The island where we live is small, sparsely populated, and in general would seem to have a long history of animal abuse or neglect. All the populated areas have a large stray domesticated animal population (predominately cats) and the animals you encounter being kept in human homes are usually kept in a hap-hazard or outright abusive or neglected manner. A walk or drive down any of the streets where human development has created homes and shops will reveal numerous cats and dogs wandering in search of food or water, looking either ill, or in some manner of physical distress. Beyond that, you will also see dogs chained out in the heat, stagnant water sitting in rusted bowls close by as if to offer some respite from the heat, as well as small cages imprisoning listless birds baking in the sun as if to slow cook them. In general, this is not a place you would go to find the warmth of the human heart where animal care is concerned. A friend of mind told me of a man he knew that lived in the interior of the island who kept a large parrot. Knowing many of the large parrot keepers here (or so I thought), this revelation piqued my curiousity. I was unable to get more relevatory information from the man however, and so I put it out of mind. A few days later, a woman I knew made mention of the same man, and described the bird to me. Being unfamiliar with birds, she couldn't name the species, but I immediately understood from her description that it was a Moluccan. I was surprised to learn of such a bird here; while I do know of several other cockatoos on the island, of different types, the people here tend to keep more along the lines of Macaws and Amazons. I questioned the woman to discern more, and she informed me that she was a friend of the man, and told me she would pass along a request to meet him and his bird.
I am something of a "busy-body" where parrots are concerned. I tend to stick my nose in where it isn't wanted, offering seldom taken advice, and sharing information about care and habits that usually falls on deaf ears. The people either don't want to know, or don't want me telling them what to do with their "property". It is all very frustrating for me, and I wish only to help the animals have a better life, but people often just don't care enough. And so it was with this thinking in mind, that several weeks later I actually managed to find myself in possession of the phone number of the man who shared his home with a Moluccan here on Syros. I made a call to let this man know I was a parrot lover, and would love to meet his Moluccan. I asked a few questions as well, regarding diet, etc...(the "busy-body" factor in effect). I was dismayed to learn the birds diet was predominately seed (knowing that this can lead to later health risks in a sedentary bird), but tried to keep my "preaching to a minimum until after I had a chance to meet Sarah (the parrots name). I did mention however, that in recent years a seed based diet had been found to cause problems in caged birds, but didn't stress the issue, wishing instead to meet the bird before becoming persona-non-grata.
A slow week passed, and the day of a scheduled meet finally arrived. When I arrived at the mans house, I was met by a beautiful place heavy in foliage and vegetation (quite rare on this barren island), nestled in a small valley towards the interior of the island. Percy (the Moluccan's life-friend) greeted me in a kind manner, then we sat for a short bit to chat before the introduction of Sarah. I apologized for preaching about diet during our first conversation, and he mentioned that he was a little put-off by such presumption about his care of a bird who had been with him for 26 years. After a little more chat, we took a walk about 30 feet from the patio of his home through some beautiful trees and bushes along a small path to the large outdoor cage where Sarah is housed during the spring and summer months. Beside her cage is another larger caged in area with a pair of peacocks and their new babies, who keep Sarah company when inside her cage. First let me say that Sarah was a big beautiful bird, whose eyes betrayed a deep intelligence, and while she was definitely taking a moment to determine who I was and what purpose I had being there, she showed no actual discomfort at my presence. She was in fine feather, and eager to be let from her confines. And so she came to join us on the patio for a visit.
I suppose that the thing that stood out in my mind after a little time spent with Percy and Sarah, was the comfort level they shared. It was obvious that Percy loved Sarah, and her feelings toward him were no different. She also displayed a very even temper, and after a few moments with Percy, jumped down to the stone floor, and came over to stand in front of me so I could be further inspected. Then, with a jump and flutter of wings, she found a perch on my leg and sat for some introductory head petting (I took the opportunity to open a couple pin feathers as well, to show I had some understanding of what is expected from a true friend). After a brief time, and satisfied (I hope) that she had found a new friend, Sarah spent a little time on the patio showing off in subdued, but typical Cockatoo manner, then returned to sit with Percy.
I have since been to visit on several occasions, and have further been granted the pleasant task of a future bird-sitting as Percy must make a trip from the island and cannot take her along. This will be a very nice task, as while I love parrots in general, my heart has always been more specifically tuned towards the Cockatoo species. For many the Cockatoo is the worst choice of bird to manage, they are a clingy nature, raucous and VERY loud voices and bi-polar nature make them a poor choice for most homes, but somehow I have always found them to be the most pleasant to share time with. I love my babies one and all, but I miss having a 'too in my life, and so being a part time parront to one is a chore I most look forward to.
Every once in a while, where parrot care is concerned, you find an anomaly. In this case, and bearing in mind the state of animal care on this island, the anomaly is someone who actually loves his animal as should be in the case of any family member. While there are many things I would do different were I in charge of the life care of Sarah, the one thing I would not change is the love given from Percy to Sarah. I believe it all begins there. No matter how exact a science used in diet, or the handling of specific parts of the body when caressing, it all begins with the unconditional love that must be given in order for a relationship to thrive. I know that when an animal gives love, it does so unconditionally, and it must be the same reciprocally in order for the people/companion relationship to exist on a healthy plane;it all begins there.
I would like to say a thanks to Percy for allowing me to meet another who, like myself, believes that partners in a relationship means just that: partners. An animal is not subservient because it is an animal, all animals are our equals, and should be treated as such, as they are precious to the world around us. In the case of those who have been brought into our homes, an animal should be treated as even MORE of an equal, as we have deprived him of all things that make him who he is, with the exception of body and spirit. With that in mind, their feelings, wants, needs, etc...take on a particular importance that we need always to remember.