A number of years ago I was overseas to do a dog breeding and stayed with some very dear friends of mine who also had several beautiful macaws. Two were house birds, but the majority of their flock lived in a lovely outside aviary. At the time they also had four Leonberger dogs. The macaws would occasionally entertain themselves by throwing nuts to the dogs when they would come up and ask for them which I found to be entertaining as well, at least for awhile.
Since I was living with my friends for several months while waiting for my Leonberger girl, Ammulett, to come into heat, I would call home every couple of days to check in. As soon as I dialed the phone, the birds would throw a walnut at in my direction. Well, it was an odd sort of thing for a bird to do but I was in a different country and all, so I just ignored it. Maybe Belgian macaws did this sort of thing.
When I next called, it was a couple days later and this time several walnuts where thrown at my feet, then more tosses, coming ever closer until one popped me right in the head. I’m here to tell you a walnut is no small missile when thrown with vigor. I screeched in surprise and told them to behave. But no, apparently I wasn’t playing the game right and they lobbed another at me, finishing the throw with an unbelievably, eardrum shattering scream. The kind you see in the Looney-Tunes cartoons where your ear trumpets out the other side of your.
“What in the hell is that?!” my partner on the other end of the phone wanted to know. “Just where are you?”
"I’m in Belgium with these crazy nut-throwing macaws…”
Before I could explain further they screamed again, together this time. I couldn’t hear a thing, neither could the person on the other end so to keep them occupied, I threw a nut back.
It worked for a minute. But you see where this is going…if I didn’t throw one back, they would scream more. So I’m trying to carry on a conversation whilst throwing the walnuts back to the birds, after they threw me one…I don’t have that kind of focus. In this one phone call I was trying to hear and carry on a conversation while keeping my eyes open for the missile so I could throw it back and keep my ears from ringing. Then I had a brilliant plan.
I started bringing a handful of nuts with me because sometimes they would scream BEFORE they tossed the walnut. Then, I just brought the bowl of walnuts into the living room and started tossing once I dialed. If I did it fast enough, they would be quiet and every once in a while they would throw one to the dogs, who had also figured the game out.
Now I’m not sure, but I think I heard one of the birds saying to the dogs, ‘See, I told you it would takes four times to train a human. They’re really not as smart as you think.’