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No matter what they tell you, parrots are just fibbers

My African gray parrot, Gaia, is an incorrigible liar.

I've known about this unfortunate character flaw for a few years. The red-tailed fibber says she's dying of thirst, "Drink of water? Drink of water?—" when her water dish is full to the brim. She begs for my last bite of pizza, "Want some! Want some pizza!" — only to toss the lovingly offered morsel onto the floor with a wicked laugh.

Brat bird.

Earlier this week, I fell prey to her falsehoods again.

For the past month, I've been transitioning my beau's 10-year-old tabby cat, Squiggy, into my home.

Four years of trying to educate The Englishman on the proper care and feeding of a finicky feline with chronic health issues from afar was driving us both batty.

Over the holidays he hesitantly asked whether I would care for his green-eyed moggy at my place while he did some necessary traveling. His voice sweet and innocent.

"You are so good with animals," he crooned.

His plan diabolically simple.

The female cat and I would bond over discussions about his male inadequacies. Squiggy would make a permanent shift to my address, slipping into her rightful place amongst my already considerable menagerie. Best of all, he'd still have weekend visitation rights, and no more cat box dramas.

Life with The Squiggle has its joys. There's no better tranquilizer than petting a purring bundle of peace and contentment nestled snuggly on your chest.

It also has its challenges. There have been vet visits, medication has been administered and low-allergen food has been fed. The vet and I are hopeful for a complete alleviation of her symptoms. But, for now, I'm happy to report she's at least using her litter box. And learning the ins and outs of her new home.

The Englishman, being a man, is simply happy his "Little Pooper" is once again sleek and sassy.

The other night, however, I was not so happy.

Awakened from a dead sleep to the sounds of Gaia, and her little cockatiel brother, Goose, flapping around in their cages, I got up to investigate.

Twirley Jane, my aged border collie, was snoring away peacefully. Squiggy, however, was no longer snuggled at the foot of my bed.

Figuring the nocturnal feline had taken a late-night stroll and startled the parrots, I got up to assure the feathered members of my household that all was well — and to find the cat and sequester her in the bedroom so I could get back to sleep.

The birds calmed down quickly. But Squiggy was nowhere to be found.

When I asked Gaia where the kitty was, she replied with total conviction, "Outside."

Seriously? Are you sure?

"She went outside," Gaia reiterated.

Who am I to argue with a potential eye witness? Completely forgetting her propensity to tell the most appalling whoppers, I put on my robe and slippers and began the outdoor hunt.

As I groped my way across the icy deck and down the treacherous back stairs, my mind was busy. Why is there never a working flashlight when you need one? Did I mention I have a cast on my leg? Was that an evil chuckle I heard?

That the cat might have slipped out the doggy door seemed logical. It's right near the parrot cages, and Squiggy knows how to use a kitty door. In my overactive imagination, Squiggy now was lost in the frozen wasteland that is my half-acre backyard. She was in imminent danger of falling in the river and drowning. Or ending up flat-catted on the highway.

The faithful Twirley Jane, now joined in the hunt, wasn't snuffling up any kitty scents. After several turns about the icy yard, I returned to the house and considered waking up The Englishman with a wee-hour phone call, but opted instead to send him an e-mail about his missing cat.

"If you have any ideas about how to get her to come out when she's hiding some place, now would be a good time to share," I wrote.

I fear I didn't sign off with my usual affection, and headed back to bed in a cranky, fretful state.

Of course, I couldn't fall back asleep. Squiggy was stranded outside, freezing her fur off, afraid to come back in. If she was even still alive.

Flinging back the covers, I steeled myself for another round of kitty patrols. And there was Ms. Squiggs — Sphinx-like on the guest bed. Safe and warm, with her motor running.

From her perch, Gaia shook her feathers and offered up a snarky chortle.

Reach Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.