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A Sudden Takeoff, a Quick Adoption and a Friend Is Lost

November 22, 2005|James Ricci | Times Staff Writer

On Halloween, ZZ the Amazon parrot left her man of 21 years and wound up in the hands of an ardent new admirer.

The jilted party, 52-year-old Larry Southwick of Long Beach, blames no one but himself for her unscheduled flight. "She wanted her lunch and I wanted to give her a bath, and I guess she freaked out," he lamented about the day she took wing.

But the thought that the Long Beach Bureau of Animal Control erroneously allowed ZZ to be adopted -- by a bureau employee, no less -- has left Southwick pained and seething.

ZZ, who is named for the band ZZ Top, had left home before. "She flew away once about 10 years ago and she was gone for three days, but then she came back," Southwick said. This time, he searched for a week, then called animal control Nov. 9.

Bureau officials told him that they'd found a parrot recently but that it had already been adopted. Only later did they determine that the adoption had been premature; Southwick had contacted them within five business days of the bird's disappearance, which warranted its return to him. Southwick was told to meet bureau personnel the next day and the bird would be returned.

The problem was that ZZ's new man, a bureau maintenance worker named Lawrence Tolliver, was loath to give her up. Tolliver, Southwick said, insisted to him that the bird was not ZZ, but Southwick was adamant about her identity.

After starting the necessary paperwork, and even instructing Southwick to retrieve a bird cage from his car, bureau officials decided to keep the bird for an extra day while the matter was straightened out.

Sometime that night, or the following day, Tolliver and the bird dropped from sight.

Southwick said his emotional distress had been intolerable. "I lost my father on Jan. 28 of this year, and I lost my mother, who I was extremely close to, July 2," he said. "And now the last member of my family I can do something about has been taken away from me. This bird is a piece of my life. Once a bird bonds with a human, they never bond with another one. They're monogamous. They don't put up with other people. I don't think of her as my bird. She thinks of me as her keeper, her personal assistant."

City officials have come over to Southwick's side and "are working to get the bird returned at this time," said animal control chief Wesley Moore. He declined to discuss Tolliver's employment status or other details.

Southwick already has combed through telephone directories but has been unable to find Tolliver. "I've been afraid my bird is dead, and that's why he's not giving her up," he said. "What does he think he's doing? Is he going to take her to Las Vegas and get married?"

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