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My family purchased our 4-month old African Grey on June 18, 2017. He had little black eyes, a short red tail, and the tiniest of chirps. Noah cuddled in my lap the entire car ride home, and I was immediately in love with this tiny creature who weighed less than one pound.
Over the next few weeks, Noah began to distance himself from me as he grew closer with my mother and my sister. He no longer wanted to cuddle or give kisses, and he began running and hiding in the back corner of his cage when I approached him. I'm not sure if it was his connection between me and being taken to a new environment, or if he sensed any sort of nervousness off of me, but my relationship with the tiny bird I loved and chose was deteriorating before my eyes.
It all came to its culmination when I needed to take care of him, by myself, for a week. The week was filled with tears, frustration, squawks, and more than one nip as he and I struggled to find a balance between handling him and allowing him to be independent. I tried picking him up with gloves; they scared him. He refused to come out of his cage and play if I was the one to open the door. I was confused and unable to understand why this bird who had cuddled me for so many hours on the trip home could now despise me. I was constantly phoning my parents, begging for help. I felt like this tiny creature with a walnut-sized brain was plotting against me, and I didn't know how to convince him that I was on his side. I remember just wanting to curl up on the couch, feeling flustered and defeated.
Still, I persisted, taking him out of his cage as much as possible, playing with him, and, if all else failed, just reading to him from whatever book I was in the middle of. (If I remember correctly, it was "The Hobbit" during that week.)
Slowly, the trust he and I initially had began to reappear. The Noah I had pet and comforted was coming back to me, however tentatively. I held my breath every time he stepped up on my hand, or allowed me to give him a kiss. Each day, I was rewarded with another small step of trust: be it him climbing from his cage and walking over to me, excited to say hello, or even just listening and responding to commands. We now had a relationship built on respect and understanding, and I was excited to push the boundaries and see how much he'd return to me. In response, he gave me the best gift of all. I was present when he spoke his very first words.
I know I will never be Noah's favourite human, and I've come to accept that. The role of the favourite goes to either my sister or my mother, both of whom dote on him like a child and receive almost endless love from him. But now, when I go home for the weekends to visit, Noah immediately steps onto my hand, perches on my shoulder, and allows me to give him cuddles and kisses, making me feel like his favourite person even just for a little while.
He'll still let me know if he's had enough of my affection. But that's okay. We've created a strong bond that will last more than one too many pets or kisses. After almost one year together, I have been rewarded with a friendship and a better understanding of the creature I carried home before he could even speak.