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Harmony Books / Random House




The Parrot Who Thought She Was a Dog
By: Nancy Ellis-Bell

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Reader review, email

I just finished your book, The Parrot Who Thought She Was a Dog, I cried. Poor, sweet Sarah.

I am mom to four rescued parrots, all with a story. There is Demi, the Red-Lored Amazon, presumably wild-caught, who had her spine broken as well as her left wing broken in nine places by an abusive owner. Then there is Simon, a Pionus, who was plucked by his owner.

Yep, you read correctly, she plucked his feathers out until he was naked. He literally shook so hard when humans would approach him that his beak chattered and he nearly died from the toxicity and infection that raged through his body due to the plucking. Due to the extreme physical abuse these two endured they will never have the opportunity to fly.

Jangles is my little quaker who was put out on the curb with a sign that stated "$50". And then there is my beloved Max, the Yellow-Naped Amazon, who I took when I broke things off with my fiance who didn't know how to care for the bird he just "had to have". I will never let the two who could actually fly have the opportunity to do so simply out of my own fear of losing them forever. The thought of them being injured or scared or whatever is too much for me to bear. They were both hand raised so don't really know what they are missing out on, as was Simon, however Demi, having come from the wild saddens me to no end.

What did she leave behind there? Possibly babies given her sweet, caring nature. I am also mom to three rescue dogs, Athena, Shepherd/Collie/Rottweiler mix, Emma (picture of the two of us attached), Shar-Pei/Min Pin mix and Ollie, 12-14 year old Chihuahua/Dachsund mix who just came to me in May with an improperly healed broken jaw and just one tooth, AND one rescue Siamese cat, Kitty.

I completely relate to the chaos of your house, there are always days like that. But knowing my babies feel safe at last and are finally experiencing the love they so deserve comforts my mind.

Thank you for your book. I couldn't put it down. Just wanted to reach out and tell you that you have a fan in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.

Sincerely yours,

Jean Marie E.

Reader review, email

I loved your book. I have been very ill this summer and it was just the medicine I needed. You and your husband sound like me and mine, same small house lifestyle, which I found so funny.

My love is guinea pigs (yes I never grew up). I take in rescues and foster or adopt them. My poor husband puts up with at least 6 large cages in our tiny livingroom.

It is so satisfying to take an abused, neglected gp and fix them up to be healthy and happy. My last one was a pregnant gp, so malnurished she had no hair. Now she is beautiful and sweet. Male babies adopted out, but one female baby remains with her for companionship.

I look forward to your new books.

Thank you,

Mary W.

Reader review, email

I just finished reading "The Parrot Who Thought She Was a Dog," last night, and I had to write to you. I loved the book, but I have to admit, I cried my eyes out at times. Of course, I was guffawing loudly enough at other times to irritate my husband, (who doesn't enjoy reading,) so I guess it evens out.

I admire your work with the birds, and hope you continue to do so. I know it takes an extraordinary amount of time, effort, sweat, finances, and caring to do what you are doing, but it's nice to know there are folks like you who go the extra mile to be a good mom for a bird.

I too, believe that birds are special folks, and wish that the undomesticated wild ones could be left alone in their own homes, in whichever continent they may be found. Alas, just as with illegal drugs, there will always be people who will provide them if there are those willing to pay for them.

Keep up the great work, and be sure to notify Amazon.com when your next bird book comes out. I don't know any little kids, so the children's book wouldn't be a good fit!

Thanks again, and take good care.


Sandy K.

Reader review, email

Just read your book…and enjoyed it immensely. I see a bit of myself in you as I go to great lengths to accommodate my old male cat. My deep sympathy to you at the loss of such a dear pet/child.

After reading the book and everything on your website, I’m still a bit confused about why Sarah wouldn’t come down from the trees. She could fly, she could climb, she was being approached by ladders/machinery…I don’t understand why she didn’t or couldn’t come down. Was it a mental thing?

Loved the book, wished there had been a ton of pictures—of the house, of the garden, of the other animals, even video!

Thank you,

Janet C.

Reader review, email
Thank you for coming out to Carmichael last week. It was just what we were looking for and I think the audience had a great time. We would definitely like to have you come back again some time so we will be in touch, possibly when you next book comes out, or to present a workshop on memoir writing. I hope the next book is a big hit.

Shelley A.

Reader review, email
Oh Nancy, I just fiished Sarah's story and what a story it was! Sarah was quite the personality and a maddening delight. I so admire you, and Kerry, for all the critter TLC that is given in your home-you especially and Kerry for moral support.

I just spent time on your website and was so glad to see the parrot photos. Watching Animal Planet as I do I've seen these birds in all their glory. In the coloration of fish and birds nature outdoes itself. Thank goodness for color TV! I do hope, one of these days, you and the parrots will show up on AP, my favorite channel.

Thank you for telling Sarah's story (and the other animals as well). It was an absolutely delightful read.

Shirley G.

Reader review, email

I wanted to let you know that I am a fellow animal lover and just finished reading your book today (The Parrot Who Thought She Was a Dog). I loved it and I thought it was beautifully written.

I wanted to write to ask you if you would ever consider opening up your heart to all sentient animals and stop eating meat. There is no great difference between your beloved dogs and cats and those animals we call 'food' who suffer so much on factory farms, during travel to the slaughterhouse and at the slaughterhouse itself.

I would be glad to speak with you about it sometime. I am just a regular middle aged mother (and psychotherapist), not a fan/kook. I know you have such a big heart, Nancy, please consider what I have said.

Susan C.

Reader review, email

I finished your book "The Parrot Who Thought She Was a Dog" last night. I had received it as a Christmas gift, as I too am a bird rescue person. I started it, not knowing what to expect, and I couldn't put it down. I have to admit I was crying like a baby when I read how you had found Sarah. I knew you did everything in your power to get her to come back and I don't know what else you could have done. I don't think a lot of people understand the bond you can develop with these amazing creatures, who are undoubtedly a scale above us in intelligence.

My Molly, a little Senegal parrot, was adopted from an owner who didn't expect the noise, mischief, and mess. She was only six months old when I adopted her. Her owner had called and asked if I would be interested in adopting yet another bird. I already had a number of cockatiels and a little Zebra finch, plus a wonderful, gentle Newfoundland named Zeus, and really didn't think I should take on more birds. She offered the cage, toys, and everything that went with her. When the woman showed up at my house she was waving her arms and hands and showing me how she could swing the little parrot around on her hand and I'm thinking oh wow, I don't think she knows how to handle this little girl. She informed me she had found her cat trying to squirm it's way into her cage. Then, quite abruptly, Molly flew to my chest, crawled under my neck and froze there, trembling. It looked like I had been adopted by her!

To make a long story as short as possible, I was participating in a neighborhood rummage sale a few months after I had taken in Molly and she was making enough noise from inside the house to draw attention from the neighbors who were looking over my assorted wares. She HAD to be in the same room I was and announced her dissatisfaction quite loudly if I wasn't. We had bonded almost immediately and I was fascinated with her intelligence. So I thought I'd bring her out in the sun and fresh air and attempted to carry her cage outside. None of my birds have clipped wings because I also felt it was essential to allow them to fly in the house. Birds fly - simple as that. If they don't it almost seems unnatural to disallow them to, with safety measures in place of course. Not to mention, paper towel manufacturers must love me.

I had a little trouble navigating the heavy cage as I had a few steps down to the ground. I made the terrible mistake of balancing the cage on my knee, unknowingly popping the cage clasps and allowing the cage to collapse inward. It all happened so fast and I knew it was going to have a bad ending. Molly freaked - rightfully so! She took off in a fright and was probably as astounded as the rest of us as we watched her soar into the woods behind our home.

My son had been staying with me for the weekend and had been sleeping in, but heard the commotion and flew out of the house. He was on my roof in an instant trying to locate her and calling for her - I was standing there with mouth open, in shock, and already grieving. He was on his cell phone contacting the Humane Society, the local radio station, the police department, etc. He was upset with me because he knew this was going to break my heart and said mom, if it has wings and it can fly, do not take it outside! We tried to gather our wits and see how far Molly had flown - he took one side of the small stand of woods, I took the other and we walked slowly, calling and waiting for her response. She was responding and she was scared. I knew all of her calls and she was making her little 'what's going on?' whistle. We actually tracked her down in a scraggly, very tall jack pine. She was on a branch very high up and clinging very closely to the trunk of the tree. She seemed to have NO clue how to fly down. A neighbor offered his extension ladder as my son could not reach any low enough branch that would support him. The minute he put the ladder against the tree, she spooked and flew off into another tree. After that, she went silent and we couldn't trace her.

Your story really hit home when you mentioned the storm that Sarah had endured, because my story was almost exactly the same. I could not believe the similarities! An early spring storm hit that night, wind, lightning, and rumbling thunder. I wondered if she could hold on and even survive this. There was no sleep for us that night. I could only imagine the terror my little girl was feeling clinging to a tree, not knowing the world she had entered. My son tried to comfort me, saying things like she'll watch the other birds, she'll know where to find food and water by following them and maybe her wild instincts will kick in. I nodded my head, knowing full well that Molly was hatched in a fish tank with the other homely, naked chicks with warming lights in a pet shop and had no clue what being outside was about. Would she have any wild instincts or are they lost in captivity? I didn't know. For three days I did everything to taking out the cockatiels in their cage and plunking them down in a little clearing because she used to sit on top of their cage and watch them, hoping for an opportunity to bite a toe if she could. I thought their chatter would allow her to hone in and possibly come down. I was in the woods every morning with a flashlight, thinking I must look like a crazy lady looking for a lost child. I put up posters at the local grocery stores. One store only allowed a small postcard size card in their glass case and I broke down in tears stating no one would even notice that and she was my heart and I needed to find her.

On the third day I walked the woods again, sobbing, my heart just aching, and reprimanding myself for what I had done, and I finally went back into the house because I was going to totally come apart again. When you came upon Sarah it brought all those heartbreaking moments back and I felt your heartbreak and flashbacked to that moment while I was reading your story. Back to my story - after I returned to the house, the phone rang - I didn't want to answer but luckily I did - a lady said are you Molly's mom? I said yes, I am! My heart started to heal the very moment she said she had Molly and this is my name, address, and phone number. I called my son who was running errands, he flew back home and away we went, almost getting a speeding ticket as we held our breath, obviously trying to slow down when we noticed a parked squad car. We didn't care, we couldn't get there fast enough. The officer didn't even glance at us.

Here's the spooky part. My real name is Shirley, but I've been nicknamed Samantha/Sam most of my life. Molly had flown a 3-4 mile path across a big body of water, landed in another woods bordering a small subdivision where I used to live - the same street no less!! The woman's name was Shirley. She stated she had heard this strange whistle (which is the first line of When You Wish Upon a Star), which I had taught Molly. She then said she knew right then it was not a bird 'indiginous' to this area. She walked out on her deck and something flew in her face. She said she looked at her shoulder, there was Molly, she walked into the house and called the Humane Society and they said this was the missing parrot and that I was going to be one happy bird owner! My son said he was curious - he didn't know that many people named Shirley, he told her my real name was Shirley. He asked her when her birthday was, she said August 24th - the exact same day as mine! My son gave me an astonished look and said right then, 'if you don't believe in divine intervention now, you better start.'

Shirley had her on a wicker étagère in her bathroom, eagerly eating some cracked corn that she had available for the wild birds. She said she was very hungry and thirsty and had a little nick above her beak, which might have been an owl or a branch, but she seemed fine. I called "Molly" very quietly - she froze - her eyes pinned as you so often mentioned Sarah's eyes did - and she locked on me and once again she flew to my chest, cuddled under my neck once again and everyone just stood there, their eyes tearing up. We took her home and she napped off and on throughout the day on her play stand - I couldn't leave her side. I put her next to my couch and kept looking at her, not believing my amazing luck. She'd occasionally open that one eye with her beak tucked into her feathered back in that impossible looking 180 degree freaky turn they do with their heads. She was checking to make sure I was there too and I think we both knew we'd had a happy ending here.

So a happy ending for me - not so happy for you with Sarah, and I'm so sorry for that. This is a true, true story, and I'm SO lucky I have my little love back. I will never forget your story of Sarah, your understanding of these wonderful creatures, and your devotion to their rescue. I have 5 cockatiels, a spice finch, 2 zebra finches, and my Molly. I don't know that I'm going to take on more birds from unfortunate situations, because I don't want to become a collector either. Bless your heart for what you do and thank you for a wonderful story about a wonderful spirit, that only us bird lovers will ever understand.

Here's Molly chewing on one of Zeus's rib bones!!

Samantha H.

Further correspondence:

... Outrage is not the correct response - writing about your experience is knowledge about doing the right thing. Never, never
underestimate the call of the wild I suppose you'd call it.

I am SO against capturing anything out of the wild, I doubt they will never truly adapt.

I have asked many times in pet stores (just to make a point obviously) whether these animals are wild caught or hand raised. My worry is that they're not going to tell you the truth.

Thank you even more for your response. I sincerely connected with you the minute I received your book and I will follow you faithfully from this point.

Have a wonderful 2010!

Samantha H.

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