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Alex, the African Grey parrot, has died

I’m heartbroken. Today, I learned that Alex, the famous African Grey parrot, died on September 6, 2007. Alex, in case you don’ t know, was the subject of a 30-year experiment in learning – specifically avian learning (ALEX is actually an acronym for Avian Learning EXperiment). But Alex was much more than merely an experimental subject, he was truly extraordinary. Alex has his own Wikipedia article, which includes the following two quotes.

When Dr Pepperberg left Alex with a vet for treatment, Alex vocalized the words ‘Come here. I love you. I’m sorry. I want to go back.

    Whenever I read about this particular event, I cry. It is very poignant in part because it’s difficult to explain to our pets, even Alex, exactly why we’re taking them to and leaving them with a vet. Alex could verbalize his feelings, but most of our doggy and kitty friends can only look at us with uncertainty on their faces.

    According to Dr. Pepperberg, the final time she saw Alex was on Thursday September 6. They went through their goodnight routine in which she told him it was time to go in the cage. She recalls that Alex said “You be good. I love you.” She responded, “I love you, too.” He said “You’ll be in tomorrow,” and she responded, “Yes, I’ll be in tomorrow.”

      Dr. Pepperberg with Alex and friendsAt least their last exchange was a happy one. I will miss Alex, even though I never met him…I can only imagine how Dr. Pepperberg and Alex’s other personal friends must feel. I wish that I’d had the opportunity to meet him – I would love to be able to actually speak to a member of another species (in my language, not theirs). I flatter myself that I’m reasonably fluent in Sheltie and not too bad in canine generally, but (frankly) I think they understand us far better than we understand them :)

      On this day..

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