand and onto the top of the mound of crackers...in the middle of the bowl of soup. The soup was hot.But I think there was much more complaining about being made to run through a sink full of tepidwater to try to get the tomato soup off his legs and belly before it dried.Charlie liked to eat anything I was eating. In fact, he considered it his right and got downright ugly if he was denied. Spaghetti was a favorite. If you have never seen a cockatiel eat, you likely are unawareof how messy they are. Charlie eating pasta meant there was usually pasta on his beak, top and bottom, pasta on whatever surface he was standing beside, pasta in my hair and on my glasses and pasta in thefurniture. Because you see, a cockatiel grinds their food between the top and bottom mandible. Thatmeans whatever is in their beak also gets smeared over the outside of their beak. This causes a buildupof schmutz that eventually gets in the way of them seeing the next bite. In order to clear this off, theyshake their heads furiously, scattering the pulverized and pureed food from their beaks all over any  surface within about 5 feet. Whatever doesn't come off this way gets rubbed off on whatever they arestanding on. Looking back, it is amazing that my apartment was not more messy than it was mosttimes.He didn't restrict this curiosity to food. Charlie seemed to think that anything that went to my lips must be good and thus he deserved his share. Drinks were not safe around him. Fruit juice ended up withfloaty bits in it if I wasn't careful. After all, what better way to get the pasta puree off your beak than agood dip in a glass of fruit punch?Charlie was not subtle in his quest to partake in the wondrous delicacies that his humans seemed toalways have. Any expression of pleasure in food or drink coupled with a refusal to share usually endedup with him banished to his cage in a huff. This is because he would become more and moredetermined to get his share. This determination took many forms including hanging off the edge of a plate by his beak with both feet clear of any solid surface (he knew that to put a foot on a plate was tocommit a grave sin resulting in immediate banishment), running back and forth and complaining loudlyimmediately beneath the vessel holding the perceived delicacy, climbing up a person's chest to try tointercept the loaded eating utensil on the way to the mouth, and in extreme provocation, actually tryingto steal the food right out of a person's mouth....and thus banishment.After my separation and divorce, any guy I had a relationship with quickly learned who was there first.I had only one ever complain about Charlie. I think he complained once. My attitude was that the birdwas there first. And the bird was used to being given the run of the place. If you are jealous of a 6 inchtall bird, you really should rethink your insecurity issues. However, the bird shall not be banished tohis cage for the sake of your sensibilities. That would be cruel after him being allowed to roam freethrough the place for longer than you have known me. Only one guy ever questioned this. I've knownsome very cool and tolerant people. Besides, a little bird turd never hurt anyone ;) Might even fertilizea personality or something. After all, Joanna has freely said that Charlie had more personality thansome of my boyfriends.Charlie liked to get involved whenever I was concentrating on something. A cat had nothing on him. Ihad to lock him in his cage and cover it up whenever I was sewing with the sewing machine. If Ididn't, his love for fabric may have led to disaster. He'd chase the fabric across the table and try to getunder the fabric and take residence in whatever wrinkle he could fit into. I'm sure you can see the problem with this. I only attempted to sew once with him out. My heart wouldn't take the excitement.I obviously didn't appreciate the fun as much as he did.Ukrainian eggs was another thing I gave up on doing with him out of his cage. It was all good until theday he decided the candle was really interesting. He was running back and forth around it and Ithought it was funny until he ran by and in my peripheral vision I noticed another flame running acrossthe table. That got my attention and when I snapped my head up to see what was going on, Charlie wasstrutting across the table with a little flame rising off the tip of his tail where he had dragged it throughthe candle. He wasn't scared, no real rushing going on, just wandering around on fire. Again with the“too much excitement for me”.I've had an aquarium since I was about 15 years old. When I got married, Gordon and I had one thatwas 40 gallons and it had a glass top. Charlie loved to watch the fish. He'd run along the front of theaquarium stand and chase the fish around. And he liked to stand on top. One day while we werecleaning the tank, the top was off. Charlie apparently didn't notice this detail. When he landed, therewas a rather spectacular splash down and the large fish I had got interested in the new live food flailing  around up there. Charlie was not impressed at all. Cockatiels are not made for swimming. He had hiswings spread across the surface to try to stay afloat and the fish were getting more and more interestedin the little flailing feet. It was funny as hell, but the laughing happened after I got him out of harm'sway. At least this time he didn't require a bath after his dip. I think the fish were disappointedthough ;)Things Charlie loved: ã Being in the bathroom while I bathed. He liked to walk the edge of the tub and hop across mylegs. He liked the “sinking island game”. And he liked to lick the salt off my face. ã Showering, but only on his terms. ã Throw pillows with ruffles. ã Head rubs, lots and lots of head rubs. The more it appeared that someone was attempting to pull his head off his neck, the better he liked it. ã Brightly coloured towels. ã Pasta, broccoli, ice cream, french fries and potato chips. ã Car rides. Although those were sometimes an issue. He liked to be outside his cage in the car. Not a problem for the first 15 minutes. But then he'd get bored with the back of the seat and bedrawn unfailingly to the floor of the car to see what was going on down there. This meant aquick pull over to the side to retrieve him from my ankles before he got under my feet and the pedals and an unceremonious dump back into the cage with the door locked behind him. Hewould then sulk for 15 minutes before taking an interest in the trip again. ã Singing for whoever would listen to him. Old MacDonald was a favorite, but when he got bored of that he would improvise. This was usually punctuated by the blowing of raspberries. ã “Talking” on the phone. He would occasionally start making modulated voice sounds whensomeone else was talking. No words were distinguishable. It was like knowing someone wastalking in another room but not being able to make out the words. It could be rather disturbingwhen heard for the first time. ã Watching tv. The more action the better. ã Looking out the window. Although he was always alarmed by crows flying over and I wouldhave to get him away from the window before he would stop screaming alarms at me. ã Eating my plants :( ã Being the center of attention...no matter what was going on. Hopping up and down on the Nintendo controllers in the middle of an intense scene was a favorite. This was achieved bysitting on a shoulder to watch the action and slowly working his way down an arm while the player was engrossed in the game. Then, when the fingers were at their most active, hopping  across to the center of the controller and trying to get pettin's from the fingers. The attemptusually included shoving his head under the arch in the fingers and eventually biting the fingerswhen that got no good results, all the while stomping back and forth across whatever buttonswere not currently in use. ã Settling in to sleep on someone's shoulder after play or excitement. He would be likely to offer his grooming services at this time, preening a lady's hair or a gentleman's facial hair if it were present. The closer he could cuddle to your neck and ear the better. But woe betide those withshiny earrings.There are many more “Charlie stories” and not all of them are even mine to tell. But I need to stopnow I think.While I was home in Nova Scotia for my Grammy B's funeral in July of 2002, Charlie passed away. Imiss my little bird very much. There is nothing quite the same as the feeling of little birdie feettramping across your shoulders to find a comfy spot to settle in for a nap.
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