Monday, March 1, 2010

Alex & Me by Irene M. Pepperberg *Review*

I will start out by confessing I am not an animal lover. I know many of you are now gasping in horror wondering what kind of person I could possible be. Growing up I had a pet cat. He was a stray that came and went as he wanted and was never allowed in the house. So, I never grew up with an animal or created a bond with one. Even though I am unable to relate with how an animal can become as much a member of the family as one of the children I can understand how they can become such a good friend.

Alex & Me is not the type of book I would normally want to read, much less request at my local library. But when I read about this incredible bird I had to know more.

On September 6th, 2007 an African Grey parrot named Alex died prematurely at the age of thirty-one. His last words to his owner, Irene Pepperberg, were "You be good. I love you." Over the thirty years they had worked together, Alex and Irene had become famous- two pioneers who opened an unprecedented window into the hidden yet vast world of animal minds. Alex's brain was the size of a shelled walnut, and when Irene and Alex first met, birds were not believed to possess any potential for language, consciousness, or anything remotely comparable to human intelligence. Yet over the years Alex proved many things. Alex and Irene stayed together through thick and thin- despite sneers from experts, extraordinary financial sacrifices, and a nomadic existence from one university to the other. The story of their thirty-year adventure is equally a landmark of scientific achievement and an unforgettable human-animal bond.

I knew parrots could speak, although I guess I assumed it was more mimicking then actual language. I also knew they could perform simple commands. What I did not know was how intelligent their little "bird brain" was. Alex astonished me on nearly every page of this book. He was able to recognize color, letters and numbers. He was able to "show" remorse when he made someone angry by saying he was sorry. He would turn his back in rebuff if he felt he was not getting his due respect. He had started to add and sound out words "nnn...uh...tuh" for the word nut. He was smarter then most 5 year old children! Unfortunately for Irene and the science community he died too soon. Alex was a liitle over 30 when he died, twenty years earlier then the average life span of an African Gray parrot. Who knows what more Alex could have accomplished? I sincerely hope the research continues into this area of animal intelligence.

I always thought my son's dog Holly was smart. One time while outside I walked over to a flower garden to begin working it. I couldn't find my hand held cultivator in the spot I normally kept it. "Now where did I put my hand rake?" I mumbled to myself. Holly ran around the house and came back with it in her mouth. I chuckled at her intelligence which I now know was not on par with Alex's but she impressed me nonetheless.

Do you have a pet that's incredibly smart? What trick can he/she do?

No comments:

Post a Comment