THE SAINT FRANCIS PROJECT
... where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
Blossom resting on top of her cage...
Where there is doubt, faith... When you take an animal in that has been abused, neglected or hurt, and has trust issues, it takes awhile to get through these, and sometimes it can take all the faith you've got. Fortunately, I was not rescuing Blossom out of a bad situation, she was coming from a long recovery period with my wonderful friend Jeff who has several other birds, but she was not only afraid of the other birds, one of whom was attacking her, she seemed to prefer women. She had a thing for blond women which seemed to suggest her first owner may have been a blond woman. Whenever I went over there she spent a good part of the time with me, in my lap or on me, and we had a very special bond. Being animal rescue people from the get-go, and feeling very deeply that an animal should not be moved around and around, passed off like a pair of old shoes, Jeff wanted to try everything he possibly could including contacting cockatoo experts from all over the country. In the end, she came to me, as I said in the last entry, because she was so frustrated and lonely and frightened by the other big birds that she was plucking. It came down to an emergency situation and she was moved here. Jeff and I both agreed she would go nowhere but with one of us.
One of the things that I know, from running a non-profit shelter for disabled parrots and other unwanted domestic birds for several years, and having hand-raised and rehabilitated everything from finches and small doves to the largest parrots and everything in between, and especially the ones that came terrified, was that it would take time, but deep down inside there is a bird that wants to be loved, and I had the advantage of already having established a relationship with Blossom. But did that make it easy? No.
Where there is despair, hope... First let me repeat that this is the sweetest, most tender, loving bird I have ever met. Anyone who has had a cockatoo knows what I mean. But they can have many issues that are very difficult and we experienced some of those in the first couple of days here.
At one point, trying to put her back in her cage after hours out playing, she grabbed my thumb and bit it so hard it was bleeding everywhere, cut deeply and jaggedly on the underside of my thumb, the skin macerated on top at the bottom left corner of my nail which has turned purple. I might lose the nail. I put her in her cage, shut the door and went in the other room and cried, dripping blood everywhere. I cleaned the wounds, put antibiotic ointment on it and bandaged it and it was bleeding through the bandages which I had to change several times. Was I angry? Was I ready to pack her up and ship her off? No, and no. If you are going to work with parrots, it is the nature of the beast, so to speak. Parrots bite. It is their only line of defense. I realized at that time that it was a matter of learning her body language, paying more attention, and being patient.
The next day she got my ear. It happened so fast I barely knew what happened but I got too close to her cage when she was out. Now if I put my hand out gently to pick her up she will sweetly reach her foot out to be picked up. She loves to be with me, but I have quickly learned that like most parrots she is cage territorial but she is backwards from my parrots. I wouldn't dare put my hand in Henry, my African Grey's cage, but once he's out, I can put my hand out, say, "Step up," and he will come right to me. You'll get nailed but good if you put your hand IN his cage when he is in there. But imagine this -- you don't like intruders in your house do you? It is an issue of personal space, safety, and protection. It is their safe haven, and they protect it with all they've got, and that is as it should be.
Blossom, however, will nab you if you walk too close to her cage kind of absentmindedly, paying no attention to her and having no intention of picking her up at that moment. That was what happened when she got my ear, and Lord Have Mercy I just about got a new earring hole. It was bleeding from both sides, all down my neck and badly. Again, I told her "No biting Blossom," put her in her cage, and went to do damage control on the ear, but by now I was getting a little upset, and close to despair. You see I have a number of animals here but we have a very quiet, calm, peaceful homeplace, full of solitude and silence. That is not part of a cockatoo's package. But in the midst of it all, I loved her, she was very attached to me, and truly, after despair came hope.
Dear Jeff has been here nearly daily since she came. He brings food, helps clean up (She was tearing up and throwing things everywhere!) and we have worked together talking countless hours and trying many things. Through the days, keeping a calm and loving atmosphere, she has calmed down considerably, almost doesn't scream at all, and has been forming a bond with my precious grey, Henry. He talks to her. It is amazing to see these two birds communicate. No one attacks her here, there are no big birds screaming, she is safe. I remain gentle with her no matter with happens while establishing boundaries, and the last couple of days she has been so calm as not to be believed. There was a moment when I was so full of despair I thought I just couldn't have her here. I was bitten badly twice, she was upsetting the peaceful balance that I depend on for my well-being. This is my sanctuary, I rarely leave my house, I work from home, I cannot have an out of control bird screaming and biting me, but in less than a week she has become part of the family and I wouldn't part with her for anything in the world. We have come out of the darkness and into the light which does not mean that there is not a lot of work ahead of us, and with the best natured and easy-going cockatoos, they are like having a 2 year old forever. But, having been born with an overabundance of mothering hormones, this suits me just fine.
... and when there is sadness, joy... Blossom came here a frightened bird who was plucking her feathers and completely unnerved, not eating well. Jeff gave her everything under the sun but she was picky. With a lot of research we have found a very good diet for her, a mixture of very good bird food and organic pellets, and she likes warm cooked foods like hard-boiled egg chopped up or a little pasta. Oatmeal. Soft warm comfort foods. She is starting to eat better and her feathers are growing out. She loves the blocks of seed and dried fruits I give her as a treat and she seems completely at home now. She is part of a flock of birds here who are all calm. I think of Cesar Millan taking a dog with problems to his facility where there is a huge pack of dogs of every kind who are balanced, and the effect that those dogs have on the new dog who has come to be rehabilitated. Blossom came into a peaceful home with someone who is here all the time, for the most part, and gives her a lot of love and affection. She now lives with one goofy artist, 4 dogs (whom she barks at if they bark, which is hysterical), and 5 other parrots who are very calm and "balanced." The change in her is phenomenal already.
And so we keep on keeping on. I wrote, on a post-it note, amidst one of my worst times, "What would St. Francis do?" a spin-off of the bumper stickers you see everywhere, "What would Jesus do? (WWJD?)" I looked at that note and I looked. I meditated quietly and I prayed. I looked at that big white beautiful bird and marveled how far she'd come in such a short time. I pray to Saint Francis to guide me. As I said last time I am a Franciscan at heart. And I walk my talk. And I will continue to walk it. She is worth everything, and I am so blessed to have her here. She is okay. We are all going to be okay. And I will never stop trying.
Open your hearts as wide as you can and love, always love, and never stop. Love moves mountains, it creates miracles. And Blossom is teaching me about love and trust too. What a blessing she is in my life.
The next entry will be a fiber entry, but there will be a couple of more entries about Blossom and The Saint Francis Project through February.
Warm Regards and Deepest Blessings to All,