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The Parrot Who Thought She Was a Dog Hardcover – July 22, 2008

2.7 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Despite an intriguing premise, Ellis-Bell's memoir of adopting an obstinate parrot fails to capture the spirit of either the bird or her owner. A literary agent living in rural California with her husband, Ellis-Bell already had a menagerie that included dogs, cats and even a family of raccoons living under the deck. But her life changed when she brought home a one-footed blue and gold wild-caught macaw named Peg Leg. Rechristening her Sarah, Ellis-Bell soon realized that despite her love of animals, she had no idea how to care for such an ornery creature. Sarah soon had the run of the house, climbing furniture and stealing the dogs' toys and bones. Even though Sarah refused to be touched, she and Ellis-Bell soon bonded and Sarah would follow the author from room to room like a puppy. The decision of whether or not to allow Sarah to fly free outdoors was an agonizing one for Ellis-Bell, and its consequences were monumental. Prone to repetition, Ellis-Bell moves through Sarah's life in strict linear fashion that too soon feels episodic. That said, Sarah is a delightfully mischievous creature the reader grows to love as Ellis-Bell did. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* 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 bird. When 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. Life 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. --Nancy Bent

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1 edition (July 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030740594X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307405944
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,600,829 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I am the companion of a 12-year-old blue & gold macaw who came to live with us when she was five months old. Reading this book as my macaw's "siginificant other," I was at first appalled, then horrified and finally infuriated by the book and its author. Where to begin? Let's start with Nancy Ellis-Bell's foolish decision to allow this one-legged "rescue bird" to have free flight in the chilly "rain forests" of far Northern California, which ultimately led to its death. This outcome was almost inevitable from the day the author let "Sarah" fly out of her house to the day Sarah died from exposure to cold, rainy weather with temperatures verging on freezing because she was unable to make her way back to safety from the 80-foot heights of a fir/conifer canopy surrounding Ms. Ellis-Bell's home. The author's decision to let this native of the tropical rain forests of South America "be a bird" in the hostile, late-winter climate of Northern California's coastal range bordered on criminal negligence, in my opinion. Our macaw has always been clipped, and I would never consider giving her flight. There is simply too much risk involved: She could easily get lost or, more likely, one of the many red-shouldered hawks that live around here would quickly pick her off.

Ms. Ellis-Bell justified her decision on the falacious assertion that macaws who can't exercise their wings by flying succumb to "wasting macaw disease," which she describes as a buildup of the "enzyme that in the wild allows [macaws] to beat their wings and stay airborne ... to deadly levels in a caged bird, literally emulsifying its muscles." In all my years of macaw companionship, I'd never read about this threat or heard any vet talk about it, especially not as a hazard of not allowing a macaw to fly. So I looked it up on the Internet.
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Format: Hardcover
Ms. Ellis-Bell's callous and ignoble treatment of the macaw known as Sarah, in what was published under a clever marketing title by Harmony Books under the auspices of Crown Publishing, is nothing more than 244 pages of self-justification for the death of the macaw by a woman who had no business, absolutely none, adopting the bird in the first place.

Interested in Sarah, I was as I read on, instead supposed to care about Ms. Ellis-Bell's garden, her ponds, her climbing roses, her husband, her marriage, and her cramped trailer.

She allowed Sarah to die, the animal who trusted her, to die. Then turns around and tries to make a buck off of writing her story, glorifying herself as a lover of animals. Please!

On the back cover, Ms. Ellis-Bell claims to be a "respected literary agent, a former professor, and an author." She can claim to be whatever she wants but that don't make her compassionate, a good writer; or anything other than cruel, ignorant and opportunistic.

bg burke
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Format: Hardcover
First, I must state that I own an African Grey parrot who is the light of my life, and I protect her life everyday by giving her the best care possible. I was very excited to get this book, but after reading it, I have been upset to the point of writing this review. The macaw named Sarah was "rescued" by a novice parrot person. The bird was deemed untouchable, and no attempt was made to rehabilitate her in this regard, but she was still given free reign of the house and was never caged after the first few weeks. She was allowed to "be a bird" within the home even though every attempt was made to bird proof the house and keep her safe. But then, because the "rescuer" felt bad that this wild caught bird had been caged, Sarah was allowed to free fly outside which was in a forest. Eventually, Sarah took to the trees, where she perished after a week in the driving rain because she would not come when called. She was found dead on the ground outside her home, where she had eventually tried to return. The writer describes watching Sarah, high in the trees, sinking in demeanor day by day, until she lost track of her. I feel terrible that this beautiful bird was caught, injured in the process, and then sent to the U.S. to be kept as a pet. But I feel much worse that she ended up with a person who was so emotional about this fact, that she tried to re-introduce the bird to an outside environment completely foreign to the bird after years of being in a cage. This poor bird was doomed, and I cannot stop thinking about her. She starved to death up in those trees, and the weather probably caused her to be miserable and sick before she finally died trying to go home.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
The image that comes to my mind when I think about the woman who wrote this book is a manic woman living in a run-down trailer on a garbage strewn lot surrounded by more animals than she can care for. And certainly more animals than she can care for properly. Perhaps she is an animal hoarder, that is someone who believes that it is her mission to save or rescue animals and who believes that whatever treatment she provides is better than anything that anyone else could do.

But she did a terrible job taking care of this bird and let it try to fend for itself in the chilly forests of Northern California. (SPOILER: the bird starved to death or died from exposure.) This macaw and the conure and something like 39 cats lost their lives as a result of her irresponsibility. She fed the birds inappropriate foods and gave the bird gin-and-tonics! She let the birds torment the dogs, she accumulated stray cats and then wrote off their lives. One wonders what sort of veterinary care any of these animals received. She repeatedly disregarded the advice of bona-fide bird rescuers. She gave the bird gin-and-tonics! (I had to repeat that. I just cannot believe that someone would do this.) All the while the phone is ringing, the birds are squawking, the dogs are cowering, the cats are being eaten by mountain lions, food and poop cover the floor of the trailer, old machinery rusts in the "garden", her husband has moved into his office....

She imagined what these animals think, in fact the very title of the book demonstrates her tendency to anthropomorphosize. It's unlikely that the parrot thought she was a dog.
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