Happy Endings in Advocacy

Advocacy is prioritizing the parrot.

Happy Endings in Advocacy

Marden’s Ark doesn’t want to be a typical “rescue” – a warehouse of cages full of birds waiting for something to change for them. We want BE that change -- in many ways. Often before the bird ends up in an overcrowded and underfunded organization like ours.

Sometimes “taking” a bird isn’t the right answer. Often it’s not. Sometimes when people reach out, wanting a place to “surrender” – they are doing so only because they THINK it’s the right thing to do. Think about that term for a moment. Surrender. Giving up. Quitting. It’s not always in the best interest of the bird, and very often not what is in the best interest of the human, either. It hurts to lose a family member, but many people do just that thinking they are selflessly doing what is best for the bird despite the pain it is causing them.

Sometimes, surrender is a necessity. There are situations we cannot beat. We have faced the “un-fixable” and come to terms with it – in the form of serious life-changing events that make surrender truly the only option.

But what happens when the battle has yet to be fought? When surrender seems like the best option right out of the gate, but really there are other better options?

As a companion parrot “advocate” – that’s my job: to find the absolute BEST option for that bird.  Because “advocate” means just that. Someone who looks, thinks, feels and acts IN THE BEST INTEREST of one for whom they are advocating. We learned lots about being an “advocate” in nursing school because nurses are always supposed to be advocates for our patients. So becoming a “Companion Parrot Advocate” was almost second nature for me.

When someone approaches us with a situation that causes them to believe surrendering their bird is the best answer, it’s our job to analyze what they are telling us, and try to present them with other, viable options. It’s never easy. But sometimes that harder path is the right one, and often it can result in the happiest ending for family and parrot.

One such situation began back last December when we are asked if we had room for a beautiful seven year old Grey girl named Gracie.  Gracie’s family consisted of Mary, who adored her, and her husband, who really didn’t have a lot of interest in Gracie’s attentions. The problem was, Gracie was obsessed with spending time with the husband, and the wife spent the day trying to keep her away. You can imagine the stress that situation caused.

This resonated with me, because our own little Grey girl, Megan, is six years old and when we got her, she was completely obsessed with Brian. I averaged at least one bite a day and her main goal was to spend time with “daddy” and keep mama as far away from daddy as possible. I identified with Mary’s plight and shared some of the things I did to build a relationship with Megan.

As it turns out, Mary’s main concern was for what was best for Gracie. This made my role EASY. Because what was best for Gracie was obviously remaining with the family to which she’d spent years becoming attached. I offered some advice based on how I worked (and I do mean WORKED – it was NOT easy!) with our Megan to build a relationship of love and trust. Daddy travels for work, which meant she was “stuck” with me and we both realized that the situation could be pleasant or unpleasant based on our feelings for each other. It took work, time, love and patience on both our parts but now she will sometimes even show preference for being on me at times.  After relating this to Mary, it gave her hope and helped her to see things from Gracie’s point of view.

One of my first recommendations was Kathy LaFollett’s book “The Art of the Flockcall.” Luckily, it had just come out on Kindle, which was just what Mary wanted. She ordered the book and read it, and began to apply Kathy’s wisdom to her own relationship with Gracie.  It turns out the catalyst for the change in Gracie’s relationship with her family was the retirement of the husband and his enrollment in classes where he needed to be allowed uninterrupted study time. To cope with Gracie’s obsession in the light of this new situation, she was moved to a different area of the house, away from the center of activity and that was causing issues within the relationship.

After reading Kathy’s book, Gracie was moved back to the central area of the house, and the husband was given a more secluded study area. By viewing things from Gracie’s perspective, Mary was able to restructure things in a way that would benefit family and parrot!

It took lots of work, but Mary was willing to invest the effort to make changes that would benefit Gracie. When I asked her if we could share her story in order to encourage others, here was her reply:

“Oh yes, please share my experience on your page. I know it will take patience but I am hopeful for some good results. Good for people to see that the best answer isn't re-homing in these type of cases. I really under-estimated the complexity of parrots. Just like humans, they are worth the effort to get to the core of the issue and reasons behind behavior. I'm still learning but am thankful for new insight and direction.”

Friends, THIS is advocacy. This is where results are worth more than a truckload of gold. One bird, three lives, and all changed for the better. One bird, one heart, and one family at a time – WE can all help make a difference!

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