Calling the bluff

So, you remember Captain? He’s that blue-fronted Amazon who hadn’t been hand-held in 15 years before coming to Best Friends. He’d been transferred in and out of homes, once flunking out of a breeding program, and the whole time nobody would touch him with a 10-foot pole because he had a bite history. He’s the one the caregivers at Best Friends were going to work with, using a slow and steady program toward trusting people. Well, Captain hates to disappoint, but he’d rather just skip the whole slow and steady part and move straight to the cuddle sessions. Turns out this bird loves people!

His caregiver Wendy describes him as this "poor kid who got horribly mislabeled." This happens a lot, sad to say, and not just with birds. If an animal has a bad experience with a human or another animal, it’s all too easy to slap a label on him (something along the lines of aggressive or troubled) and then move on. Which is exactly what happened to poor Captain. Every time he’d been transferred around from family to family, he came with a warning. "Watch out! This one’s a biter." After 15 years of being given the cold shoulder, it’s time somebody finally set the record straight.

To be clear, the caregivers really did have a long and detailed plan for working with him to gain trust. No caregiver at Best Friends wants to push an animal too quickly. But Captain just wasn’t showing the signs of a bird who is terrified of humans, a little nervous, sure, but not looking to lash out. Heck, he was taking treats from people’s hands the first week.

One day his caregiver Wendy was trying to convince Captain to step up on a towel and he was having none of it. This much, at least, makes perfect sense. A lot of folks use towels to handle biting birds, and with his reputation, it’s a safe bet he’d been wrapped in a towel more than a few times. Simply stepping up on a towel is much less threatening, but Captain was not thrilled at the idea. It was still a towel.

So Wendy decided to try something. At that point he’d been at the sanctuary over a week and had never tried to bite. She didn’t see any of the usual warning signs and reached a conclusion. He deserved a shot. She pulled off the towel and stuck her hand out for Captain to step up.

You’ve probably guessed the punch line already. He stepped right up! And he has done the same thing ever since. In fact, Captain will now step up for other people, he’ll sit on shoulders, he’ll share lunch happily with his people friends; you name it, he’ll do it. He’s turning into a regular social butterfly; making up for lost time, really.

Wendy takes him home at nights for some extra socialization. She says his favorite thing to do is jump out of his cage and trot right up to her for attention, especially around dinner time. Captain is in good health, has no behavior problems and it turns out he really likes human interaction. Not exactly the problem child he was supposed to be, right? Which of course is the whole point—all he really needed was a chance.

Story by David Dickson

Photo by Molly Wald

It’s no wonder Captain has experienced such progress during his stay at Parrot Garden, where the birds at Best Friends live. See for yourself where he’s staying by taking an online tour.

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