The following is a firsthand story from team trucker Tara Gillaspie, submitted in response to our December cover story on trucker pets.
I also own a blue and gold macaw who rides with my husband Billy and me as we go down the road with are freight. (Read about another macaw-carrying trucker, as well as other drivers and their pets, in our December cover story.)
She is a little over a year old, and she has a vocabulary of about 50 words. She loves to ride on the truck with us. She love attentions from all the other drivers who take her picture; she poses for them and will holler out if they walk by without noticing her. When Billy gets out to fuel shes sit in the window hollering, “Daddy!” It’s very funny to see. She plays with me in the bunk and rolls over on her back to get a tummy rub. She will play peek-a-boo with me and even sing a song (as in “lalalalala”) when she hears me sing with the radio. Having Topaz with us is like having a child around. She is a joy to have.
We feed her a special blend of bird pellets that costs about $35 for a 35-lb. bag, lots of fruits and vegetables and whatever else Bobby and I are eating at the time. She has to share with us. You can’t feed these birds just anything — no sugar, chocolate, avocados or foods with lots of salt. This will shorten their lifespan, which can be up to 90 years.
Topaz is also potty trained. She potties on newspaper that we put on the floor behind the driver seat, and she also will say potty when she goes and tells us she was a good girl.
These birds are not for everyone because they require a lot of attention and affection. They bond to one person but tolerate others, if you keep them socialized with others. Topaz loves to go into the truckstop and grab the fuel ticket and tell the person behind the counter hello. She even waves goodbye as we are leaving.
If you are thinking of owning a macaw make sure you have a family member younger than you who would take care of this wonderful friend after you pass on, because more than likely the macaw will outlive you. All macaw have a different personalties; they aren’t always sweet. Sometimes they can get moody and bite, but Topaz has never bitten to the point it has hurt badly. It’s just her way of telling me she doesn’t like something I am doing, although sometimes she will even tell me, “Stop that! Get out of there! Quit!” Sometimes she just lets me know she don’t want to be messed with.
I don’t recommend every driver run out and buy a macaw for a pet. Like I said, they are not for everyone, and they are like children — into everything. You have to watch them very closely be cause if they think they can do something, they will, and their beaks can really do damage to things if they are left unsupervised. We do have a cage in our truck to put her in at night and when we get out of our truck, not just to keep our things safe but for her safety as well. You would not want her to lose her balance and fall off the seat or cabinet in the truck an hurt herself, and you don’t want to come back to a truck and find paper chewed up or wires to your cell phone chopped into. It’s best when you cant keep a eye on your feathered friend to put it in a cage and reward it for going in there. These animals are smart; if they know you are getting out of the truck they won’t be so easy to put into a cage because they don’t like it when you leave them alone, and you will have a time putting your feathered friend up.
Do you have a great story about a pet you carry with you on the road? E-mail it and any pictures you have of your pet to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we may publish it on our website!