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news! THE PARROT WHO THOUGHT SHE WAS A DOG
was named one of the Top 10 Sci-Tech Books of the Year!
Crown Publishing Group
by: John McFarland
had adopted a raptor," Nancy Ellis-Bell admits
to herself in this charming journal of unexpected love
between a one-legged macaw and a literary agent good
with problematic animals. When she first met the caged
blue-and-gold bird, she was drawn to its gorgeous plumage
and its four-ft. wingspan. The vets and caretakers warned
her about the bird's viciousness. A single soulful gaze
into the macaw's wise eyes was all it took to hook Ellis-Bell
on the bird whom she named Sarah and on every last issue
her wildness might present.
brought Sarah home in a cage that dominated a 10'-by-12'
converted trailer already crowded with two dogs, two
cats and a husband. When Ellis-Bell finally decided
to let Sarah out of her cage to roam around the house,
one thing became very clear: the bird ruled. Everything
from furniture to French lingerie became hers. Anyone
who has ever loved a "difficult" pet will
heartily enjoy the detailed inventory for raptor-proofing
a home. Each tale of another ingenious method that wild
things devise to get what they want recalls times when
all we can do is say, "That's cute."
the one who thought she was in control, learns many
lessons from Sarah. First of all, macaws choose one
mate, and Sarah chose Ellis-Bell as hers. Before you
say, "That's cute," meet harsh mistress Sarah:
jealous, possessive and loud enough when miffed to bring
in the police. Pats for the dogs and cats had to be
delivered out of Sarah's sight. As for sex between lawfully-wedded
husband and wife, the operative word was furtive. Pet-haters
will ask, "Why did she put up with this?"
Pet-lovers, though, will thrill to every minute of the
to spoil all the fun, I offer only one tidbit. One early
spring day, Ellis-Bell ventured out to her garden to
plant bulbs. By this time, Sarah had begun behaving
like her little dog, following her everywhere (the macaw
had also displaced the dogs, developed a taste for their
bones and perfected an imitation of their barks. All
together now, "That's cute!"). Sarah watched
intently as Ellis-Bell dug a hole and planted a bulb.
As it so happens, macaws love to dig in dirt. Sarah
then proceeded to dig her own hole and wait for a bulb
to be put in place so that she could cover it up, too.
At moments like that, and there are many, Ellis-Bell
persuades her readers to feel and see the unforgettable
passion she shared with Sarah.
Reviewed by: Allen Pierleoni
If you want to sell a book, include animals in the story.
Such conventional publishing wisdom may seem somewhat
dated, but it still works with a segment of the national
audience. For example:
Parrot Who Thought She Was a Dog" by Nancy Ellis-Bell
(Harmony, $23, 256 pages; on sale Tuesday): At first,
the one-legged rescue macaw was nervous in her new surroundings
in author Ellis-Bell's farmhouse in rural Northern California.
After all, there was plenty of competition – dogs,
cats, raccoons and another parrot. Then Peg Leg (a.k.a.
Sarah) spread her 4-foot wingspan and began taking charge,
showing off her X-rated vocabulary and her nasty temperament,
and demonstrating a love for dog food.
the author realized that her entire home "had slowly
transformed into a birdcage." It was time for a
drastic step – as in teaching the parrot to fly.
Kepler's Book Signing Event, video
Literary agent - turned author, Nancy Ellis-Bell came
to Kepler's last night to talk about her book, The Parrot
Who Thought She Was a Dog.
Whether you're a bird-lover or just love a good story,
you're sure to get a kick out of this video. Here Nancy
tells the story about when she first realized her blue-and-gold
macaw, Sarah, could talk. What timing!
people are Earth angels, attracting needy animals and
taking them into their homes and their hearts. Such
was this reviewer's maternal grandmother, whose Nelson
County farm was home to multiple dogs and cats, and
such is Nancy Ellis-Bell.
publishing agent who lives in a renovated trailer with
her contractor husband in rural northern California,
Ellis-Bell already had two dogs (Ben and Blanco), two
indoor cats (Mr. Mistoffelees and Tiger), more than
a dozen outdoor cats and an outdoor raccoon (Rachel)
and her many broods.
in a big heart, there's always room for one more. Ellis-Bell
had that heart set on an African grey parrot. But she
changed her mind at a friend's bird-rescue sanctuary
when she saw Peg Leg, a 2-foot-tall macaw who was missing
her left foot (probably cut off by her captors when
it became hopelessly tangled in a parrot snare in Latin
America when she was 2 years old). In addition to her
disability, Peg Leg was sick with an infection and carried
a reputation for viciousness.
ill and missing a paw? Pshaw. Ellis-Bell forsook her
African grey dream for what could have become a macaw
it didn't, and that the love the two shared became the
basis for The Parrot Who Thought She Was a Dog,
is a testament to devotion.
bringing Peg Leg home and renaming her Sarah, Ellis-Bell
kept her in the bird's large cage for two weeks before
freeing her to explore the tiny house. And explore she
did, tossing laundry items around, destroying a favorite
dog toy, opening the kitchen cabinets and rolling the
canned items about, among other behavior benign -- helping
to dig planting holes for bulbs, having a rare sip of
a gin and tonic -- and mischievous -- sporadically strafing
the dogs. Ellis-Bell and her husband got used to the
occasional parrot screams, but one neighbor, thinking
Ellis-Bell a victim of domestic violence, summoned the
to make Sarah a free-flight bird was a question over
which Ellis-Bell agonized. Her wings were intact, but
would she fly off and break her person's heart? Was
keeping her safe better than enabling her to be free?
Ellis-Bell took the plunge, and Sarah mostly stayed
nearby, only occasionally venturing into nearby trees.
Eventually, of course . . .
canine adventures were on a different level. She would
nosh on the dogs' kibble, unearth Blanco's bones, play
tug with Ben and -- most amusingly -- imitate their
woofs and yips so closely that people couldn't tell
she settled in, Sarah of the broken spirit became Sarah
the queen of the realm. She grew to trust Ellis-Bell
implicitly and reserved for her the phrase "Love
you." Still, a big bird in a tiny trailer can cause
periodic havoc, and Ellis-Bell handled it with tolerance,
ingenuity and, above all, life-changing love.
comical, affecting and wrenching, The Parrot Who
Thought She Was a Dog is a little charmer that
reminds us of the love we owe our fellow travelers on
Earth and the difference that love can make -- in their
lives and ours.
Miriam Tuliao, NYPL
a California-based literary agent with a proven track
record for helping rescue animals, adopted a one-footed,
foul-mouthed blue-and-gold macaw with a propensity for
biting. Here, this self-described woman who loves animals
too much touchingly chronicles her daily adventures
with Sarah and a menagerie of "sweet babies"
(birds, dogs, cats, and visiting raccoons).
What begins as a cautionary tale of avian domination
and destruction (replete with jealous tirades, physical
attacks, and earsplitting screams) develops into a story
of "Icarus reclaimed," freedom and flight.
Ellis-Bell shares amusing anecdotes about the one-bird
demolition derby, cage-free domesticity, Sarah's curious
diet (consisting of kibble, nuts, and the occasional
gin and tonic), the bird's prolific climbing achievements,
affectionate mannerisms, and profound sense of play
("Sarah saw dirt as kindergarten").
This winsome book will surely delight animal rescuers
and avid fans of Animal Planet.
Listings of general bird-rescue organizations are included.
Recommended for all public libraries.
By: Ben Steelman
literary agent Nancy Ellis-Bell adopted a one-legged
blue-and-gold rescue macaw named Sarah, she didn't know
what she was in for.
Brutalized on capture and long neglected, Sarah soon
lorded it over the house, stole the dogs' toys, bathed
in their water dish - and shouted obscenities when the
humans were on the phone.
Sarah's behavior began to turn around, though, when
she discovered that puppy treats were tasty and that
dog barks were easy to imitate. Ellis-Bell describes
her rehabilitation in The Parrot Who Thought She Was
by: Nancy Bent
Peg-Leg entered Ellis-Bell’s life after the
author was captivated by her eyes at a “parrot
weekend,” a get together for potential and current
parrot owners. The blue-and-gold macaw lost a foot
during her capture from the wild, was abused by her
previous owner, and became vicious as a result. Renamed
Sarah, she now lives with a person who loves her and
is eager to make a better life for a poor battered
first released from her cage, Sarah climbs down and
rousts the family dogs from their dishes, absconding
with an entire rib bone. Laundry time becomes playtime
as the macaw digs through the freshly dried laundry,
showing a particular fondness for lingerie. After
two months of exploring the house on foot, Sarah starts
flying, and strafing the dogs becomes her new joy.
Upon seeing her interact with the resident ravens
through the window, the author decides to let her
go outside, and gardening with Sarah becomes a paradise
for both human and bird.
with a macaw is always an adventure, since they are
easily bored and have the maturity level of a perpetual
three-year-old. Ellis-Bell captures this ongoing sense
of discovery perfectly.
Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle
Sarah was a bright blue and gold one-legged macaw with
an attitude. Born wild, she was caught in a net that
tangled her up in a way that caused the loss of a leg,
but she was still captured and sold to a woman who hoped
to breed her. Unfortunately she didn't get along with
the male macaw. The woman became so annoyed and upset
with the birds' constant fighting and screaming at each
other that she started hitting them, and finally relinquished
them to a vet who sent Sarah to a wild bird rescue sanctuary
Nancy Ellis-Bell went to the sanctuary, she was looking
for an African grey parrot, but the owner talked her
into taking Sarah. Nancy couldn’t bear the thought
of this magnificent bird being caged, so she brought
her home, where Nancy and her husband lived with two
dogs, two inside cats, numerous outside cats, and a
raccoon family that made its home under her deck. One
more animal didn’t seem like much.
macaw is two feet tall, with sharp claws on its feet
and a beak that can easily tear and shred anything from
paper to wood to flesh. Nancy was sensibly cautious
around Sarah, gentling the abused bird at first with
soft talking and food treats. Soon she felt a bond forming
between her and the bird. Even though she wasn’t
able to touch Sarah, the bird started to follow her
around, and she was even able to control her somewhat
with a feather duster, which for some reason the bird
was wary of.
Sarah was always more in charge than Nancy. The bird
would steal toys from the dogs, chew up anything she
could get her beak on, and shriek loudly when she was
unhappy about anything. When Nancy let her out of her
cage, she eagerly investigated every nook and cranny
of the small house. Nancy described her as intelligent
and curious, in need of stimulation and new experiences,
sort of like having a three year old child who never
animal lover should find this an interesting and enjoyable
book. This lively bird’s shenanigans were a challenge
to the woman who loved and cared for her and the husband
who, mostly, tolerated her intrusion into his previously
calm life. She talked, laughed, and even learned to
bark like a dog, and in the end, she flew again.
Willits News Review
By: Maureen Moore
Woof! Heh, heh, heh," was not an uncommon utterance
radiating from the Ellis-Bell home on Ridgewood summit.
The inspiration for Nancy's book, The Parrot Who
Thought She Was a Dog, came from a parrot that
had quite a sense of humor, and proved to be a great
source of inspiration for a lighthearted, yet heartfelt,
Parrot Who Thought She Was a Dog chronicles Nancy
and husband Kerry's, adventure of rescuing and living
with Sarah, a blue-and-gold, one-footed macaw they adopted
from a family friend.
had lived a difficult life before her arrival at the
Ellis-Bell home. She had been dubbed "Peg-Leg"
and arrived with a warning from a veterinarian oabout
the bird's vicious demeanor.
The bird had lost its left foot when its captors tried
to release it from the snare with which they had trapped
her in the Amazon Basin. But in the large cage that
then dominated the living room of Nancy's home, Sarah
still stood impressive, nearly two feet tall and with
a black four-inch beak and soft, yet inquisitive black
of this fazed Nancy an animal lover with a knack for
taking-in and rescuing problematic and temperamental
animals and she slowly began to build trust and develop
a friendship with Sarah.
a literary agent, phone conversations and negotiations
with publishing houses proved to be difficult after
a seemingly wordless Sarah started adding her two cents
to the conversations.
crap! It's crap!" would spring suddenly from Sarah's
beak, much to Nancy and the publishers' surprise.
Nancy was able to explain the circumstances of her household
addition, and the publishers found humor in the situation,
asking if the bird was going to be present to oversee
contracts as well.
story of Nancy and Sarah's relationship is filled with
laughter, growing, tears and healing a must-read for
animal lovers or anyone who has ever had to spread their
wings and fly.
What We're Reading
Reviewed by The Mendocino County Library Staff
things brought me to read this book. My father had had
a macaw and as the book crossed my path, I noticed she
lived in Mendocino County. I am always interested in
Mendocino County authors. There may be a list somewhere,
but I have not found it.
must have thought this was a catchy title in our current
slew of dog books. I never found the connection. Sarah
the macaw obviously is a parrot. A large somewhat feral,
one legged macaw with a wing span of 4 feet while the
author, her husband, dogs and cats live in a fairly
small trailer. My father's macaw was imposing and he
stayed in a large cage in the dining room spewing feathers,
seeds and other dropped matter. Having a cage free and
fairly large bird in one's house seems imposing, but
then people tell me 5 dogs and 3 cats seem imposing
is a fascinating story though and I will leave you to
read it yourself. I enjoyed the tale and thoroughly
expect that you will also. If you are so inspired, the
last chapter lists information, rescue organizations,
bird organizations and avian veterinarians to help you
integrate a large or smaller bird into your house.
Reviewed by Linda
spent much of my childhood
wishing I could fly and so have been in awe of all kinds
of birds ever since.
family had a succession of canaries and parakeets, but
as an adult, I've always had too many cats to think
adding a bird would be wise.
that's why I fell in love with Nancy Ellis-Bell's new
book, "The Parrot Who Thought She Was a Dog."
Nancy does a great job of letting you see through her
eyes — and the parrot's eyes — what it's
like to have a large bird move into your home and take
a lot of us, Nancy had been a sucker for stray cats
and dogs and the occasional squirrel and raccoon through
the years, welcoming them to the home in the woods she
shares with her husband, Kerry, on the north coast.
But she knew a bird was in her future when the time
book tells the surprising and remarkable story of how
that pet turned out to be a rescued bird, a nearly 2-foot-tall
macaw with a two-foot wing span, a smart mouth and a
propensity for making as much of the world hers as she
could — once Nancy helped to make her feel safe.
Peg Leg when Nancy adopted her because she only had
one foot, the bird quickly became Sarah, and Nancy set
about making her feel loved. Sarah lost her foot when
her leg became ensnared in the mesh used to capture
her and other wild birds, and her captors cut it off
to free her.
there she and a potential macaw mate were shipped to
would-be breeder in the Midwest who had dreams of turning
out very expensive macaw babies like hotcakes.
only problem, as Nancy tells it, is that Sarah and her
chosen partner hated each other and refused to mate.
Robbed of the dream of quick, easy money, the owner
in the Midwest punished the big birds by hitting them
with a stick inside their cage.
had made it to a bird rescuer when Nancy saw her during
"Parrot Weekend Experience," a two-day event
where people are introduced to various types of parrots
and learn what the birds are like and what their needs
I moved closer to her cage, her powerful gaze asked
only one question: Predator or prey?" Nancy wrote.
could the bird feel anything else? But as Nancy looked
deep into those golden eyes, she saw wisdom and strength
and knew she had to take the bird home.
story moves on to document in charming detail how Sarah
takes over the dogs' food dishes, claims anything good
as hers and comes out with the darnedest sayings at
the most inopportune times.
Nancy was on the phone one day with an editor about
a new book offer, "The advance was less than I
had hoped for, and my voice must have reflected that
disappointment," Nancy wrote. Before she could
respond, there was a loud "Crap! It's crap!"
surprised book editor stuttered, "What? What do
you mean it's crap?"
was Sarah speaking, and it was only one of the many
times she put in her two cents. Sometimes she came out
with "bummer, it's a bummer." Sometimes she'd
happy as Sarah became at Nancy's house, the time came
when Nancy knew the bird wanted and needed more: to
don't want to spoil any of the great stories about Sarah
and this family by revealing too much, but I highly
recommend this book. It's a love story on a grand scale,
and I finished it liking the author and being madly
in love with Sarah, as Nancy was.
another neat book about a love affair between a woman
and a parrot that I think you'd like: "Alex &
Me" by Irene M. Pepperberg.
is the Alex, who became famous for being so smart, despite
a brain that was no larger than a shelled walnut. You
may have gotten to watch him on one of many television
appearances or read about him in a magazine or a newspaper.
plucky African grey is credited with shattering myth
after myth about bird and animal intelligence. The subtitle
of the book: "How a Scientist and a Parrot Uncovered
a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence — and Formed
a Deep Bond in the Process."
Alex died last year, he and Irene had worked together
for 30 years. Irene does a good job of sharing the growth
of their friendship that occurred at the same time Alex
was debunking the myths about bird brains.
and Alex will stay with me for a long, long time.
could they not? The last thing Alex said to Irene was:
"You be good. I love you."
will speak about the book and her three decades with
Alex at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Kepler's Books in Menlo
Park, 1010 El Camino Real.