When we first adopted the Three-Cans, all adult birds with varying degrees of trust issues due to their less-than-ideal past, I had my work cut out for me. I desperately wanted to have a positive, loving, pet-like relationship with all three of them and immediately created a plan to overcome their fears and break down their barriers through training and other bonding activities.
In the beginning, I was really concerned about keeping things “fair”. I had hoped to progress with each of them at a similar pace by making sure I gave them all equal amounts of focus and attention. I naively figured that because I was starting from scratch with each of them, things would move along in a neat little line and before I knew it, I would be snuggling up with all three of my docile, handle-able toucans.
In hindsight, I realize how much pressure I was putting on myself. However long I played with Paco dictated the amount of time I had to play with Paz and Pepe. If they didn’t engage with me for as long as Paco did (which very often, they did not), I would leave feeling guilty and like a failure. All I could focus my energy on was trying to come up with solutions to make things equal. I just need to find the right game for Paz or I need to find some way to hold Pepe’s interest longer were thoughts that would occupy my mind. But what I was failing to see was that these were not problems that needed to be solved, but rather, varying personalities that needed to be acknowledged and accounted for.
It took me some time to realize that “fair” didn’t necessarily translate into everything being exactly equal for all three, but more that they were being given what they needed as individuals.
Paco is by far the neediest of the three and therefore demands the most of my time. He has chosen me as his “mate” and would gladly spend 24 hours a day by my side if he could. If I am present, Paco could literally care less about anyone or anything else. This means that whenever I am in his enclosure, he is interested and engaging in whatever I have going on, jumping on me like a jungle gym, and lovingly feeding me his treats and toys. Paco overcoming his fear of the indoors has been an important step in increasing his well-being as it allows him to spend even more time with me.
Paz, on the other hand, desires the least amount of interaction from me or anyone else. My best guess is that no one really spent much time with her in her past life, probably due to and therefore increasing her very timid nature. She is learning to enjoy my company more and more with time, but so far, she still doesn’t like being handled and only wants to play for short bursts of time if I have something really interesting and she is kept in a steady stream of blueberry rewards. I have definitely seen progress in our past year together and know we will certainly get closer with time and consistent trust-building, but I do realize that she is more of a wild spirit than the two boys and may never really want or be capable of lowering her guard to become more of a “pet”. I accept and respect that.
Pepe falls somewhere in the middle of the other two. His need for attention varies from day to day, depending on his moods. In most instances, he will hop down, eager to be near us, while other occasions, he seems perfectly content to stay up high and enjoy his own company. Pepe’s favorite game is catch and he will play focused sessions with enthusiasm, often multiple times per day in short increments, sometimes even as long as 15-20 minutes at a time. Pepe’s training continues to progress slowly, as it is very important to him that I respect his boundaries. I have learned the hard way several times by pushing him too-far, too-fast, and having to take several steps backward in our training to re-build the trust it took so long to establish. I have learned to follow Pepe’s lead in my interactions with him, giving him as much or as little space as he requires with the day.
I still struggle with my dreams of creating the same relationship I have with Paco with Paz and Pepe, mostly because I feel it would increase their quality of life to be able to get out and explore more. However, at the same time, I realize that I may never experience the closeness with them as I do with Paco, but can appreciate our relationships for what they are and continue to work on expanding them at their pace. There is so much to celebrate in each of their unique personalities, especially now as I learn more about what they need and what makes each of them their happiest. Most importantly, I have been able to come to terms with my new definition of “fair” which allows me to release the guilt and instead, feel a sense of accomplishment in realizing that Paco, Paz, and Pepe are each getting exactly what they need in this moment.