Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fin, Fur and Feather

            We don't give animals nearly as much credit as they deserve. Especially the little ones. The intelligence of dogs and cats is common knowledge. Cats are known to recognize emotion and can be very soothing when their owner is feeling angry or sad. Dogs can be taught many things, from something as small as a trick, to something as big as sniffing out drugs and bombs for the police. They, too, respond to a human's emotion.   But you wouldn't think a bird could act in that capacity. They don't respond to anything much beyond mimicking words, right?

              We've had Molly for 10 years. When we first got her, she didn't much care for people at all. She didn't want to be touched, and would panic when anyone came near her. It took me almost a year to get her to step up on to my hand, and another 6 months to allow me to pick her up without her biting me. She learned alot from watching her companion, Gordon, whom we had already had for two years. She would see us scratchig Gordon's head and snuggling with her, and  Molly eventually became a cuddler, snuggling with either John or myself. She would not, however, allow anyone else near her, let alone children.

             When my nephew PJ  began walking and getting in to things, he would constantly try to poke or grab the birds. Gordon ignored him, because she was used to being handled.  Molly did not care for this at all. She woud hiss and scream at him, trying to scare him away from her cage. Because she had bitten me in the past, we couldn't allow him near her, for fear that she would hurt him. We were beginning to wonder if we would have to give her away when we had children of our own. Would she act like this around them?Both birds took very well to my pregnancy. When Jordan started moving and kicking, they would sit on my belly and peck at the various movements. It was really sweet. When she was born, they were casual observers, regarding her carefully but keeping their distance.

             We lost Gordon the first winter after Jordan's birth, and Molly became very lonely. She would cling to us as often as she could, and had terrible separation anxiety whenever any one of us would leave the room. It was then that she really took an interest in Jordan. She now had someone to watch over. When Jordan began to crawl and to walk, Molly didn't respond as she had with PJ. She was interested in what Jordan was doing and where she still hissed when Jordan got near her cage, she never tried to scratch or bite.

                 When Jordan was diagnosed, it was as if Molly knew what was going on. Her whole demeanor changed. She was calm and reserved, and never balked when Jordan wanted to sit with her. She had patience when Jordan would run around her cage, or dump out her food. When her vocabulary started to expand, she would ask to "howd Mowwy." We always though that because our Sweet Pea was so high strung, she would try to run with Molly on her shoulder. But Molly brought out a sense of calm in Jordan. Jordan would sit still on either her bed or the floor, wherever she chose, and talk to Molly while the bird preened her hair or chewed on her shirt. 

        Jordan still has a lot to learn in life, but has gained alot of knowledge from this four ounce ball of gray and white feathers. She has learned patience and a modest amount of self control. The bird has taught her that she has to be careful so that she doesn't hurt herself or others, and that she has to wait her turn if Molly isn't ready to sit with her.  I encourage all Moms and Dads with kids on the spectrum, even those with typical children, to get your child a pet. It doesn't have to be a bird, but your child will gain invaluable skills and learn life changing lessons from caring for and living with this animal.


In memory of our dearly departed Gordon, March 1998- February 2008. We miss you and love you, dear little friend!



  1. great insights, Audra. I enjoy your writing!

  2. Love this!! So sorry to hear that Gordon is no longer with you. :( I sincerelly believe that children need pets as well. It should be a rule!