Business bandits pinch popular parrots

Dianna Wray

March 7, 2013 at 8:02 p.m.
Updated March 7, 2013 at 9:08 p.m.

Mattie, the red-tailed African gray parrot, always greeted Laurie Garretson when she walked into Earthworks Nursery.

Monday morning, there was no call of "hello" from Mattie.

Her cage was empty, and the cage that held Gilbert, a green Mexican parrot, was gone.

"They're a part of our family," Garretson said. "It just makes me sick that people can do things like this."

The back door of the nursery was broken open, and two of Garretson's birds, Mattie and Gilbert, were gone.

Garretson and her husband, Mark Garretson, started taking in birds more than 20 years ago after someone came to them with some doves they didn't want. The couple took the birds and kept them at their nursery.

Over the years, more birds followed.

Garretson received Mattie about two years ago from a friend who loved the bird but knew she couldn't keep her. She made Garretson promise she'd never give her away.

Gilbert has been with the couple for more than 14 years.

Gilbert was given to the Garretsons by a woman who was terrified of birds and kept Gilbert outside through the harsh Hill Country winters, constantly covered in a tarp. The woman called Garretson and asked her whether there was anything she could do.

The woman couldn't keep the bird, she told Garretson, but she didn't want it to die.

Garretson talked to her husband, and he flew a plane up to the Hill Country, picked up Gilbert and flew him back. The parrot was traumatized by his experience, and he developed a habit of plucking off his feathers.

"He looked like a little naked chicken with green feathers," Garretson said. "Little Gilbert, he loved to get on my shoulder, and he loved to have his head scratched. He would literally purr like a cat."

She and her husband found the back door demolished when they came to work Monday morning.

Since then, she's been hoping that whoever took Mattie and Gilbert will be kind to them and take good care of them.

"I'd love to know they're OK. I can't stop thinking, 'Are they OK?' If I just knew someone was taking good care of them, it wouldn't be OK, but it would help," she said.

Garretson and her husband called the police and filed a report, but she said she's trying not to let herself have too much hope that the birds will be returned.

"They mean a lot to us, and they meant a lot to the people who gave them to us," she said.

The couple is offering a reward for information leading to the return of the birds.

The birds can be difficult with people they don't know, Garretson said.

She said she's hoping that if the birds prove to be too difficult, they will be dropped off in their cages at the nursery's backdoor rather than released into the wild, where they will not be able to survive.

"It's horrible to be robbed, period, but to take little birds from someone," she said.



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