I am sitting out here in my aviary today, which happens to be my whole netting enclosed backyard. I am sitting here enjoying the morning sun with my favorite magazine in hand and my Umbrella Cockatoo soaking up the rays on my knee. My hair is done nicely and my make up in fine tuned condition for tonight’s presentation. Tonight I am presenting a workshop on modifying parrot behavior through positive reinforcement techniques. This is the second series I am presenting here locally and am pretty excited about it because I have tons of videos showing how it works and proving how strong it is increasing the trust between the trainer and the bird. Anyway, there’s a reason I just mentioned all of that. You’ll see. On with the story.
I am reading Barbara Heidenreich’s Spring 2009 issue of Good Bird Magazine. I decided to flip open to the article written by Shauna Roberts called “Mackie the Miracle Umbrella Cockatoo”. The sight of cockatoos makes my heart skip a beat, plus I’ve seen Mackie’s photo on her husband’s Gabriel Foundation card. I met Shauna and Allen last year at Chris Shank’s FlyAbout in Oregon. I’ve heard bit’s and pieces of the story of the history of Mackie the Umbrella Cockatoo but never heard the whole story. So time to put on my big girl britches and dig in to the story.
I started reading. I read of Mackie’s past and how he was loved by his first owner and how that quickly changed when a boyfriend came into the picture. As I continued reading I kept in the back of my mind what must be going through this bird’s head during this drastic transition from the cage to the basement bathtub. I read on and the tears began flowing by the time I flipped the first page of the article, as they do once again as I sit here and type this.
So why do I cry so? I’ve been sitting here thinking about this over the past half hour since I first started reading this article. This is what I do in the aviary, ya know? I’ll sit here for hours and just observe and think, it’s one of my favorite things to do. I sat the article to my side and starred at the beautiful ball of feathers soaking the rays on my knee. His eyes are shut and his trust in me and the secure and positive environment I have provided to him all his life are a consistent reminder to me of my passion for all of avian welfare. I sat here and looked at my cockatoo, Rico sitting on my knee while trying to imagine Mackie’s horror of cigarettes being put out on his body and bleached sprayed into his wounds to prevent infection. I sat and imagined the life and the love this bird once knew and then the horror he then went through. The tears flooded my vision as hard as I tried forcing myself to stop crying, the more more my bottom lip started to quiver. So much for the great make up job for tonight’s presentation. I will mention this story at tonight’s presentation. I can’t not do it. I’ll do it in honor of Mackie and I’ll do it in honor of Mackie’s fantastic and dedicated current owners, Shauna and Allen Roberts.
So back to the tears. I just got off the phone with my husband telling him of this story of Mackie’s history. Unfathomable is the only word I can continually come up with on mine and my husband’s reaction. I can’t even imagine what could bring someone to do this, but I know it does happen.
I believe this story is too close to my heart through a bird that now resides with me. I won’t go into the full story of Rocky my Moluccan Cockatoo, but he was supposed to be put down due to his plethora of negative behavioral issues he exhibited when I met him. Barbara Heidenreich and Susan Friedman don’t even know his story but they are the ones whom helped me so drastically turn Rocky’s behaviors into ejoyable encounters. Through all of their writings I was on the other end of their pen put to paper begging them for all the help I could get and for Rocky’s future. I remember the tears, the heartache and pleading on a daily basis.
So, this is a long overdue thank you to Barbara and Susan. The outlet you provide to the avian community is one I can’t even put into words. The next time your on a plane heading to another seminar, may a thank you from Rocky cross your thoughts.
I will give extreme amounts of credit to Rocky also. He has been one of my best teachers in behavior and behavior modification. I sit here now with him behind me enjoying a toy from atop his 9′ playsystem. He’s quiet. He’s content. He’s well loved with a home I hope I can provide to him unti the end of his days. A bird that has been misunderstood for many years and he has since allowed my husband and I to enter his heart. A bird who’s future was very grim two and a half years ago now has the ability to fly throughout the aviary, hop through the grass, and climb up our legs to our chest where he knows is always a tender hand eager to provide him comfort.
To all the Mackie’s and the Rocky’s…..thank you for teaching us.