Setting Sitters Up for Success

The resort we live on is currently closed for our off-season. We shut down for business every year for approximately 6 weeks, along with most of the other resorts in the territory, due to it being the height of hurricane season and significantly less tourism in the area as a result of it. Throughout the year, it is difficult for David to leave due to his responsibilities in operating the resort. Closing time provides us with an opportunity to get away and enjoy a little vacation of our own.

In the past, this is normally the time when we would leave for a month long holiday. Last year, we decided to forgo a trip away as we had just adopted the Three-Cans and had yet to find anyone capable, willing, and trustworthy to care for them in our absence. You’d be surprised how few people are actually willing to engage with the birds, most tending to be fearful and/or intimidated by those big beaks and often times, wild monkey personalities. Additionally, the level of care the Three-Cans require is much more than your average dog or cat, so in looking for an appropriate toucan sitter, we need someone who is understanding and realistically ready for the commitment.

Over this past year with the Three-Cans, we have managed to find not just a suitable option for toucan sitting, but in fact, the ideal one. We consider ourselves intensely fortunate to have our trusted veterinarians as our toucan sitters. Drs. Laura and Heidi live on an island not far from us and we have worked out a great situation for all involved – they use their time on our island as a mini-vacation of their own and we get to travel off-island knowing that the Three-Cans couldn’t be in better hands. Beyond the fact that they are the most capable people we could ask for in the event of an emergency, they are such wonderful, caring animal people who have experience with birds of all kinds – from parrots, to puffins, to penguins!

They have gotten to know the Three-Cans over a few different long weekends this year and in turn, the birds have adjusted well to them. They’ve even managed to sum up their personalities perfectly – they call Pepe “The Perfect Gentlemen”, Paz “Sweet and Mellow”, and Paco “The Spoiled Brat” (said in (slight) jest and with affection 😉 ). For this closed season, we decided to try our first extended trip away from the Three-Cans. I wasn’t quite ready to take off for the whole month as we usually do, figuring it would be too dramatic to their lives to leave them for so long. So we settled on 10 days away and I set to work on my preparations to ensure the vets and the Three-Cans had as easy of a transition as possible.

Thankfully, I had already put in the time months ago making a detailed care binder which explains all of the ins and outs of the Three-Cans care and lifestyle, mostly in case of an emergency. The binder is also an enormous help in providing sitters with all of our important information in one place including things like how to clean the cages; what foods we feed, how to prepare them, and in what portions; what toys we provide and when; and much more. Beyond the binder, I also create packets of additional pertinent information for the sitters such as our current daily schedule (including sunrise & sunset times); notes on each bird’s current quirks and preferences; and important contacts, including our personal travel itinerary.

One of the most time-consuming tasks prior to leaving is prepping all of the enrichment for the Cans for the entire time we are away. Typically, we provide each of the Three-Cans with two enrichment pieces in their cages each day – one large and one small – stuffed with smaller toys to forage out and play with. Because they are so smart and get bored of things so quickly, we rotate the enrichment between the Cans every other day – each bird gets fresh enrichment every two days. This means every 6 days we make 6 new enrichment toys. With that schedule, we had a LOT of toys to make before we left on vacation!

I realize that I could always leave the sitters with instructions on how to make toys when it was time, but to me, it was worth the extra effort to know that the Three-Cans would get toys that I knew they enjoyed and that I had already tested for safety. Additionally, I think it’s important to make things as simple as possible for the people watching your animals – it’s a big enough job as it is, the less added complications the better for all. In leaving the birds, I know that their life will already feel a bit stressful and off-kilter for them, the least I can do is make sure they can keep themselves entertained and distracted from my absence.

The last main preparation before we leave on a trip always involves rearranging some of Paco’s cage to ensure the least amount of conflict. Paco tends to be quite aggressive towards anyone besides me entering his cage and becomes particularly territorial with others touching his food and toys. While Drs. Laura and Heidi have done an excellent job each time ingratiating themselves as much as possible in Paco’s presence while I’m away, he still can get a bit defensive towards them if they have to duck under his perches to access his food and water. So to protect them from getting pecked and create a more positive, less angst-ridden experience for Paco, we install additional bowls in the back of his cage for the times we are away. We also try to ensure that all of the enrichment for him is not too cumbersome and is simple to hang in case they ever need to do so in a hurry.

Taking time to thoroughly prepare everything from toys to treats to food before we leave goes a long way. By having everything in order, I can spend organized time with the sitters when they arrive to ensure we are all on the same page. It is important to me that they have everything they need and are set up to feel at ease, rather than overwhelmed. Spending time with Paco, Paz, and Pepe is and should be fun! These types of preparations also ensure that the Three-Cans experience the least amount of disturbance to their daily routines as possible, hopefully softening the blow of my absence a bit. Plus, I can actually relax a bit knowing that I have covered mostly everything and not have panic moments on my vacation thinking that I forgot to mention where the blueberries are (God forbid!).

David and I enjoyed a relaxing, rejuvenating time away – a large portion of that thanks to knowing our sweet Cans were in such good hands. I am so grateful to our awesome vets for the loving care they provide to our monkeys so that we can go away and return home to three healthy Cans, all calm and happy to see us.

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