Saturday, September 02, 2006

Meet Smokey

My African Grey Smarty Pants

I was out with a small group of friends the other night telling stories about Smokey and realized "Smokey" stories tend to be good ice breakers at parties. People are always charmed by and interested in talking parrots. Then I thought not only are the stories great for awkward social moments but are a rich source of blogging material!

Like all the pets I have now, Smokey came to me from other owners. I already had a cocker spaniel, amazon parrot and a cockatiel when a friend found out he was allergic to Smokey. He got him from an ad in the paper. A family with kids needed to find a home for him since the kids terrified the bird and he was pulling out his feathers. He was almost completely bald when Dennis saved him from that situation. It was 3 months later when Dennis sadly had to give him up and I just couldn't stand seeing him go to a pet store. I've lost track of how long I've had him but it's well over 10 years.

The first week I had him I woke in the middle of the night to a deep man's voice in the livingroom saying "hello - hello" then a sound which I choose to think is a burp but other people think it's another even less sociable sound. I flew out of bed thinking someone had broken in then realized the voice and sound were coming from the covered cage.

That same week he watched me give meds to the cocker and by the end of the week when I picked up the bottle he said in my voice "come here - c'mon". As the dog swallowed the drops Smokey said "good girl" exactly like me! I honestly couldn't believe what I heard but from that moment on he never failed to say it when he saw the medicine bottle come out.

I've lost track of everything he says. The words I try to get him to say he never will pick up but he'll always try out what he hears me say to the other animals.

When I'm home I do have a favorite swear word I'm sure would shock people who look at my white hair and think it's not possible I use it. It's the "F" word and I say it with great gusto when I'm alone and watching the political news on TV. One day I heard Smoke trying to form a new word and couldn't figure out what it was but it was becoming clearer as he kept practicing. It finally dawned on me it was THAT word. Thank god he stopped trying when I stopped using it - I had visions of guests listening to the "burp" sound followed by the "F" word.

Smokey has a built in earthquake meter. If he falls off his perch and starts fluttering at the bottom of the cage I know he's felt an earthquake somewhere in California. The first time it happened it was the exact moment of the Northridge quake in southern California and we're up here in the north. Since then I always note the time and after he's calmed down I look up the US Geological Survey site to see where there was an earthquake. He's tracked with an earthquake every single time...if only he could give me a clue BEFORE the quake hits!

At night when I feed the birds before bedtime he will finish his meal first and start quietly saying "good night" because he wants to be covered and have the lights out. When I don't react "good night" gets progressively louder until he finally lets out a blood curdling scream to get my attention. There are moments I know he's smarter than I am......


At 12:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great Story Saz!!! I look forward to many more Smokey stories.

(now that I'm Blogger-beta, there is a problem that isn't letting me comment on non-beta blogs - GRRRR)

At 1:26 AM, Blogger Connie and Rob said...

I love your story about Smokey! He is quite a character.

I have two cocker spaniels and a lovebird. They are definitely in charge at our home. Great fun to have around.

Take care,

At 4:30 AM, Anonymous Alan G said...

I had no idea you had a parrot. I love parrots. Sounds like Smarty Pants was really stressed by the time he was rescued. He sure looks healthy and handsome in the photo.

That is very interesting about the earthquake sensitivity. I have never heard or read of anything such as that with regards to parrots.

I always wanted a parrot of some type but with the frequent moving due to my job I wasn't comfortable with owning one. Then when I did finally settle into one location I didn't want to get one knowing it would out live me in all probablitlty. Then who knows what kind of situation the parrot might get thrown into.

You noted "at night when I feed the birds"....what other birds do you have?

At 8:29 AM, Blogger Joy Des Jardins said...

What a hoot! Smokey must have you laughing all the time. I know I'd be dying to see what would be coming out of his beak next. Of course, I can see your concern about the profanity...but, it would be funny. I'm amazed at what they can do with their voices. He's a beautiful bird SAZ....and, smart as they come.

His fortelling that's pretty cool....OR a little scarry. (I have a daughter who lives in CA)

This was a fun post SAZ!

At 8:52 AM, Anonymous Terri said...

What a great story, Saz! Smokey is just gorgeous and I can't believe HOW intelligent he is. Just amazing!
I laughed like crazy about him picking up your bad word....kinda like a child, huh? lol

At 10:49 AM, Anonymous Susan said...

What a treat! Smokey sounds like quite the character. It's soo funny that he trained you to not say cetain words.

I can't wait to see more about the rest of your critters. (Yes, that's a hint!)

At 10:57 AM, Blogger saz said...

Peggy - Hmmm Beta Blogger not looking so good?

Connie and Rob - Thanks for your visit. I've ALWAYS had cockers - they're so sweet!

Alan - I also have an Amazon parrot and 2 male cockatiels - all rescues. You could always get an older parrot which is what Smokey was. Can't tell you how often I hear of people wanting to get rid of them. They're alot of work but worth it.

Joy - Yep the earthquake thing was kind of spooky in the beginning!

Terri - Parrots are like having permanent toddlers in the house.

Susan - I also babysat another Grey who REALLY picked up everything I said in an instant - she was one I had to be very careful around - great stories about her too...later.

At 11:06 AM, Blogger Jay said...

I love Parrots. When I lived in San Antonio I used to go to PetsMart and visit a big white one every once in a while. I think she recognized me after a few times. She'd walk right up to me and turn sideways. She liked to be scratched behind the ears. haha

Somebody finally bought her. I hope she has gone to a good home.

At 11:12 AM, Blogger saz said...

Jay - Sounds like "yours" was a cockatoo and they're wonderful - very affectionate and sweet. I've fallen in love with my share of them too.

At 11:18 AM, Anonymous naomi dagen bloom said...

saz, terrific tale. you prove what's so nifty about blogging by getting me interested in your remarkable parrot even thought am totally a cat person.

smokey's words in the deep, male voice--new approach to protection for women living alone...if he could just answer the phone. -naomi

At 11:59 AM, Blogger saz said...

Naomi - I love cats too! Had them before I ever had the birds. Now I just have to enjoy my friends' cats.

At 12:21 PM, Blogger SzélsőFa said...

What an interesting story!
I liked the part when you describe your fear of potential guests hearing potential blurps and the f word. Bwah-hah-hah.
Smokey is lucky to have you as a new owner!

At 1:19 PM, Blogger Betty said...

Great story. I love parrots. I am amazed at the vocabularies they develop.

At 11:15 PM, Blogger Dick said...

Thanks for your visits to my site & for listing me in your blogroll. We live in somewhat similar towns, although I by choice have moved a bit north of Seattle.

My neighbors have a small parrot that is quite a character. Often if they will be away just a couple of days I'll take care of feeding her (Jade is her name) and they do the same for me with Huggy when I go away on short trips. But we hope the two never get together for the same reasons you don't have cats anymore.

At 7:19 AM, Blogger mjd said...

What a fun post, I am visiting from Jay, The Cynical Bastard. I laughed about your F-word comment. I can relate to that. When I say the word, people will look at me in disbelief not able to believe what they heard. Having gray hair can be such fun.

At 11:24 AM, Anonymous Maria said...

My daughter has a conure who loves to say! Since it is not too clear, she just tells visitors that Fuzz is saying, "Thank you."

Mary over at Momma's Corner also has a grey and I have two. That is almost enough to form our own African Grey Bloggers Club.

Below are the URL's for three of my posts about our birds. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed hearing about Smokey.

At 11:35 AM, Blogger F&W said...

Our dog sitter has 2 African Greys. Though she is 4 apartments away, I love listening to them chirp, squeal and squawk in the morning when I'm just waking up. I told her this once and she was mortified to know I can hear them all the way down the hall. I guess one becomes de-sensitized to how much noise they make? I reassured her that it was not likely someone would complain because every resident between her apartment and ours has a dog! Bark, bark, bark...

Brent's grandparents have over 20 birds (they are their special "babies") and we get to hear funny bird stories all the time. They have such personalities!

Keep up the funny Smokey stories. :o) This was fun!

At 6:32 PM, Blogger Chancy said...

Saz I loved reading about Smokey. I am fascinated by birds that talk like that. And he even mimics the tone of a voice. Incredible.

Once, some years back. we went out to dinner with some friends we had not seen in a while. We stopped by their house first. rang the doorbell and heard a "baby crying". You guessed it. It was their parrot.

At 12:20 PM, Blogger Ginnie said...

Saz, what a wonderful Smokey really that handsome or does the picture enhance him? You can tell he's loved and I'm so glad he has all his feathers back. Good for you.

At 12:47 PM, Blogger goldenlucyd said...

I loved this post. We don't have birds in our menagerie but I'd vote for a grey if I knew I wouldn't get stuck cleaning the cage! Maria's parrot stories are a complete delight and I hope everyone follows her links to read them.
Please, please keep these great stories coming. We love you!

At 4:13 AM, Anonymous Claude said...

Thanks for a great post, Susan! I can just imagine a party at your place with people shocked at hearing your parrot burp and use the F word :)))
But how useful to have an earthquake detector at home! Animals are always said to be smarter than people in that respect.

At 10:51 AM, Anonymous Sahara said...

Wow, I found your site via Naomi, to inform you that I will post the photos of our shoot, and was totally caught up in your post on Smokey. I love parrots and Smokey is cool!

I'm not surprised that Smokey can sensor a quake. Birds and animals are more attuned than we, to atmospheric shifts. Can you imagine if they had to ask US what was going on?

Days before Katrina hit, my aunt called––she was in Mississippi––to tell me she saw various animals on the move. I reminded her of what she told me as a child; "when you see the animals leave, you leave too."

Well, she packed her valuables and left. Her house is gone, but she is happy, living up north with her sister, and contemplating buying an RV, with her insurance.

Your blog is wonderful, and I will visit often.

At 7:38 PM, Anonymous Rhea said...

I have heard these African Greys are extremely intelligent. I would love to see one 'in action'.

At 11:55 PM, Blogger Maya's Granny said...

I had friends with an African grey in the mid 70s in Fairbanks. They covered his cage so he wouldn't be stressed when they moved. After he had been in the new house for about an hour, they took the cover off and he looked around and exclaimed, "Son of a bitch!" which was the first time they had heard that from him.

One day I will have to tell some stories about the Amazon parrot I had at that time.

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