Being both resilient and resourceful, parrots often surprise even the most dedicated of parrot advocates. Their ability to adjust to new situations (especially if given a proper introduction period), suffer with quiet dignity and patience in situations of adversity (such as being homed in conditions of less than satisfactory care), and bond with a species so vastly different from themselves as humans all bespeak both an unfathomable intelligence as well as highly developed social skill set. The incredible gift they bring into the lives of those who are willing to take the time to learn from them and enjoy the superior quality of companionship they offer cannot be measured in any way beyond the satisfaction their proper care instills in the hearts of those who work hard to offer satisfactory care.
Not long ago I had need to be far from home for just over a month to attend some lessons needed to help ensure the continued future of my family here in Greece (family meaning wife, 6 parrots, 3 cats, 1 rabbit and 1 dog). While in many ways it was an ordeal for me (due to worry about the care of each family member in a way they had become accustomed to), we all managed well enough, and upon my return I was given a special surprise. While it would seem a small ting in most peoples eyes, it was in fact a milestone in a relationship always fraught with mistrust and often a touch of anxiety.
Christo is a Congo African Grey approximately 10 years old, with an ugly past that has cast a dark shadow on a comfortable present and promising future. He has been a member of our flock for 3 years. He is a generally calm fellow, always observant and stoic, with a definite sense of humor, and an ability to adjust to adversity which marked his early days well. Having been abused by men in the past, and even struck by a mans hand on more than one occasion, Christo came to fear and mistrust men in a very real way. Although I am his main provider of needful things, a fact he understands and accepts, he has always held on to his mistrust of men, and it has always affected our relationship in a way marked by an inability to truly accept me. Having been betrayed by a formerly trusted man in the past with violence, my hand and arm are his enemy, and I have never been able to get him past this fear or mistrust. My wife is his chosen one (which I accept gratefully as it means he does receive personal interaction and social enrichment) and while she gets love and trust from him, and is able to handle him effortlessly. While I am satisfied that his life has love within, it has always saddened me that he needs feel any fear or mistrust, and I curse the past that has affected him so deeply. Although I will never truly know the extent of either his neglect nor abuse in the past, I do know it left an indelible mark on his personality, a mark that never should have been.
Having described a little of his nature and character, you can understand that when I left my small family for a month, what I had to leave temporarily behind was a family generally loving and trusting of me, with the exception of one member who, sadly, I knew would probably relish my absence. I knew our green-cheek girl would suffer most, due to her great love for me, followed by our ring-neck who, while not much of a cuddler, still loves me and wishes always to be nearby. Our cockatiels, being paired and content in their own company would probably notice my absence, but with their needs met by my wife they would go on with business as usual. Then there is Tinkerbell the Barraband who suffers from PBFD and must be kept isolated and treated differently from the rest who is well provided for and generally happy and accepting, but has become more self-reliant and quietly goes about her business of preening feathers no longer existent, and playing/chewing the toys and branches she is provided. But Christo, he would surely revel in my unexplained absence, and monopolize my wife. As it turned out, while on most points my assumptions were correct, I had underestimated Christos acceptance of me. As a result, and to my great pleasure, upon my return, I found Christo did in fact miss me, and displayed his welcome home with cheerful welcoming sounds and even dancing with me (an act generally only shared with my wife).
To me all of this marks how resilient parrots can and will, if given the chance, prove themselves to be. While even now (a little more than one month later) our interaction is little different than the provider/provided for interactions of the past, there is dancing and that, for me, and perhaps for him as well, is no small thing. It bespeaks a relationship that is beneath the surface much more accepting than I had believed. His tension also seems to have lessened in our dealings.I do not push things with him, and do not try to handle him, as I am content in the knowledge that he is more at ease and prefer not to disturb that ease with advances that may not be wanted or welcomed, or that might set us back. Christo is happy, and it is more apparent to me now and I would have it stay that way.
There seems a tendency of humans to accept those gifts easily offered, but unwilling to work towards those things not so easily given. Such is the way in dealing with companion animals; the cute, cuddly ones; the quiet and entertaining ones who perform as requested or expected are given the best. The difficult cases, or misunderstood are quickly cast aside, neglected, abused, or otherwise condemned by the hand of man. When will this change, I cannot say. But I know it needs to change, and the little lives that surround us need to be given better more patient treatment. This begins with information and advocacy, and while I am an advocate for animal rights in general, I feel that right now parrots are at particular risk of abuse at the hands of humans based upon the constantly growing ease of availability and plethora of breeders and pet stores so willing to hand them into the arms of those people who have no education or understanding of even their basic needs. Parrot for profit has become a too widely spread business and someone must suffer as a result; that someone is not likely to be the uninformed human involved in the equation.