Ruler of the Roost
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Ruler of the Roost

By Maria Daddino


Pablo, my parrot, has reigned supreme in my home for the past 32 years—the unconditional and unchallenged ruler of the roost!
 My blue-fronted Amazon joined my family when he was just 6 months old, a birthday gift for my oldest son, Tommy. Pablo, however, had other ideas. He bonded with me and, by default, became mine.
Untamed and untrained, with most of his green feathers still unfurled, my baby Godzilla quickly took charge of training me.
 As a youngster, he exhibited many skills, the strongest of which was his ability to pick locks—starting with the one on his cage.
 Frightened one day when I came home to loud voices arguing in my supposedly empty house, I grabbed a large kitchen knife and marched upstairs to confront the intruders. Greeting me with a loud, surprised squawk was a very delighted parrot that had picked the lock on his cage. He had also turned on Tommy’s television, adjusted the volume to blaring, and was contentedly sitting in the remnants of the potato chip bag that he had ripped open.
 A padlock soon went on his cage.
 Pablo is a true gourmand, a veritable connoisseur of all cuisines. Mushrooms are the only things he detests, quickly flinging them from his cage. Pasta is his passion.
 Like all foodies, Pablo’s favorite room is the kitchen. When I added a sunroom filled with sunshine and flowers, it took me a year to realize that he had stopped speaking because he was absolutely miserable in the lush “jungle” that I had created for him. He wanted only to be back in “his” kitchen—and he has punished me accordingly for the last 30 years, speaking only intermittently whenever I crank up the Bose speakers.
 Pablo is as protective of me as he would be of his mate in the wild. When I donated furniture, Pablo perceived the delivery men to be threats and came to my rescue. He flew within an inch over their heads, screaming raucously, until he landed on top of mine. I’m sure that their families had a good laugh that night as the men described the crazy lady holding a big collie with one hand while a menacing parrot paced back and forth atop her head.
 Soon afterward, my sons brought me a sign that read: “Beware! Attack parrot on premises!”
 At age 2, my triplet grandchildren had their own way of communicating with each other. As they sat around my kitchen table mysteriously “talking” in their own special language, they appeared surprised to hear their unique sounds coming from behind them. All three heads turned in unison to stare at this interloper that had evidently fashioned himself the “fourth” triplet. Needless to say, Pablo was very pleased.
 He has been known to lull visitors into a false sense of security, waiting patiently until they utter those fatal words: “See, you’re wrong. He won’t bite me. He loves me.”
 And then he attacks—and with a beak that can apply up to 250 pounds of pressure per square inch, his bite is formidable. Also, he is a hook-beak, and that means, when bitten, you have to fight your natural instinct to pull away.
 Which is another reason why I keep Pablo in his cage whenever I have company.
 So what do I do with this inimitable character who has given me both love and laughs, and who will most likely outlive me? Well, Pablo’s in my will, and he’s going back to Tommy. And fortunately for all parties, Tommy’s wife, Sharon, loves him.

Maria Daddino lives in East Quogue and writes the “From Fourth Neck” column for The Southampton Press Western Edition.

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