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Onalee I.

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Review for Florida Exotic Bird Sanctuary Inc, Hudson, FL, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

I’ve had my Blue and Gold Macaw, ‘Perikeen’, for eighteen years – nearly his entire life has been spent with me and my husband. He doesn’t care for strangers, he doesn’t like change in his routines and we enjoy his company (most of the time) and love him (all of the time). Certainly no one could accuse us of abusing him – he had three cages: one in the house where he spent his nights eating dinner and snacks with us, watching TV, doing dishes (he loved helping with the dishes!) and playing games; another was outside in a covered porch where he could see us as we came and went all day – since we work from home, he always had someone talking to him, interacting with him all day long; the last one was a large cage hanging from a tree where he could see all around him, see the sky and the ground, see the other birds and wildlife in the area, as well as see us anytime we were outside.

He pretty much had the “Life of Riley” – he’d get treats throughout the day, had interaction with us almost constantly and had more toys to play with than most children, but still we worried that he wasn’t happy. He would have screaming fits daily – just scream and scream and scream and nothing would satisfy him during those times. He would also bite us without provocation – just ‘cause he felt like it or was in a bad mood, perhaps out of frustration or boredom. I guess if I lived in a cage, or even three cages, I’d probably feel like biting someone, too.

My husband and I had discussed placing him into a sanctuary in the past – wondering if he would be happier there with the other birds, out in a large flight cage where even he, the klutziest bird known to man, might be able to fly (and land) like a real bird. But, other than do a little research online, I never pursued it – until this year. As happens with most changes in life, this one was brought on by changes in our circumstances, so, the decision was made – Perikeen would be getting a new home.

So, back to the computer I went looking up parrot sanctuaries and one that caught my attention was the Florida Exotic Bird Sanctuary. One reason I focused on this organization was that it was close to where I lived, so the idea of visiting Perikeen while he was there was feasible, but the most important reason they drew my attention was the obvious love and caring they exude for the birds in their care which is evident in the pictures, videos and the words of their Mission Statement.

“Anxious” and “emotional” didn’t begin to describe my feelings when I arrived at FEBS one afternoon. When I opened my door and stepped out of the car, I was greeted with the screeching, calling and talking of what sounded like hundreds of birds of all descriptions – it was truly amazing that this parrot ‘oasis’ exists here amongst other homes in rural Pasco County. And my neighbors complain to me about Perikeen’s screaming! Ha!

It was early spring and the temperatures were still cool – Pat had a lot of parrots in cages in the big double garage of her house. As I walked through the aisles of birds in the garage I noticed a few things:

• First, clean – all the cages were kept clean, there weren’t bird droppings or bad smells coming from the garage, despite the number of birds in there at the time.
• Second, food and water – every bird had ample food and clean water in their cage – it was obvious that they weren’t skimpy with the rations and kept the water cleaned daily.
• Third, happy – all the birds seemed perfectly happy – they talked, each with their own favorite word or phrase as you walked through, some wanted to be touched and petted – they weren’t afraid, they weren’t frightened of people.

After meeting Pat, she explained that the garage was where all the birds start out so she and her fellow bird lovers can get a feel for the bird, for their personality and to make sure they have adjusted well, are eating right and that the change has not gotten them sick. She showed me how they were kept warm in the winter and cool in the summer and how she was aware of which birds got along and which ones didn’t and arranged them accordingly. She told me the birds were left for a while in their own, familiar cages, with their own, familiar toys and food to make the transition easier.

Finally, the day came to bring Perikeen to the sanctuary. I’d had two weeks to dwell on it, worry about it, cry over it and finally come to grips with it – Perikeen hadn’t. So, into the carrier he went – not willingly mind you, but eventually he went in. His cage, toys and food went in the back of the truck and down the road we went. The trip was again filled with tears and me telling him how sorry I was that I had to do this and how much I loved him and I promised to visit him at his new home. We sang his favorite songs and I said all his favorite words and phrases as we drove to his new home. I prayed that I was doing the right thing – I hoped he would forgive me.

At the sanctuary, I expected Perikeen to be trembling and nervous – he hates change and hasn’t even SEEN another parrot in the last 18 years, but, to my shock and amazement, he seemed curious and happy. We got his cage set up and he settled in it, talking animatedly to me, Pat and Magic – her amazing helper.

When I finally got in my car to leave, I yelled “Bye!” to him out the window and he told me “Bye! B-Bye!” over and over as I drove out the gate. I cried all the way home, but at the same time I was really hopeful that he’d be happy there. His initial reaction wasn’t what I had expected – he wasn’t scared, he wasn’t trembling – he seemed joyful and curious. The time that Magic and Pat spent with him, with us, gave me confidence that, if anything did happen – if he wasn’t adjusting, they would know it and tell me and I could come and get him and bring him back home.

For the next few days I got emails from Pat telling me that he was doing well – he was eating, he was talking . . . he was doing fine. Over time, she moved him from his cage in the garage to one of the smaller cages in the flight pen, then one day she emailed to say that she’d let him out into the large flight. I was amazed – it had only been a little over a month. She said he was well suited to it because he wasn’t timid – timid birds took longer, but Perikeen was perfect – he was doing really well.

Finally, after a period of time that I thought would be enough for him to be well adjusted, I went to visit. Pat walked with me to the flight pen and we entered together. There were several B&G’s in there and I wondered how in the world I’d be able to tell which one he was – they all looked pretty much the same. We eliminated a few that Pat knew for sure weren’t him and that left only a couple of possibilities. I walked towards the first one and called his name, but that one scurried up the wire of the tall cage and away from me. “I hope that wasn’t him!” I thought before turning to the other one who was perched at the highest point of the cage on the opposite wall. As I turned around and called his name again, that one started bobbing his head up and down and I knew – that was my baby! Then he asked, “How are ya’ doin’?!”

The entire time I was there with him, Perikeen never once offered to bite me, never once screamed, didn’t mind the other macaws there with us, wasn’t scared, wasn’t intimidated – he was happy. It was like he was welcoming me to his new home – showing me around, introducing me to his new friends. He had lost some weight, he had gained muscle – he looked good, healthy and strong and he acted like this was where he belonged. At that moment I knew I had done the right thing – I probably should have done it sooner, for his sake, but it was one of the hardest and scariest things I’ve ever done in my life. Sometimes we need some larger force to push us to overcome our fears, to do the scary thing – that’s what happened to me. Looking back, I wish I’d had the courage to do the right thing for HIM sooner, even if it was painful for a while (isn’t change always painful?) the payoff was more than worth it.

When the time came to leave, I took Perikeen and kissed him goodbye, told him I loved him and tossed him up into the air. He flew across the cage and landed on the opposite side of the enclosure – it was the first time I’d seen him actually fly in all of his eighteen years. He was a real bird, now – finally – and my heart expanded with the joy of it.

I didn’t need his forgiveness, after all . . . except, perhaps, for not allowing him this freedom sooner.

Role:  Client Served