In my house Thanksgiving was a holiday for the entire family, pets included. Our dogs were always near the table knowing that each of us would sneak them little tidbits the whole dinner. As an adult this continued to be my practice in my own home, only expanded to include all of my various furry and feathered family members.
During the years that I had my cockatiels, Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, they were a large part of any of my celebrations, adding their antics to the mix. Both Tink and Petey were fully trained (no birdie droppings were to be found outside their cage), and I allowed them to fly free in my house. It wasn't unusual, therefore, to have a little gray parrot or two landing on your head, perching nearby on the back of a chair or a lampshade, snuggling on your shoulder or even waddling across the table during a meal while you were at my house.
Cockatiels are very social and curious birds and they enjoy being part of their owner's life. Wherever I went you could pretty much count on them either going with me, riding on my shoulders, or flying in to join me within minutes. I was constantly picking up a bird and placing it out of my way while working or doing some household chore; I would put my finger out and the nosy bird would hop on to be transferred to a lamp, my shoulder or another more convenient perch.
One Thanksgiving in the mid eighties, when I was hosting the family dinner, this particular avian behavior got a little out of hand. Peter and Tink had followed me around all morning as I prepped all the various dishes and, after Tinkerbell landed on the turkey I was preparing to rinse, I decided enough was enough and locked them in their cage. This being a highly unusual occurrence and not to their liking, both birds immediately started to scold me as only a cockatiel can - loudly and piercingly. I shushed them, gave them some lettuce to quiet them down and they settled in for their temporary incarceration without much more protest.
After the meal was well underway and I was ready to dress myself up as nicely as I had dressed the turkey, I decided it was time to spring the two jail birds (pardon the bad pun), and let them out to join in the fun. The minute the door to the cage was opened they both took a short freedom flight around the house and then settled in to their favorite high perches to preen.
Animals know when something is up and both Pete and Tink, as well as my Cockapoo Shadow, had been on the alert all day. When my family started to arrive they were greeted by a flurry of flying feathers and wiggling fur - something my family and friends were quite used to - though I suspect some weren't particularly fond of the dive bombing parrots. But it was my house, and if any of my guests wanted to enjoy a cooked bird and some trimmings, they had to put up with a couple of very uncooked birds on the loose and looking for trouble! All part of my artistic charm, you know!
Once everyone was in and settled, things quieted down and the usual chatter and activities of a family gathering went back to normal. After the ritual of the holiday toast and a few appetizers we sat down to our Thanksgiving dinner and a table loaded with the standard fare. Seated around the table was my family decked out in their holiday suits and dresses, napkins rustling as they placed them in laps, glasses clinking and appetites ready. Of course my critters were in place as well; Shadow hovering under the table waiting for stray crumbs, both birds perched on the back of a dining chair, their little heads cocked and attentive.
The family said grace and we started to pass around the dishes when Tinkerbell decided it was time to explore all these interesting things and hopped down to the table. I picked her up and put her back on the chair, she hopped back to the table, undeterred. I let her peck at a couple of dishes then put her back on the chair. Nope, she was not finished, back she flew and once again I scooped her up and deposited her back on the chair.
Petey was not following suit, he was busy preening and fluffing, content to watch from the sidelines. But Tinkerbell was determined to check out everything on the table and, once again, took a short hop off the chair. Only this time she did not land on the table. She landed smack dab in the middle of the mashed potatoes and promptly sunk down until her feet disappeared!
There was one long. silent moment of shock as Tinkerbell found herself trapped in a quagmire of warm mashed potatoes, then, with a screech she listed up one foot out of the mire and started flinging specks of mashed potatoes off her talons in every direction. Then she lifted the other foot and flicked off some more dollops of goop. Every time she tried to step out she sunk back in and did it again. Everyone and everything within a few feet was getting hit by flying flecks of spuds, it was a barrage of Idaho missiles and everyone was ducking for cover!
After a few seconds of shock and uncontrollable laughter, I recovered enough to realize that Tinkerbell wasn't going to get out of the quicksand of taters by herself and I quietly came up from behind the frightened and frustrated little bird, grabbed her by enclosing her wings and plucked her from the offending potatoes.
Off we went to the bathroom where I rinsed off her little feet and soothed her down. When we came back to the dining room, Petey was still calmly preening, my family was wiping off flecks of flung food and Shadow was happily vacuuming up the drops that had landed on the floor. No harm, no fowl (again, pardon the pun); dinner was delicious, wine mellowed the nerves, and Tinkerbell was a model of good behavior the remainder of the day.
But I never got to host another Thanksgiving dinner in my family.