If the Devil Kept Pets …


(Max, enjoying a stroll in the garden)

Max would have been a contender. Hang on, I’m going somewhere here so bear with me. You leave someone, you go your separate ways and over time the communication diminishes and then there’s silence. The past recedes and you look forward to the future. however sometimes the past comes back. Hard, and in unexpected ways. This was very much what happened the other day when I got a text out of the blue from Richard’s mum to let me know Max had died the day before. Cue a half hour chat on the phone to Richard to see what has happened.

Max, as it turned out had a really bad turn a few weeks back and had a lung infection of some sort. He’d seemingly recovered to a point though he has topped talking afterwards. Then a couple of days ago he started going downhill again fast. Richard and a neighbour got Max into the car and off to the vet. By then though Max was slipping away. The vet got his heart restarted but he wasn’t breathing on his own and the decision was taken to let him go rather than have him suffer further.

Apparently Max was quite old, something I had suspected, but Blue and Gold Macaws, like most other parrots are good at hiding their age so I couldn’t know for sure.They’re also good at hiding any illnesses until they get so severe it’s too late to do much to help them. Max at least had a good twenty years in a good home before he left this world.

In fact how Max came to be with us was a bit of a strange story. Max wasn’t even ours, but Richard’s granddad, who got hold of Max 20 years ago. At the time he was still working as an electrician and was doing jobs for an obnoxious millionaire who had Max as a status piece. Needless to say the poor bird was not treated all too well and fearing the worst, the millionaire’s wife somehow got Richard’s granddad to get Max out of there before something bad happened. From what I’ve been told Max was kept caged up all day and often threatened with a stick when t came to changing feed or sorting the cage out as he would bite otherwise (and no wonder if he was being treated so). This had a knock on effect in that he really didn’t trust many people. He got on well with Richard and drove pretty well anyone else away by attacking them so he soon became Richard’s responsibility.

Things went well for a couple of years and then Richard was hospitalised for a good few months. Max became depressed and ripped all his feathers out as is so often the case with these birds if they become stressed or depressed. They frequently bond with one person and see them as a mate of sorts. Hence I didn’t get along too well with Max. Oh we had fun and played games and whatnot, but if I tried to handle him it would come to grief. I have two scars on my arm where he once bit me down to the bone.

Max was a bit of an unusual parrot in may ways. Most people think of parrots and think of various toys and tricks they’ve seen them do. Not Max. Toys went unplayed and unchewed, instead preferring to trash anything within reach of his cage. Max had a cage but it had no doors. He would climb all over the outside see what was going on in the garden or the kitchen. Of course we promptly lost all the wallpaper round the cage, as well as the door surround and coving, but Max was happy and a lot freer than he was at his old place, and he liked being part of what was going on in the house.

He was a very social creature. Talkative too, though he rarely swore, and if he did he’d tell himself off. I kid you not. We’d hear “Oh fuck”, quickly followed by ” Bad! Bad boy. Baaaad parrot!”, and he was most definitely a parrot. You try call him anything else and he’d quickly correct you. “Er, parrot!” was the usual response. He’d say thank you at times when he had a treat  and the few words he did know he’d always knew how to use them in context. He was not merely mimicking. He also had airs and graces. If the phone went off he’d reply with a very posh “Hello”, and he loved sitting on his perch by the table when we had dinner and say “Ooh, that nice. Nice” until we gave him a piece of whatever we were eating.

He used to try and boss the dogs around too, when he was on the ground and roaming around the house. one dog would run away, the other would hold her ground and cuff him round the head as she was an old madam. Max would quickly run off and take over one of the dog beds and then say “Goodnight Max” and nestle down for a sleep.

Max also loved the garden, the pond in particular. He’d watch the fish and try and stroke any that would come to the surface with his beak. Pretty brave considering he liked water about as much as Taz. Richard would have to take Max into the shower with him to get him clean. Ironic given parrots come from rainforests.

Max had one more surprise for us. Ten years ago, Max had a bit of a funny turn when Richard and I were on holiday. Fearing the worst when we got back, Max was on the cage floor and very red in the face. We were about to call the vet out when I discovered what Max was doing. Max was laying an egg! Yup, Max was a hen, though any attempt at calling max ‘she’ was quickly rebuked with ” I’m a parrot” or “Good/Bad boy”. Seems I wasn’t the only gender non conforming creature in that house!

Max was a sod a times and a mischievous imp at others and I have to say I’m still getting used to having meals and not having a voice hint and hint until I gave him something of what I was eating. Richard and I often joked that we didn’t want kids because we had Max, for Max had the intelligence, vocabulary skills and general demeanour of a three year old child, one that would never grow up and that rang true, right until the end as Richard told he he’d get home and he’d have Max on his shoulder, being cheeky and headbanging away until he fell ill.

Rest well Max, wherever you are now you’re back with Rosie and Candy, and probably trying to chase them about again.


(One cheeky bird, having escaped from the shower)


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