Our Sunday morning study routine was always the same. It was the only day my husband and I could get up in a more leisurely fashion, so we took advantage of that. At the same time, we wanted to finish work so we might have some time to play. After we peeled ourselves out of bed and away from the cats, we ate breakfast at the diner around the corner, then settled in at a coffee shop for a few hours to work on schoolwork. A few months after I started my coursework at Canisius, we went to a small café near our apartment, one we’d only visited a handful of times. This is where we met Indigo.
Indigo is a 14-year-old, captive-bred Hyacinth Macaw, the largest flying parrot, and the largest macaw. From the top of their heads to the tip of their tails, they can be over three feet long. Indigo was sitting at a table with her humans in all her bright blue and yellow glory, rushing to the edge of the table to greet my husband and I when we came near. After talking with her guardians for quite some time, we settled into a nearby table to ostensibly begin working. What came next was an informal education in anthrozoology.
While it is unusual to see a dog in a coffee shop, it does happen. Service animals, or those in training, are not terribly uncommon. Exotic birds, however, are a different story – especially birds who are not caged, who are sitting with their humans, either perched on the table or cradled in their arms, just as a toddler would be. Indigo even ate lunch, snacking on macadamia nuts and bread. She strutted around the table, perched on her human’s shoulder, and got a bit groggy, ready for a nap. And she had no shortage of admirers.
There was the mother with two boys, aged 11 and 12, one of whom exclaimed “whoa!” when they walked in the door. They stopped to talk about Indigo, excitedly drawing comparisons between her and their friend’s parakeet. There was the couple who walked in and greeted Indigo by name; apparently, she is a regular. There was the retired gentleman who stopped by the table no less than three times to introduce himself, chat, and swap stories about animals and life in general. Another couple greeted Indigo, noting that they were worried, as they hadn’t seen her in about a month. They talked with Indigo’s humans for an extended period of time, watched YouTube videos about dogs on an iPad, and interacted with Indigo herself, talking and gazing at the bird with absolute enchantment. At one point, I noticed that two complete strangers at different tables had begun talking about their dogs to one another.
Nonhumans bring humans together. They are an easy connection point and are an enjoyable topic – who wants to talk about their boring job when they can talk about their cat’s goofy antics or their dog’s agility training? They inspire sharing with one another when we think we don’t have any common ground. They liven up a room, and they make us smile, sometimes despite ourselves. For that moment, Indigo belonged to the community, and we appreciated her, not just for herself, but for the gregarious selves we became in her presence.