As the founder and RETIRED CEO of ARIZONA EXOTIC BIRD RESCUE, INC., a “Forever Home” is a lofty, if not impossible dream. Life gets in the way of our good intentions. So many rescues like to use the term, “FOREVER HOME.” If a home was FOREVER there would be no need for rescues or re-homing!
Only in a make-believe world do people always have permanent shelter, plenty of money, food, warmth from the cold of winter, people to depend on unconditionally, never know the sound of a door slamming when their spouse leaves FOREVER. It’s only a fantasy or very good planning that one will not know what it feels like to lose their livelihood. Perfect health for the duration of your physical life isn’t a reality. Never being hungry or going without life saving medical care for one’ entire life is a dream for too many of us as just another animal here in this world.
People become ill. Folks die. Babies are born. Adult parents move in. Grown children must come back home. There is divorce and separation. Job transfers. The awareness that exotic bird you adored is driving you nuts happens often. People bear the weight of unplanned for poverty through loss of income. They lose all of their worldly goods and often MUST let go of their beloved animals. I am yet to meet the human being that can fulfill a forever promise. As a species we are a vulnerable lot.
Avian, as well as other adoptive families suffer all of the same perils in life that the rest of our fellow kind do. I always kept that in mind. I hate the term ‘FOREVER,’ because so many things can happen on the way to reaching your end. The best I reasonably HOPED for in adoption was ‘long term.’ I designed my adoption agreement form to assure everyone that was approved to adopt that they were bound by our joint signatures on the contract to return the bird to the rescue in the event any hardship would cost them their ability to meet the needs of the parrot entrusted to their loving care. I had lived long enough to know nothing in our physical world is “FOREVER,” by the age of three.
In spite of and partially because of giving every dollar my then employed, healthy, husband made to the care of the parrots in my (then) rescue, my hope of living a life filled with parrots FOREVER is coming to an end. The rescue, under different hands, goes on. I also have serious, progressively negative health limitations but it I can fake ‘okay’ better than most. Too many things are coming to an end for me.
SAYING GOODBYE: First it happened in a big way with retirement from the rescue that was as important to me as the air I breath. Then the realization that some of my birds were too loud for the up-close living of a modular home retirement village we moved to following foreclosure on our rescue that served as our home. A number of my feathered children were graced upon a couple I hold dear. They too promised “forever.” THAT’S NOT REALISTIC! It wasn’t realistic of me to expect that from them. So one does the best they can do for the time being for what they can care for their animals and when they can’t, they place their animals in the care of decent rescues or trusted friends.
As my husband and I decline more of the birds that made life worth living have been turned over to the rescue that began in my heart before becoming tangible. A few I’ve placed on my own with people I love. Their new family provided a monitory gift that kept my husband and I alive for another month.
The pain of realizing that ‘forever’ came to a meeting far sooner than expected is heartbreaking. When one adopts or adds another animal to their life they do the best they can and know that there are others out there that can love just as you do. Letting go is never easy…
Accepting that you are powerless to keep a hold of your animals is one of the most difficult thing I, personally, have ever experienced. I no longer feel whole. While I know recognizing the limitations of one’ reality is inevitable I am not facing it with ease.
Well over a thousand times I saw it in my work. I held so many shaking, tearful parrot owners, and wept with them before they closed the door behind them. It didn’t prepare me for my own goodbyes to what means the most to me. Please don’t EVER beat yourself up when ‘FOREVER’ comes too soon.
I strongly suggest that ‘if’ you know someone who is in the place of being forced to make the difficult decision to let go of their animals you ask first what or if you can do anything to help. Letting go of an animal is general the pinnacle of what has become unbearable sadness and loss of will to continue. Humans get so caught-up in their worldly activities to see that just a little of something, anything, can make a difference. If you know someone who was in pain for any reason that you have helped in the past, chances are great that their world has become darker. Your help can make a difference. If you did it once maybe you can do it again? Another thing; you are only accountable when you can help and just don’t care enough to do so or have convinced yourself, “Someone else will do it.”
About My Art: The poem ‘Goodbye’ is not my own. The expression thereof and the art associated with the poignant dialogue and my message is my own. The graphic is large but maybe difficult to read of this public form. I would be honored to e-mail them to you if you ask.
DEDICATED TO: Skyler, Ollie, Mataya, Fred, Peaches, Valentina, Lilly Lou Lee, Bebop, Reo, Ernie, Skittles, Candy, Kylie June, Elvis, Tuco, Dexter, Mikey Mike, Maui, and Joey.
In Closing: I am grateful someone was there to be a part of my saying, ‘Goodbye.’ I pray they can fill the promise made to me and you, my beloved parrots, for a long time. For those I placed, you, my feathered babies with that their ‘forever’ came too soon, I understand. I regret I couldn’t fix what hurt you, both human and feathered.
NOTE: I still have my two Myers parrot “grandchildren,” my soon to be 35 years old Cockatiel, Grandpa and two of his siblings, my Congo Grey Annie remains with me. A couple in the dedication area will be made permanent to their new family soon. Some of my feathered children are waiting at the rescue for someone to hopefully make a ‘long-time’ commitment to add them to their family. Know that with each of them you get a part of my heart.
~ Jan Baker Enjada ~ 12/02/2011 ~
ANOTHER THOUGHT: 12/03/2011
One parrot, an M2, (Moluccan Cockatoo) came in to the rescue while I was still in charge. She was loved and lived with one family for just over 80 years! The last of her Mamas brought a photo album that documented the generations of the family whose life she decorated in pink. She was a blessing to four blood related generations and all cherished her. The last of the family line surrendered her because she was about to enter Hospice as cancer brought her to end stage with the horrible disease. The charming M2 was a joy to me and others of my family for another two years prior to her passing. That’s as close to FOREVER as I’ve seen.
It takes great commitment to pull off such a blessing of FOREVER. It isn’t so in my own Aviculturist world with one tiny exception or my personal existence as it’s become today. While I wish/pray and have not been above begging for help I’m pretty sure that surrendering my birds as I am is all that I can do now. It’s about what’s best for my feathered children.
My animals have never lacked for anything. I won’t let it come to that place as much as this pains me. Their food is first. Always. Keeping up with the cages has been tough for about six months but it was doable as much as my M.S. would allow. I can no longer get the cages outside to power wash. Changing papers while on a Walker or in a Wheelchair expends energy rapidly. 99% of those people who promised to always help rapidly exited my life post-rescue-retirement, health related hardships, and certified poverty. That’s human nature. People don’t like to see what happens to our fellow-man as the unpleasant side of life sets in. I also didn’t have an endless supply of FREE PARROTS to lovingly give any more. I’m now accepting that their alleged undying devotion wasn’t honestly about me. I understand and hold no bitterness. Sadness? Most certainly! I miss them! I miss child like faith and the belief thinking they would always be in my world. I’m pretty sure they have me blocked on Facebook or unfriended me. The few that stay close are limited in every way like me. One has died recently. They love/loved me just because of me. I do have some wonderful friends that are just too far away. Some could change a little of my reality, others can’t, and a few pretend not to hear me. It’s okay.
BACK TO MY BIRD KIDS: Every day bowls are washed, fresh pellets are put in, and fruit, veggies, and other goodies (when I can acquire them) is the routine. Not the way I wanted it but my best. There was always a parrot on me. Still is actually. My bed was a place to gather my flock. I was in Heaven. This letting go is my own personal Hell. So… I’m doing all that I can even if it’s not enough.
This is a learning experience. Some of lifes’ lessons are more difficult than others. I have said since I was a child that when I let go of my last animal I will ceased to be. As each one goes, as the struggle to meet our (my husband I) basic needs fails every month, it erodes my spirit. I say to all of you, my Facebook friends, my readers, fight until you can’t any longer. Know when you absolutely MUST say, “Goodbye,” and get on with reality.
It isn’t easy coming out to bare my soul to you but I want it to be a heads-up as to what is likely to happen in many of your worlds. Gives a rescuer with a lifetime of rescuing a totally different perspective. I’m now the one in need of comfort as opposed to being the one comforting.
The above comment has been added to what’s looking more like a blog…
I would like to thank Jan very much for allowing me to share this article. It touched my heart very deeply and is something that I have worried over, planned for and still dread with each passing year. How to make sure my own flock is properly cared for when forever comes to an end for me. Even with the very best of intentions, Forever is very difficult to actually accomplish. Our Forever most likely wont match their forever.