(Katherine Thorpe of the Animal Educational Foundation Training Palmer the Palm Cockatoo)
(Photo courtesy Steve Martin of NEI Inc.)
When are you done? It’s a simple question, really. When it comes to birds, I guess you aren’t ever really “done”. There is always another behavior to train, another cage to clean, another beak to feed, and another healthy recipe to learn to make. If you stop to think about it, it might be a little disturbing.
My friend Lynn, who has two teenaged boys, the youngest being thirteen, absolutely yearns for the day when she is “done”. I’m assuming that’s when they are of legal age and are packed off to various colleges and halfway houses. (Lynn is my best friend and knows I’m joking…You’d have to meet her boys!)
But I’ll never be “done”. I will always have Parker and Pepper and various foster birds and reprobate African Greys that are in dire need of manners before they are sent off to their new homes.
(Grimly the Hooded Vulture Flying to My Glove)
(Photo: Steve Martin, NEI)
I’ll always have another class I want to attend, another skill I want to learn, another experience I want to have. There will always be something else to do, something else to see, another bird that needs attention, or another person that calls me out of the blue and wants to know what to do about a bird that won’t come out of her cage. (Hey, it happened yesterday…)
I will never be the incredible trainer and educator Barbara Heidenreich is, the Zoo Consultant that Robin Shewokis is, or accomplish the amazing work Susan Friedman has by turning the world of birds on its “beak” so to speak by introducing positive reinforcement training to the masses. I’ll never be the Businessman and Showman Steve Martin is, the Avian Vets: Doctors Crosta, Backos, Macwhirter, and Speer are. I’ll never have the stomach and nerve for a full scale Adoption and Rescue operation Like Ann Brooks and the People of Phoenix Landing, or the Gabriel Foundation. I don’t have the organizational skills to run something like the Rocky Mountain Society of Aviculture; it’s all I can do to pack my lunch for work in the morning. There are a lot of things I can never hope to be and to accomplish. I joined the field far too late to be the leading authorities they are. And there is nothing that says I would have been able to even if I began earlier.
But there is one thing I want to do; and that is to write about and promote the things I feel are important for people to know that have birds in their lives. In order to do this, I have to know how to do the research, how to find the people who are making the difference in the Avian Community and write about their work.
I chose this when I chose to bring Parker into my home and realized that I was over my head. I chose this when I decided to learn about Aviculture the right way, from the ground up and 6 years later I still haven’t even scratched the surface. But the decision I made, the promise I made to myself and to Parker when he still didn’t have any feathers, was to learn everything I possibly could. You see, when I got Parker I did everything the wrong way and I feel I still have to make up for it.
I’m not even close to being what I would call “accomplished”. I accomplish taking good care of my birds every day…well most days. I always feel I could have done a better job. I always feel I could have taken 5 more minutes somewhere for a quickie training session or reinforcement. I feel I’m competent. (The demonstration of my competency is that my birds are healthy and haven’t taken an eye out yet. I’m kidding, they’re really good birds most of the time.)
(Shadow of Parker and Pepper on my Front Door During a Sunbath)
I felt I kept up with the work at the Cincinnati Zoo which left me whining, limping and smelling like a mackerel the entire first week. I felt after the first week I was “capable”, which meant that Steve and Fritz knew they could assign me the task of feeding the King Penguins when they were doing something else and they knew said penguins would indeed be fed and all alive the next day. They also didn’t have to check on them because they knew I’d be there taking care of it even if it took all night. God forbid I fail to do something the way I was told to! I could never forgive myself. (the private school upbringing never leaves you I guess…it haunts you forever…)
(Feeding the King Penguins at the Cincinnati Zoo)
So I’m just yet another person in the bird world. The only way I’m different is that I enjoy information: How to find it, how to get it, how to filter out the best of it, and how to make it available to other people who would benefit from it. I also would rather get crapped on by a penguin, or feed some Ring-tailed Lemurs than go on a cruise.
(A Lemur politely takes some sweet potato)
I try every day to keep up with the world around me and learn just one more thing, write one more thing, pass one more thing on. I guess my way of contributing to the Avian Community isn’t being an expert in anything. It’s finding the experts and passing their expertise on to people just like me: the ordinary person who happens to have some parrots in her living room.