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Narcotics officers recover purloined parrot (Video)

By Dianna Wray
March 19, 2013 at 11:01 p.m.
Updated March 19, 2013 at 10:20 p.m.

Laurie Garretson pets Gilbert the parrot, who was returned to her after being stolen March 4 from Earthworks Nursery in Victoria.

Anyone who has information about Mattie, the red-tailed African gray parrot still missing, is asked to call 361-573-3836 or go to Earthworks, 102 E. Airline Road. Ask for Laurie Garretson.

When Laurie Garretson discovered her birds Gilbert and Mattie had been stolen from Earthworks Nursery three weeks ago, she tried not to let herself hope they'd be found.

On Tuesday, she could hardly believe what she was hearing when narcotics agents walked into the nursery she and her husband, Mark Garretson, own and told her Gilbert, a green Mexican parrot, had been found.

"Mrs. Garretson, I believe we've found your bird," an agent told her Tuesday.

Walking out to the car, her heart was pounding. What if it wasn't Gilbert?

When they opened the door of the suburban, Gilbert immediately began chirping and moving to get closer to her.

"That's your bird all right," one of the agents said. "He's been fighting all of us."

Garretson and her husband adopted Gilbert from a woman in the Hill Country more than 14 years ago. The bird had led a stressful life, compulsively plucked out his feathers and was mistrustful of humans. But over time, he came to trust his new owners, perching on Garretson's shoulder and purring when she stroked his feathered head.

When Garretson and her husband arrived at their nursery March 4, they discovered the back door had been busted and both Gilbert and Mattie, a red-tailed African gray parrot, were gone.

Lying awake at night, Garretson worried about both the birds, but she was particularly concerned about Gilbert, knowing he'd be difficult with strangers.

The Garretsons offered a reward for information leading to the return of their birds, but she tried to get used to not hearing Mattie say "Hello" every morning and to not seeing Gilbert hopping around and flapping his green wings in his cage.

She said they couldn't reveal the details, but Gilbert had been found in a house.

They carried the cage inside while it seemed like everyone in the nursery burst into tears of relief, she said.

"My heart is still beating so fast," she said. "It's unbelievable. I just can't believe it."

His cage was placed back in its space, and customers and employees kept stopping to watch him flap his wings, listening to his contented sounds whenever Garretson stopped to stroke his head. His cage had pieces of bologna and bits of cheese crackers in the bottom of it, but, aside from being very thirsty, Gilbert seemed in good health, Garretson said.

She fed him almonds and saw that he got plenty of water. Her eyes filled with tears as she stroked his feathers and looked into his eyes.

"I'm just surprised and thrilled," she said.

The agents didn't find Mattie, and they warned her not to count on recovering the other bird. She's still holding out a little bit of hope that Mattie will also be found and brought home.

"I know a lot of people think it's silly, that they're just birds, but they're my little kids," she said. "I never thought it would happen, that I'd get him back."

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