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  • I'll admit, it was an ill-conceived idea, poorly researched and not properly understood. Rachel's two dogs were living with us, and she'd had them since she was 12 years old. I decided one day that I'd like to get an interesting pet, and she humored me. I was thinking some sort of reptile. So we went to the pet store (certainly not the kind of pet store that would sell puppies, we would never frequent such a place, as all puppies in pet stores come from puppy mills, although we had yet to adopt Tally and fully understand this).

    We walked in to the pet store, and he immediately caught our eye. The owner explained that he was a 15 year-old African Grey parrot who was mutilating himself by plucking his feathers out, but would certainly stop once he came home with us. We went home, did a couple of Google searches, and went back the next day to buy him. We had no idea what we were doing.

    It turned out that parrots take a lot of effort to care for. We named him Homer, and found out that he was incredibly smart. He was also quite fond of destroying anything and everything he could get his beak on. Although the pet store owner told us that he would probably not talk, Homer surprised us continuously with all sorts of sounds. Unfortunately these are the only ones I have recorded. After he grew comfortable with us, he started whistling and making some other funny sounds. Soon enough, he was saying "Hello" when we'd come in and "Bye-Bye" when we'd grab our keys to leave the apartment.

    Then came the kicker. We were sitting around one day, and out of nowhere we hear "Good Shabbos". Of course, I was really confused as it wasn't even the Sabbath! Then he said "L'Chaim!" Only in Brooklyn do you get a 15 year-old parrot who turns out to be a neurotic Jew - he fit right in to our family and the feather plucking made much more sense now.

    We hadn't even heard his favorite phrase though - quite clearly in a southern woman's accent he would ask us periodically, "Do you want some pie?" Of course he never delivered any pie, but it was interesting to try to reason through the Jewish Brooklyn side and the Southern Belle side of Homer. He was a complicated soul.

    I'll finish with this mental image. Homer had most likely always had his wings clipped. But we didn't want to restrict him, so we let them grow back in. However, just because he could fly didn't mean he had any idea how. He would often get spooked, find himself suddenly in mid-air, and try to figure out what the hell to do. He also had a couple of incidents flying down our block in Brooklyn, just barely missing cars, and flying around the fields of Prospect Park. He only made it another 5 years with us, but we made sure he enjoyed them.
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