A survivor’s tale

Elizabeth Laubscher

A NYPD drug-sniffing parrot’s life since Sept. 11

Melanie Miracle kisses her parrot Flower, a 10-year-old Bolivian scarlet macaw. Flower is a drug-sniffing parrot that survived the World Trade Center collapse. Leslie Cusano | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Most of the bird’s-eye views of Sept. 11, 2001, were from the sky. For one particular bird it was from a Manhattan apartment within walking distance of the World Trade Center.

This bird is not like most birds, however. His name is Flower, and he is a 10-year-old Bolivian scarlet macaw that is 4 feet tall from head to tail and weighs 3 pounds.

Flower was once a drug-sniffing parrot for the New York City Police Department. He now resides in Mantua, Ohio.

Flower’s story

On Sept. 11, Flower was waiting at home for his handler, who was a police officer for the NYPD. He was called in to help with the chaos.

Flower’s handler never came home. He was severely injured and later died from his injuries.

“Flower was left in the apartment for four days without food, water and electric,” said Melanie Miracle, Flower’s new handler.

The apartment was so close to ground zero that the collapse of the buildings caused some of the windows in the apartment to blow out, which left him and the rest of the apartment covered in dust and debris.

“He couldn’t breathe right,” Miracle said. “He had a lot of stuff in his lungs. When I brought him to the vet they had to do four irrigations on his lungs to clean them out. He is all better now.”

Miracle acquired Flower by chance. She was living in New York City at the time of the attacks. She became friends with the former owner’s sister because of their mutual love for birds.

The sister felt keeping Flower would bring back difficult memories for her so she gave him to Miracle to take care of.

Since Flower was property of the NYPD, Miracle had to sign legal documents stating she would be the new handler for Flower and then get the adoption approved by the NYPD.

Miracle needs these papers because Flower has a computer chip embedded into his skin. Certain places can scan him to see if he was stolen. Since his chip still reads the NYPD, she needs proof that she did not steal him.

Miracle has considered putting Flower back to work with a local police department. The job requires government funding and training for either her or a new handler.

She said the reason Flower did not stay with the NYPD is because his handler had died and no one else wanted to take the responsibility of learning how to work with the parrot.

Miracle said the police department taught him how to attack when he hears “Take him down” from his handler, which she said he will still act on if he hears the full command. He can also say phrases such as “Bang, Bang,” “Get the burglar” and “Spread ’em.” His whole vocabulary consists of roughly 50 words and 10 phrases.

Flower also loves going for car rides. Miracle said the bird would never want to get out of her white car but was always willing to get out of her gold van. She could not figure out why and then it dawned on her that the white car must have reminded Flower of a police car.

She said he also likes riding on all-terrain vehicles, which she is too nervous to let him do, but she said she just recently took him for a bicycle ride and he seemed to enjoy it.

The only forms of transportation Miracle has found out Flower doesn’t like are horses and helicopters. They both scare him.

“The bird doesn’t mind guns,” Miracle said, “but he is afraid of horses and bubbles.”

Miracle said she thinks Flower remembers his past and that he misses it. She said he gets excited when he hears sirens. She also said he loves going to the Mantua Police Station, which they frequent.

He’s still got it

Flower remembers his old job duties and still does them when he has a chance.

“He was taught to rip open any containers that could have drugs in them,” Miracle said. “He will rip open medicine bottles, spices in the kitchen; he even ripped open my lipstick tubes. We had to Flowerproof the house so he couldn’t get into everything.”

Miracle said Flower has always been spoiled, starting with his first handler. Since she has adopted him, however, she said she has “humanized” Flower as much as an exotic parrot could possibly be.

“He brushes his beak like a human brushes his or her teeth — he has his own brush that he holds with his claw and then brushes his beak,” Miracle said, “he also has his own little shower that he takes showers in and he rolls up in the comforter with me and sleeps.”

Since Flower can be a lot to handle, Miracle needs a break from him sometimes. When she needs a parrot sitter, she calls her good friend Tammi Kraynak.

Kraynak lives just minutes away from Miracle. Kraynak has her own exotic bird sanctuary called Parrot Hope Sanctuary. Her sanctuary is part of a rescue organization that accepts abused, neglected and unwanted parrots and cockatiels.

“He’s a lot of fun,” Kraynak said. “He’s well-adjusted and sweet. We have a really good time.”

Kraynak said Miracle has done a wonderful job helping Flower adjust to his new life.

Miracle said there is a funny story behind Flower, the drug-sniffing male parrot’s name. She said she was told that when he was first adopted by the NYPD, they thought he was a female and he looked like a flower when all of his bright-colored feathers would stick out. Since parrots do not have any external sex organs, the NYPD decided to get him DNA tested. That’s when they found out he was male — but the name had already stuck.

Miracle said they thought it was funny and ironic.

“He’s a drug bird, he’s a police bird, he’s a flower,” she said.

Contact features correspondent Elizabeth Laubscher [email protected]