Friday, July 23, 2010

Macaw Whispers

For 14 years Qantaqa, my beautiful malamute mix, was my constant companion; from Colorado to Cape Cod to North Carolina. She was self-possessed and opinionated and more cat than dog. She liked to lie in the sun or curl up under  the bed. She was responsive to requests, not so much to commands. She spent the days in her den (my Subaru Forester) and resented leaving it to go for a walk with *sniff* humans. She owned me far more than I ever owned her.
For some reason, when our severe macaw, Willow, joined our household 6 years ago, "Qantaqa" was the first word she learned and she said it for many, many months before her next word entered her vocabulary (a strident and very appropriately used, "Bye!!"). 

Qantaqa was still with us when Willow joined our house. She'd aged, but she remained stately, as beautiful as ever, and still prone to doing her own thing. She was an old lady and I really didn't have much cause to call her to me -- she came downstairs to go outside when it suited her, she came into the kitchen at meal times, and otherwise she denned up in our bedroom. So in actuality, I didn't use her name that often, and when I did I was much more likely to call her Taqa, Queen Ta or just plain Ta. I think Willow just enjoyed the sounds of her full name. For a brief while, all dogs became "Qantaqa!" (pronounced kahn-TAH-kah). It is odd, though, because our birds generally needed to hear a word numerous times over many months before incorporating it into their vocabulary, much less into daily usage. (With the Murphy's-Law caveat that if it was a curse word, it would be learned in one repetition.)

Qantaqa died 2 years ago. But Willow still says her name when looking at 3-year-old borzoi, Quill. It's all she's ever called him (though she appropriate calls our other borzoi Finn). And, in a way, she's been prophetic because Taqa's mantel has passed to Quill. He's the only being in the household to whom boss cat, Master Odin shows deference. He's a bit moody, opinionated, and cat-like in his own right, just like Ta was. He is, thankfully, marginally more amenable to training. Nevertheless, we often laugh that he's channeling Qantaqa. 

Last night I was feeding the dogs near Willow's cage. 

"Qantaqa!" screeched Willow, as I was calling Quill to his bowl. 

"Willow, dearest, his name is Quill." I said to her.

"Qantaqa!", she shouted again. 

"This is Quill," I said.

Then I heard her whisper, ever so softly, "Quill. Quill." under her breath. 

I looked over my shoulder and smiled, "That's right, Willow, it's Quill."

She looked at me, raised the feathers on her head, widened her eyes, and paused. Then she screeched, "Qantaqa!"

What could I say? She could be right; maybe he's Quill and Qantaqa.


  1. I'm glad that sweet girl is still with you, even though in a somewhat different form :)

  2. I have a feeling she'll always be with us.