The Introduction of the Play Stand

Transition steps build a path to accepting new toys and foods.

The Introduction of the Play Stand

We have a friend who collects fallen branches in the woods near his home and uses them to make cat play stands. He gets carpet remnants and leftover wood from friends who build houses, stuff they'd throw out otherwise, and other than his time and talent, the play stands don't cost him anything to make. 

While one of these wouldn't suit a small parrot, and our smaller parrots have a plethora of boings and perches and places to hang out already, they seem custom-designed for a Rocky 'Too, who otherwise spends too much time on his cage. He can't fly due to ragged wings – some of that from his own shredding, some from a bad clip job in a previous home. He doesn't want to get on the floor and walk around with the dogs unless we're there. So Hubby obtained one of these stands for Rocky, in exchange for helping the friend with some work at his house, and we brought it home and placed it in easy reach of Rocky's cage. 

Rocky was terrified. Crest up, wings out, full display and car alarm terrified. He scurried to the furthest outside corner of his cage and peered at it, trembling. In vain did we assure him it was HIS. It's FUN! It's new territory! You can get up high and lord it over the dogs and us, too! 

No. A million times, NO. He would not go near it. He didn't even want to get close enough to go into his cage for food and water the first day. 

Gradually over the next several days, he got curious enough to at least peer at it from his cage door. Then he started getting closer, but still inside his cage. Finally he went to the corner of the cage closest to the play stand and began experimentally gnawing on one of the branches. At last, exactly a week after we presented it to him, he stepped onto the highest tier from the top of his cage. We made a huge fuss over how brave and brilliant he is. I played a game with him, where I hand him one of his plastic cups and he throws it, and from that height, it makes a most satisfying bounce, forcing Mommy to chase and retrieve over and over again. Rocky laughed. He showed off. He danced. Success!

Yet the other two tiers, in spite of tempting him with cups and newspaper to tear up and one of his toys, remained too scary to explore. A couple of days after discovering the top tier, Rocky finally tried Tier Two. More cups to throw! A dog toy (that belongs to Rocky, not Jack, though Jack does not agree with this assessment) to chew on! I hung a boing from the ceiling, a boing that belongs to Rocky, but he wouldn't touch it before, and he still won't climb on it, but he will bang it back and forth and chew on it. He can sit on Tier Two and look out the window to do his part in protecting the household. Jack's post is on the bed, watching the road. Rocky can watch the neighbors and the driveway. We are fully protected. 

Yesterday, I practiced a new song on the piano, one which is difficult and therefore I play it very badly, and Rocky presided from the top tier, chattering words I didn't know he knew (and most of which I couldn't understand, though I knew they were words and not just sounds) and laughed at me. When I ask him to “Give Mommy kisses!” he leans forward so I can kiss his beak and sometimes he tickles me with his tongue. I hesitate to jinx it, but he hasn't even given me a pressure bite bruise for so long that the last one has almost completely disappeared. Friends and co-workers are used to my constant state of wounds in various stages – and not all of them from Rocky; the other birds chomp, too – so I don't have to explain to them that these are not from a barroom brawl but from one bird or another. Rocky is home. We are family. 

Now that he has accepted the play stand, we are hoping the arrival of the Christmas tree won't set us all back again. We put off buying and erecting the tree for an extra week to give him time to recover from the play stand trauma. It will have to be placed close to his cage in our small living room so that we can reach an outlet to plug in lights without having to run an extension cord across the traffic area or a doorway. I have already decided that some of the ornaments, which could be dangerous for Rocky if he should gnaw on them, will remain in their boxes this year. And we're going to get the smallest, Charlie Brown-iest tree we can find in the hopes that it will decrease the upset of bringing it in. 

Share this post