Sigmund the African Grey came to the Refuge with Vito, another Grey that is bigger, prettier (read as: fully feathered) and more sociable. Vito got a lot of attention and we knew that he would be adopted relatively quickly. He was.
Look at those feathers. Chewed off flight feathers and little more than fuzz on his chest. But he stepped up – as long as I offered my left hand. And he was a good eater. And he was not bothered by the other animals in the house (then Shadow the Dog and Spooky the Cat in addition to Kiwi the Grey).
For about a year, I kept him most of the time, returning him to the Refuge every once in awhile when I was travelling heavily. Or when a potential adopter was coming by. Or when one room or another in my house was being painted. Each time he was back at the Refuge, he chewed a bit harder on his feathers. I determined that he just needed to be in a quiet home to feel comfortable enough to leave the feathers alone. The progress was gradual.
First, he started shredding the paper that lined his cage. On the days he did that, he left his feathers alone. Then he started to shred his toys, instead of feathers. Eventually, he looked like this:
The picture is dated April, 2011. No one at the Refuge could believe it. The dirty little secret is that Sigmund had trained me. He woke up with the sun and expected his breakfast. After work was play time and he expected to be let out. He has a scream that you wouldn’t believe belongs to a grey. But I did all of that stuff so that he left the feathers alone.
Around this time, I understood that he had been in my house longer than any foster before (Manu was around 10 months when he found his forever home) and I’d better get serious about finding him a permanent situation. And shortly after that, Shadow the Dog died and we were in the market for a puppy.
When Gibbs came home, another volunteer agreed to take Sigmund for a bit just to see how he would do in another quiet home. It lasted two or three days before she couldn’t stand watching the feathers drop to the floor. She brought him back to me.
By then Gibbs had been there for a week or so. His puppiness was a bit much for Sigmund. Feathers were everywhere. In a panic, I spoke to Rich, the Refuge director. He said, “You can’t get upset about this. He is going to have to learn to adapt.” And also, “It is clear that he has chosen you.”
Next we had my mother’s health crisis. I was afraid to move Sigmund and afraid to commit to adopting him. But he and Gibbs worked it out. Gibbs doesn’t bother Sigmund when he is running around on the floor. (He only gets upset when Kiwi goes airborne. Shadow was the same way.) Then we got to the holidays and Big Work Meeting. But I pretty well knew that he was staying. Sigmund decided.
Last week, I signed the adoption papers. This is how he looks now. The good news is that since he chews, rather than plucks, his feathers there is always hope that they will all grow back. Rich said I shouldn’t hold my breath. Here is Sigmund now: