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  • We grew up in a flat and never had pets. In fact I was scared of animals and developed allergies. My wife Nina, who was raised in a house and on a ranch four thousand miles away, insisted our son should have one, just as she had. So we adopted an abandoned neighbourhood cat. Then, when I was away on a trip, an African Jardine parrot joined our household. Then two alley cats who had lived in my wife's grandmother's garden were added when she passed away. Then two Maine coons. To engage me, I was allowed to name them all after my favourite musicians. I took allergy shots so I could live with these interlopers. But I didn't interact with them. We kept a respectful distance.

    About a year after his arrival, Dylan, our parrot, whose cage was in the kitchen, would sing out whenever he saw me or heard my voice. Nina told me I had to pay attention to him. He only weighs 200 grams, but he has a sharp beak, so I was wary. I stood by the cage, he extended his claw, and when I put my hand out he jumped on, raced up to my shoulder, I panicked and he fell off. We tried a few more times, and became comfortable with each other. Two days later he had a second cage in my study, and two weeks later another in my office so he could go to work with me.

    I never imagined that I would form such an attachment. I take Dylan everywhere; I once leapt up and swatted a hawk who had him in his claws, and was about to abscond with him. I also became friends with our cats, who like to snuggle up to me when I read in a comfortable chair, and also sleep on our bed. After five years I no longer require allergy shots. All six pets live happily together although we are careful not to leave Dylan, whose wings are clipped, alone with his siblings for long periods.

    I was forty-seven when Dylan first extended that little claw of his. Just as you discover your heart has twice as much room for children when the second one is born, so too I found my heart's capacity expanded to accomodate our pets, in addition to wife, children, family, and friends. How brilliant that love is not a finite resource......

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