By: Jessica Burnette, Staff Writer
If you’ve been to Coleman Farm Supply, you most likely noticed the bright green parrot atop her cage, chatting it up with all customers willing for conversation. This Blue Front Amazon Parrott is affectionately known as Sweetie.
Judy Coleman, the owner of Coleman Farm Supply, reminisced of when she got Sweetie as a baby. Judy had numerous birds for sale and always sought breeders who hand-fed them to ensure that they didn’t bite. Even though hand-fed, Sweetie came in with the reputation as a biter. Rather than pushing her off for her bad reputation, Judy decided to build a relationship with her slowly. Judy would work around the store, and she would make noises to Sweetie as she passed by her cage. Over time, Sweetie began mimicking Judy’s noise and interacting with her. When Judy felt comfortable with her, she offered her hand for Sweetie to climb onto. Judy explained that when you offer a bird your hand, you have to be careful never to jerk back from them. This behavior teaches them they are in control and promotes biting. Judy and Sweetie had bonded, and even though she was still a biter, she never offered to bite Judy.
Years later, a lady came in asking about a bird. She explained that she was going through a depression after losing her husband and her daughter leaving for college. Judy knew that Sweetie was the perfect companion for her. Although she was hesitant to take her with her bad reputation, the two also bonded over a short time. Unfortunately, two years later, when her daughter returned from college, Sweetie became a bit jealous and took every opportunity to live up to her bad reputation. The lady called Judy explained the situation and asked if she would be willing to buy her back. Of course, Judy jumped at this opportunity!
When she went to pick her up, Sweetie immediately recognized her. Judy fondly remembers how Sweetie was hanging all over her, holding on to her hands and arm, turning upside down, and rubbing all over her – just cackling with emotion and excitement. Judy explained that she would never have imagined a bird would recall the bond they shared, but it was apparent that Sweetie did!
Sweetie is now 21 years old. Judy has had her at the store her entire life, other than her two years away. Sweetie’s vocabulary has developed as she would echo most short phrases Judy would say while working. Judy explained that she has always stressed to her family, employees, and customers that they should not teach her things that you don’t want her repeating since she is around children so frequently. Judy also added that while she sometimes bird talks or babbles, she understands much more than anyone realizes. Judy recalled a time when she was working putting up inventory, and Sweetie repeated over and over, “What are you doing, huh?”. She said that finally, she was so annoyed she turned at her and snapped, “I’m working!”. Judy said Sweetie never asked again, so she was sure she knew what she meant and that she was busy. Some other phrases Sweetie enjoys sharing are “Polly want a cracker”, “Good morning”, “Come here”, “I’m a pretty bird”, and my favorite is when she calls their cat, Molly, “Kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty!”, which is most often followed by a “Meow!” from Sweetie that sounds exactly like a cat!
Before I left from my visit, Judy offered to let me watch her bathe Sweetie. As Judy misted water from a spray bottle above Sweetie, she began to laugh and cackle as she would fluff herself, spread her wings, dance about in the mist. Judy would talk to her and say, “Oh – it’s straight from the Amazon,” and Sweetie soaked up every drop of the “Amazon mist” and Judy’s attention and affection.
If you have a critter or know a critter that should be featured in our new column, Critter Connection, please email Jessica@thewoodrufftimes.com.