Everyone has that one thing that simply touches his or her heart as nothing else can. For some it is the innocence in the face of a child, for others it is the love and companionship of a canine or cat. I, myself, have an incredibly soft spot for all animals – a trait I like to think I inherited from my father, who was constantly rescuing some animal from certain tragedy. But of all the animals in the world, birds seem to hold the very most special place in my life, particularly cockatoos and parrots.
I “adopted” my first parrot from an exotic bird shop in Key West in 1991. She was a small Jenday parrot who sat shyly on a perch near the floor. Her colors were magnificent and she let me gently pet her on the head. I was smitten. Two hundred dollars later, I smuggled her home on the plane from Miami; she never made a peep the entire ride. From the moment I got her home, she never stopped squawking, loudly I might add. I loved her to pieces and we were fast friends for many years, but unfortunately, my now ex-husband was allergic to her, so I re-homed her to a lonely old woman who was looking for a bird to replace her recently deceased parrot companion. In hindsight, I should have kept the bird and unloaded the ex sooner.
These days I am the proud mommy to a very special flock of feathered critters - an umbrella cockatoo, a blue-headed pionus parrot, and a high-strung cockatiel. I adore them all, although the pionus is clearly my fiance’s bird now, and wants almost no part of me. Such is life with birds. They develop attachments to a person, and the bond is incredibly strong. I accept it. He still lets me scratch him on the head occasionally, and that is fine with me. The cockatiel loves people, but isn’t much of a cuddler. She prefers to have her ongoing love affair with her many mirrors. That leaves my cockatoo—my sweet darling Lola, my heart wrapped in a warm soft pile of feathers. She is always there, waiting for me to play with her, or wrap her in a blanket and let her snuggle with me in bed. She’s an amazing creature with unbelievable intellect and understanding. You look at her and you just KNOW there is a lot going on behind those eyes. And there always is… and some of it isn’t good either – she is very skilled at being very naughty.
So when I heard something this week via Facebook, I was completely stunned by the viciousness and cruelty of the story. A woman named Carol Mayo, posing as a pet sitter, had been offering her services to bird owners. Apparently these birds left in her care were inhumanely plucked of their feathers, tortured, mutilated. Owners were told their birds were missing or stolen, when in fact she had killed the birds, disposed of their bodies, then sold their feathers on ebay or craigslist. Her latest victim, an umbrella cockatoo identical to Lola named Angel, had been brutally killed, although they have yet to find poor Angel's body. Angel was to be with the “pet sitter” for four days while the bird waited to be relinquished to a rescue organization, Broken Wing, in the Phoenix area. The owner, who was living in an apartment, was forced to give up her beloved pet because of her screaming. (Anyone who has spent time with an umbrella cockatoo will tell you, their screams can be deafening.) The owner and rescue organization are pursuing the matter with authorities, and were actually able to rescue a blue and gold macaw from the woman’s residence (with the help of Ms. Mayo's daughter) which was being tortured as well. Unfortunately, there was no rescue for Angel. I’m not sure how this will work out, but certainly this person deserves a stiff punishment for her actions. Personally, I believe that torturing her by pulling off her skin would be appropriate…just saying…
I cried for that bird. If it had happened to Lola, I would have been inconsolable. I don’t understand how such evil can live in a person’s heart unchecked. I need to believe in the human condition, and that deep down, most people are good, but that becomes more and more difficult each day. Where is the humanity? Where is the compassion? I know those qualities must exist somewhere. I do see signs of them every day – sometimes in small ways, sometimes big. But I’m so afraid that the balance is tipping in the wrong direction. Maybe we just hear the stories more, because society is so connected and wired into so many vehicles for information. My personal belief? We are losing our humanity at the hands of our technology, knowledge, greed and ambition. We, as a society, move at lightening fast pace to be bigger, faster, smarter. We are conditioned to look for instant gratification, and too often look past our fellow man in the hope of finding more more more…more money, more gratification, more power. Who loses when acts of cruelty such as this happen, or any act of cruelty for that matter – be it an animal, child, anyone really? We all lose, in ways that you cannot even calculate.
I want more for my daughter, my family, YOUR family. I can say with great pride that my friends and family are extraordinary people with an incomprehensible capacity to give of themselves and never ask for anything in return. I wish that for everyone, I really do.
For some, they may say, “It was just a bird. To that I say that it was a living breathing creature, and it deserved better. We all deserve better.