Chicken Feet - Part 3

Two weeks after our doubting Pastor and his wife visited our home for Sunday dinner, he approached us after the Sunday service, asking if he could have a minute of our time.

He looked uncomfortable as we settled ourselves in a quiet corner. “Well,” he cleared his throat, “well, you know, well, I guess I was a little hard on you two when we were at your house. Well, my wife says… well, we had a talk. I guess I may have joked around about your big white bird, and well, I just wanted to say that, well, I’m sorry”.

“I know it’s sometimes hard for people to understand how intelligent parrots are……”, my husband began, looking a little uncomfortable himself. Given his gentle nature, this was a confrontation, something he normally tried to avoid.

“Yeah, that’s it! Hard to understand!”, the Pastor leaped in, looking visibly relieved that whatever issue he and his family thought existed, was now resolved. My husband, thinking that this settled it, whatever this meeting had been, started to rise from his chair.

“Wait! I mean, well, please, have a seat just a moment longer because there’s a favor I have to ask………”, said the Pastor, holding his hand up. With a sigh, my husband resumed sitting. “Well, you know…,” the Pastor began again, déjà vu fashion. “Well, you know….my wife and daughter, well, they think it would do me some good to try to understand…understand….well, they wanted me to ask you if we could take care of your parrots, the next time you travel”.

Both men turned expectantly to me. I looked from one to the other, trying to buy time, formulating my very polite, but very assertive “no”.

“Oh, well, you know……well, as much as I find this to be a kind and generous offer, I, well, you know…………”.

“I know”, he enthusiastically leaped in interrupting me, “you’re wondering what that means. They’ll stay at our house, of course!”

“You have cats”, I pointed out. “If they haven’t grown up together, that’s not a good mix”.

“Problem solved! Our neighbors will take care of our cats!” He beamed, proud he’d anticipated my objection.

“They need fresh water at least twice a day”, I continued, “and they have a special diet which you need to be, well, let’s say religious about feeding. You can’t use cleaning agents – no sprays, no aerosol cans, no window cleaner, and, in fact, no perfumes, no air fresheners, no hair spray, no Pam-in-the-can-oil-stuff, no Teflon cookware, no candles, open drafty windows, no……………..”

He held his hand, crossing guard style. “Wait a minute, wait a minute here, now that’s an awful lot……”.

“You’re right. And I really do appreciate your thoughtfulness but…”, I said, rising from my chair.

“Now, okay, okay”, his voice lowered a bit, something I noticed he did when trying to placate in order to get his way. The talk with his wife must have been a doozey. “So, here’s the deal, I’ll do whatever it takes and I have to be honest with you, my wife really thinks I’ve got the hardest heart and head that she’s ever seen when it comes to animals, and she really thinks it will do me some good to spend time with your bunch, kind of like a one-on-one therapy thing, you know, so please, we’ll do our best, we’ll keep them safe, we’ll feed them whatever you want, but we’d really like the chance to baby……baby….I mean pet-sit them!”

“You would have to talk to them several times a day”, I threw in for good measure, sure this would demolish his little parrot sensitivity training scheme. “Talk to them. What exactly do you mean”, he asked suspiciously.

“You know, talk, like you’re talking to me. You’d have to ask, ‘how are you doing’, ‘are you pretty’, well, of course you do not say that to me, nor should you, but they are. You could also ask them questions like, ‘do you want some food’, ‘do you want some water’, ‘how is that food’, ‘oh, is that yummy’, ‘here, would you like a bite of this banana’, ‘oh, aren’t you a good bird’, you know, things like that. Relate. You’d need to relate. That’s why I really liked boarding them with my vet. His people are always talking to my parrots, there’s always something going on that they can watch……….”

“Yes,” he interrupted, “but aren’t they the ones who hurt your bird’s feelings”?

“I thought you didn’t believe he really COULD have his feelings hurt?”, I asked, arching my eyebrow for full impact.

After another 30-minutes of hashing and rehashing, his sincere repentance, and desire to overcome what he called a “hard heart” towards animals, we agreed they could pet-sit for our next trip but ONLY if they promised, if there were ANY problems, ANY issues, ANY unwillingness that they would bring our parrots in our vet’s boarding facility.

Two months later, we headed off to Europe, the birds headed over to the Pastor’s house. Every night, as promised, we phoned their home while the Pastor obediently held the phone up to our parrots, giving them a chance to hear our voice, muttering their sweet little “I love you” back to us. After a week, the Pastor seemed a little perturbed asking, “Why do they mumble to you and are totally silent to me?”.

”They’re adjusting to you. They know me. Are you talking to them?”, I asked.

“Well, yeah, you know, basics, ‘here’s your water, don’t bite me’”, he said.

“Ah. Uh-huh. Tell you what, tomorrow is Saturday and that’s normally when you practice your sermon for Sunday, right? So practice it with them. Give them a chance to really hear your best stuff – they’ll get used to your mannerisms a little more, your full attention won’t be on them, making them relax, just give it a try”. Muttering under his breath, the Pastor agreed, at least, to consider my suggestion.

At four in the morning, our Paris hotel room phone rang. Rang isn’t the best word. It chirped – shrilly. To my sleep-deprived state of mind, I thought it was one of my parrots in danger. With a pounding heart I finally located the light, while my husband grabbed the phone. He listened, looked puzzled, then shoved the phone at me saying, “It’s Pastor Chris and he isn’t making any sense. You try”.

I grabbed the phone, expecting the worst and heard, “He told me he had chicken feet! Isn’t that wonderful!! He REALLY does talk! He really looks upset! I really do believe you! Your big white bird told me he has chicken feet! You weren’t joking or lying!”. I let that one go.

After spending some time listening to our Pastor rejoice over what amazing creatures the Lord had created, I was finally able to hang up the phone, crawling back in next to my snoring husband. He stirred, mumbling, “It must have been one heck of a sermon he preached to them. Too bad we’re going to miss it”.


  1. There has to be an ending to this story. Did KoeKoe recover?
    — Carol    Jan 28, 11:30 PM    #
  2. Hi, Carol!
    KoeKoe continued for several years to inspect his feet, moan and proclaim “chicken feet”. I probably had a hand in his continuing this behavior as each time he did, I’d rush over to kiss his feet, something he thoroughly enjoyed. ;)
    — Sharon    Jan 29, 05:38 PM    #
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