Legacy of Grief: Parrot “Refuge” (Part 2)

While you sleep in your bed at night,
I cry in mine – plagued by my own Guilt.

3. Presumption of Conscience; Expectation of Care

It all began with a move to western Canada,
and a visit to a woman who had set up a
parrot “rescue” enterprise.

My present anguish began with the 2006 “invitation”:

“Why don’t you bring your birds over
and give them the opportunity to see
if they want to be part of a flock?”

I could not know, then, that this was just a variation
of a theme: manipulation upon the conscience
of caring people, in order to have them physically
‘sign their birds over’ to this woman’s hoard.

“I need you to sign a form: It’s just to say
that you know your birds are here.”

Now … we had travelled to Canada in the midst
of a media-driven frenzy over “Avian Influenza”,
and it seemed reasonable to me, that the owner
might need to account for the origin
of every bird in that facility.

(Ten years later, farms having poultry on the premises,
are required to display fluorescent orange signs –
A bureaucratic result of the 2004 avian influenza “epidemic”.)

At the time, it would never have occurred to my honest mind
that I would soon be just another one of many victims
who are convinced that our birds were nothing more
than acquisitions – mere additions – to a vanity collection.

I signed the paper.

The following year, we would meet a couple
from western Canada who were told by the Owner,
that they were being cruel by going to work each day
while their African Grey parrot, “Kayla”,
was left to play with his toys in his cage in their home.

Falling prey, (as did I), they brought their bird to the facility.
Upon finding no trace of their bird on the visit following,
they called the owner to help them.

Only to leave – deeply grieved to realise
that their bird was nowhere to be seen.

Upon their departure, the Owner approached my wife and me,
and said: “That just proves they don’t know their bird at all;
or they would have recognised her face.”

The callousness of that statement was the first indication
that all was not as we had so charitably imagined.

4. Human-Habituated Birds

Their desire to give friendship and receive affection
is readily perceived in the outstretched leg;
the willingness to imitate the sounds of words that are heard
from the people around them;
and in every turn and tilt of the head that conveys
the intense curiosity and wide-eyed interest
that is found in Cockatoos and Macaws –
particularly those that have been raised
in the company of caring people.

Of what value, then, is a “home for life”,
when the “life” consists of thrusting birds
– who know only human companionship,
into the bleak existence of an avian penitentiary
devoid of personal affection
or individual significance?

It was in March of 1992 that my wife and I travelled
to the home of a man who bred macaws and cockatoos.
Here, our conversation was interrupted
by the persistent presence of a little Citron-Crested Cockatoo
that insisted upon climbing up my wife’s leg.

Sarah was four months old when she came to live with us.

Wallace, a five-month-old Blue-and-Gold Macaw,
soon joined her in our home.

While Sarah was the more reserved,
Wallace would climb down from his cage
to find a rubber ball to roll across the carpet
to wherever our dog had chosen to lie down for a nap.

No more wondrous sight was seen by us, than Wallace
pulling for all he was worth on the dog’s towel,
whilst Thunder, our lovable Rottweiler,
took special care to pull just enough
to maintain a game of tug-o’-war.

And after all the physical fun, it was Wallace
who would sing out with passion to orchestral music
and mournful Irish laments that came from
the little cassette player that served as our stereo.

We were an affectionate, close-knit company
in our little house in the Scottish Borders.

Until a move to the other side of the world
– and a misplaced desire to show self-less kindness
to our beloved birds – resulted in misery
that has tortured me for the past two-and-a-half years;
and never, ever goes away.

5. How Could You Have Signed That Form?

To any who are bereft of the capacity for compassion,
mercy, or empathy, I am very willing to make the effort,
and extend to you the courtesy,
of explaining the answer to that question.

I was raised in an age when morality still existed;
where those who deserved the name “parents”
instilled consideration, courtesy, and conscience
in the generality of children.

We were taught humility: that this world
is Not here for our entertainment …

and that RESPECT is does not come
because we can breathe air, but is something
that is … EARNED by diligence, effort,
and experience on our part.

By the beginning of the 21st century, all that had
– visibly – been eradicated from modern society.

I – and “old fashioned” people like me –
are expected to sit quietly by and accept every new,
successive depravity,

and say nothing

as a new race of humanity is ‘spoon-fed’
by the television set, whose mental and moral sewage
is instantly imitated by the masses.

Compassion is seen as ‘weakness’
in a world of domineering arrogance,
where people cannot even communicate
without vulgar filth and obscenities.

And it is people raised with out-dated, “old fashioned” values,
who are trodden into the dirt by over-bearing tyrants
who have no God but Self;
and know no moral boundaries
beyond the gratification of ego, lust, and greed.

Being part of a dwindling remnant of a forgotten society
that was once reserved, we still carry that instilled self-restraint
– a fear of being seen as arrogant, dictatorial –
in a modern society in which every self-serving lout
feels no shame at all about proudly and impudently
spouting his own ignorance.

Children are taught to address adults by their first names;
and with the elimination of respect and deference
to one’s elders, everyone’s … opinion …
is just as valid as anyone else’s.

Schoolchildren have been taught
– for the past twenty-five years,
that “truth” is ‘whatever you think it is’.

And into this venue of glorified self-centredness
steps the older opportunists who can now
set themselves up as the “Instant Expert”
on whatever subject takes their fancy.

And their easy prey are reserved
and trusting people – like us.

“Why don’t you bring your birds
and give them a chance to see if they want
to be part of a flock?”

It is a mantra that I have heard used on other visitors,
several times in the years after I set aside my own reason,
to be led by the blind emotion of a tender conscience:

‘Maybe this woman is right’ …
‘You know, I’ll bet Sarah and Wallace would like to hop off a perch and fly’ …
‘Maybe Wallace will find a girl-friend ! …
‘What kind of fiend would I be, if I deprived him of that?’

It is precisely because I AM willing to “put myself in second place”,
that I – and others like me – are able to sign the form
that will give our birds that opportunity … that chance …
to see if that would be a better life.

Well, Sarah never flew.

And Wallace never paired with a friend.

And we could never have imagined the viciousness –
the highly evident greed, and the cold-hearted brutality,
of That Woman.

When the distraught bird owner arrives home,
and realises the dreadful mistake that they have made;

when a month, a year, three years, has gone by,
and their bird sits alone;
or continues to seek only the attention of people;

and the caring owner – having once selflessly set aside
their own personal emotion in order to give their bird that chance,
now comes to bring their bird back
to the love and security of their family home –
THEN the malignancy of this “refuge’s” owner is seen;
and the viciousness of its minions, openly displayed.

[ Continued in Part 3 ]