Photo from this Website: The Old Telephone Company

It happens on occasion. I get a phone call from someone about their bird. They need help. They need to re-home their bird. They need to know about training.

The latest call was Friday morning. I knew it was coming because Deb at “Chippy the Pirate,” a local bird store in Fort Lauderdale had called me a couple days before and wanted to know if it was okay if she gave my number out to a woman who needed help with her Cockatoo.


Wendy at Best Friends With a Cockatoo

Of course I said it was okay, but there is only so much I can do over the phone. The lady called me. It was the usual biting at unexpected times and aggression. But she did say, “The screaming I can put up with.”

I found out she used to allow her ‘Too to sleep in her bed, which scared me to death, but she said she had stopped that two years ago. Whew!

Sobering story really: She’s elderly, she lives with her son in a mobile home, she’s had a stroke, multiple surgeries, and she’s a nail technician. I got a feeling for the situation by asking a few questions; diet, housing etc. It turns out that her bird is doing pretty well. I suggested she knock out the seed and the colored pellets but applauded the rest of the diet that included lots of vegetables. Her son has two cats and consequently, she doesn’t let him out much anymore. I suggested the obvious: put the cats in another room in the evening so the bird could come out and be with her. She said she hadn’t thought of that and would do that. (Huh?)

I explained that the bird was most likely in breeding condition which might account for some of the aggression. However she said this began a while back and it’s all of the time now. It was apparent that she loves this bird but is over her head.

Again, there isn’t much I can do on a short conversation over the phone except to recommend she read, Don’t Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor as an introduction. I also noted the diet, the fact that the bird has a play gym and I asked her to call me with questions once she had read the book. I then gave her a short course on positive reinforcement training gave her a few suggestions and called it a day, because there really isn’t anything I can do until she reads the book.

One other problem: she doesn’t have a computer. Now, this is indeed an issue because I was all set to give her my email address so she could contact me and I could send her all kinds of links. Umm, not going to happen. Now, I have been trained by Susan Friedman, Steve Martin and Barbara Heidenreich. But I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination. I know applied behavior analysis and positive reinforcement training, but not well enough to actually give an in-depth training session to another person over a course of weeks. And I’m a little rusty.

I’m also not too thrilled about the idea of marching over there, only to get carved up by a cockatoo who has never met me, doesn’t really give a damn about me and could care less about anything I might have to say about his behavior. I suppose I could do it, but I’d feel guilty about charging her and then there is that little matter of finding the time. At this rate I might have some time this coming September.

I’ve never gotten used to these phone calls. They make me feel helpless because I know I will never really be able to give her the help she wants. I’m sure she would prefer that I fix the bird, when it is indeed her that requires the training. And I simply don’t see that happening. But I can hope. And I can help as much as I can.