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Homes for birds, education for owners

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« on: March 23, 2010, 03:01:52 pm »

Homes for birds, education for owners

Foundation promotes bird welfare, adoption
By Ashley Dieterle
Published: 03.19.10
When she talks about her job, her eyes light up. To her it’s not a job, but a passion.

Patti Christie spends her days caring for birds at the Gabriel Foundation in Elizabeth. A career that started as a veterinary technician 30 years ago has become an opportunity to improve the lives of parrots and educate people on the appropriate care of their parrots.

Christie is the director of adoption, education and aviation care at the Gabriel Foundation. She joined the team in 2007. The Gabriel Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non profit organization avicultural and veterinary affiliated parrot welfare organization. According to the foundation’s Web site, it promotes educational outreach, conservation, rescue, rehabilitation, adoption, long-term foster care, and sanctuary pertaining to the needs of parrots everywhere.

Christie’s interest in birds started after working with birds at a clinic and after owning her first bird, a Blue-Fronted Amazon parrot, in 1996. She said her first relationship with a bird opened her eyes to the animal.

“It kind of took over my life,” she said. “I have always had pets, but I was not prepared for the different kind of relationship I would have with a bird.”

What intrigued Christie most about parrots is their cognitive functioning compared to dogs and cats. She said owning a bird is more like having a four or five-year old child. It takes more attention than just feeding and bathing a bird.

“You really have to make sure that the bird has a stimulating and enriched environment,” she said. “You have to be very intentional with the care of them.”

Because of the responsibility of having a bird for a pet, Christie is dedicated to educating people interested in adopting a parrot or educating people who already own a parrot.

“My passion is the education and helping people be successful with the birds they have,” she said.

Christie said parrots and their owners can easily become attached to one another, which causes a problem. It is important for owners to teach their birds to play independently and to give them plenty of things to play with. Because a parrot can live up to 60 or 70 years, usually more than one person will be the care giver of the bird. Therefore attachment to one person can make it difficult for a bird to transition to another person after the original care giver passes away or gets rid of their bird, Christie said.

“People will say that their bird only loves them, but that’s not good and not healthy,” she said. “Birds can become so dependent on one person they don’t know how to let other people take care of it. People need to teach their birds how to be birds.”

Currently the Gabriel foundation has 350-400 birds at their facility. Some birds were relinquished by their owners, some are in a long-term adoption program or foster program or are sanctuary birds that will live the rest of their lives at the foundation. There is a waiting list of 75 for people wanting to relinquish their birds to the foundation. Christie said some people bring their birds in due to financial reasons or health reasons, but the number one reason is unmet expectations from the bird.

“People thought it was going to be different than it really was and by the time they contact us they are pretty much done with the bird,” she said. “It is biting and screaming and people can no longer live with it anymore so they are done with it.”

Even though some relationships don’t work out between owners and birds, some do, and once a person knows how to successfully take care of a bird, Christie says the relationship can be one of the most rewarding relationships a person can ever experience.

Christie said most people are intrigued by parrots because most can speak in the human language. Parrots are able to respond appropriately to questions, usually because respond after a cue has been given by their owner or another person. For example if a person says to a parrot “Hello how are you today?” it is a cue to the parrot to say “Hello how are you today?” in response. But Christie said there are a few parrots that can not only speak, but can use the human language in the correct context with out a cue, and she happens to live with one.

“I own a male Eclectus named Carlos and he is able to tell me what he wants and when he wants it. He can also tell me if he doesn’t like something,” she said. “He has even asked to watch television.”

Birds have changed Christie’s life. She spends her days learning more about birds and making relationships with birds she will never forget. Her drive to educate people on the maintenance of owning a bird is her passion and she hopes she can make a difference in a person’s life and a bird’s life.

For more information on the Gabriel Foundation or to adopt a bird visit www.thegabrielfoundation.org or call 303-629-5900.
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« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2010, 02:50:56 am »

When she talks about her job, her eyes light up. To her it’s not a job, but a passion. Patti Christie spends her days caring for birds at the Gabriel Foundation in Elizabeth. A career that started as a veterinary technician 30 years ago has become an opportunity to improve the lives of parrots and educate. Parrot rescue specializing in bird placement, fostering, education and rehab of parrots and other exotic pets. Located in Michigan. 
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