A Bird’s Life
Saturday, January 19, 2013
Ten and a half years ago, I found a blue and gold McCaw parrot in the dark basement of an empty house on a 100-acre estate. I was caretaking the property and was asked to go up to the main house to see if there were any rodents. I was shocked to find a parrot in the basement.
Her cage was filthy. She had less than a tablespoon of water, which was dirty and covered in dead flies. She had no food but had been eating maggots. Her pupils were the size of pinpoints and she kept slamming her head against the cage and biting at it. Inbetween her ear-piercing screams she would yell vulgar swear words. I had to hose off the cage with her in it because she was too aggressive to open the cage. It took me weeks before I could handle her. With the help of an experienced birdman, I rehabilitated her.
Her name (since birth) is Seamore. Seamore became a member of my animal family. She had periods of posttraumatic stress, which resulted in her biting me. She was very strong and fast. I have scars from her. My friends and family were scared of her. She would run at them, eyes pinning, flapping her wings, trying to sink her beak into their pant-legs or their flesh.
She loves music and dances on command. She would sit on my arm and go for hikes with me. I had pigs then, and she would spend hours climbing the wire of their enclosure. She knew, even before my wolfdog Maia did, when someone was driving up the two-mile driveway. I had two dogs, two cats, two pigs, a bunny, and Seamore back then. Our ranch had a reputation. Watch out the parrot and the wolfdog. I was safe.
When I had to leave the ranch, I decided that it was best to find Seamore a home where she would get one-to-one attention with an experienced bird person. I found James. He is a kind and knowledgeable bird-lover. I felt good about re-homing her with him. In the last nine years, James has become a bird rescuer, accumulating 100-plus parrots. Although she no longer lived alone with James, I was happy Seamore had the chance to live in a big aviary and socialize with a lot of birds.
When Seamore left, I had James sign a contact stating he must contact me if he moved and if Seamore ever needed a new home. James honored this contact and notified me several times, whenever he moved. A few weeks ago, he asked me to take Seamore back. James had lost his sanctuary for the birds and needed to find some of them homes.
Seamore has been back in my house for three days now. I have changed a lot in nine years. I got married and divorced. I phased out my animal-training business and made the pet psychic work my full time job. I have matured. I have become more conscious of the way my mind works, and of the issues in the world. I can “read” animals on a deeper level and I understand their processes more. I am calmer. I am all-around happier.
I purchased a new cage for Seamore that feels like it takes up half my living room. She is healthy, but in the last few years she has pulled out some of her feathers. She must have had some stress living with the other birds. She is calmer and less aggressive than when I first lived with her, though I also read her better now and know when to push her and when to leave her alone.
I see that posttraumatic stress still is evident in her life. I have noticed that the more people there are in the room, the more anxious she gets.
I broke down and cried the other day, watching her in her cage. Why do we feel we should take birds out of their tropical environment and put them in cages in our living rooms? It is so unnatural to them. It is cruel. When I took her outside, she said, “Oh, the wind! It is too cold.” So I brought her back inside. She should be in the Amazon! Please do not purchase parrots and support this industry.
I have learned by watching Seamore that parrots’ hearing is acute. In the darkness, the car lights passing by scare her. She is grateful for fruits and vegetables. Yesterday she was alternately screaming and saying “hello.” If I answered her with “hello” back, Luca, my poodle, would run to the front door barking, thinking someone was at the door.
Seamore is about 22 years old. She can live into her 80s. She has asked me many times, “Where is Maia (wolfdog)? Where is Joey (cat)? Where is Boomer (bunny)? Where are the pigs?” I try to explain to her that her old friends have died and are now in heaven. But she has not understood the concept yet. She continues to look for them.
I am happy to have her back, more so than I thought I would be. I am surprisingly grateful that I can hear her and talk to her better than before. Having her with me is educating me on the plight of parrots in our culture.
Here I ask her Seamore and my other animals about us all being together.
Seamore says, “I feel safe here. I feel happy to be inside. I feel happy to know you again. I feel scared of noises I don’t understand (garbage disposal, garbage truck, microwave, coffee maker…). I am confused as to why I left for so many years. I am tired and I sleep better here. I miss the other birds but not enough to go back. I enjoy the fruits and the cereal here. I enjoy the inside. I sleep well. I love you.”
Stormy, my Aussie, who knew Seamore before, says, “I am glad Seamore is back, because I can tell she needs us to be her best self. I hate it when she screams and I wish she would learn to be quiet. I wonder if she knows that our family has been through a lot since she was gone. We had animals die of cancer and we were sad. It is strange that we have aged and she has not aged that much. I want her to know that you will love her and take care of her. That she can get healthy now.”
Makia, my cat that knew Seamore before, says, “When I see Seamore I remember a time where we had a lot of land to explore. I was younger and had to watch out for coyotes. It was a time where you loved us but you didn’t talk to us as much as you do now. I am glad you talk to us more now. It is helpful.”
Serafina, my cat I found at the same ranch where I found Seamore, but years apart, says, “At first I was really scared of her but now I realize that she just deals with fear differently than I do. I hide and she screams. She will be brave one day. I can feel it.”
Luca, my poodle, says, “I think that Seamore is very unusual. I have never seen a bird like her and never knew a bird could live in a house. I wonder if she would like to fly away with the ravens outside? She looks a little like a raven. When she talks like a person I wonder if she knows what she is saying.”
Bean, my bunny, says, “I thought she was a hawk and I was in danger at first. Now I realize that she stays in the front room. I have not been in there much because she scares me. She is always making noise and it is hard to get used to the house not being quiet all the time. Can we try to make her quieter?”