Cayce and I have come to an understanding. I understand that I am below her in her pecking order. She understands that I will wear tall boots to avoid having chunks of my legs removed. It’s not a particularly equitable understanding. But it’s an understanding none-the-less.
This is a new development in our relationship. When I just occasionally appeared in her life, she treated me like a guest. She frolicked and flew and ate chunks of beef out of my hand without so much as an aggressive blink.
Now that I’m appearing on a regular basis, she seems to have decided I need to be put in my place. And that place is below her place. It’s not like she’s every caught me eating her food (not into raw beef, thank you very much). But, familiarity bred contempt. Or at least attitude.
When I am backstage at the Rock City Raptors amphitheater, I have to be careful not to stand too close to her enclosure. She sits on a perch on the inside of the door and reaches through the mesh to peck at whatever part of me is in reach. During our part in the program, she runs at my legs and attempts to peck me. Given that her beak is designed to tear open flesh, there is the potential she will draw blood–in fact, she’s bloodied John’s legs on more than one occasion (he also has the joy of being lower than Cayce in the pecking order).
This has led to my latest fashion statement: cowboy boots and shorts. She can bite my boots all she wants and I can’t feel a thing. However, Cayce is a sly one. About the second time she encountered my counter measures, she reached high and nipped at the exposed flesh above my boot.
Apparently having to reach above my boot was quite irritating to her. Her next antic was to turn and bit the inside of my arm between my sleeve and my glove in the middle of a program. And that wasn’t enough for her. She’s also taken to biting the hand that feeds her when she takes her food out of my hand. I used to just stuff a piece of beef into a loosely held fist and let her stick her beak in to retrieve it. Now I have to make sure I keep my hand circling her beak when she twists her head–otherwise she clamps down on my hand.
Oddly, I’m somewhat flattered by this attention. It’s as if she’s decided I’m part of her human flock and order must be established. I feel I have moved from the casual visitor to someone who belongs, even if it’s at the bottom of Cayce’s hierarchy.
I just wish “pecking order” weren’t quite so literal. Although, I do get special pleasure out of answering anyone who asks about the bruise on my arm with a casual, “Oh, a Black Vulture bit me.”