Socrates is a 15-year-old umbrella cockatoo. Some birds want to tear things up, but he's more of a puzzle parrot. Those linkable alphabet letters for little kids? Soc can sit with those for hours, putting them together and taking them apart. He's smart and likes to pensively scratch the white feathers under his chin—hence his name. My wife and I brought him home 14 years ago, and we've been together ever since. He was even in our wedding as the ring bearer, bow tie included.

Socrates sees my wife and daughter as playmates—he tilts his head back until they can't see his eyes, then throws it forward and yells, "Peekaboo!" But I'm his partner in crime. I even got a tattoo of his feet on my left shoulder because he's made it clear that's his turf. We take walks in the park—I have a little leash that fits around his body. We dine outside at our favorite Italian restaurant, and the chef always brings Soc a little bite of zucchini. When I take a nap, he snuggles on my feet, and we cozy up to watch TV together at night. When it's time to put him back into his cage for bed, he always squawks, "I love you!"—which might just be a way to guilt me into letting him stay up. And when he senses we're stressed, he'll call out, "Come give me a kiss?"

Parrots are flock animals that are able to form deep connections with people. To us, Socrates is just another member of the family. My wife and I even drafted a section in our will to designate who's going to take care of him (our daughter is first in line, with close friends as backup). He might actually survive us—parrots can live for up to 70 years. But my sincere hope is that we'll turn into senior citizens together. By the time Socrates is old enough to get cranky, I'll be deaf enough not to hear him.


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