My husband and I bought a pet parakeet.
Jean Valjean–Johnny for short. He’s about four inches tall and boasts mint green and lemony-yellow plumage. Some would say he’s jumpy and fearful; I’d prefer to think that he’s merely discerning about his environment and the company he keeps. We have yet to earn his trust.
I’m accustomed to bribing animals with food. At least it works with dogs. Cheap creatures. Give them a hamburger, and they’ll give you the world, if they can figure out how. But Johnny isn’t swayed by food. Johnny isn’t swayed by ANYTHING.
I’ve tried singing to him.
Whispering to him.
Standing on my head.
He won’t be moved.
Something about Johnny is inherently sad. Bred in captivity and shipped to a tiny Pacific island for sale in a pet store, he’ll never know what it feels like to fly free. If, heaven forbid, he does get loose, he won’t know how to take care of himself in the wild.
I have a feeling that Johnny would become a brown tree snake’s lunch here–or, more likely, fly into a car–before he could open his beak to sing anything poetic about freedom.
So even if I set him free, he’d still be captive to his own limitations.
When my husband and I bought Johnny, we rescued him from a pet store but separated him from all his comrades. Now he’s alone, with nothing but a couple of inept humans caring for him, and a cheap plastic imitation of a parakeet on a spring to keep him company.
He’s doomed to live a sort of depressing life. It’s like, I look at that bird and think, his story doesn’t have a happy ending.
He’ll get used to us. Realize we’re not going to kill him (on purpose) and sit on our fingers. According to petbudgie.com (and many other reliable sources), his human owners can provide socialization and emotional fulfilment.
Johnny might even learn to talk.
But he’ll still be a caged bird, and I’ll always know it, even if he doesn’t and–maybe because birds literature have always been so symbolic of ambition and freedom–there’s something almost sad about that.
The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom
Excerpt from “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou