I miss Duke -- and I don’t mean John Wayne
Chuck Wenk and his pet parrot, Duke
Updated: March 29, 2012 3:35PM
I’ve rarely spoken about Duke, who has been sharing my office for almost 30 years.
Duke has always been a beautiful green-and-yellow “Blue Amazon” parrot who loves me and my daughter Wendy, spending lots of time on our shoulders, walking around the office with us. He could never really fly, as we’ve kept his wings clipped regularly -- though on rare occasions, if something disturbed him (like my son, who just never hit it off with Duke for some reason), he’d flap his wings enough to move to another desk in the office. And he was once found walking the floor during the security guard’s nightly check, and the security guard was never quite the same after that!
I’ve taken him across the street in Highland Park to the bank, and even to my grandson Sam’s class at the old Lake Bluff Central School for “Pirate Day,” where I spoke to the kids about why parrots are usually loyal to just one person, and why that worked well for pirates (and sole practitioners) over the years. One of the fifth-graders asked me back then who would take the parrot if something happened to me. I told him my son or daughter would.
“Well who will get him if your kids aren’t here?” he asked.
“In that case, you!” I chirped.
Duke was always the star of our holiday building party, where we would put him out in the lobby to greet the public for a few hours.
Wendy (Wenk) and I regularly pet his feathers and held him, while my son Wes -- who bravely fed him on weekends -- wouldn’t even attempt to pet him, even if he put on full catcher’s gear, including mask and chest protector.
Duke had been really healthy for those 30 years, shedding lots of feathers during “molting season” and often squawking loud enough that only his true owner could share an office with him (he never really embraced the two words I tried to teach him at our insurance business: “Claim denied!”). All of a sudden recently, he was strangely quiet, and had his eyes closed most of the day. That first night Wendy stayed with him all night, feeding him orange slices and water every hour. He made it through the night, but when he wasn’t much better that next morning, we called everybody we knew, to find a traveling bird doctor.
Neighbor Carol Weinstock in Lake Bluff rushed home to give us the number of her vet, but she and a few others did not treat birds. Others suggested 24-hour bird hospitals in the area, but two good friends urged me to bring him quickly to their favorite bird and animal hospital…which was a wonderful place that obviously specialized in treating parrots and all sorts of birds. Unfortunately, Dukie didn’t make it, and we just didn’t get there in time.
Steve Amdur and the Strusiners, our landlords, never flinched and always welcomed Duke from the beginning. And lots of tenants would bring their kids in to give him a peanut or talk to him. Duke loved kids and would usually perform his little trick where he would grab a peanut from me, right from my mouth!
At least for a while now, I may actually hear every word of my phone calls, as that background squawking won’t be drowning them out. That may be just too quiet for me!
Columnist Chuck Wenk is a Lake Bluff resident