R2 has a bird named Bootie. She is a cockatiel with adorable orange circles on her cheeks and the cute head tuft thing.
She is a notable bird, because she is <drumroll> TWENTY THREE YEARS OLD! A normal cockatiel lives in captivity for only 15-20 years. I think she has lived so long because R2 takes amazing care of her. She goes to the vet three times a week for subcutaneous fluid injections and she gets fresh food and water every day.
["When did R2 become a bird guy?" asked Daniel yesterday. "Well, when he was eight his parents said he could get a turtle, a gerbil, or a bird, and the rest is history," I said. "Cute," said Daniel. "Best decision of my life!" said R2 from somewhere.]
She is also the world’s biggest grump. Get too close to her cage and she will hiss. It’s a cute hiss that begins with a consonant like keh! God forbid if you try to touch her – she will bite your finger (ineffectually since she’s but a tiny bird). If R2 puts her on your shoulder, she’ll instantly fly away (in this case, her hiss sounds suspiciously like ick!).
Well, she’ll try to fly. But she’s 23, so she can’t fly. In fact, she can’t even walk, because she has gout (she takes allopurinol just like humans) and has painful feet, one of which is frozen. Her pathetic-ness is so toe-curlingly adorable I can’t stand it.
But she has eyes only for R2. She is hopelessly devoted to him – mero mero as we say in Japanese. Her love for him is deeper than the Mariana Trench. When he goes out of town, the vet can tell because she loses weight out of sorrow. When he says “Booter!” she chirps her cutest chirp. When his mom says “Bootie!” she goes “Keh!” When they alternate calling her name, she goes “Chyerp!” “Keh!” “Chyerp!” “Keh!” Awesome.
Except not awesome, because all I want to do is love her and instead I curl up into a rejected ball while she snuggles with him IN THE BED. I just want to have her hop on my finger and we twirl in a happy, cheepy whirl, but instead she glares at me and opens her mouth menacingly should my finger go within an inch of her face. Sigh.
So, R2 is gone for the week for business, and I am birdsitting her! This entails KEEPING HER ALIVE, first and foremost. This means keeping her happy and not stressed, which will lead to eating so she doesn’t lose weight, and I have to take her to the vet twice, where her weight is recorded as an official decree of how well I do. PRESSUUUUURE.
So. Here we are. The two of us birds. I remembered that R2 was excited a while back because Bootie’s weight was 69 grams, so this was my goal weight for her vet visit yesterday. I also remembered that R2 said she loves pretzels. I also also remembered that he said that birds are social eaters – probably an evolutionary adaptation to avoid consuming poisonous food? But it works even when humans are eating too. So if R2 eats bread, she’ll eat bread. If R2 eats Triscuits, she’ll eat Triscuits. If R2 eats whole-grain Wheat Thins, she’ll eat whole-grain Wheat Thins. And if R2 eats pretzels, she will nom the shit out of an entire mini pretzel – almost 3% of her body weight.
So I went and got pretzels at the market, came back, flicked the salt off of one of them, bit off a corner of one (so she could have a starting place – a pretzel is apparently too smooth and hard for her little beak to handle otherwise), held it through the bars of her cage a safe distance away, and bit into one myself.
At my first chomp, Bootie was like !!! and limped her way over and went Cookie Monster on that pretzel. And just like Cookie M., more of it got on my carpet than in her esophagus, but I was excited that she was eating. She ate so much of it that she came to the inevitable realization that the end of the pretzel was attached to something, and that something was ME, so she went PECK PECK at my finger, annoyed, and went over to her food dish and ate her regular food.
So began our pretzel binges. I’ve never eaten so many in my life. After that first time, I’ve had to eat at least four or five before she takes the bait and starts eating. She seems to respond to the CRUNCH CRUNCH noise so I have to generate this noise continuously, or she stops eating. To make crunch crunch noises constantly, I have to take many bites – in other words, eat many many pretzels. And since she is a super slow eater, it takes her five minutes to finish a pretzel, meaning I’m eating pretzels quickly and consecutively for five full minutes. I’m constantly thirsty because of the increased salt intake and they leave me less hungry for my proper meals, but it is worth it.
Before I took her to the vet yesterday, Daniel told me to feed her another pretzel before I went to get her weight up. “BUT MAKE SURE SHE DOESN’T POO!” Fuckitall. How was I going to do that?
I fed her a pretzel and she ate an entire one, so I thought it was in the bag. But then she pooed the biggest, most solid bird poo I’ve seen in my life, so I screamed “NOOOOOOO!” which may have scared her (great) and then when I reached in to grab her to put her in her travel cage her terror turned to fury and she struggled mightily (this would make a great Hyperbole and a Half post).
We got to the vet somewhat jerkily due to the way a SmartCar drives, but she seemed sleepy which is apparently a good sign according to her owner. When I got to the vet the people were like, “But…this looks like Bootie?” and I said “It IS Bootie. I’m the girlfriend,” and they looked at me like they had won the lottery and proceeded to talk my ear off. Everything about me was fascinating to them. Where did R2 and I meet? Did I like Bootie? What were my thoughts on Star Wars? Even my Nook was interesting – “Is that an I-PAD?!?” “How long does the battery last?!” “Can we touch it?”
The vet tech came out and I shouted, “HOW MUCH DID SHE WEIGH!” and she said “Who are you?” and the others said “This is JANET, the GIRLFRIEND,” and she said “OH!” and then said “She weighed 71 grams!” and I said “YEEEEES!” and the others said “Write that down! That’s great!” and I drove home very happy.
R2 was lukewarm. He said “I am afraid that I am being replaced!” and I texted back “By me or by her?” all the while thinking to myself: probably both akshully, and he texted back “BOTH!”
But it’s not all roses and puppies and double rainbows (What does it MEAN?) in this household. At night her cage is covered by a blanket, but it’s not big enough to cover all the way to the bottom. On Wednesday night, she was I think growchy that I was still up and reading with the light on until past her bedtime, because she came from her perch up top all the way down to the bottom of the cage (which is a struggle for her with her gimpy feet), hissed at me five times, and then climbed back up. I obligingly turned off the light.
And then last night, I noticed her sleeping in her food dish. This is very cute – it is, in fact, one of the rules of cuteness so I was thrilled. But R2 was concernicus. He asked if my apartment was hot, and hypothesized that she was trying to get away from her heat lamp. I offered to turn it off but he said it was fine.
[R2 gets back Monday night...I will be sad to lose my alone time with Booticus Maximus but I can't wait to witness their glorious reunion because it will be epic.]