Feathered Friends are Part of the Family
Can your pet tell you in plain English when it’s time to go to bed or when it wants to go on an adventure? Donna Dabeck’s pet can…
Jazzy is a 10-year-old umbrella cockatoo with a vocabulary of 250-plus words. And she’s not shy about using it. When it’s time for bed, she’ll announce, “Night.” And if you don’t respond, she’ll say, “Night. Up.” And if there’s still no response: “Night. Up. NOW!”
Donna, the nursing recruitment and retention manager for NorthBay Healthcare and her husband, Rick Novosad, rescued Jazzy four years ago from a family that just couldn’t keep her.
Rick, a retired wine industry quality specialist, worked as an animal trainer at a theme park when he was in college and has a real affinity for birds. “He knew within an hour she was trainable,” says Donna. She wasn’t so sure how comfortable she’d be with a cockatoo, but now Donna can’t imagine life without her.
There were a number of time-outs in the beginning to get Jazzy to stop biting. But now she’s good with strangers, especially children, and loves to go on “adventures” to meet people. “Cockatoos are very social creatures,” explains Donna. “When I get out her harness and a special outfit, she gets very excited.”
Jazzy has been known to dress in NorthBay colors and special T-shirts and attend public events, posing with pride for the cameras.
Since her life expectancy is 70, Donna and Rick have had to make plans for her future. “She’s going to outlive us, and we don’t want her to be alone.” So last year they started looking for another bird. Along came George, another umbrella cockatoo.
“We had to take Jazzy to Modesto to meet George, and then we asked her if she wanted us to take George home. She said, “Yes!”
“When we put them to bed at night, each one has their own cage, but they’re side-by side, and we wrap the cages together,” says Donna. “As you walk away from the room, you can hear Jazzy say, ‘’Night, George.”’
But before anyone can go to bed, there’s the nightly ritual of singing, “The Hokey Pokey,” and dancing around the house. “It helps the birds get rid of some energy and start to settle down,” explains Donna.
It may look odd to an outsider, but then so do their walks through their Fairfield neighborhood. Rick has a bird on his shoulder, Donna has a bird on her shoulder, and their three cats, Cognac, Baucus and Franc, trail them. Yes, they really do walk their cats.“Rick trained them to come along, too,” says Donna, “and they seem to look forward to it.” The parade doesn’t stop there. Usually several neighborhood children join in the festivities.
Jazzy can do several tricks, and loves to entertain, says Donna. One trick is “The Eagle,” where she spreads her wings and screeches. George does his version, which Donna calls “The Screaming Eagle.”
They’re very smart creatures, she says, with the intelligence of a toddler. “That’s the blessing and the curse. When you take on a bird like this, you have a toddler for the rest of your life,” she says with a smile. But Donna doesn’t mind.
“Our house is full of laughter,” she says. “I don’t ever have to turn on the TV to be entertained.”