By Eileen D Cowles
I had heard about “The Sanctuary” in Arizona about seven years ago when I was a beginning volunteer for a local parrot rescue organization in Southern California. When I started fostering, I already had four parrots of my own, two Cockatiels, a Conure, and a White Winged Parakeet. Soon after becoming involved with rescue and rehabilitation, I heard Sybil Erden speak at a conference here in San Diego. “The Sanctuary” I had heard about was the Oasis.
As my awareness of the needs of my parrots grew, I had to face the fact that one of my foster-care birds, Jess, was not adoptable to anyone else. In setting up my parrot trust, I made arrangements for my other birds to go to an adoption program but Jess may need a sanctuary. I planned on going to The Oasis to check it out to assure myself it would be a good place for Jess, and I was finally able to arrange a visit in September 2005 with my aunt from Pennsylvania as my traveling companion.
We were greeted by Sybil at the Sanctuary, who was busily helping with the care of the birds. After introductions, she gave us a tour of the facilities. Birds were everywhere in aviaries and cages. I don’t have any idea how many we were introduced to by name. We also met a couple of “guard” dogs, some calves, even geese. There is a Rainbow Bridge at the entrance to the cemetery.
Sybil proudly took us over to see the new free-flight aviary for African Greys. It was near completion, and it was huge, with a pecan tree in each corner. I couldn’t help but get tears in my eyes with the vision of African Greys happily living in such a beautifully built aviary. (I must admit, I even get tears in my eyes writing about it). Sybil noticed the tears and came over and gave me a big hug and announced that she liked me. And I knew for sure I liked her and could trust my Jess to her care.
There were so many nearly naked Macaws, as well as others kinds of parrots that were feather picked. I can’t help but wonder if they were sent to the Oasis because they were no longer beautiful to the eye. I have very strong feelings about loving and being committed to the less than perfect companion parrot. After all, they live with humans who are certainly less than perfect! I just know that many of the feather picked parrots at the Oasis are breathtakingly beautiful on the inside! How many of the parrots at the Oasis are there because of the mentality of our throw away society? How many of their humans didn’t bother to become educated about parrots prior to obtaining the bird? Or continue learning about how to keep their parrot happy after they had the bird? How much commitment was there to the parrot? Too often, it seems parrots lose their homes due to a lack of commitment and/or education on the part of the human(s).
After the tour, Sybil invited my aunt and me to sit down and talk under the trees. We were able to share experiences and concerns about parrots, the need for sanctuaries, and the need for funding. I was able to confirm that the future for my Jess has been appropriately identified in my trust.
Before our departure, Sybil took me in to see an old friend, a Military Macaw named Murphy, who had been an education bird for the rescue organization I had previously been associated with. As I was unsure how Murphy would respond to me in a new location, Sybil brought Murphy out of his cage on a stick. Murphy immediately stepped up on my arm. He looked at me, as only a Macaw can! Murphy obviously enjoyed the visit and was very happy to perch on my arm until we had to leave. Several times later in the day, I commented to my aunt, “I know I’ve said this before, but it is so good to see how happy and healthy Murphy is at the Oasis!!!!! That is the happiest I’ve seen him in at least a couple years!” And Murphy has found a companion in the cage next to his, a very plucked female Macaw. Murphy has always been able to pick out a good heart.
I would like to thank Sybil for her graciousness in allowing our visit to The Oasis. It has been one of those life-changing experiences, filling my mind with thoughts and impressions too numerous to identify. I left, once again so grateful for the exquisite creatures that share my life, their beauty, their intelligence, their devotion, their humor, and yes, their challenges as to how I can help them have optimal lives as my companion parrots