Friday, February 12, 2010

To foster or not?

Last December, the woman who runs the rescue where we volunteer approached us and asked us if we'd be willing to foster an african grey parrot, Steve. He's mutilating, and greys tend not to do well in the chaos of a shelter environment. She thought he had a better chance of healing in a private home.

She knows that we tend to fail fostering by keeping the parrot, but thought this might be different since this parrot is a male and she knew we didn't want to add any male greys to our house as our two are female.

We managed to defer making a decision as we were dealing with the hormonal caiques. She understood that we didn't want to add any more male hormones into our house until things had quieted down on that front.

During the past two months, Steve's condition has deteriorated. He's had every conceivable test, but the vet can't find any physical reason for his mutilation.

I truly believe the best thing for him would be to come to our house. He'd have our greys as role models (part of the reason I believe that Stella healed so quickly was forming a flock with Max) and live in a quieter, less stressful environment. He'd also get more one-on-one attention, including clicker training, and learn to fly.

However, this would likely be a long-term foster. Months, maybe years. Could we really adopt him out after he lived with us for so long? Especially if he bonds to us? Quite honestly, Thomas and I become quite attached, so we'd probably end up keeping him.

Right now, things are well in our flock. We've got a good routine, everyone gets adequate attention, and we're not overwhelmed. Might Steve be the straw that breaks the camel's back, negatively impacting the well-being of the parrots we currently have in our house? After all, they must be our top priority.

On the other hand, if he ends up mutilating himself to death (currently a real concern), can I live with the guilt that we could have saved him?

We do have the physical space for one more bird in our house. The reason we didn't adopt the caique I talked about a few months ago was because he was healthy and active. He'd do well in any caique-ready home, and I wanted to reserve our one remaining place for someone who really needed us. Steve fits this bill perfectly.

My ultimate dream is to have a grey hospice/retirement home someday. We'd take in and rehabilitate old and/or sick greys and allow them to live out their lives in a flock environment. This is not currently in Thomas's plans, so I'm not sure if it will come to fruition. Steve is exactly the kind of bird I envision taking in someday -- should we just take him in now?

But it is important to recognize our limits. I know I can't save everyone. If we do take Steve in and end up keeping him, what happens when the next needy grey arrives? Could we manage to take him in and then adopt him out in a few years once he's healthy again?

Also, we currently have two blue-fronted amazons and a cockatiel that are willed to us. Their owners are still in good health, so we'd likely not receive them for decades, if ever, but if something does happen, we'd need to be able to take them in. We only plan to stay in our current house for 5 years at the most, moving to a larger, more parrot-friendly place after Thomas has established his practice, which will eliminate this concern.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this. I just wanted to get some of the thoughts swimming around my head in print. We are just so conflicted and I wish there was an easy answer.


Pamela said...

I vote that you take Steve in. Sure, you might end up keeping him forever, but it seems to me this is the perfect opportunity for you to test out the idea of fostering Greys. The worst that happens is that you keep him forever. (Grin.) The best that happens is you help him out for a couple of years, and he can go on to a forever home.

Um, the niggling thing in the back of my mind is that the worst that can happen is he stays in a situation that doesn't help him, and he dies.

The Homeless Parrot said...

My uninvited opinion: listen to that voice that tells you that you can't save all of them. I had "friends" - really acquaintances - that had a beautiful grey that was ignored. She spent all her time in her cage when the owners got a new pet that they were more enamored of. She never got out, and she mutilated herself horribly. It broke my heart, and I wanted to take her, but my husband has reach max threshold for the pets. And truthfully, so have I. And there are so many that I could save...

belovedparrot said...

I kinda agree with Homeless. Then again, I kinda agree with Pamela.

Good luck, whatever you decide.

Mary said...

Thanks for your comments, guys.

Still not sure what we're going to do. I am really conflicted.

I didn't make it over there yesterday but hop to tomorrow. We're leaning towards not taking him at the moment, but that's killing me.

There's just no good answer, unless someone else qualified takes him in!

Homeless -- I can't even imagine what you must go through in terms of people asking you to take their animals.