Unusual Pet Companions

By: Chris Putman | Category: Pets | Issue: April 2021

Jeff Wetterman with his Congo African Grey Parrot, Gracie.

Jeff Wetterman with his Congo African Grey Parrot, Gracie.

While the typical cat or dog remains the No. 1 and two picks respectively for pet ownership, some people prefer to think outside of the litter box when choosing their household companion.  Among some of the most popular pets are fish, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs or birds.

Even though bears, cougars and alligators have lived in captivity and been domesticated in some conditions, their wild instincts are built in the breed and this can cause one of these animals to lash out with any inadvertent trigger.  Although some animals are illegal to own in confinement, some are just not welcome in an urban setting.

One Maryland family brags that they had what they deemed to be an uncommon pet, Harley.  The story goes that Harley was a potbelly pig they incorporated into their everyday life.  Known for their intelligence and sweet temperament, this species of pig is independent like a feline and affectionate like a canine.  As with most pigs, these porkers love to root around in the dirt, lay in the sun and enjoy being petted.  Potbellies weigh up to 100 pounds and live to be 20 years old.  If throwing a ball with the dog is on the to-do list, better make time for the pig too.  They love to play.

Harley spent most of his time in the house, but when outside, he got to be renowned friends with the neighbor’s dog.  Nothing like having a bestie. 

Pancake the rabbit watching Stacia Knight.

Pancake the rabbit watching Stacia Knight.

Although he enjoyed the young boys in the family, he was a little offended when they played too rough with him.  Who he truly admired was the lady of the house.  Harley was everlastingly devoted to nurse Debbie Greene, and there was nothing better than hanging with his lady.  He’d relax, lay up against the furniture and scratch.  Of course, Harley was potty trained and had impeccable manners.  He did have one vice, however.  He was a fussy eater.

“He would only eat salad with dressing,” Greene said.  “He would spit out the fruit or veggies if he found them getting a little too old.”

Bixby retired nurses aid Norma Young is thrilled when the doorbell rings and her son and daughter-in-law drop off the grandbaby for her to watch.  Yes, Young sits for the busy couple’s broken tort holland lop, a bunny named Pancake.  Now, this isn’t just any fur baby.  This rabbit has a real compulsion for watching TV and when he stays with grandma, she turns over control of the remote and lets him watch his favorite programs without limitation.  As it turns out, this hare has an appetite for home construction reality shows. 

“His favorite is ‘Fixer Upper,’ and once he hears the theme song, he’s all in,” Young said.  “He stretches out in front of the television immovable and becomes fixated on the big screen.  If there is an upsetting occurrence on the show, Pancake thumps in reaction, a rabbit’s signal of distress.  Once the broadcast is over and another comes on, he loses interest and moves on with other activities.”

There is only one thing he enjoys witnessing more than a home in ruins become refurbished in a record 30 minutes, and that’s to watch Oklahoma weather forecasts.  Not just any meteorologist will do.  Move over KOTV’s Travis Meyer, because it’s only Stacia Knight that turns this rabbit’s head.  He may be frolicking about the room, but the minute he hears her voice, all activity halts and Pancake is captivated.  Because his devotion is so robust, Knight featured Pancake and his crush on an evening broadcast.

One Tulsa bachelor, Jeff Wetterman, shares his condo with a chatty girl, but this chick is of the feathered sort.  Abiding Harvest Associate Pastor and Asbury Theological Seminary Master of Divinity Student moved past the typical dog and cat and headed straight for a member of the flock – no pun intended.

Gracie, Wetterman’s Congo African Grey Parrot, is a lifetime commitment.  Greys can live up to 50 or more years.  The most impressive attribute of the parrot family is their expansive vocabulary and the intelligence to use it in response to stimuli around them.  Gracie doesn’t just recite her hundreds of words and phrases at random, but instead, she makes comments in relation to what is happening in her environment.  When Wetterman first acquired the bird, he tried to teach her to sing, “Jesus Loves Me.”  She must have been a little hungry at the time because she changed the lyrics to what was on her mind.  The song began, “Yes, Jesus wants some cheese.”  But church hymns aren’t the only genre this feathered friend can belt out.  She also knows versions of a few rock tunes such as Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and the Carpenters’ “Sing.”

Expert in animal cognition Dr. Irene Pepperberg has done extensive research on the African Greys.  She claims they have the intelligence of a five-year-old and the emotional maturity of a two-year-old child.  This particular grey can manipulate locks and levers on her cage, and she’s keen on the most subtle of cues.  If Gracie sees Wetterman dress in a button-down shirt, she’ll respond, “Daddy go to work.”  If Wetterman dresses in a T-shirt and shorts, she’ll announce, “Daddy go for walk.”  Now, that’s no birdbrain. 

Gracie starts her day with a cheerful greeting and an order off the menu, “Good morning.  Gracie want veggies.  Gracie want water.  Gracie want cheese.”  After breakfast, she likes to get her morning shower out of the way and reports her delight with, “Gracie take a bath in her water bowl.  Feels good.”  No problem with this bird’s self-esteem.  She is quick to brag, “Gracie is a good bird.  Gracie is a pretty bird.”  Occasionally, she’ll try to tempt Wetterman into some wrongdoing.  When it’s time to go to work, Gracie will try to coax her manfriend into pulling a Ferris Bueller – the slacker who skipped school for a day in a movie titled after his name – with, “Daddy stay home with Gracie bird.”  When it’s time to hit the sack, she’ll end the day with, “Night, Night.  Sleepy Time.  Sweet Tomorrow.”  But most of all, she feels the need to express her love to her counterpart Wetterman with, “I love you so much!”  Gracie loves daddy.  Daddy loves Gracie.” 

Surely there’s a downside to owning a Grey.  Wetterman claims to look no further than the end of Gracie’s beak.  He says that she can bite HARD!  Nevertheless, no need to worry about this twosome’s relationship.  They seem to work out their differences with Gracie repenting of her sins.  When she sees she has hurt her partner, she’ll blurt, “Gracie bite daddy.  Ouchie.  Gracie sorry.”

Wetterman has a repertoire of amusing stories of his feathered roommate.  One goes like this.

“When Gracie was young, she used to throw her veggie bowl on the floor after she was finished eating,” Wetterman said.  “I think she enjoyed watching me clean it up.  In response, I would call her a ‘stinker.’ She often would repeat that to herself with glee, “Gracie is a stinker!”  Well, I was visiting my parents one weekend and brought Gracie with me. While my mother, Pam, was in the kitchen, she dropped a bowl of salad on the floor.  Gracie looked up and said, ‘Pammy is a stinker!’”

While the average resident would never put up with a roommate that doesn’t pay their share of the rent or clean up their messes, it’s the household pet that seems to get a pass simply by putting on sad eyes or providing a quick lick on the hand.


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Unusual Pet Companions

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