Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Paco's Story

~Written by Jude Vickers~

When my husband told me his cousin had given us a bird I was somewhat less than thrilled, having had a mean parakeet when I was in grade school. I told him I didn’t want a bird, we didn’t need one, and we were not taking it. I reminded him that we lived in the woods, with hundreds of birds in a dozen varieties flocking to the feeders right outside our windows year round. We could enjoy them from a distance and I saw no good reason to bring one into our home. I even argued that having an animal pooping inside would set a bad example for our dogs! Then Les explained the reason Wendy had given us Paco, who I would later learn was a Solomon Island boy, was because the bank had foreclosed on their home. The place they were moving was smaller, and while they could make room for her cockatiel’s cage, there was no place for Paco's bigger one.

Les then went on to explain that Paco didn’t warm up to just anybody but when he stopped by Wendy’s on his trucking route, Paco always came right to him. Les had also seen other truckers with parrots and thought that since his Great Dane had gotten too old to get in and out of the big truck that Paco would make a good traveling companion. He assured me that Paco would only be home with me for a little while, while my husband figured out the logistics of having a bird in the truck.

Reluctantly, I began to accept the fact that we now had a bird. I asked Les when Wendy would be bringing it to us and was told we would have to go get him; that started my complaining all over again! Finally the big day came; Saturday, June 28, 2008. It was a 140 mile ride to Wendy's during which I was still trying to see the upside of having a bird. When we got there her place was chaotic, but we all took a moment to gather in the kitchen. As Wendy began to tell me about Paco, the most gorgeous bird flew past me and landed on my husband's shoulder. Green has always been my favorite color and I had never seen a living creature so vibrantly green!

“Oh!” I exclaimed as I put two and two together “That’s the bird we’re getting?”

Tears filled Wendy’s eyes as she nodded, and my attitude toward having a bird turned completely around. We watched my niece share her scrambled egg and toast with him as Wendy’s family told us all they could about Paco. They had rescued him some years earlier from a woman who’d long been tired of him, and Paco apparently hated Wendy. While he seemed to have no problem with the rest of the family, Paco would dive-bomb Wendy when ever he got the chance. It was Paco's obvious affection for Les, and my well reputed way with animals, that made them pick us for his new family.

Before long it was time for the guys to load Paco's cage up on the back of my husbands’ pick-up truck. Inside, Wendy gave me a Ziploc baggie full of seeds and brightly colored fruit shapes that she said contained all the vitamins and supplements Paco needed to stay healthy. Soon everything was all loaded up but before we left there was one more thing Wendy wanted to do; clip his flight feathers. Paco had been fully flighted at her house but Wendy was concerned he might try to escape from our unfamiliar place and trimmed back the first four feathers on each wing. I figured she knew what she was doing, but oh it made Paco mad!

All we had for transportation was the Chihuahua sized kennel that didn’t quite fit behind the front seats of that Ford Ranger. We did a little improvising to make it work before Wendy toweled Paco and brought him out. Then we all hugged good-bye and my dear cousin cried her eyes out as she watched us go. Paco was very mad but soon settled down and started looking out the back window; wherever he was going he knew the cage he’d always had would be there too. About halfway home, I was surprised that Paco turned and began looking where we were going instead of where we had been. Les and I decided that was a good sign.

At the house, we brought the cage in then toweled Paco to bring him in. He went willingly into his cage, undisturbed by our dogs; a Great Dane named Mack and a Pit Bull–Rottweiler mix named Josie. Mack seemed more interested in the cage; it was even bigger than him! Josie was fascinated with the bird, sure we had brought it home for the sole purpose of entertaining her. Josie loved watching the birds on the feeders, as well as all the forest life around us, and could hardly believe her eyes that she had what we began to call her own personal live bird tv.

Then my husband had to go back to work, leaving me home with Paco who was one mad little bird. Paco didn’t know me, he missed his family, and he was very upset about his wings. As I tried to find a way to relate to this new creature in my care, it soon became clear that Paco and I had something in common; we'd both had our primary mode of transportation taken from us. Where Paco had had his wings clipped, I had lost most of my left leg in a motorcycle accident some years earlier. From my wheelchair, I pointed that similarity out and began promising Paco that when his feathers grew back I would personally make sure they were never trimmed again. I commiserated every point I could about the similarities in our situations, and Paco soon began listening. I could almost see him making connections in his little birdie head as I talked.

Things began to improve as Paco realized I was not his enemy. As he warmed up to me Les began to realize that he’d lost his potential trucking buddy, but Les was not terribly surprised by that turn of events. He was pleased that Paco and I had become such buddies. And Paco delighted me daily; before my accident I had been an attendant in Michigan's state run psychiatric hospital system. I had spent years observing behaviors and found Paco’s antics to be so much more entertaining! Knowing nothing about birds but a whole lot about behavior training, I began searching the internet for information on Eclectus Parrots. There was a lot of information out there, a lot of conflicting and ambiguous information. In all the listings of birds and their sizes, I could not find an Eclectus listed anywhere!!!

Then I found a site called Land of Vos. While I didn’t know what ‘Vos’ meant, I recognized the green guys pictured there. I was amazed at the color differences between the genders, and awed at the beauty of a pair. Then I noticed a link to something called The Eclectus Connection. While I’ve never been much into forums and confused by how some of them post information, I sent an application anyway. Carolyn soon welcomed me to TEC and it didn’t take long to realize I’d hit the jackpot of ekkie information! With a few changes in my approach, and in Paco’s diet, we all became a whole lot happier.

I’m not exactly sure how long I had Paco before I began thinking about finding a companion for him. Birds are, after all, social animals. And TEC often cross posted birds in need of new homes, but they all seemed to be half the country away. Then a poor, plucked and neglected Michigan hen showed up… but that’s a story for another day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Transport help and Cockatiel adopters needed!

A friend of mine has recently been diagnosed with Bird Keeper's Lung, or hypersensitivity pneumonitis. This is a tragic diagnosis no bird lover ever wants to hear, as it means you have to rehome at least some of your birds, and take multiple precautions, such as wearing a respirator around the birds, if you chose to try and keep some. My friend is hoping to be able to keep her budgies, or at least her special needs budgies. However, she is going to have to rehome her tiels, as they are dustier, a decision which is obviously heartbreaking. We already have a home for her tiel and budgie pair, Pika and Pixel, to go to, but unfortunately it is in western Kentucky. We have gotten some very generous help with the driving already, so just need to find a way to complete the trip between Charlottseville, Va., and Morehead or Grayson Kentucky. Any possible help would truly be appreciated! Until we can get them over to their new home, they need to be placed in a foster home, so anyone in the Richmond area that can help with that would be wonderful.

Pixel and Pika, biding their time until they can go home.

She is also still looking for a home for her female tiel, Jezebel. As you can tell from the picture, she is not only gorgeous but very tame, and very, very sweet. I know she would make a wonderful friend for someone, just as she has for my friend. She is currently in Richmond, Va., as are Pika and Pixel.

Isn't she adorable? I know there is someone
out there that is dying to give her a loving home.
In fact, I imagine just about everyone reading this wants to!

And last, but don't ever tell him least, Jeffrey, a very sweet male tiel in eastern Kentucky, is also looking for a home. Not connected with the above person or birds, he was taken in by a softhearted chicken fancier, with no parrot experience, after she heard his sad story. Thanks to his wonderful foster mom, though he has really come around, end is even doing fairly well in his diet transition! Although very far from tame when she got him, Jeffrey is much better, and is certainly proving to have lots of spunk and charm! Although I don't have a picture of him, I fear it would not do him justice, anyway. I know there is someone out there wanting to finally give this sweet little fellow the good, loving permanent home he has so far been denied!

If you think you can help, or know of someone that can help, with any of the above queries, please do not hesitate to email me! There is a link on my profile to contact me, or just leave a comment!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Happy Endings

So often I hear people say that they do not feel they have enough experience to adopt a parrot. This, to me, is one of the saddest myths perpetuated. Perhaps because of the term "rescue", perhaps because of poor taming, training and home transition advice, perhaps simply because baby parrots are so cute, but for whatever the reason, rehomed parrots are seen as being far more time consuming than getting a baby parrot.

When considering buying a baby parrot, it is important to remember many things. One, baby parrots are almost always going to "choose" everyone that picks them up. They are cute, adorable, and fluffy little guys that can gain control of your very senses with just one soulful gaze. However, even with the very best care taken to raise them as well socialized, "perfect" parrots, you will hit problems. If you are prepared for these problems, and are committed to continually changing and adapting to keep potential problems at bay, aware that hormones will come and that your relationship will not stay the same forever, you may not really notice any major issues. Unfortunately, you also have to deal with your parrot's adult temperament; the sweetest babies can grow up to be extremely difficult adults, regardless of all the perfect care they have received.

When rehoming a parrot, it is important to recognize how much you feel you can reasonably handle. Most parrots needing a home are not rescues, but simply rehomes- parrots that can no longer stay in their current home for whatever reason. Most are very happy, friendly, well socialized and well adjusted companions. Given some time to re-adjust to their new home, they will show themselves to be wonderful parrots, beyond the hormonal teenage stage and well settled into their adult temperament.

Rescues, as the term implies, are a different story from rehomes. There are varying degrees of rescues. Some come from poor conditions, but were never very abused, perhaps neglected, and quickly adjust to their new home if their new family takes care to allow them to adjust and works to gain their trust at the parrot's pace. I believe this is the majority of rescues, and though you do have to be prepared to go slower than you would with a well adjusted rehome or baby parrot, they are still not too hard for anyone with patience, time, and understanding. The most difficult category of rescues are true rescues, those not only from poor conditions, but also sorely abused. These parrots should only be taken on by those either with experience dealing with such parrots, or by those with lots and lots of patience, time, understanding of the parrot and of how to tame them, as well as a positive outlook and the ability to keep all stress from entering their relationship with the parrot.

While it is very important never to embark on a mission to help a parrot if you are not fully prepared for anything they throw at you, I believe this applies just as much, if not more so, to baby parrots, perhaps simply because they seem so innocent. As long as you are careful to truthfully reason how much patience, time, and ability you have, and find a rehome that fits with this, it is one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling undertakings. If you are unsure of how to find this perfect parrot, or even of how much you can handle, I always recommend going through a reputable rescue.

To show that you do not have to be an internationally accredited bird whisperer to help a parrot needing a home, I am starting a compilation of "Happy Endings", stories of parrots, from rehomes to tragic rescues and everything in between, that transitioned happily into their new homes. If you have a story you would like to share, please feel free to email it to me!

Tito, Vosmaeri Eclectus, adopted by Maria

Paco, Solomon Island Eclectus, adopted by Jude

Tilly, Peach-Faced Lovebird

Kito, Congo African Grey, adopted by Dawn

Kiwi, Eclectus, fostered by Dawn

Tito's Story

~This story was written by Maria from The Eclectus Connection~

Tito, a Vosmaeri Eclectus, came to us when he was 6. His daddy, a very busy and successful executive, used to work long hours and Tito was alone at home for 12-14 hours/day. Despite this, I know he was happy, well loved and well cared for. I first met Tito at the office, I was new there; his daddy and I used to work for the same company and he would bring Tito to the office prior to leaving on a business trip to Europe. Tito was then taken to a boarding place for a week or more.

It was love at first sight for me, I’d never seen an Eclectus parrot before…I kept watching this beautiful parrot walking through the office, searching for his dad, couldn’t believe my eyes how quiet and good he was. He angrily refused the treats his dad gave him (to make up a bit for his upcoming absence). I went to him and offered my arm without knowing that it could have been dangerous; Tito just stepped on, taken by surprise!

In the meantime, Tito’s dad had gotten married and his wife was expecting the first baby. One day I heard Tito’s father asking everyone in the office whether they would like to take Tito. He and his wife felt they couldn’t take good care of Tito and the baby at the same time. Tito’s mother was not a parrot lover.

I was shocked and saddened!

When his dad asked me about Tito, I promised to discuss this with my husband; we had long discussions, neither of us was really convinced that we needed a pet at that time. I was extremely depressed after major tragedies in my life (my parents’ death, my beloved dog’s death) and couldn’t even think of another pet. I used to have parakeets years ago and for some reason imagined that it wouldn't be that difficult to take care of Tito. We started reading books about Eclectus parrots and searching the Internet; the more we read, the less ready and more concerned we felt. Such a responsibility!!!

We finally decided to bring Tito into our home…He came with his huge, expensive cage, favorite toys, and 6 years of a happy life with his special, intelligent dad. When I picked him up he was in a small carrier, scared and vulnerable, trying to get his dad’s attention. In the car, while I was holding the carrier, he was very agitated and desperately called his father’s name in a sweet voice. It was the first and the last time he called his dad… I felt so sorry for him, I was almost crying.

After we released him into his cage (it was already at home, with his toys and beautiful bowls), he felt better and tried to take a nap. At bed time we left him in the living room and went upstairs, though we worried about him. When I heard him moving through the cage, wing flapping (exercising before sleep) I was so worried, thinking he was sick. The next day we left him alone in his new home, as we had to work. He must have felt so lonely and lost. Tito was always very good, though, quiet and well mannered. We never heard him screaming. He would make sweet noises, sometimes asking “What” in French.

A week later, while Tito and I were alone at home, I heard someone talking in a very deep voice in the house…I was frozen, my heart almost stopped!!! When I was able to move, I started running through the house checking on every door, window and closet. All the horrible thrillers that I used to see when I was very young came to my mind…I was ready to call my husband or the police when I heard the voice again; I was terrified, and ran to see how Tito was. Tito had been taking a nap, but opened his eyes and watched me for a while. He was so calm that I decided I needed to calm down too. I suddenly had a feeling that Tito might have been the one talking, because he called his father in the car... but that deep voice?! I was so anxious to ask his daddy the next day that I wasn’t even able to concentrate on my work after my horrible sleepless night. He confirmed that Tito had such talking abilities! I wish he gave me more information on Tito before!

Tito was a “closet talker”, and he spoke French... but after 3 weeks he was calling my husband's name, hesitantly at first, then perfectly pronounced within several weeks.

Another surprise was to discover Tito on the top of his cage when we came back from work. We would usually leave the cage door closed during our absence. What had happened, had a stranger broke into our home and released Tito?! I found out later that it was piece of cake for Tito to open the door.

It's now been 7 years since that August day when Tito became a family member.

He's been through a lot since then (we have moved twice, and our new apartment building has undergone repair/demolition works for 4 years – extremely loud noises such as jack hammering, etc.). When I came home once I saw Tito desperately flying and crashing against walls/windows... I understood what he had been through during my absence! I had to take him to a boarding place (very nice, clean, professional people, but still a boarding place, noisy because of the numerous birds) where he spent many months, coming home only on week ends, going back on Mondays... Every separation was heartbreaking, we were already very attached to each other and our little boy couldn't understand why he didn't have a home any longer.

In 2006 I wasn't able to stand that situation (repair works going on forever, Tito deprived of a real home, me stressed on daily basis) and started looking for a new home for Tito.

I discovered Carolyn and asked for help. She was wonderful, gave me advices, supported me... I will never stop being grateful for her kindness and understanding.

Many people were interested in taking Tito; we even met with a few people from the TEC list. I probably exchanged hundreds of emails at that time. Tito was watching me with a sad look, I was sure he understood what I was doing. All the people we have been in contact with were very nice, however I couldn't find that special home I was hoping for... The last tentative attempt to place him was when we took Tito to someone's house, they were extremely nice people, who liked him very much. We were determined to leave Tito with them. Tito, though, was terrified, stressed and started obsessively calling my husbands' name. It was too much for all of us, so we just took him home and he stayed with us.

For the next 2 years we've been “under siege” (I was working from home at that time, while my husband was sick): very loud repair works all day, every day even on week ends, moving Tito's cage all around the apartment, desperately trying to avoid those disturbing noises. On several occasions we rented a small room for myself and Tito in order to escape the nightmare. Not even once was Tito a bad, nervous boy! All the people who met him said how well behaved and mannered he was: always sweet, patient, dancing, enjoying our company, grateful for every moment we spent together. He is so sensitive, he knows when I am depressed or sad...

For the last 2 years we haven't heard him saying long sentences any longer, probably because of the stress he had in his life with us. I don't mind that he never calls my name and that he stops me when I raise my voice or he thinks I am not nice enough to my husband (he adores him from a distance).

He still doesn't like showers (he loves to take a bath in his bowls), he never lets me do his nails or hold him on my lap. Tito gave me kisses very shortly after he came to us; however he would rather talk to us from a distance, watch us, dance. But he has never failed showing us his love!!!

We were dreaming about taking a companion girl for him, he's been too lonely. Unfortunately, not the best moment now... I feel I still have tons of things to do for Tito, but I am not able to achieve all of them: we don't really take him outside very often, he doesn't see many people. Tito doesn't have many toys...He has 2 trees and the living room as his own room. His diet is good, thanks to Carolyn and all the other members, who posted advices. Carolyn has been with me for all these years, she has helped us so much!

Thank you, Carolyn, for understanding my concerns, my fear and our stress!!

I learned so much through Tito, from Tito and for Tito!!! We love him deeply and I hope he knows that...

Thank you, Meg, for giving me the chance to write Tito's story!