Baxter, The Paraket

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Pets will do almost anything for a treat.

You can teach a dog to roll over, sit, spin around, speak, or lie down. Just give the pet a treat after it performs. My dog Chip would do his tricks for a vanilla wafer.

I now have a parakeet that responds to me. No, he doesn't roll over or sit for me but we are forming a bond and he anticipates what I am going to do. I say "he" because the experts say that if the color of the skin above the nostrils is purplish blue, then it's a male. In the female it is brownish. It is extremely difficult to tell the sex of a parakeet, otherwise.

So I'm calling Baxter a male. After much deliberation I named the bird Baxter because he was brought to me on my birthday in November in a cardboard Baxter box. Most of you don't know what a Baxter box is, but a few of you do.

Anyway, Baxter is beginning to accept and understand me, and I him.

Yesterday he was agitated, running up and down his perch, squawking unhappily, trying to get my attention as I sat in my recliner near his cage. He kept jumping from his perch to his feed cup, often sitting on top of it, then jumping back up to his perch where his mirror is. Looking at me.

"What's the matter with you?" I said out loud.

He squawked his unhappiness again, demanding attention.

Then I realized that I needed to feed him. He was probably almost out of seed. I had put only a small amount in his cup the morning prior.

Baxter's large cage has three small mirrors which he enjoys "talking" to. He also has a swing where he sleeps at night. And he has two silver bells that are his toys. Actually, they are a pair of earrings I found at Walmart. I wanted him to have a bell to jingle but I hadn't been able to find one until the Christmas season. There hanging among the Christmas trinkets were earrings fashioned with two tiny bells. They each had a tiny sparkly ribbon, too. They would be perfect, I thought. They were pierced earrings so they had a hook which I could hang on the side of Baxter's cage.

At first he eyed them suspiciously and wouldn't go near them. Then a couple of days later I saw him nibbling on one of the tiny ribbons. He would pull it toward him, then nibble it. He did that for a couple of days, then one day when he pulled the ribbon to him, the bell jingled. After that it was play time. Then he discovered a trick. He would climb above the hanging earring, lift it by the hook, then drop it to the cage floor.

Now it has become a daily thing, actually almost hourly thing, for the bird to lift the earrings, one by one, and fling them to the floor. He will wait for me to rehang them, then he goes through his routine again.

When I don't get up out of my chair and rehang the bells, he becomes agitated. He runs up and down his wooden perch, screeching. Pick them up, pick them up.

Baxter is a natural acrobat and will amuse himself by the hour, talking to his mirrors. He likes the television to be turned on and will chirp happily when the sound begins.

I've always said that you can teach any animal, a dog, cat, bird, horse, to respond if you give the animal a treat and use the treat as a reward.

The other night on David Letterman's animal tricks, I watched an overanxious Yorkshire terrier do her trick. Her owner, holding a treat before her while the dog salivated, asked the little dog who the president of the United States is. The dog whined with what sounded like "Oh Bomb ah." Twice the dog owner asked the question and twice it answered the question, unable to contain itself until it received the tantalizing treat. Another big dog did a trick by holding a glass of beer on its nose. Both dogs received a reward.

Pets do bring a lot of companionship to many people. My life has been better for them.

Of course, at times they are an inconvenience, a nuisance, but the rewards are greater.