Saturday morning I found Pacino deceased at the bottom of his overnight cage. We are in shock and hurting, filled with questions (we do not know what happened) and just plain longing for him to still be alive. Thank you for reading a little bit about his life, and if you can, we would love to hear your Pacino stories in comments, for our memories.
We adopted him as a hatchling the summer my husband turned 30. We were fairly newlywed still, and the girls were so small. He was a tiny, cobalt blue and bright yellow macaw with a short, perfect tail and enormous, cartoonishly out of proportion eyes that studied everything and everyone. Those eyes were set in two fields of vivid zebra-stripe face feathers.
We held him gently and stared at him in awe, sometimes all day long. The girls made pillowy nests for him inside cardboard boxes. His meals those first several weeks were liquid formula. He gobbled it up through flexible straws we held for him, and he bobbed and jerked his head and neck greedily to get every drop. This was a brief season, and a good, solid bonding one. I remember wondering during those weeks if this tiny, quiet, unmoving bird would ever walk or make a sound.
My husband named him Bobby Pacino, after two of his favorite actors, Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino. Known far and wide as just Pacino, over time his personality became famous, part of our own identity I suppose. More than extensions of us, he was his own person. The life energy he lent to our little family is hard to quantify.
He was a handful, for sure. Messy, noisy, demanding, sometimes uncooperative, occasionally violent but mostly in self defensive ways, and can I say loud and messy twice? Past infancy, macaws are neither quiet nor tidy creatures. His tail eventually grew long, his eyes gradually fit his frame, and his voice and energy levels exploded out of nowhere.
But! Pacino was also unbelievably smart and articulate, dazzlingly beautiful and prone to groom himself for long periods of time, but without ever plucking his feathers out. He was gregarious, appreciative, energetic, and easily one of the most affectionate animals I have ever met or even heard mention of.
Pacino was highly sensitive to moods and attitudes. He was perceptive, trusting some people quickly and others not at all. He bonded tightly to his favorite people. He sometimes held a small grudge against us when we travelled but always forgave us quickly and resumed the love fest soon. This was one of the times he delivered a hard bite. I was on the receiving end of it, and I can attest to how strong that shiny hooked beak was. But again, within minutes we were cuddling.
Pacino certainly found his voice, ha! My concerns over his quiet beginning were quickly dispelled. He squawked and sang and make all the Amazonian bird calls he was born to make, whether we wanted him to or not; and he mimicked and learned and spoke words and phrases in an eerily human voice, frequently joining in conversations and sprinkling in laughter at perfectly appropriate moments. Meaning, he got our jokes and was gracious with how funny we were or were not. We always loved for people to hear Pacino laugh (hahaha!) and ask us, “Was that the bird?” He sounded so much like a person. My god we miss that sound. Did you know that he learned to play Gone Gone Peekaboo in one afternoon? He was less than six months old.
A few years ago, with very little effort, I was able to catalog over 120 words and phrases Pacino had mastered then. On Saturday when we told Jessica the sad news, she suggested that we write another list now, to memorialize him. So if there’s a special thing he ever said to you, something that stands out, feel free to send it our way and we will add it to the list.
If you only saw photos of him online or met him at chaotic parties, then you never got to see Pacino at his best. He thrived on face to face interaction. He loved to be spoken to directly, and held, and he loved to dance. He has a particular swaying move which he did with his short legs stuck out stiff and his feathery shoulders kind of shrugging, his beak up in the air, yellow chest puffed out. We called it his Stevie Wonder dance, and we always sang to him, “I just called… to say… I love you…” We were usually rewarded with a happy operatic reply. We are going to miss that little ritual, hard.
He always appreciated a good snack and was adept to playing the “Do you wanna bite” game, going for up to twenty minutes of gasping, dramatic, sideways pacing without doing his part to close the circuit. Then he finally say his part, “I wanna bite!” and laugh.
Speaking of snacks: Pacino loved cookies and crackers, apple cores, pizza, French fries (especially McDonald’s), raw jalapeño peppers, strawberries, grapes, any kind of batter he could lick off of a kitchen beater (holding it like an ice cream cone), peanut butter, and more. Mostly anything he could fish out of his Daddy’s mouth or steal from our plates. If he especially liked a food, his pupils would dilate wildly while he said, “Mmmmm do you like it??” Or sometimes, “Mmmm what is it?” The main food he never liked was carrots. If offered any size or shape of carrot he would immediately throw it to the ground, like it offended him a little.
Pacino moved here with us from the city and quickly acclimated to farm life. He learned the sound of the horses’ whinnies and would call to them by name, especially “Chaaaaa-ntaaaa!” and when we had Daphne’s foals, “Wah-PI!! Wah-PI!!” Once Klaus was here, Pacino was happy to encourage his little brother’s fetching efforts. He cheered generously and screamed “GET IT!” Klaus loved it, and we did too. He was also infinitely gentle with kittens and baby chicks. It was quite a thing to behold.
Once Pacino began to spend warm days outside with the chickens and ducks, his lifelong and very natural habit of scattering birdseed came in handy for social bonding. The hens quickly learned that standing beneath Pacino’s perch meant a generous scattering of more exotic fare than they normally received, and we thought Pacino enjoyed throwing stuff at them. I used to hate for him to do this in the house, because it meant constant sweeping of the wood floors. Jessica and Handsome once heard me reprimanding him, “Pacino this is not your mess castle!” Well, outside in the South Coop, it definitely was his Mess Castle, and he was King.
I have, in fact, complained a lot over the years about the mess and the noise Pacino generated, but today I would very much love to hear him scream obnoxiously again and say Hi momma and to clean up the floor and smell his powdery dander. I am ashamed for having ever complained, for having every assumed that he would always have him. We trusted his life expectancy too much. He was part of us, and losing him at all hurts more than we want it to. Losing him so suddenly, with no explanation, is leaving us in shock. Honestly, we expected to grow old with him. We expected to find a place for him to retire when we die.
He loved us, we felt it. He loved many of you, we saw it. We know that he was loved by so many of you, too. Thank you for that. Thank you to our friends and family who have sent the most wonderful messages, making it clear that Pacino was known as more than an unusual pet; he was a family member with an amazing, full spectrum personality. He is already deeply and sorely missed, and we shudder to think forward to all the things we will be doing here at the farm without him.
“Birds are as fragile as they are beautiful.”