Posts Tagged ‘Detroit News’

Dr Don’s Amazon Parrot Gets Immortalized In The Detroit News

May 2, 2012

I never would have thought in a million years that my “little girl” would have been the subject of an article in a newspaper by a famous columnist…  But she is and here’s how it happened:

I was at the Michigan Humane Society’s annual Bow Wow Brunch, Sunday, thinking how cool it would be to have Pepper  on the cover of the Humane Society’s annual calendar. That was one of their auction items. Bidding hit ten grand and I knew it wasn’t going to happen.

Pretty soon, it was my turn to speak. My goal had been to tell some cute and funny stories about my late parrot, Pepper. I have 30 years of material, but for the first time in my life, I just couldn’t do it. We lost her just a couple of weeks ago and the pain is still too fresh. I thanked the Humane Society for all their help with Pepper and sat down. I was kind of embarrassed I’d lost it in front of the Motor City’s movers and shakers.

Detroit News columnist and good friend Neal Rubin was in the audience and watched me come unraveled. He came up to me, later, and offered to tell the stories I couldn’t and give my little girl more immortality than a calendar cover ever could. I owe him my sincere thanks.  Complete article:

Pepper Getting Scratches (Dr Don)

By Neal Rubin, Detroit News

Pepper liked to nest beneath the silverware drawer. That would have been a good story to tell — how she’d fly right over the forks and spoons, land on the back of the open bin and ease herself down.

Or the neon sign story. That’s a good one, too, says Dr. Don Carpenter, and he probably would have told it if only he’d been able to choke the words out.

His plan was to start with the sentimental stuff, slide into a few yarns about Pepper and leave everyone feeling good. He couldn’t have asked for a better audience: Upward of 500 animal lovers, crowding a Dearborn Inn ballroom Sunday for the Michigan Humane Society’s annual Bow Wow Brunch.

Bob Lutz, the former vice chairman of General Motors, talked about spaying and neutering and had everyone laughing. (“It may come as a shock to you, but tomcats are not monogamous.”) Carpenter is entertaining for a living — he’s not really a doctor, but rather the morning host on WYCD-FM (99.5) — and he’s done this a thousand times. But how can you bring down the house when you still feel so rotten you can hardly raise your voice?

The way it turned out, Carpenter barely made it through his thank-yous to the Humane Society, a bird expert at the Detroit Zoo and the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine, who combined to give Pepper her last four months. And he only managed that because newscaster Guy Gordon, the emcee, wrapped an arm around his shoulder and kept him going.

We get attached to dogs and cats and horses. To an outsider, birds seem almost ornamental. A canary has a pretty voice, but does it act any different from all the other canaries?

Pepper was a Red-lored Amazon parrot, and yes, Carpenter says, she was one of a kind. Now that he’s composed again, at least mostly, he’d love to talk about her … and anyone who’s ever lost a pet would probably be glad to listen.

Adopting Pepper

Carpenter, 54, hails from Tulsa. He came to Detroit to do talk radio in 1992, and when the station switched to country music, he stayed put: “I already had the pickup truck, the accent and the cowboy hat.”

He’d met his wife back home, sharing the sales floor at a Service Merchandise store. When the final customers were taking too long to find the door, he’d get on the public address system and say, “I think it’s clear. Let the Dobermans out.”

Kaylyn was more amused than the general manager was, and they were newlyweds 30 years ago in Joplin, Mo., when a friend bought Pepper. It turned out the friend’s mynah bird couldn’t stand the competition, so Pepper became a Carpenter at 6 months old.

“We taught her to fly,” he says, standing 5 feet apart and tossing her back and forth while she figured out how to handle the job herself. Eventually she became so confident she’d dive-bomb guests, veering off at the last moment.

Mimicking sounds

Unfortunately, Carpenter says, “I don’t have any video.” He’d meant to shoot some, but a Red-lored Amazon can live 50 years. He always assumed he had more time.

Pepper knew about a dozen words, but she was best at mimicking sounds — squeaky doorknobs, distant dogs, pouring water.

Her favorite noise was clinking glasses. If you wanted to call her, all you had to do was bang a few together, but caution was recommended. Maybe 10 inches long and 14 ounces, she’d get so excited she’d bite.

Most birds are confused by mirrors, Carpenter says, but she’d use the one upstairs to see if there was anyone to hang out with down in the kitchen. One day she lodged herself near the neon Miller Lite emblem in the basement, “making her little ‘I want something’ noise.” It took Don and Kaylyn an hour to decipher the message: The color scheme was the same as the label on the peanut jar, and she was asking for a snack.

In the absence of children, Pepper was in their wills. Having once worked for a veterinarian, he’d seen enough animals die, and that’s one of the reasons they took her in — she had a decent chance of outlasting them.

Instead, they noticed over the winter that their air ace was starting to bump into things.

Vets were able to treat a few side effects, but it turned out she had cancer, and there’s no curing that in a parrot. She died two weeks ago, and no, Carpenter told friends, they wouldn’t be getting another one. It wouldn’t be fair to compare a new bird to Pepper.

There’s a void, though, so now they’re leaning the other way. They’ll start looking in August, when they know they won’t be traveling and they can give a bird a stable start. They’ve even picked out a name:

Cayenne.

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