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This amazing creature found his way to me across many miles as a wild caught bird. Together, we forged a relationship built upon curiosity and necessity. He is not my baby, he is my companion. And that’s the point. I relate to him as an unusual friend and it took many years to earn his trust.

We learned together. This little dinosaur, feared and distrusted humans to the point of aggression. It was up to me to help him learn how to live with a human and still be a bird. I knew the key to “us” was to always be aware of his feelings and birdie nature. I will have to look him in the eye, read his behavior, for my own safety. The moment I transgress the rule, I get bitten, as a reminder of what he is, a male Umbrella Cockatoo. As his care taker and companion, I have a responsibility to bring out the best part of his cockatoo self. He has a knack for being funny and making up games on one hand and screaming, slamming toys, and making noises on the other. He is a super Buzz saw and is an escape artist with a destructive powerful beak. I educated myself about parrots to be able to be effective in his rehabilitation.

I earn his trust. With patience and time, I handled him and taught him “step ups” so when he needed an attitude correction, it was the way to calm his aggression. At first, he wouldn’t step onto my hand without leaning into me. He would try to climb up my arm to my elbow and rest against me. Over time, he understood that he could go with me while perched on my hand. Then, I began the step-up, by moving my other hand in front of his chest, a little higher than the hand he was perched on. For quite awhile, he’d do it with his head resting on my chest, as I alternated my hands. Finally, with encouragement and praise, he accomplished 3 step-ups without balancing on my chest. He was so proud of himself, that he lifted his foot for another one. Now, when he wants me to pick him up, he lifts his left foot and stares at me expectantly. I have also heard him say to me “Step Up!” As I am trying to get him to step on my hand.

I feel like we need to stop humanizing other creatures. We tend to treat them like humans to make us feel better. We were given dominion, not dismission of their species. Even though this cockatoo was removed from his home without care, he still has the Divine right to act and be a bird. To me dominion means I have a chance to interact and learn while providing the space for him to be the cockatoo in. I am so grateful for the enrichment he has contributed to my life. I can love and care for another without changing his true nature. We work together to harmonize our natures where necessary. This is so amazing, I hope you can try it with the animals you live with. I don’t think they were meant to be human, I think they were meant to teach us how to treat them in mutual partnership.

Posted by Steffie Rae

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