“Adopt, Don’t Shop.” It’s such a catchy phrase when applied to dogs and cats, but it misses the mark for companion parrots like me when many, if not most, of us do not land in the few shelters where feathered companions are available for adoption. “Adopt, Don’t Shop” ignores this concept and implores people to walk past companion parrots if they are located in anything that resembles a “pet store,” even if it’s a hardware store with a pets section or a pawn shop. “Adopt, Don’t Shop” scorns “ransomed rescues,” especially if those feathered companions “look okay.”
Thank goodness my foster mommy does not define rescue birds by the buildings in which they are located, or she would have ignored me when she saw me in that store one day. She would have never went home, told her husband about a thirteen-year-old Congo African Grey (CAG) in need, and posted on an avian group about my plight. That post sparked a multinational effort to rescue me in less than five days. I never asked to be sold to that store. Seriously, what companion parrot would ask to live in a hardware store? I look nothing like a hammer! If humans would have asked me about my past, they would have known I met any and all criteria to be considered a “rescue bird.” But I somehow became living proof that “rescue birds” simply cannot be defined by the buildings in which they are found.
My name was Baby Grey, but my foster parents changed it to Lady Greyce when they took me home. My former owner sold me to the hardware store. He left me, my cage for the past eleven years, a few toys, and my food amongst the most amazing, but tragic, group of other comrades like me. I became the first and only CAG there, much to the store owners’ delight as they saw me as an attraction to draw customers into the store. Housed in a century-old building with incredibly high ceilings, I was plunked into the middle of the rather dimly-lit, crowded store where all of the other parrots live near hamsters, guinea pigs, and even a rabbit. Despite being the only CAG, I shared similarities with the other birds as all of us endured sad histories and somehow ended up there.
Imagine my surprise when a petite lady with a huge heart came into the store the day after I arrived there and talked to me for a while. I do not trust women very much, but she seemed different. She saw how scared I looked and told me she would try to help me. I didn’t know what to think about that as not all humans, especially females, keep their promises. But that lady went home and told her husband about me, and he came to see me the very next day with some fresh kale. It tasted so much better than those peanuts and department store seed! I could not contain my excitement about this treat and went straight to him. He promised he would come see me again, and he actually did! He visited me twice a day and told me he would find a way to help me. A sad Eclectus who lived there for five years told me these people once rescued a beautiful budgie who had been mistreated and took her home to join their flock. They tried to educate the owners during small talk about things like how we parrots need space, good food, fresh vegetables and fruit, company, and stimulation, but it seems like their words fell on deaf ears.
The nice man who visited me with treats took pictures of me and my home. I didn’t tell him I really don’t like the sound of cameras because I took a bad fall once when someone took too many pictures of me. I didn’t talk to him at all even though I can talk quite well and make lots of cool noises. At least, he didn’t use that scary flash thing. His wife posted those pictures on something called Facebook in a group with other parrot companions. I guess it broke her heart to see me so lonely and scared. How could I possibly know this Internet thing allowed lots of other people to learn about me? How could I know several people would care and launch a campaign to save me without even really knowing me? As smart as I am, I had no idea these visitors would soon end up becoming my foster parents.
After my picture was posted on this Facebook thing, lots of people read my story, and the next thing I know, all of these amazing people cared enough to pay the ransom to get me out of there and send me home with my new foster parents. Two of those humans run a sanctuary for birds just like me called Marden’s Ark! That sanctuary offered to sponsor me as a foster bird through its outreach program! I guess a lot of us parrots end up unwanted; I sure hope very few of them end up in hardware stores. Another of those humans is kept by a CAG like me named Felix, only he’s now a famous celebrity on this Internet thing! My foster mom told me that he came from a situation very similar to mine! Imagine that - total strangers cared enough about me to give me a second chance with a foster family who actually cares!
I love my new home that I share with those two humans, a flock of budgies, and a Maltese named Snoop. He is teaching me that not all dogs are bad, and sometimes, I throw him food I don’t want to reward him for being nice to birds. He seems to love and trust his human parents. Animals sense good humans, so I am trying to accept Snoop’s instincts that his parents, especially his mommy, can be trusted. Slowly but surely, I am watching her and am impressed with how much she loves her flock and her silly dog. (He can be very silly at times, but then, all dogs can be as we parrots know!)
Before coming to my foster parents’ home, I‘ve never lived in a house not filled with physical and verbal abuse since I was five and a half months old. I cannot believe my foster parents do not yell at each other and fight, and they are so kind and loving. None of my humans ever allowed me to call them "Daddy" or "Mommy" like these people do. I am trying to be brave and show them that I could flourish with love, but I carry a lot of hidden, invisible scars from the things I have experienced. I feel like I am dreaming every day when I wake up in a house so quiet, calm, and full of love.
My new daddy talks so gently to me; I decided to reward him and let him touch me the second night in their home. I hope he knows how grateful I am to be here, and he gives really gentle head scratches that feel so good. I decided to show him I can talk. When he tried to go outside one day, I said, "Hold it, Buster. Don't leave." He immediately stopped and gave me pistachios. What a nice human! My new mommy told me I have him wrapped around my little fingers! She seems a bit confused since I have talons, not fingers, but I think in time I can train her better!
My new mommy talks very sweetly to me, and she seems so patient. She knows I am leery of her even though deep down inside, I kind of like her and want to trust her. She says she respects me, which is a new feeling, but one I could grow to like! I showed her my best catcalls when she was talking on the telephone, and she didn’t even get mad at me! Instead, she came straight to me after she hung up and told me how smart I was. One day, she was busy on that Internet thing doing something called work, and I interrupted her to say, "Hey, pretty girl. Come here. "Cereal." She stopped what she was doing to give me a treat! She made me something called a “Felix Fizzy Drink.” I think that famous parrot’s human mommy taught her how to do that, and oh my goodness, was that ever delicious!
Some people do not understand that the building where a bird is found does not determine whether it is a “rescue bird.” I understand people’s misgivings about paying “ransoms” to pet stores and even hardware stores, but hopefully, one day they will see that some of us like Felix and I ARE rescues, too. My mommy says I can help teach people that even though it sounds like a big job for a parrot. I hope the amazing people at Marden’s Ark, Flockcall, Felix, and all of their friends know how much I appreciate them rescuing me from that horrible place and helping me find my new foster home. Together, humans can make a difference, one parrot at a time, one person at a time.