Saturday, October 27, 2007
My name is Irena. I am the founder and president of Bird Lovers Only Rescue and, more recently, the new mom to Snowball. Snowball was relinquished to us in August of 2007 along with a CD of the Back Street Boys. His previous owner stood at the foot of the stairs and watched the reaction on our faces as we watched Snowball lift his legs in rhythm to "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" and then proceed to slam those little parrot feet down on my arm with enthusiasm to the beat of the music. Snowball's previous owner told us he danced well, but we had no idea we were going to see this type of show. It's too bad we didn't have a video of him dancing on my arm that first day he was here because I know my jaw was dragging on the ground and my eyes were bulging out of my head in awe. It was a good thing I was sitting down.
We decided to place this video on our blog which we had just created. We wanted to provide educational material, interesting articles, and some fun to break up the monotony. Someone had taken the video from our blog and placed it on uTube and from there it spread like a virus to thousands of web sites and reached every internet connected continent on earth. TV and radio media from around the globe emailed and called us. Snowball had become the most popular rescue/sanctuary bird on earth. He was now the spokesbird for parrots around the world.
But there was more to Snowball's story than the natural gift to dance. He was a rescue bird, and not many had heard of a rescue bird before. I know he had at least two owners prior to coming here and he was only 11 years old. He used to belong to his previous owner's daughter, but she moved out for some time and then when she returned he bit her out of resentment for having left him. He had turned on her. In Snowball's eyes, she had been his mate. And his mate left and did not return for quite some time. Imagine your spouse leaving you without warning and then returning a year or two later. Wouldn't you want to swing a frying pan in your spouse's direction as a welcome home? Birds seem to exhibit many of the same emotions that we do...happiness, sadness, fear, resentment, anger, love, and so on. But instead of telling us that they're upset because we ignored them for five minutes, they'll bite to show us their disdain.
Ultimately, humans should never have taken such beautiful, intelligent, and sensitive creatures out of their natural habitat to live out their long lives in captivity. But as my dear friend has so eloquently put it, "You can't put the genie back in the bottle." There are over 400 known rescues and sanctuaries in the United States and they are all either filled to capacity or quickly nearing it.
Idealistically, these birds should be out in their native lands to forage and fly freely. Realistically, they're not. They're here in my home and yours. So then what are we to do with not only the parrots that are in rescues, but those that need to be relinquished due to their outliving the owner or that need to be relinquished due to health issues? We educate those who wish to continue to care for these displaced birds through adoption.
There are some who are strongly opposed to parrot ownership and feel that no one should purchase a parrot. Again, this is idealism versus realism. If someone loves birds and wants one to cherish, what is going to stop them? If your friend who has three children tells you not to have any children because they don't clean their rooms but still expect the keys to the car, are you going to be convinced to not have any if you would love nothing more than to have a child of your own? Human children go through the terrible twos. So do parrots. Human children go through adolescence and their personalities change. So do parrots. Children don't come with instruction manuals and neither do parrots. But that doesn't stop anyone from having either. So, again, education guides those that are less experienced. And for some issues where there aren't any black or white solutions, we offer support much like a group session at a therapist's office full of parents who have thrown their hands up in the air not knowing what to do. Sometimes it helps to know that you're not alone.
Parrots are the most difficult pet to have because they demand so much attention. They are needy and clingy. They are not going to be quiet when you are having a conversation on the phone. They want to join in. They are not going to be quiet while the baby is sleeping, they want to rejoice in being alive through loud and sometimes piercing vocalizations. The larger birds such as cockatoos and macaws are not going to be satisfied with your petting and playing with them after only one short hour. They want you to pet them and play with them from sunrise to sunset.
Yet as demanding, needy, temperamental, and sassy as they can be at times, I couldn't imagine life without them. I have had birds all my 47 years of life and my love and devotion to them only grows stronger.
I thank God for Snowball. Snowball opened the world's eyes to rescues, the plight of the parrot, and the increased need for more education. But most of all, Snowball has brought sunshine and laughter to a world clouded with negative news. Snowball, a dear rescue bird, has danced his way into my heart.