In writing, economy is an attribute that is sought after. It is something that works well and is appreciated. It’s also very difficult to achieve.
Now, If I had a brain in my head, I’d just post this photo above as a way of explaining what the Oasis Sanctuary is all about and call it a day. Now that’s economy. (To see the letter close up, simply click on the photo and it will enlarge for you.)
I went to the “Discover the Oasis” event this last weekend to meet people, talk a bit about my “Chop Concept” and get to know the people at the Oasis. I was in the main building when I saw this framed note sitting on a bookshelf. I immediately turned into a pile of water. Sometimes things just get to me. It doesn’t happen often, but this short, to-the-point framed letter innocently propped up against the wall on top of a bookshelf brought me to my knees. As far as I’m concerned, I really don’t have to say another word as a way of explaining what the Oasis does and why they exist.
But I will. I have a lot to say, and even though my instinct says, “leave it alone” I will continue even though just looking at that photo of the framed letter chokes me up.
I still have to write about the event. This particular shin-dig thrown at the Sanctuary in Benson Arizona, (By the way, if you’re flying in, make sure you fly into Tucson, and not Phoenix. It’ll save you a lot of hassle.) was a fund-raiser for the Sanctuary to raise desperately needed funds for this very worthy organization. It’s run on a shoe-string and I don’t think I have ever seen a harder-working, dedicated and more focused group of people in my life.
This is not an easy place. Visiting the Oasis makes you think about the entire point of what we’re doing by keeping birds. Or rather, not keeping them. When you come here, you have to come to terms with your own mortality, the fallout from economic hardship, lack of information, lack of education and just plain ignorance. What the Oasis does is pick up the slack when humans fail their birds in one way or another and ultimately themselves. Despite the messiness, the heartbreak, the difficulty of the work, they trudge on, making the most out of very little. They believe that what they are doing is a very necessary part of the big picture.
Unfortunately they’re right.
I wish they were out of business. I wish they could shut their doors. I don’t want them to exist. I don’t want them to be necessary. But they are necessary. They are needed. And they’re busier than hell.
The event was an Open House with tours, and speakers Dr. Susan Friedman and Noelle Fontaine.
I was there to “Kiss hands and shake babies” and write about the event here.
And I’m glad to do it. I also got to meet my friend Nancy who happens to be the “Mom” of my Facebook friend Bart Henry the African Grey. I’ve known Susan for years so it was great to catch up with her as well.
The Oasis had a silent auction, a 50/50 raffle, lunch, the speakers, door prizes, and tours. Parrots were joyously yelling, people were talking and meeting and the ducks were honking away. I met Sybil Erden, the Founder of Oasis and we spent some time yakking and exchanging ideas.
One idea I came away with is this very cool “flight tunnel” that is a flight bridge for the Quaker enclosure. It bridges two separate enclosures and gives them some flying room between two enclosures. Very cool and a fabulous idea!
Lanette Raymond, who is the President of the Long Island Parrot Society and definitely has her plate full, took the time to come out and volunteer as well as attend the event. She worked her tail off.
There is a new Board Member who just recently joined the team and was responsible for making sure my boney rear-end was here to meet all of these incredible people: Janet Holt Hilton. Janet is a powerhouse and has already contributed so much to the Foundation with her ideas, time and energy:
And she intends to do more. In a very real way, Janet’s enthusiasm and vision can and will clarify, expand and improve the outlook of the Oasis. It can’t help but do so. Janet has so many thoughts on how to help the Oasis. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all pans out. I wanted to do more, but they had this event planned within an inch of its life and there wasn’t much for me to do. So I grabbed a brush and groomed a dog. Her name is Jewel:
Naturally, I ended up hairier than the dog I had just groomed. Why is is that every time I do a writing project, I end up completely filthy?
I was happy to be there, happy to be a part of the event, and perhaps to have contributed to a person’s knowledge about a great way to feed their birds. I loved meeting the people and seeing the work that they do. Sometimes the work is pretty grim. And sad.
As I said before, these incredible people pick up the shards and pieces of broken lives and attempt to put them back together the best way they know how. They are approaching the problem we ourselves created head-on.
They do the most admirable work and I know it can’t be easy for them. But unfortunately it’s very necessary. And until we can figure out a way to make the Oasis obsolete, there will always be a need for them.
So if you can help them, please do so. Here is a link to their “Pennies for Parrots” campaign: Pennies for Parrots Just five dollars can make a difference to these birds.
Quasimodo thanks you. And so do I.
May 9, 2011 at 1:57 pm
Thanks for writing about the Oasis. I’ve been contributing when I can for a couple of years (and sending extra towels, which they always need) and look forward to helping out when I can afford the airfare! Sybil’s boyfriend and mine are motorcycle-type guys so I’m sure they will also get along while we bird-people are working with the feathered ones! My boyfriend’s from AZ and wants to someday move back, which case it would need to be near that area and I could volunteer on a regular basis!
May 9, 2011 at 7:50 pm
I’ve known Janet Holt Hilton since we were puppies and she’s always been a powerhouse and is more than an avid supporter of the Oasis, she is an infectious disease about the Oasis and is infecting the whole state of Louisiana with her talk talk talk about these incredible birds and the incredible people who take such good care of these incredible birds. I have voted for the Oasis Sanctuary every single day for the last few months mostly out of fear but also out of love for my dear friend and her new friends in Arizona. God bless you all.
May 10, 2011 at 12:04 am
Just wanted to agree that I, too, wish we were out of business, and wish that so many of these birds did not need to be here. I am proud of what we have been able to do, and feel we do a good job, but this is a hard situation.
We all try to educate people with every tour we give and every person meet casually about about working here at the sanctuary. I do not like to hear people thinking of The Oasis as an idyllic rest home to send their birds after their scheduled time with them over. It is not true that every species has its own perfect aviary, all adapt seamlessly to interaction with their own species and instantly learn to fly though they have been clipped all their lives. We wind up trying to do the best we can for every bird here, and that includes those who do not want to live in aviaries, will never learn to fly, and who do not want to interact with other birds. We have birds with medical issues that have to take up extra time with us daily. We have aging birds. We have birds we grow close to and then pass away though we work to get them the best veterinary attention we can the moment we notice ANYTHING. Many more we lengthen their lives every day, but those we lose always makes this job so hard. And their are presently 8 full-time staff, soon to become 9. For 700+ parrots. Do the math. We are emotionally stretched, yet we are committed.
To me, sanctuary is necessary in the scheme of things…as much as I want every bird who goes into adoption programs to find homes, all are not that lucky. Every adoption program has to deal with birds coming back, some multiple times, or worse going into homes where they are passed on into neglect and abuse. I do I want parrot people to make the extra effort to take in another older, handicapped, behavior-challenged, over-bonded or under-socialized companion bird and appreciate them for who they are, because they are people who are more experienced with parrots. But we all have our own limits in our lives, and there are far more birds out there needing help than all of us CAN possibly help.
What we do is simply a drop in the ocean, yet it’s important, and by doing what we do hopefully there is a ripple effect and one or two or more birds do not have to wind up in a sanctuary. Maybe someone out there who was going to order a baby bird from a breeder instead adopts a plucking, funny-looking older parrot who turns out to be their soulmate. Maybe someone who has heard conures are terribly loud and once avoided them finds out their characters and intelligence actually negate the noise issues. Maybe taking the plunge on adopting a parrot in need of daily medical care or a specially designed cage with assisted exercise is not that big of a stretch to make in their lives. Or when someone comes to you asking to take in another bird, can you help them to keep their bird? Can you refer them to a behaviorist you respect, can you troubleshoot from your own experiences, can you offer them some temporary support during a crisis period where they can get their beloved parrot back later rather than rehome them? Can you offer up other bird people in their area to talk to and network with? To me, it’s all part of what we need to do as a community to keep our birds in homes and out of sanctuaries. And plan. Plan A, plan B, plan C and revise those plans for the rest of your life, over and over again. For the saddest reality for me is parrots under human laws are simply property. It is absolutely up to us to protect them and somehow extend the love we have for our birds to others who will also value and protect them for the rest of their lives. To do that takes not just a village but a parrot nation.
May 10, 2011 at 9:31 pm
Bart’s Mom: Wow…well said…well said..WELL SAID. One single approach is NOT going to “solve” the problem. One size does not fit all and some thinking outside the box is absolutely necessary.
I thought Noelle’s talk on these types of alternative options was amazing and we need to be shouting this message from the rooftops. If we, as individuals, aren’t willing to step up and help in whatever way we can, how (and why) should we expect others to do it for us?
Excellent thoughts, Jean. Thank you.
May 10, 2011 at 9:56 am
Thank you for writing this. Over the past 35 years, I’ve watched this overpopulation occur. Sadly its left to the long time aviculturists to clean up the mess. I am thankful places like the Oasis exist, as well as wonderful ladies like Jean Gauthier who are steadfast, loyal and has the bird’s best interest at heart.
May 10, 2011 at 10:57 am
Well written. Unfortunately until you’ve been there to experience The Oasis it’s hard to get others to truly comprehend what you’ve seen. I spent a week there a few years back and witnessed the hard work and dedication of these loving individuals. I spent the morning hours collecting food and water dishes with Joe, which are labeled for each enclosure, delivering them to Nancy for cleaning and refilling then returning them to their hungry owners. After everyone is fed we filled water bottles and prepared fruits and veggies for the next morning’s adventure. An afternoon filled with cleaning cages, the grounds and making necessary repairs. All of this while taking the time to talk to the birds as they make their rounds. In addition to all the work on the grounds, I know from staying in the main office building, that the washer and dryer ran from the time I started them in the morning until I put the last load of towels in before heading off to bed. I slept well that week! There are no slackers in that organization. Everyone that spends time there walks away with memories of ‘that special bird’ and how they imprinted themselves on their heart. Would I do it again? Absolutely, the Oasis staff is an incredible group of people.
May 10, 2011 at 9:37 pm
Well, Miss Patricia. Mom said that next to meeting her sponsor bird, Ms Muggs, getting to chat with you was the highlight of her day. ; >
I’m so glad you two got to meet and talk about ME. (Natch.) But I’m also excited to see some fresh faces and new ideas beginning to float around about the “parrot situation” in which all of us are a part.
And thanks for wearing my t-shirt!!
Your #1 fan…Barty
May 12, 2011 at 11:03 pm
Just wanted to say I love that Muggsy!!! Glad to hear you sponsor her! Muggs Meyer’s, Kenya Meyer’s and Zuzu Senegal are among my favorite birds here!
May 13, 2011 at 10:26 pm
Ms Muggs was SO incredibly sweet and INTERESTED in Mom!! Mom says she bets MOST of the birds are your favorites. She had some fun with a group of cockatiels too!
May 27, 2011 at 1:24 pm
Thanks for coming to the event and writing such a wonderful blog. Until utopia exist, Oasis Sanctuary will be needed. As a board member and their veterinarian, I am proud of what the sanctuary has become as the birds that are there are primarily birds that have been displaced for various reasons and had no alternative plans for long term care. While some birds still maintain pet quality, most of them wouldn’t do very well in a pet settings. Social rehabilitation occurs with each other at the facility. We have seen improvements in the quality of the lives of these birds expand when they have opportunities to fly, forage, socialize, and play with other birds. Continuous facility expansion through the free flight aviaries has provided social independence and freedom to all the birds they hold. Thank you for bringing awareness to this successful, life-sustaining organization, whose fuel for life is compassion. We pray for sustainable growth and continued support of our very dedicated supporters and sponsors. Todd Driggers DVM