Reflecting On Our First 6 Months

I personally am not one for making New Year’s resolutions. There’s something about the term that just feels a bit tawdry – a glitzed-up, silicone version of a real goal, one made loosely over too many glasses of champagne in an effort to impress others with your desire to improve your already fabulous self. But whether you are a big fan of the whole New Year’s tradition or not, I do see the turning of the year as a great opportunity to pause and consciously reflect on where I have been and ensure that I am pointed in the right direction to be as effective as possible in the year ahead.

In Gretchen Rubin’s inspiring book, The Happiness Project, she explains that, “People are very adaptable. We quickly adjust to a new life circumstance – for better or worse – and consider it normal. Although this helps us when our situation worsens (people are astonishingly resilient), it means that when circumstances improve, we soon become hardened to new comforts and privileges.” Just think how easily this happens – we get wildly excited about a new toy (car, boat, shoes), feel an overwhelming sense of pride and happiness when initially having it in our possession, yet within a few months, it has lost its sheen and fallen at least 7 levels on the specialness scale.

Cultivating a sense of gratitude is something that I am constantly trying to keep at the forefront of my focus in all areas of my life, including with my Three-Cans. We have now officially had Paco, Paz, and Pepe in our lives for 6 months. In an effort to not miss the joy in my experience, I decided to take advantage of this 6 month marker as a time to reflect on what I have learned and celebrate my successes thus far. I thought this would also be a good time to make a dedication as to where I would like to shift my attention towards to continue progressing with our toucans over the next 6 months.

So before I forget altogether, I’d like to take this chance to remember what it was like when we first brought the Three-Cans to our home. I was definitely smitten from the beginning and in awe of their beauty, but there were distinct aspects that were quite intimidating and/or concerning that I hoped to change as soon as possible. A few of the big ones included:

  • Paco would attack me whenever I touched his food bowls, his toys, got too close to him, and whenever I asked him to “step-up”
  • Paz would stay up high and out of reach whenever I entered her enclosure, forcing me to reach up super slowly just to give her a treat
  • Pepe was highly jumpy, very clumsy and uncoordinated, often falling off his perches whenever something startled him and he had trouble holding on to his toys
  • Pepe also had a skin irritation on his cheek under his feathers
  • I did not know how to read their body language and was unclear as to when they were warning me or when they were being friendly
  • I had little idea of what they liked to play with, what was safe for them to play with, and ended up frightening them a few times by introducing a new toy that was two steps beyond their comfort zone
  • I had no frame of reference as to what stressors they were capable of handling and what would be too much for them. Therefore, every stressor, every croaking episode, was incredibly stressful for me, as I was concerned for their well-being
  • Because they were such a mystery to me, I went to bed every night full of worry, walking outside in the dark many times just to check that they were still calm, sleeping, and alive

Photo courtesy of Emily Springfield

It is amazing to now realize that all of those “problems” in the beginning have long since dissolved into much more pleasant outcomes. When you’re in the thick of it, day to day, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and disappointed in yourself. Like many other well-meaning pet owners, I have high expectations for myself in my goals to provide my Three-Cans with the dream in my head, also known as The Best Life Ever. Watching bird training videos and witnessing others achieve seemingly magical results can often be nothing short of discouraging by comparison. Yet when I consider now from my new 6 month vantage point, I can see that the relationship I now enjoy with my birds has also been a pretty magical transformation.

When I recognize all of the progress we have already made, I am looking very forward to what the next 6 months may bring. With the knowledge and experience I have gained thus far, things can truly only get better, our relationships stronger with each passing day. Here are some of my plans and hopes for the coming months…

  • I am currently on the wait list for Susan G. Friedman’s highly regarded Living & Learning with Parrots (LLP) Course for Caregivers, which focuses on teaching people about how parrots learn and behavioral training. I am excited about the possibility to participate and know I will gain a lot of insight. I have heard that the wait can sometimes be up to 18 months, so fingers crossed I get in sooner rather than later!
  • I am working towards training/desensitizing Paco to the indoors, which he is currently incredibly fearful of. But due to his highly social nature and desire to spend time with me, I am hoping that he will soon grow to love it. Him spending more time with me will deepen our bond and allow me to reinforce other training to make him more reliable outdoors as well.
  • We are building an outdoor play gym for the Three-Cans that I hope will create a fun, safe space for them to enjoy more time outside their aviaries.

All in all, I know that with my new-found confidence and knowledge, combined with my desire to always be improving on the care I provide for our birds, we will have many more successes to celebrate as the year progresses.

Thank you so much for sharing this journey with us – it certainly adds to the fun and the encouragement I receive from all of my fellow bird lovers is something I value. We wish you and all of the feathered and furry members of your family a very Happy New Year – may 2012 bring you many successes and magical surprises too.

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