Caruso, a Special Companion


Photo Credit: Personal Archives

Photo Credit: Personal Archives

This & That ― Vignettes of a Professional Journey
a column by Ines Bojlesen


What better companion can you ask for when you work at home, sitting at the computer hour after hour? A little being who loves you unconditionally, sings for you, and breaks the monotony by demanding attention while fully understanding your moods?

This post is dedicated to Caruso, my opera-whistling companion who enriched my life during the eight years he lived.

Caruso, a blue-headed Pionus, came to my family from a Texas aviary when he was a couple of months old. He showed his determination from the very start by resisting being put back in his shipping box for the night. The aviary had suggested he would probably feel more secure in it, but, no, he wanted to be out and join us.

Telephone interpreting with him in the room was risky, but he somehow knew that a finger over my lips meant “Mute it.” If the call extended beyond his patience, he would fly over and start pacing the desk. During my phone interpreting career, a judge complained once about a bad connection and static in the background, but never about parrot noises.

Caruso’s wings were not clipped; he was able to fly around the office and the entire house. He potty-trained himself and would fly back to his perch if nature called.

Photo Credit: Personal Archives

Photo Credit: Personal Archives

He loved attention. If I sat at the computer for too long, pounding on the keyboard, he would land next to the workstation and say “Psst!” If I still ignored him, he would sit on my right hand, which held the mouse, and look at me with his beautiful brown eyes, as if to say, “Do you see me now?”

He shared my passion for books, dictionaries and everything on my desk and the shelves around me. Caruso would inspect most of them and leave his trademark: an inverted V-shaped tear!

Caruso knew when I was sick or not feeling well. Once, a strong migraine sent me to bed for a good part of the day. Caruso perched on the exercise bike in my room, flew to the bed and walked up and down my body very quietly, checking on me.

While the Pionus species is not known for being a good talker, Caruso spoke three languages – English, Danish and Portuguese – and in context. He knew when and how to say something at the right time. His “I love you” melted me every time, even if he said it right after he took a bite out of one of my precious dictionaries. Some of his endearing words were:

Danish: Sov godt (“Sleep well”), Har du sovet godt? (“Have you slept well?”), God morgen (“Good morning”);

Portuguese: Carusinho querido (“Little Caruso dearest”), Vem cá (“Come here”);

English (his A language): What are you doing, hmm? Go to bed. Come here!

The piece de resistance, however, was Caruso’s rendition of Mio Babbino Caro by Giacomo Puccini. He could whistle a good part of it, in tune and with emotion. We never got tired of “singing” the aria together.

I would love to hear from other translators who work at home on how they interact with their pets. Are your pets a challenge during your work hours? Any horror stories of work lost due to pet-caused incidents? Has your pet had a positive impact on your work routine? How much support do you get from your pet when facing challenging work? I invite you to share your stories with us.

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