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Our family parrot, Pepper, has changed  his residence.  Pepper will be 49 years old in August.  He became a part of our family when he was six months old.  I used to be his favorite person – actually, it was probably a “tie” between me and my Mom; we both could do just about anything with him, and he was content.  He would nuzzle up to me, and he imitated my voice probably the most, although he picked up on my Mom’s too. He had a huge vocabulary at one time.  When I used to sit in my Dad’s lap to “help” him do the NYT crossword puzzle each day, Pepper would frequently sit on my shoulder and “preen” my hair – always very gently.  I also remember that on one of those times, he reached down to my Dad’s shirt pocket, and picked out of it the pencil part of his Cross Pen and Pencil Set that he always had with him.  Dad did the puzzle in ink, so the pencil was clipped to his pocket.  Pepper took it out and proceeded to bend and twist it into a very weird shape.  Dad wasn’t aware it was happening – but when he heard me giggling, he looked up on my shoulder and saw his destroyed pencil.  Well, Pepper and I thought it was funny!  Daddy eventually saw some humor in it too. 

After my Dad retired, he and Mom moved to New Hampshire from Connecticut, where we had lived since 1963.  Pepper of course went with them.  None of us kids were in a position at the time to take care of him as he needed.  Since Pepper loved my Mom so much, and tolerated Dad pretty well, he was very happy.  After a few years, my parents started to do a lot more traveling, and about each year they would spend the month of March in Madeira – the Portuguese island off the west coast of Africa.  Because boarding Pepper during those long periods was hard on him, my eldest brother John, his wife Kay, and their two children Christopher and Susan, took Pepper to live with them in Massachusetts.

Although tmy brother’s family really liked Pepper, Pepper just didn’t get along very well with any of them, and he started becoming quite belligerent.  He could bite very viciously, and really do some damage, and it got to the point where he simply could not be handled by anyone anymore.  After Ashley and I, along with Josh and Matt moved down to Virginia, we told John and Kay that we would love to have Pepper with us, if they could bring him down to us..  So, shortly after we moved, Pepper became an integral part of our branch of the family.  That was in 1986.  He never did warm up to me again, but he early on developed a good relationship with our son Josh.  I was, and still am, a little hurt by Pepper’s rejection of me, but I still loved him, and he still laughed all the time, and sounded just like me!  Over the following years – through six different parsonages, and our retirement home here in North Carolina, Pepper adapted quite well to each new surrounding, but still had a rather intense dislike of me.  Josh, however, he was quite close with.  He was the only one who could pet him and hold him.  We told Josh, that whenever he was settled in his own home, that he could take “custody” of Pepper.  That day was Wednesday.  He and his fiancée, Sarah Beth, moved recently into their own home in Asheville, and after finding the perfect spot for him in their new place, Josh called Tuesday and asked if he could come get him the next day.  He came the next day, and we got Pepper’s “travel” cage  – a much more compact cage that is easy to get in the car for trips – got it cleaned up and sterilized, got him moved over into it, then cleaned up his much larger “home cage” spic ‘n’ span.  This cage is too large to fit into his car, so he took Pepper in his car, and Hubs and I followed behind with the big one pushed as far into the back of our PT Cruiser as possible, then bungee corded the back gate door as tightly down as we could – the cage didn’t quite fit in the back, but it fit well enough for the 25 mile trip to Asheville and Pepper’s new home.

Normally, when Pepper is riding in a car – for no matter how long the trip – he hangs upside down from the top of the cage bars – for the entire trip.  When we got to Josh’s house, we asked him how Pepper did on the trip, and he said, he did fantastic!  Not only did he stay upright on his perch or swing, but he even ate a bit, and mumbled his secret bird language to Josh.  He apparently knew he was going somewhere that he would like!  When we got the big cage all set up again, Josh transferred him over, and he looked and sounded as pleased as punch.

Josh has promised to spend time with him every day, retraining and retaming him, which will be entirely possible for Josh.  Sarah Beth also likes Pepper, and he seems to respond positively to her voice.  As happy as I am for all three of them, I can’t help but feel a bit weepy.  I already miss him.  Even though he didn’t like me any more, he still laughed whenever I did – especially when I was on the phone – and would say a few of the things that he used to.  He loves the voices of children, and he was live-in entertainment for visiting young people.  We would give him some peanut butter on a spoon, and Pepper held the spoon very correctly in one foot, while eating the peanut butter from it!  He also would do a flip around his perch to get a bird treat.  He was just plain good company to have around, but we knew he wasn’t as happy as he could be, and he deserved the chance to have a person around him he thought of as a real friend.  Josh is the one.

There’s an empty space in the corner of our living room now.  The room is quieter, and nobody says “g’bye-bye” when he hears us rattle our keys to leave the house.  I have loved Pepper from the very first day he joined our family.  I always will.  There’s a chance Josh might even be able to tame him enough that he will accept me again.  That would be wonderful.  He really isn’t all that far away – just about 25 miles, but it will be a long time, I think, before either Ashley or I can walk into or through the living room and see that empty space without shedding a tear.

Since there’s a good chance Pepper will be around for as many as 30 more years, I am quite certain that we’ll see him a whole lot more; but at the same time, I know it will never be the same.  Thanks for the memories, Pepper – the fun, and laughter, the joy of just having him as part of our household.  We wish you peace and happiness in your new home with two people who you love and who already, most definitely, love you back.  And, until we meet again, keep laughing!  As long as you do that, it will always bring to all of us, and to you, enough. . . 

Josh giving Pepper a "skritch."

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