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Primetime For Parrots

By Laura Doering

Bird Talk magazine editor
BIRD TALK Editor Laura Doering and her nanday conure Ollie.

If you’ve tuned into CBS network on Thursday nights, you might have watched “Greatest American Dog.” Just like the reality show “Survivor,” “Greatest American Dog” involves contestants of the four-footed kind and their owners fighting it out in challenge after challenge and residing under the same roof for a $250,000 prize. Similar to “Survivor,” there are two challenges per show. One is a luxury challenge, where the winning dog and owner get to stay in a posh room full of dog toys, dog furniture and treats (the winner also gets to vote a dog and his or her owner to stay in a doghouse). The other is the elimination challenge, where a dog and owner are sent packing. This is where my colleague Allan Reznik, editor-at-large for BIRD TALK’s sister publications, Dog Fancy and Dog World, comes in. Allan is one of three judges who decides who stays and who goes. Being a reality-show junkie and excited to see a coworker on network TV, I haven’t missed a show.

The contests are designed to challenge a dog to the core. In one episode, the dogs were lined up on platforms at a dinner table, and they had to refrain from eating scrumptious temptations. Being “bird-brained,” I couldn’t help but imagine a reality show based on parrots and their owners. Of course, a dog show makes more sense ratings-wise (dog owners far outnumber bird owners), but wouldn’t a house full of birds and their owners be far more interesting?

Imagine a challenge in which a macaw, Amazon, cockatoo, cockatiel and conure are perched on a wicker couch and the first to start chewing loses. Or a contest where the owner has half a day to teach his or her bird an assigned phrase. My flock wouldn’t stand a chance in challenges like these, or even a simple one in which all they have to do is stay quiet when the owners are asked to leave the room. I can already hear my ‘tiel’s rapid-fire contact chirps and my conure’s ear-splitting screech.

My take on “Greatest American Dog’s” play on sending a nonwinning contestant to live in the doghouse would, of course, be a bird cage. The show’s doghouse really isn’t that bad; it’s more the size of a shack. In my imagined bird show though, the losing contestant (not with their bird) would have to reside in a cage that is more narrow than wide, not just to make for more interesting TV, but to hammer home the fact that a bird’s home should truly be its (spacious) castle, with lots of posh toys and places to perch.

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