So, what EXACTLY makes A Helping Wing's approach so different from all the other parrot rescues out there?
Our ultimate goal is to place a bird with a person or a family who can provide that bird with better care than we do. We want to ensure that the potential adopter is able to handle the bird in all types of situations and environments. To ensure this, we require that the person or family meet with the bird on a number of separate occasions during which we monitor their interactions and the level of comfort of both parties. We want to work with the person to teach standard bird handling techniques, the proper level of care, feeding and housing for the bird, as well as methods for dealing with obstinate or reluctant parrots. The bird-human relationship typically breaks down when the human gets bit and is wary of taking the bird out of the cage again. Once the bird gets cage-bound or cage-aggressive, the relationship falls apart quickly. The best way to avoid this is to teach the person or family how to remove the bird from the cage and work with them in "stressful situations". We typically have the person visit the bird on AT LEAST four separate occasions before a decision is made to proceed with an adoption.
Woah? At least four occasions? You mean I have to visit you four times before I can adopt? What a pain!
We want to ensure that the adoption is the right fit for both you and the bird. If you're willing to put in the time and effort before you get the bird home, you'll be more likely to spend time with the bird once you get them home. Also, it reduces the possibility of an "impulse" adoption. Sometimes, the best thing we can do for someone is to convince them that now may not be the right time in their life to adopt a parrot or that a parrot may not be what they are really looking for. We have gotten countless requests for adoption from people effectively looking for a 'dog' that can talk. Preventing these adoptions avoids creating a scenario where the bird may add to a stressful situation and will only be back in our rescue in a few months.
This policy also helps protect against bird adoptions by potential breeders. Most breeders have no interest in working with or getting to know a bird that's going into a breeding program. We can monitor this and deny the adoption if the person demonstrates no interest in creating a bond with the bird.
What are you looking for during this period?
We want to see the way a person interacts with the bird and, more importantly, the way the bird interacts with that person. Is that person shy? timid? under-confident? over-confident? Probably the most important thing we're looking for is enthusiasm and a willingness to grow with the bird. We would rather adopt a bird to someone who knows nothing about birds but is willing to learn and is excited about doing so - than to someone who believes that they have all the answers.
We are also looking for the bird's interaction with the person. Most of the times, we don't know the entire history of the birds that come into our shelter, so we're constantly watching the bird's reaction to the new person. Does the potential adopter remind the bird of the last owner who used to abuse the bird? If so, the bird will quickly develop a particular fear or aggression towards that person and in that case, the bird may be better off going to another home - no matter HOW enthusiastic or excited the person may be about the adoption. In that situation, there is no one at fault - but we would rather determine if there are potential "issues" that will crop up before the potential adopter spends unneeded money or gets themselves into a situation that's extremely stressful for both themselves and the bird.
We are constantly asking ourselves the question, "Is it better for the bird?" It doesn't happen all the time, but when we match the right person and the right birds, everything else just falls into place and it simply feels right.
In most cases, the bird actually picks the person rather than the other way around. As the bird interacts more and more, the bird becomes more comfortable and the true personality and mannerisms of the bird begin to emerge.
OK. I can understand that. What are your adoption fees?
We discuss adoption fees at time of adoption. We exist on private donations as well as private funding. Again, if we feel that a bird is going into a better home where the person or family will be able to provide more love, attention and care than we can, we would be doing a disservice to the bird to block that adoption simply because the person couldn't pay an adoption fee. We want to ensure that the person or family is financially stable enough to be able to provide the bird with a large enough cage, fresh fruits and vegetables, and appropriate toys, and this is the reason that we perform a home visit.
That said, the adoption fee that we charge is minimal when compared to the retail prices in most pet stores (including consignment birds). We attempt to discourage people from simply "buying" birds from us by paying an adoption fee - as they have to go through a much longer and more arduous process than usual to be able to finalize the adption.
What about your overhead?
Again, we differ from most rescues in that we are a home-based rescue. We do everything out of our home and yes, we are stepping over bird toys and supplies every time we turn around. We work hard to be able to support all of our birds and we care for them very well. No expense is spared. A lot of vacations and eating out are spared, however! When a bird finally is adopted, it lessens the burden - both financially and from a work-load perspective. However, we never want to be in the situation where we are faced with the scenario of adopting a bird to a prospective owner when we know the situation is not right, just so that we can use that adoption fee to pay the rent, or keep the lights on. No bird in our rescue will ever be euthanized or mistreated because of overcrowding. They will all have a home here for life, if necessary. As a result, we try to stay fairly small as a rescue.
What about followups? How do you monitor your birds once they are adopted?
One of the services we provide for all adoptions is beak, nail and wing trimming for life! This can run up to $40 per visit at a vet or pet store for a large parrot. We will do this for free as often as needed. This gives us a chance to see the bird and monitor the bird's health and condition every few months.
Also, we want to be the first resource that people turn to when they have ANY questions about their bird's care or behavior. When a potential adopter spends that much time getting to know the bird, they also get to know who we are and hopefully, we'll develop a friendship of sorts. While there are thousands of sites and forums and places to go on the internet regarding the health and behavior of birds, typically they will contact us first. We will most likely know the standard parrot behavior and then how that particular bird's idiosyncracies and quirks fit into that behavior. (Don't worry about him hanging upside down by one toe and dunking his head in his water dish. He does that all the time when you vacuum).
I'm not sure if I'm ready to adopt yet? Can I just come over and work with a few of the birds?
Please do! Every bird we have needs interaction and play time and the more people who handle them, the better. A large number of the birds we have in our rescue are here because a bond of trust was broken with their previous owners. Once that trust is lost, the bird becomes more and more fearful and aggressive. We work to regain that level of trust with the bird through various techniques. One of the biggest hurdles is to teach that bird that they are in a safe place and that not all people are going to harm them. The more people we can get to handle a bird will reinforce this belief and the bird will soon start to become more and more trusting of other people. When this happens, it's an amazing thing to behold. Some birds are quicker to respond than others. Also, some birds may respond to women more quickly than men. Others may respond more quickly to bald people. Others, to young people. Others, to men with mustaches or beards. You might be the person who might remind a parrot of someone that bird trusted before that trust was broken and you might be able to help that bird take the first step to letting down their guard and start building up a level of trust. The hardest step is the first one and if you can help that bird take the first step, you've helped that bird immensely - whether or not you decide to take that bird into your home.