Leaving on a Jet Plane

Last week I was sitting with a cold beverage watching the news and I saw a story about Lovebirds was “coming up”.  I was hoping that it was a happy article, well insert Mr Grinch and you will get the idea of the news story.  

tikiLinda Barfoot of Shoreline Washington (which is a suburb of Seattle) owns two lovebirds Tiki and Hoppy, who happen to be her almost constant companions. Linda bought tickets with US Airways back in August for a trip to see her 80-year-old mother in Phoenix for Christmas, as a surprise.  Accommodations were also made for Tiki and Hoppy to attend the trip and have a warm snowbird holiday.  However, in October US Airways changed their animal policy and removed birds and other various animals from their acceptable pets roster.  Linda was never informed of the policy change.  Nor was she given more than a week prior to her trip to make other arrangements.  She was told they would not honor her original reservations and would only be able to refund her money.  You may be thinking, “hey, at least she got a refund” and you may have a point, however I feel that her original reservations and contractual agreement should be honored or they should pay for the change to another airline that does accommodate birds or let her fly.. Of course that’s just me.  I contacted US Airways and they were aware of the issues with grandfathered in tickets, however  a spokesperson had “no comment” if anything would change regarding the tickers being honored. 

I understand some people having the opinion “it’s only a week trip, her birds will be fine” however we as bird owners know that certain stresses can affect our birds (especially our absence) and in less that 24 hours we can come home to a bald plucked chicken.  I am sure that her birds will be fine during her trip, I just wish that one of the airlines that accepts birds would have seen the news story and stepped up to give her the holiday trip that she, her family and her birds were hoping for.  That would have been a lovely holiday story happy ending.  

I got Tiki and Hoppy here.

I got Tiki and Hoppy here.

 

I have spent hours doing research, and the only airlines that currently list  (birdchannel.com has US Airways listed, also Air Tran merged with Southwest and they no longer allow birds so scratch that off.  Also Northwest Airlines merged with Delta.) allowing birds on board are,

Alaska

Delta

United

There are various restrictions depending on the airline and it is important to call with any questions regarding travel. I called Alaska Airlines who also is subsidiary/partner with Delta and they were very knowledgeable about in cabin travel, dimensions of the pet carrier needs, fees and check in times etc.  I don’t know about you, but I love talking with someone who knows their stuff and has it together.  It just makes me want to do business with them over and over.  

If you’re planning a trip with your feathered friend, make sure you  yourself are updated with the airlines policies on birds, or any other animal for that matter.  It’s very important that if there is a policy change, you aren’t stuck out on a wing without a parachute because we all know how expensive last-minute flights can be.  

Copyright – Parrot Earth – 2014

The Flash!

I got The Flash here.

I got The Flash here.

I have been a huge fan of Parrot Nation‘s own Patricia Sund, not only for her commitment to parrot nutrition but for creating the “Chop” concept and bringing it to the forefront of the avian community.  There are not a lot of people, that I know, who would put it all out there.  Trust me, writing a blog about your life and opening your veins to let them bleed onto a computer screen just to be judged is no easy feat.  I learned the hard way, it’s all about not taking things too harshly and with a grain of salt.  It can be however the most rewarding experience that a writer can experience.

Awhile back I ran into a “different” approach to “Chop” on Facebook, actually it was in the Parrot Pantry group to be exact.  Emily Swezey author of “Life from Scratch” came up with the idea of flash freezing chop.  This is geared to be an alternative to bagging chop, granted, at first I was a little reluctant but now I’m sold.  I am the type of person who usually lives by the “if it aint broke” modo especially when it came to “Chop” and feeding my birds, however I am open to improvements, especially when it comes to my animals.  A few weeks ago, I began pondering Emily’s logic and research.  I decided to contact a professor friend of mine back at Colorado State University Agricultural Experiment Station, who specializes in growing, harvesting and transportation of various crops (including most of the vegetable ingredients in “Chop”). I asked her about “The Flash” and if it was going to be more beneficial than what I was doing.  Indeed, I came to find out that flash freezing can be incredibly beneficial in saving the nutritional integrity of your ingredients.  It can also help the cell structure of the ingredients not lose their integrity (which causes them to become mushy) while frozen, then allow the thawing process to restore them to their “almost original form”.  Hmmm, I was intrigued.

chopimage2So, what’s “The Flash” freezing process you ask?  Ok….Let me tell you.  After you put in all of your various ingredients into your “Chop” mix, you take something shallow that will fit in your freezer (I used a casserole dish).  Spread your “Chop” into the dish and place the dish into the freezer.  Wait about two hours and comeback.  You will notice that there will be a nice sheen of ice crystals throughout your “Chop”.  Now this is where it gets good.  The next thing you need to do is grab a spoon and begin breaking the “Chop” apart.  It’s very similar to fluffing rice in a rice cooker.  After the fluffing is done, you simply pour the frozen product into your freezer containers.  I used small individual freezer Tupperware and I also used a large freezer Tupperware container because I wanted to see if there would be a difference. I will report there was no difference in the consistency nor the quality of product after using both for four weeks.  I even put some in traditional freezer bags to see if that would make a difference.  Nope.  With this experimental batch, I only made ten quarts, simply because I was not sure how it was going to work. But it worked out marvelously!

How do I feed? In the morning and evening both Dexter and Cooper get a tablespoon and a half, while little Hugo (our lovebird) gets a teaspoon.  This is the kicker, the birds love the new method of pulling it right out of the freezer and into their bowls.  The consistency is crunchy and eventually thaws into something totally different (the thaw only takes about 15-20).  As we all know, birds love novelty and anything that is a bit off the beaten path. The bagging method of “Chop” without “The Flash” involved doesn’t really allow to add fruits to your mix because.  However with “The Flash” method, you can flash freeze your “freezing friendly fruits” separately and then add them into the containers you feed your birds right out of the freezer.  Talk about saving time, if I can just pull it out of a container, scoop fruits and veggies into the bowl and place it in my bird’s cage for a couple of hours, until they are finished ravaging it, then why the hell not. When fed the birds would eat for a bit then give up, with this method I am happy to report, it’s like having a two course meal in one bowl.

Exciting right?  Okay, maybe only for us “bird folk” but taking a method and adding a twist to keep our birds happy is worth it in my opinion.  Before you abandoned all of you know about “Chop” I still recommend alternating between the original bagged method and “The Flash” because just as I said…..variety is the spice of life!

WWSJDI think it’s such an exciting time in the parrot community! We can all share ideas and make changes to existing formats to help suit our needs.  I have referred to Patricia Sund as the Steve Jobs of the avian community, and I stand by those words.  Without her Parrot Nation blog and her conceptualization of her own “Chop” mix formula, we would not be having these conversations today. I also would not have had the courage to begin Parrot Earth and write about the birds that I love so much.  I’m also impressed with Emily Swezey for bringing us a different view-point regarding flash freezing fresh parrot foods and “The Flash” method.  She had the gumption to see “Chop” a bit differently and try to create her own that would work for her household.  Good job Emily.

Whatever your methods for feeding your birds are, remember who has paved the way for your journey into aviculture, tell them how much you appreciate their accomplishments and look to the future.  Because with a world of innovative people the parrot nutrition train is picking up steam and who knows where it will go!

Rescues; Deplumed (Part Two)

I wasn’t able to visit Sebastian this month. I had a tremendous load of responsibility in February, 2014. I went on a rescue call for a bunch of small birds abandoned in a house while it was 4°F. It was rat infested. The owner died weeks earlier and the cigarette smoke still lingered. I suddenly had 9 Cockatiels and 10 Budgies quarantined in my apartment, and I had to give them several Dawn soap baths before they looked or smelled remotely clean. I was in the middle of moving. I took in a Conure who went neurotic when he was surrendered. He was driving other foster homes crazy with his constant screaming, and in addition to all that I also started fostering a wild African Ringneck.

Photo Courtesy of Caitlin Rice

The more I learned about shelter operations, the angrier I became. It was all such a complicated mess. More and more birds came in while there were good parrots who had been in foster care for years. They weren’t getting adopted and they were developing problems in the chaos. Foster homes were bursting at the seams with dozens of parrots in each home. Nobody wanted to talk about this devastating catastrophe. They wanted to use volunteer homes as warehouse space for birds and expect us not to complain about paying for everything ourselves. They always did more and spent more than we could imagine, our work was thankless and never good enough.  

I would think about Sebastian and my mind was temporarily cleared of these trauma-inducing thoughts. I had to get him out of there and I was going to put on a happy face no matter what.

February 22 I went down those steep steps and through the rickety old doorway that led me to my big red buddy. This time he had a bowl full of food and the man looked concerned.

“He hasn’t touched his food…..I don’t know what’s the matter with him.”

Sebastian was in a different cage now. The state inspector had been by for the yearly visit, perhaps she told him to make the change. Still, the new cage was hardly a step up from the old tiny one. He willingly stepped out of that cage and onto a perch for the man.

“Hold out your arm!”

I was nervous. He talked it up like this bird was so awful and now he was thrusting him into my arms.“You can pet him! He lets some people get all in there and scratch his head.”

Despite being in this dungeon with that man present, I felt nothing but indescribable joy. To finally hold Sebastian in my arms after all those tearful nights…words just don’t do it justice.

The man showed a softer side. I wouldn’t say it was huggy or emotional, or remotely indicative of someone who was [temporarily] leaving a pet they had for ten years, but it was softer. I could see how volunteers might be led on by these moments and feel the need to protect him, with hopes that he would suddenly become this person they imagine he could be. I, however, was not so easily romanced.

He drove Sebastian over to my house and let him out of the carrier. Suddenly I felt protective. I wanted him to feel safe and easy in the new environment.

“Give him the command! Tell him to step up!”

I pretty much ignored that and set the perch next to him, waiting for him to make the choice. Then I put him in his new cage, 78” tall and 46” wide, his old cage nearly fit inside twice.

“You’re going to have to be firm with him, he will be harder to control in a bigger cage. Do not underestimate this bird.”

I thought to myself, do not underestimate me.

Sebastian was finally in my home and I was so grateful for every moment we shared together. The first thing I did was take him to the vet. His nails were curling, his beak was overgrown, he had very foul-smelling excrement. The vet could feel his skeleton. I had to follow-up every month with the vet, getting him weighed and groomed until his feet and beak could function properly. He put me in touch with a special animal opthamologist and I made an appointment for July. It would take time to save money for that.

I was talking to another volunteer on the phone and she asked me how Sebastian was doing. I told her how I would hear him say things that sounded terrible. GET OVER THERE. GET OVER THERE. STEP UP. STEP UP.

“Did Mr. President tell you about how he rescued him?”

He did not.

Before he ever lived in a basement, Sebastian was violently abused. The first owner grabbed from his cage by his tail and flung into a dog crate. He shared the cage with a scarlet macaw named Happy who came along as well. They traveled away from that life with the man I was now dealing with.

“He said he felt like punching the guy in the face but he knew that he wouldn’t be able to get the birds out if he reacted harshly.”

Well…I guess for that moment he knew how I felt for the 5 months leading up to me re-rescuing him from this ‘rescue’. Happy got his happy ending, Sebastian seemed to have been lost in translation.

 I spent time with him every day, building a bond and training in approximations. For the first two weeks he did nothing but eat, sleep, and drink. He wasn’t difficult to control; he was just terribly afraid and very easily startled with his disability. His body often trembled in the presence of other people. I trained him to target outside the cage and he was gaining some confidence, but then he would get nervous and inch all the way to one side of his T stand until he stepped into thin air on his blind side.

Photo courtesy of Caitlin Rice

He wanted to be up high. He wanted to sit on top of his cage and never come down. I built a big jungle gym for him, arranged in a square so his disability wouldn’t get in the way. It braced against the ceiling so he could flap those glorious wings with all his might. Working with him on this stand every day changed his whole world. He developed confidence and became remarkably easy to train. I am so proud of him for how brave he has been.

The man never once asked me how he was doing. He had made comments to others about the environment I set up.

“He’s going to be spoiled and difficult to handle when he comes back”.

I wanted to ask about keeping him but I was so afraid. I’d tell him how Sebastian was doing and all he had to say was,

“He’s my bird. You can’t have him.”

It made me sick. I didn’t want to ask him until it felt absolutely right.

 Caring for birds at home became my full-time occupation. I didn’t have time to help the president keep his basement clean every week. I went over about a month later and some unsettling information came to my attention. Other foster homes were in scary conditions, I overheard. Birds that were up for adoption had been dead for months. I was white as a ghost. I didn’t know these people. I could hardly help this guy, let alone a whole network of others just like him with basements full of birds like Sebastian. I felt horrified at the thought.

Foster homes weren’t given specific guidelines on cleaning and feeding. There were no limits, no standards, and no consequences. How could they enforce rules that were not in place? How could volunteers do home checks with the number of birds they each had to care for? Some of these people had 30 to 40 birds under their roof, in addition to children and jobs. This wasn’t fair to the birds, but it wasn’t fair to the people either. It wasn’t fair to their families and it made me really sad.

“What is on the home check sheet? How do you define clean water? How do people know what you expect of them?” I asked.

He wouldn’t give me a straight answer. Some people were “too anal” according to him. They didn’t know how to write standards because of….political reasons? It got personal because of the awful conditions? I didn’t know. But I knew who could define it for everyone: Kansas state laws.

I researched these laws and studied them like I was getting ready for the board exam. There were some really serious violations within this shelter, and foster homes had no idea what they were agreeing to. I spent months writing a proposal with solutions.

I went to help him clean again several weeks later. There was a noteworthy exchange that is still eery when I think of it. Every time I helped him clean I would bring a pad of recycled newsprint to line the cages. I never wanted to use that old newspaper he had because it harbors a mold that can cause aspergillus. I learned this from Irene Pepperberg when she spoke of Alex’s death in her memoir Alex and me.

I had been doing this for 6 months and he finally picked up my newsprint and commented,

“Wow this is handy. Fits right in the tray!”

I explained why I used it and immediately his demeanor changed, he put my newsprint down, and picked up his newspaper piles to continue lining the cage trays.

You see, he had wanted Irene Pepperberg to speak at an event for his shelter, but she charges a $4,000 fee. Much of that money benefits parrot conservation and scientific research. But he believes it is such an unreasonable amount of money, that he can’t stand to hear her name. Doesn’t matter that she changed the world’s perception of parrot intelligence and inspired people to raise the bar for parrot care and conservation all across the globe. He will spite her ‘outrageous’ fee by adamantly disregarding warnings about the potential deadliness of moldy old newspaper. Riiight.

“She overworked that bird you know. He started plucking.”

Meanwhile, not four feet behind him, an African grey sits in a dirty empty cage with no toys, in all the glory of her plucked chest and abdomen.

The next time I went into the basement was also my last. I was helping with an event at Mr. President’s house while he was at work. I smelled something wrong. It smelled like the rat house where I rescued the 19 little birds. I had to check. I didn’t want to but I had to.

The smell of rodent urine wafted in and out of my nose as I walked around, trying to find the origin. And something else I couldn’t put my finger on….fungus. There were piles of mold in the cage trays. Mold growing on the floor covering ⅓ of the cubic feet that I could see. Furry looking piles under the food bins. Roaches crawling in the food supply. Plants growing out of the mold. Ants crawling around the food debris caked with bird poop.

No wonder he had so many birds die down there. Now I understood why some of them would throw large volumes of their pellets into their tray, despite being hungry. The ones who ate all their pellets must have been the ones who died. Grain food becomes deadly when it harbors certain kinds of mold. When the air dries in the cold season, that mold powders into dust and they breathe it in. Bugs and rodents leave feces and urine everywhere they go. What would have happened if I didn’t help him that winter? And now I understand why there was such an unusual amount of dust. No precautions were taken during the summers and this must have happened over and over in cycles.

And the biggest irony of this?

He had once said something that chilled me to the bone.

“All those birds died and Sebastian is still here.”

sebastian.4

Sebastian was the last one to be fed and I had even seen the man skip him because the bird was “too mean” to risk putting his arm in the cage. Mold and other contamination would be less present on food that is deeper in the bin. Sebastian was getting less food and the food he did get had less mold. Perhaps this monster gave Sebastian a terrible life for killing one of his only friendly birds, and his torturous treatment was the very thing that saved him.

One other volunteer was present and I showed her what I saw. I called the rescue adoptions coordinator. I sent her pictures of what I saw. I told her that he needed an intervention. I would help get every bird out of there ASAP, take care of them in my basement while he got a professional company to eradicate the mold and bugs, and we would have to get serious about what was going on in these other foster homes. She told me that if I were to take in any of those birds, I should not let a single cage from that environment enter my home. But she also began to worry. I told her I wrote a proposal and I was waiting to present it. She cut me off,

“We are doing EVERYTHING BY THE BOOKS, Caitlin. Do not use words like ‘law’ around the man. It will trigger him and he will shut down emotionally. He will not allow anyone down there anymore to check on those birds if you do that.”

I gave her an ultimatum: Help me get the birds out of there ASAP and make him do something different or I will report him. He is the president of this shelter and his actions are infecting the entire organization.

“Do you understand what that could do to the birds in this shelter?”

I did understand. But these people were made to believe that if the ring leader was shut down, all their birds would be taken away and euthanized. This is not the case but I could not waste any more time going in circles with her. She could look it up herself. She was choosing to believe this crazy man and stay ignorant. None of this was my problem anymore, I was done.

I ended up making a report. I used my proposal to cite all the laws; it was relatively easy to make sure the state would take immediate action since I had spent months doing all that work. The other volunteers helped him cover things up. The inspector didn’t enforce the laws he was still breaking. He passed inspection and got a stern talking to. For that entire week I could hardly sleep as my body surged with adrenaline. I was a victim of a heinous crime, years ago. I was suddenly triggered and afraid. My heart was constantly pounding. Then I got the text that I was dreading:

“I think its time for Sebastian to come home now.”

Copyright – 2014 – Parrot Earth – Rescues;Deplumed (Part Two)

Rescues; Deplumed (Part One)

I recently received an email inquiring if I would be interested in the flip side of parrot rescues and the epidemics of rescues becoming hoarding situations.  I of course was intrigued and asked for a sample of what she was talking about.  Little did I know that I would get a very well written glimpse into her very heartfelt detailed story of volunteering and just trying to make a difference in birds lives.  I decided to take the piece written by this young lady and make it a series. Rescues; Deplume.

 My life changed the day I walked into that basement and looked into the eyes of a Greenwing Macaw named Sebastian. I thought it was pretty bad down there, as I was greeted with a thick musty air and a claustrophobic feeling from the clutter while my ears were ringing from the loud parrot calls. I walked down a row of cages as he told me the name of each bird. The lack of toys and enrichment was my least concern; this man clearly needed help and I was willing to do what I could to see if any short-term improvements could be made.

I was helping him clean the cage trays one by one when I had made it to the back corner and suddenly my nose was overpowered by the worst stench.

I uttered the words “oooh stinky!”

“Oh that’s Sebastian. He’s always had stinky poop. The vet couldn’t find anything wrong with him, it’s just like that.”

I looked at the floor and saw a splatter of green slime that extended 4 feet, tracing back to a 32 inch wide cage, leading up to a big red parrot clinging to the front bars and ready to aim fire.

It was hard for me to imagine any vet saying that this was no big deal and judging by the current conditions of the 15 or so big birds down there, I couldn’t imagine this man was detail oriented enough to order and pay for the extensive testing it would take to rule out everything. I’m no vet, but I know bird poop is not supposed to smell like anything, especially rotten eggs and vomit. But that was the smell encouraging me to hold my breath and take short little gasps of air through my mouth.

“Hi Sebaaastian” He would say, in the dialect of a snobby elementary school bully.

“That bird is just meean” when I gave Sebastian extra attention. His cage was plastered head to toe with rotten green slime and it took weeks for me to scrub most of it away, as I would visit once a week to help clean the cages. I would bring bird treats in my pocket and sneak them in his food bowl while I scrubbed. I hoped to build a friendly repertoire with this supposed feathered buzz saw.

The first time I was ever there, the man pointed out a conure with toes missing and told me “that was Sebastian. He escapes and lets other birds out. Bit the toes off this one and killed my favorite sun conure”. He could point to scars on his own body from this bird and he wore them like badges of honor.

He told me that a vet had come and checked on all the birds because he had lost nearly a dozen last year and didn’t understand why.

“There was no virus, I don’t know what it could have been.”

I felt sick. I couldn’t imagine the degree to which a person would have to be in denial to not understand why an animal would die in this environment. Food bins had no lids and the newspaper used to line the cages was very old. The amount of dust left everything coated with a visible layer. There were times where I looked in the water bowls and felt a rush of intense horror and sadness at the thought of being one of his birds. No living thing should ever be asked to drink that water or breathe that air.

I felt bad for this man. I truly did. I believe that the conditions we provide for our pets is a reflection of ourselves and when I looked in his eyes, I got the feeling that he did not like what he saw in the mirror. I was willing to help make things better and he seemed to become more enthusiastic as time went on. I helped him haul away a hoard of things that he didn’t want any more and it really did look a lot better in that basement. I was proud of him for what he was willing to do and I felt optimistic about the future. It was Christmas time and I made him a dreamcatcher with feathers from parrots I had cared for over the years.

Unfortunately, things didn’t get much better. Later they got much, much worse.

I was honestly afraid of Sebastian but I still cared deeply for him. Being a mean bird doesn’t justify this treatment, and aggression in prey animals is not their natural demeanor. This is not something they come out of the egg destined to do; it’s the responsibility of people to lovingly nurture them and train them to coexist with us.

The man would reach in his cage to take care of food/water and Sebastian would veer towards him. I would hear “Get back! Get over there!” and turn to see the poor guy shivering in the corner of the cage. One time the man just said “forget about it, he’s too mean” and just left it as it was, right in front of me. I tried to see if he would target for a treat, maybe the man could do this so it would be easier to feed him. But it wasn’t working. He wouldn’t touch the target stick.

“He’s blind on that side, he can’t see you.”

I learned that his right eye couldn’t see a dang thing, but that a vet might be able to fix it with an expensive surgery. I made a mental note of this. Later I learned that Sebastian was also abused, violently, before he came to this basement.

I understand why the caged bird bites. One day I cleaned the cages by myself and it was the first time I ever had to unlock the chain and open Sebastian’s cage door. My hands trembled. I was so afraid I would jump and startle him into biting me, so I closed my eyes as I unscrewed the thing that held the water bowl in place. The reason his bowl was screwed on the inside was because the side doors were bolted down. I could hardly imagine his big head and body fitting through those tiny doors, but that was the reason they were permanently shut.

There was about ¼ inch of what looked like oatmeal and smelled like vomit in his water bowl. His food bowl was empty aside from a few crumbs. The smell burned my nose as water splashed into the bowl. I nearly threw up and tucked my face into my shirt while I washed the bowl with soap and water. I was choking back tears as I walked back to Sebastian’s cage and thought about what he was being forced to live with. He couldn’t even open his wings in that 32”x33”x22” cage. It was plastered with poop and he had no food or water. No wonder he kept escaping. The amazing thing to me is that he would go to the trouble of letting other birds out too.

He rushed towards my hand as I was reaching in to screw the water bowl back on. Despite every gut reaction in me screaming ‘pull your hand away!! Look at that beak!!’ I refused to leave this parrot without water and if he bit me while I put this bowl in there, I considered it a forgivable offense. But he didn’t bite me. He started drinking from the bowl before I had it fastened to the bars. At that point I could no longer hold it in. He is not a bad bird I thought as tears rushed down my face and cooled my cheeks, flushed red-hot by the surge of intense feelings. This bird was the product of a tragedy and I vowed to do something about it.

My husband Ryan went down there with me to see the birds and I showed him Sebastian. It was funny, his whole head fluffed up like a big happy clown wig and Ryan reached out to pet him. No aggression, nothing that looked dangerous to me. No “negative association with men”. I told the man and he made a comment about how he thought the bird would probably make a good pet for somebody, he just seemed so “unpredictable”. But this was his personal pet, not part of the adoption program.

I would have offered the man cash and walked away from that group then and there if I didn’t live in an apartment. Soon we would be moving in a house and I was counting down the months until I would be able to say that I wanted to take care of him. My pillow was soaked with tears the nights I would come home after helping him clean. I hated leaving Sebastian there. My husband listened to me as I would often say, “I wish I could tell him and he could understand, don’t worry, I’m gonna do everything I can to get you out of here. But instead he has to live like that, with no hope.” Ryan loves the birds too and it wasn’t easy for him either.

I have volunteered for animal shelters in 4 different states in the US and one of the top highly rated organizations in this country. I am not new to this scene and I am very aware how sensitive an issue it is to deal with hoarders and animal abusers. I knew I had to be extremely casual and discreet with this man if I wanted to help him or his birds. I asked questions after several weeks helping him and I did so in a pleasant manner. I wanted to know two things: who’s in charge here and what procedures are in place to prevent this from happening.

I was under the impression that this man was just another volunteer who liked to socialize with other parrot people. However, I learned that he was president of the parrot shelter and education club I had started volunteering with. I’m sure you can imagine the cocktail of emotions that began to flood my body.

I went to a business meeting to find out more.

It was at this business meeting where I overheard one of the volunteers (who is also buddy buddy with the president) talking about how she had to put up plastic on the walls to prepare for Sebastian. My entire body started to tremble as I felt a fluttery surge of panic flood my stomach.

Nooo. Not her. Please God no.

I tried my best to stay cool, to look unintrigued. She had more birds in her home than one would care for in a lifetime, and out of all the volunteers she was least knowledgeable about them. Standing in her driveway you can hear the collective screams of dozens of large parrots. She was one who wasn’t afraid to use force with the big birds who bite. She would use towels to grab perfectly normal parrots to go in or out of their cage. It was by the grace of God that I overheard this conversation and was able to offer my residence for housing Sebastian, since I didn’t have any large macaws it would be more convenient. It was only four more weeks until we would be living in a big four bedroom house. Please, just let him hang on until then.

Copyright 2014 – Parrot Earth – Rescues; Deplumed  (Part One)

Goals…Not Just a Destination.

I got Picture It here.

I got Picture It here.

Picture it, Sicily a beautiful young… oops this isn’t a story by Sophia from The Golden Girls (if you don’t know who they are, I suggest you google).   Let’s try this again… picture it, you have brought your bird home, you have your Parrot Earth Poop T-shirt (yep, shameless plug) and you know your training dvd’s like the back of your hand.  Things are going fantastically well for you and your companion and you could not be more thrilled!  He steps up on command, whistles for you and even says hello on cue.  Isn’t that the greatest?  I will be the first to congratulate you on your successful training regime.  However there is always a catch.  

I got Goals here.

I got Goals here.

Just because you have your bird in a nice routine and the original goals that you set out are met, doesn’t mean your parrot doesn’t need goals and growth of its own.  We as humans have the abilities to change, alter perceptions and make goals for ourselves because that’s what helps us evolve as beings.  However, imagine if you had the same old list of things you were good at and you were only asked to do that list.  Every day, every month and eventually every year for the rest of your life.  Not so appealing now is it?  I firmly believe that it can hinder any animals development as a sentient being when their development is stifled.  Does this mean that what you are doing is all wrong?  Nope, never even thought that, I am just offering a thought or two to ponder.  

I got Einstein here.

I got Einstein here.

How about teaching that “old” bird of your new tricks (and I may not be referring to the feathered companion that you have in a cage), getting out of the comfort zone and not only rekindling that spark that you once had about aviculture (or still do) and add a little more pizzazz.  Try new toys, try new words, try new tricks and at the very least try.  Granted there are times when you go out on that limb and fall flat on your face, but isn’t that what life is all about?  That risk of the unknown and the rush that you get when it works out?  I was always taught that is what is called “living”.

Our companion birds are so smart!  Sitting in the corner in a cage, serving the same things for breakfast, playing with the same rope toys or foraging puzzles is like putting Einstein in the corner without a piece of chalk and chalkboard to work out his amazing scientific theories!  So why do the same to your bird?  

I got New Tricks here.

I got New Tricks here.

It really only takes a few small approximations here and there.  Start by alternating toys frequently, and if you have pieces or as I like to call “parts is parts” of other toys, rope them together.  Your bird isn’t a label fanatic and it’s going to scoff at your if it doesn’t see a new price tag on it.  Begin feeding your bird in different bowls in different parts of the cage, or how about morning Chop on his play-stand in front of the window?  How about moving cage locations when you clean?  A different view of the room can help alleviate boredom and produce a different thought pattern.  I even have friends that will swap cages to keep things fresh and new.  Maybe,  buy your bird a harness or a portable bird carrier and start going on walks.  Imagine all of the sounds and smells that your bird has been missing in your living room.  Look for a local Parrot Flight group and join.  Every bird loves socializing with other birds.  Imagine it being like happy hour, with out the crappy pick up lines and the cheap drinks.  Work on counting and colors, because I guarantee that your parrot will probably pick those up easier than some of my friends kids.    

I got Quality of Life here.

I got Quality of Life here.

I actually have the same philosophy with all animals.  I think that every companion animal has the right to not only a quantity of life, but more importantly a quality of life.  They should all be given new goals and have the ability to smell the roses along the way.  Rewards in life are just that rewards, you have to earn them.  

If we don’t get them off the perch, we will never know the full extent of they can do, now will we?   So… what’s your first goal going to be? 

Copyright – 2014 – Parrot Earth – Goals…Not Just a Destination