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Don’t Throw Me Away

by Christopher (Rigdzen) Zeoli

You don’t have to go far to hear about an animal that has been “thrown away.” But that description is usually exaggerated symbolic imagery for a more mundane example of neglect and abandonment. In this case, the description “thrown away” is literal.
The story you are about to read comes to us from Samantha, a single mother struggling to raise two children with no child support coming in. Samantha and her children depend on every paycheck she brings home. And the apartment building they live in does not allow pets.

“In March 2012, my daughter and I were leaving the apartment and went outside. We noticed various tenants standing outside surrounding the dumpster. A couple of the local kids had sticks in their hands and were reaching into the dumpster. Curious to see what was all the commotion we walked down to the look inside the dumpster. There was a white Umbrella Cockatoo inside foraging through a garbage bag eating some old food. In that moment my heart sank for the cruelty I was witnessing. Realizing the situation and having some familiarity with parrots I immediately attempted to figure out his disposition. I gave him a toy to test his temperament. He seemed timid and unsure however; he extended his foot and grabbed the toy. He seemed to be enjoying all the attention and I attempted to extend my hand to him to see his reaction. He extended his foot and perched onto my hand. From this point I decided to take him home with me.”

While Samantha’s apartment building does not allow pets, her landlord gave her permission to keep the cockatoo temporarily until she found it a new home. Samantha scoured the Internet looking for any local postings of lost parrots, and to learn more about the type of animal she now had in her home.
“I began researching online and found that often Umbrella Cockatoo’s get passed from home to home and owner to owner stressing and plucking feathers because they are lonely and do not get enough attention from busy owners. I did not want this to be the case with this bird.”

Samantha was unsuccessful in both locating the cockatoo’s previous owners, and in finding it a new home. As time went on, she and her children began to regard this parrot as a family member. As their affection grew, they decided to call him “Coco.”
“(Coco) has been very loving and affectionate towards me and the kids. He has shared in our home life experiences with friends, meals, and outings. However, over the past couple of years, a few things have changed, more so in the past six months, and as my children are now more grown and have become more active outside of the home, they have less time for Coco. Likewise, during the time that we have had him he has gone through various anxiety stages from plucking more feathers, to biting my kids. One bite caused my son to lose an entire fingernail. It took four months to grow back. Coco once walked across the couch and approached my mother, a person who has had significant time with him and is aware of his nature. Coco crawled up her arm to seemingly show affection and then bit her face breaking the skin under her eye. When left for only a few minutes unattended he has ripped holes in my furniture. To my knowledge after researching and consulting with an avian vet, Coco also seems to have reached his sexual maturity which is in or around five years of age and as such has also began to frequently scream as loud as possible for attention. There are times where even when we attempt to show him attention, it is not enough, and for whatever reason he insists on being aggressive with us. This makes living with him and keeping the peace with our surrounding neighbors more difficult and physically more concerning for us at the home. Clearly, this is through no fault of his own and as a wild animal nature compels him to be destructive to keep himself busy and staying entertained. However, due to his sometimes volatile nature, predicting when he will be aggressive towards us has become more and more of a challenge.”

As I am very experienced with parrots, I can tell you that Coco’s behavior is typical for most types of cockatoo. The screaming, biting, feather plucking and destruction of property are all due to anxiety disorders that most parrots develop while living in captivity.  Samantha was facing disturbing and damaging behaviors that are very difficult to manage regardless of what the parrot owner’s living situation is. Her family was repeatedly enduring bite-related injuries. And Coco’s frequent screaming threatened to turn the fear of eviction into a reality.

Coco was unhappy with the confinement of apartment living. And his coping methods were doing damage to Samantha and her family’s home life. With a heavy heart, she contacted Garuda Aviary in the hopes that Coco could live in an environment suited to provide for his unique needs; where he may vocalize as loud and as long as he wants; a place with toys to chew and space to play.
So I am happy to report that Coco will become a member of our flock. And since we already have a bird named Coco, we’re calling this new one Coco2.

I would also like to convey Garuda Aviary’s heartfelt “Thank You” to Samantha and her family for pulling this poor creature from the trash and holding it close to their hearts. For a period of time, you relieved his suffering at no small cost to yourselves. Thank goodness you were there when he needed you the most.

And to future generations and historians, I beg you judge us kindly. I beg this because we will be judged not only for the qualities of our penal system, but also for the lives that we throw away.

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Please consider a donation to help us keep Coco2 and our other parrots sheltered, well fed, and loved.

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