Today, a year ago exactly, I few halfway across the US to meet and take home my rescued African Grey Steve, who had been fostered from a parrot rescue by my good friend Mary of Parrot Musings.
It’s been a very challenging year for both of us, with many ups and downs x a zillion, it seems! There have been times I’ve been overjoyed for the least little progress and down in the dumps through discouragement. Nevertheless, I was never willing to give up on this sweet, most gentle of Greys. That very gentle spirit is what attracted me to him. From all of the neglect and unknown treatment he has received in the past, Steve could have turned out anti-social and vicious. But he has always allowed himself to trust again, amazingly.
Steve has severe phobias – about being handled, about being outside his cage, about other birds, about the outside (where he had escaped for 5 days during this stay with his original owner). Those phobias still remain, and probably always will in a reduced form. But with extreme PATIENCE, he has come a long way in a year. Most of this time, it was I who had to learn from Steve what he needed. That is still an ongoing process. Sometimes I’m embarrassed by how long it’s taken me to “get” what he needs, but with give and take between us, we have come to be very attached to one another. Like any other relationship, we learn what the other person is like in certain situations and we adjust or compromise.
What is very clear is that Steve will never be a typical boisterous Grey, who likes to hang from things and bounce around having fun. The skin under his wings is so delicate that the least jolt, fall, or sudden movement tears whatever has healed, causing those wounds to bleed slightly. Pain is part of this cycle, so Steve is very careful how he walks or climbs – deliberately and with care. These are the mutilation wounds he developed when living with his original owner, and which continued while at the rescue. Since being fostered and coming home to me, he has never once picked under his wings, thankfully. The only thing he does, in times of nervousness, is pluck feathers from his neck, and you can see that bald spot in the photo above.
It might be possible, with a type of avian physical therapy, to improve the mobility of that delicate skin if it ever healed definitively, but Steve cannot be handled yet, and I think the trauma of regular handling would be far more detrimental to his physical and emotional self than anything gained from the therapy.
Of course, this means Steve isn’t very active physically and probably never will be. But I’ve arranged his food in such a way that it’s either wrapped or stuck inside various crevices all over his cage. Same with his foot toys. So he has to move around to get to any food. He loves it this way. So, while Steve may not live as long as a healthier Grey, he will be a happy one and after all that he’s been through, that is all I care about.
The best part of our day is at the end, when the other birds have been put to bed. I sit next to Steve’s cage near his food hatch. I’ve rigged a platform there, so he can safely walk up to and through the hatch to get his nightly head rubs. We commune with each other for about 1/2 hour before Steve’s bedtime. Even if Steve doesn’t solicit head rubs, he will sit with one foot curled up, relaxed, and just watch me, and I watch him. It’s a great calming time for both of us.
I have great hopes for the next year for Steve!