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Lola the parrot goes missing, and Silver Lake neighbors flock to the search effort

The African gray flew away June 28. Her owner, Alexis Readinger, mounted an intensive search that has involved a psychic, a pet detective, mobile billboards — and a community of concerned strangers.

July 20, 2010|By Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times

Ever since the misfortune, Alexis and Charlie have spent many sunsets sitting in Silver Lake with the car windows open, listening for Lola.

She flew the coop June 28.

It was late afternoon, and Lola and Charlie were perched amid the bamboo on Alexis Readinger's back patio, pecking at a clove of garlic. Readinger left them there — she had a meeting with a client inside — and when she came out, Lola was gone.

Readinger, 35, was supposed to leave for Brazil the next day. But she postponed the trip and launched an intensive search for her beloved parrot.

It has so far involved a psychic, a pet detective and several traveling billboards — at a cost of a couple thousand dollars.

It has also drawn in a community of strangers who want to find Lola almost as much as Readinger does.

Many of them learned about the bird's disappearance from the billboards and the signs plastered around the neighborhood. Lampposts and walls are papered with sign for missing pets, but these stood out.

"Lola," they read, "likes almonds, oranges and ice cream."

With a mask of white around her eyes, silver feathers on her body and a bright orange tail, Lola looks like most other African gray parrots.

What makes her special, Readinger said, is her behavior: "She's a big kisser."

An interior designer with a master's degree in architecture, Readinger is an unabashed aesthete. She finds parrots to be the world's most beautiful and intelligent pets.

Two years ago she took Charlie, who is also an African gray, into a West Hollywood pet store to find him a companion. Charlie chose Lola. (They started kissing immediately.) The two shared a large golden cage.

In recent months, Readinger believes the parrots had begun to show mating behavior. Several times she found them in the bathroom making a nest amid her makeup and hair products.

On Thursday, Readinger stood in her living room looking out floor-to-ceiling windows at the green hills of Silver Lake.

When the shadow of a bird passed nearby, she looked up hopefully.

"Oh," she said a beat later. "That's just a pigeon."

Because Lola's wings are clipped, Readinger doesn't think she's gone far.

Recently, someone called to say he had seen a parrot nearby. But when the bird was finally coaxed down from the foliage, it wasn't Lola. (Readinger put an ad on Craigslist about a found parrot.)

Last week, a neighbor, Kerin Morataya, called with breathless news: She had seen Lola in a tree in her backyard. The pet detective and two bloodhounds confirmed as much.

To lure Lola back, Morataya put out fruit and water. But Lola didn't return.

Morataya kept up the search, scouring lost-parrot databases on the Internet. Having once lost a dog, she said she was moved by the mobile billboards.

"That kind of kept Lola in my mind," she said. "Obviously, if someone's going to put that much into it, that's devotion. That's the kind of person you'd want to help.

"Now every time I go outside, I'm always looking in the sky, hoping I'll see her."

There are times when Readinger wonders whether Lola even wants to come back. "Charlie is a bit more mama's bird, and Lola's a little more wild," she said. What if, in the words of one of her friends, "Lola just needs a vacation?"

The psychic has urged her to try to communicate with Lola using a séance technique:

Imagine all the love in your heart is a big pink bubble, and imagine Lola's love is the same. Now visualize the bubbles expanding until they meet.

So far Readinger has gotten no clues.

"I just keep trying to connect with her," she said. "It's the hardest thing."

kate.linthicum@latimes.com

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