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People and Their Pets: Not All Pets Have Four Legs

People and Their Pets: Not All Pets Have Four Legs

By Jane Pontarelli.

Allow me to introduce you to Alison Minton's Chris and Holly. Alison Minton is The Accessories Editor of New York Social Diary. Chris and Holly are her two-legged winged friends. Chris, her cockatoo, even asks questions. Alison originally got Chris when she was planning an event; little did she know that her life was about to change forever.

Many aviation folks love and have birds, because of the obvious flying connection. Alison thought it would be fun to have parrots at the cocktail hour of the event, which was for the airline industry, so that people could take photos with them. She contacted a bird store in Greenwich Village that had brought birds to another event she had attended, and the owner invited her down to visit. It was a jungle in there—swings all over and birds on every swing. There was a playpen with baby birds of all types; she started petting a baby African Grey, and the next thing she knew, a baby cockatoo waddled over to her and grabbed her finger and wouldn't let go. That was Chris. She couldn't get him detached from her finger, and he looked up at her with his big brown eyes and cuddled next to her, and she was smitten. As he fell asleep in her arms, she handed over her credit card. He knew a sucker when he saw one.

Alison started working for a private club for airline executives, and she used to take Chris to work with her. She put up a swing in the office and brought in a bird tree, but he preferred sitting on the back of her chair. Chris got well socialized, being around people all the time. One day, Alison volunteered to help out for an event for a veterinary school, and the organizers were having a photoshoot of famous people and their pets for Town & Country. They asked if she knew any famous people. JetBlue was the hot new airline at the time, so she asked the people at JetBlue if the founder, David Neeleman, wanted to be photographed.

David had about nine kids, but no pets, so he agreed to pose with Chris. Chris was about a year old and had never modeled before, but it was obvious at the shoot that he was born to be a star. Alison didn't know how, but he knew how to pose and follow directions. He had the time of his life in front of the camera. A friend in advertising recommended an animal agency, and Alison took Chris to see the agent. Now, every once in a while, Chris gets a job, including Saturday Night Live and the Neiman Marcus catalog. Chris loves everything about working, from eating from the craft table to the pretty models he gets to work with, who he always hones in on and flirts with. Alison calls him the Leonardo DiCaprio of birds.

Amazingly, as naughty as he can be at home, he's a total pro on set. As soon as he realizes that it's "work," he gets his game face on and suddenly acts mature and quite well behaved. She thinks his two days rehearsing for Saturday Night Live was his favorite experience. He even met One Direction, and they serenaded him. The set designers made him a toy, and they created a special area for him to hang out in. He ate pistachio ice cream during breaks and everyone kept coming over to meet him and take photos with him, like he was the big star (which he thinks he is). He got paid and bought Alison new shoes with his paycheck.

Chris and Holly have enhanced Alison's life with unique experiences she never would have had—but especially Chris. They have been to almost every news station in the city for his appearances in different programs and segments; he's even friends with some of the news people on Facebook. In fact, Chris has a Facebook fan page and a private Facebook page. He also has a blog and a Twitter account.

Having Chris and Holly has also made Alison aware of the plight of captive birds. Before she had them, she didn't know that the bird trade industry is just like puppy mills. Additionally, cockatoos can live up to 100 years. Because they live so long and are so difficult to care for, they are the most rehomed parrots. The average cockatoo has 15 homes in its lifetime for an average of two years each. The lucky ones go to live out the rest of their lives at a sanctuary, but many of them end up living in dreadful conditions, locked in cages for years, in a closet or basement. Parrots are flock animals and need companionship. They have special dietary needs and they need stimulation. They are not the best pets for most people.

In nice weather, Allison puts a harness on Chris and takes him out for walks in the park. People often stop to chat and play with Chris, and it's a great opportunity for her to educate them about parrots and the care they need. She is glad he can be an ambassador for his species.

Alison knows that Chris and Holly are the stars, and she is riding their coattails to fame and fun.

Alison can be reached at

Jane Pontarelli & her precious companion.
Jane Pontarelli & her precious companion.

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