We are a bunch of big ol’ softies, aren’t we? Not everyone can be reduced to tears by a touching meme that describes a bird in bad circumstances. Not everyone cares as deeply as we do.
For the human that loves parrots, understands their health and diet needs and can find the fragile balance between too little and too much when it comes to their wants, it makes perfect sense for this person to go into rescue.
Today I want to talk about an experience had by a fellow softie that contacted me recently and asked that I write about her experience in the world of parrot rescue. She didn’t ask me not to mention her by name, but I will call her Jean.
There is a great deal more to parrot rescue than understanding and caring for parrots. Sure, that is a big part of it, but you also need to be a business person. The need for donations to keep the rescue afloat never stops nagging and you will be forever trying to raise funds.
You have to think with your head as much as your heart. There will be times when the doors need to be closed to new arrivals. This assures that the birds currently in your care will always have what they need. Sometimes there will be no more room at the inn.
Feeding and watering many birds is harder than it sounds. It is your responsibility to keep dishes, cages and the bird rooms clean. It is a surprisingly hard job from a physical standpoint. But, it is murder emotionally.
This is where Jean got into trouble.
I think the hardest part about rescue is not coping with the birds or their numbers, but with the humans involved. As Jean said: “Why do people have to wait until their bird is naked or half dead before they do something about it? Some of the birds I took in HATED human beings. How did it ever come to that? What happened to them?”
She said the hardest thing about having a rescue was seeing the darkest side of human nature – the side that doesn’t recognize or is able to turn away from the suffering of another living being. The second hardest thing is not lashing out at those people.
Jean said that after a while, it began to change her into an unhappy person. She started her rescue believing it was all about taking in needy and unwanted birds and helping to heal them and prepare them for a new start with another family. But after a few years, she couldn’t take the roller coaster of emotions and shut the doors for good.
She managed to place all of the birds in her care (except her personal flock) – some went to other rescues. The point she wanted me to drive home is that she, with all the best intentions, did not have what it takes to handle a rescue – a fact that took her completely by surprise. She is troubled that she had to displace 9 emotionally struggling birds and cause them to lose their home. Again.
She asked me to warn people not to take this endeavor lightly and to enter into it with realistic expectations. It is not only about watching birds grow and thrive in your care and finding the perfect family for them. There is sadness and disappointment and sometimes death. There are people that you will want to slap.
It takes a special person to do this job. Being a rescue operator is the ultimate catch-22. You have to be the sensitive sort who is deeply moved by suffering, but to do the job well you have to find a way to be objective about those same things.This work is not for the meek and feint-hearted.
If you aspire to be in parrot rescue, please take a good look inward BEFORE you jump into this line of work and before you bring in birds that will have only you to rely on. Jean is left feeling guilty for further complicating the lives of some of her rescues.
All Photos by Anna Sloan
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.