Skittles Finds a Constant Companion
This is a story about a remarkable Mom, her family, a parrot sanctuary... and Skittles, a three-year old Sun Conure that brought them together.
Sometimes, in general conversation, you hear something that really piques your curiosity. That happened to me a few weeks ago while chatting with Debbie Huckaby, the executive director of Birds of Paradise Sanctuary, who was gushing about a family that had just adopted an adorable Sun Conure from the sanctuary. Why, I asked Debbie, was this a significant adoption?
She told me the story which ended with her explaining that "This adoption embodies my experience that in many cases of incompatibility, it's not the parrot's failure as a pet, rather, the human's failure as an informed guardian. A parrot is a parrot after all. The level of commitment shown by this family is a teaching moment for all bird lovers."
To say the least, this story was worthy of a blog and a personal visit to the family to meet its matriarch Allison, her family, and of course, Skittles.
Allison is a wife, Mom to five children and the loving "uber-guardian" to a menagerie of household pets that includes a dog, cats, a hamster, a Guinea pig and the latest fid addition. Upon arriving at her house, I was greeted by both Allison and a gentle Great Dane named Nalla. An awesome start to a conversation that would warm my heart and earn Allison and her family my respect.
Allison has an acute awareness of the important role that children play in protecting captive animals. She leads by example, inspiring responsibility and accountability in all her children as she knows that they are in-fact the next generation of animal and earth guardians.
She certainly has firsthand experience with the rewards associated with guardianship of rescue and companion animals, indeed, many times over. But where she shines is in her self-propelling perspective on the education and responsibility that comes with such an undertaking.
Several months ago, her son Wyatt, an articulate 13-year old with a shock of red hair and an infectious smile, set his sights on parrot companionship after a biology lesson captured his attention. Allison responded to his quest by organizing a "family-style" volunteering initiative at the sanctuary. As Allison explained "Deciding to adopt a parrot is very serious, especially considering the lifespan and intelligence of these birds."
She embraced Wyatt’s excitement while tempering the youthful impulse to set his sights on the first parrot that caught his attention, namely "Spanky". Allison explained "It’s very important that Wyatt and his parrot are a good match for each other as that's an essential ingredient to sharing a long and happy life together."
Over the next few months, Allison and Wyatt did their homework. A Mom and her son, volunteering side-by-side, cleaning cages, feeding parrots, changing water bowls and doing whatever other chores cropped up. What started out as a Saturday morning commitment, egressed into Sunday afternoons as well and now includes the occasional Friday evening as schedules permit.
Along the way, they mutually learned about caring for captive parrots and the lifestyle adjustments that come with parrot guardianship. And remarkably, even though the big adoption day has come and gone, the volunteering has not stopped.
When asked about lifestyle adjustments, Wyatt explained his new daily routine with Skittles and I was impressed with how he's balancing young adulthood with pet parenting. He said, as Skittles settled in on his shoulder, that he gets home from school and takes her out of her cage until bedtime, but sometimes he takes a bike ride first. He added, "Skittles likes to sit on me and is a little messy with her pellets, but she’s a bird." From a home environment perspective, he noted that "One change we made was to ask my brother to put away his essential oils because we heard that those are not good for parrots."
Allison chimed in that even though they've only had Skittles in home for a week, they already had an appointment with an avian vet to establish a record of care and that she and Wyatt would be taking her for a nail trim.
When I asked Allison about the inevitable longevity of the relationship between her son and his parrot, it was apparent that this had been thought through early on. As Allison explained, the only potential period of separation I see is when Wyatt goes to college. We have discussed this and as Wyatt wants Skittles to be his constant companion, we will look at off campus housing and if that’s not an option, Skittles will stay here with her “other” family and enjoy her frequent visits from Wyatt until such a time when they can room together.
Although I couldn’t get a direct quote from Skittles, her perkiness, chirping, and playful behavior made it clear that she adores her new home and is quite taken with Wyatt, whom she has immediately bonded to.
Before leaving the house, I noticed a large garbage bin in the hallway that looked out of place in the cozy interior. Allison explained that while feeding the birds she noted that one additional pail would be helpful when emptying the food bowls, so she got one and was bringing it to the sanctuary on her next visit.
This visit left me wondering on the drive home about the possibilities of cloning Allison as many, many more of her would not only be a good thing for the BOPS parrots and sanctuary… but the world at large.
ABOUT THE BIRDS OF PARADISE COMPANION BIRD PROGRAM
The team at Birds of Paradise are experienced at identifying parrots with a propensity to thrive in a home-based environment with an abundance of love and human companionship. An important aspect of the adoption program is pairing between people and birds and the team works with each prospective adopter to find the most compatible bird that will bond with them and their family. The success of the program is directly related to prospective adopters visiting the sanctuary for a pre-requisite period of bonding, evaluation and screening. Post adoption, sanctuary information and supportive services provide vital compatibility catalysts and include answers to questions about parrot nutrition, medical care, stimulation and other environmental needs.
If you are interested in learning more about the Companion Bird Program, please visit the Companion Bird Adoption page on our website.
Fundraising is key to supporting our Companion Bird Program and ensuring that many more constant companionships happen. Donations are welcome and can be made here. We thank you in advance for any support you can provide to our parrots.