I’m still in the midst of processing a flurry of emotions after all I’ve been through today, but I have hope that I will feel better in time. This may come across as out of the blue since I have never brought the topic up in previous blog posts, but I believe animals are great as companions when both parties can benefit positively from being in each other’s lives, however, they’re not when there are negative consequences.
For the longest time, I had a Jardine’s parrot named Birdie. Yes, I know it’s a silly name, but I named him as such since I never knew for sure if he was a female or male bird. He’s lived with my family and I for more than ten years after his previous owner no longer wanted him. Birdie was never a perfect fit with my family, largely because we were all ignorant of how much attention, socialization and care a parrot needs, and not having those needs met led to some very destructive behavior on his part. He already had a feather plucking problem in his prior home, but the frequency and intensity of this condition increased throughout the years. I tried so hard to help him, but here’s where my efforts didn’t have the desired effects at times because although I gave it my all, he was still acting out destructively because the environment he was housed in was not ideal for an animal like him.
There were many factors that affected him negatively that were out of my control. It got to the point I felt the whole weight of the burden of providing for his happiness and this caused me a lot of anxiety and sleepless nights. Some aspects of my relationship with him were unhealthy and worsened my social anxiety. I depended on him as a companion and even talked myself out of going out of the house on many occasions because I didn’t want him to be alone. It reached a point where I turned down opportunities to travel overseas for vacation and family time, all because I was trying to compensate for that when I wasn’t around, he would receive no interaction or socialization by anyone else in the house. One thing I know about parrots for sure is that while they may form a special bond with one member of their “flock” in a household, they are still very social creatures that require attention from everyone in the home, which Birdie was not getting from everyone in his home environment.
In the end, I knew there was no way I could provide for all his needs and ensure he is living the best life. It was quite possibly the most heartbreaking choice I simultaneously did and did not want to accept I needed to make. The selfish part of me didn’t want to give him up because of how emotionally attached I am to him. I also felt guilty thinking that, in a way, I was abandoning him. I worried about how he would adapt to his new home without me but wanted to believe that I was acting in his best interests so he could have a better life in the long run.
Today I took him to a rehabilitation facility in Maspeth, New York that is specifically for parrots who were surrendered by their owners for a variety of reasons. The woman who runs the home is great, and I was shocked that Birdie warmed up to her right away by perching on her hand when she held it out to him and he climbed up to her chest, where he snuggled against her as she pet his head. This coming from the same bird who usually lunges at and attempts to bite strangers at first glance if they come within close range to him. To my further astonishment, Birdie allowed her to pick him up gently and place him on a perch in his new cage. It was then that I realized I made the right decision after all, and that Birdie will definitely do better in her home because she clearly knows how to treat parrots with genuine care. She showed me around her room of parrot rescues and pointed out a fully feathered blue and gold macaw who was once completely bald from feather plucking.
Now that Birdie is in better hands, I feel like I’ve lost part of my identity. For so long I’ve not taken chances in my own life because of my attachment to him and my obligation to be there for him when other people were not. Who am I now? What do I do now? I’ve lost dogs to death before; one because of a car accident and the other to euthanasia. I know what it’s like to be stuck in a haze of grief after losing each dog and knowing all I have left are memories of them, while it is an entirely different level of mourning knowing Birdie is out there but I will likely never see him again. Still, I hope the best for him and am quite certain letting him go was the best thing I could do for his sake, no matter how much it’s torn me apart on the inside so far. I’ve come close to crying several times today as I think of the happy moments I had with him. I feel a bit silly to be this emotional about an animal.
Can anyone relate to going through such mixed emotions after surrendering a pet to a better home? I’d love to hear your story if you’re willing to share. If so, leave me a comment below.