Birds were never in my plan. Animals, yes, birds specifically, notsomuch.
My “life plan” (chuckle chuckle chuckle) was to flounder in community college for a little while before sticking with the sign language interpreter program. Once I mastered that, I would go to Moorpark College in Simi Valley, CA and work as an interpreter while simultaneously studying in their exotic animal training and management program. In order to study in the program, you also have to work at the college zoo. The only block I had was how to get through all the bug stuff. I hate bugs. HATE. I can appreciate their role in an ecosystem and yes I understand how important they are blah blah blah, but handling them?! No.
Blech. I can’t.
Anyway, I got as far as my interpreter program. I didn’t even complete that. See, my step mother was the interpreter coordinator for the campus in addition to a teacher in the department. (That is how she and my dad met and later married) My last semester I had a class that is only offered once/year at only one time. I was at the end of my last semester in the three year program when my dad died. Being as how I was the only offspring of either side to help my stepmother make arrangements, get through the awful tragedy, and deal with the hurricane of tedium you have to deal with when a loved one dies, school suffered a bit. I still made it to my final roughly a week after the funeral… the funeral my teacher for the same class attended along with most of the department and all my past and present instructors.
Guess who failed the class? Yup. Moi. I wasn’t expecting a free pass, I wasn’t expecting an A, but can you really not help someone out in that scenario? Really?! Can you honestly not offer some kind of counseling on the side or advice? Just F, done, buh bye, sorry for your loss.
Anyway, I was bitter after this happened, naturally. I also was connected through my step mother with my first signing job in Irvine at a high school. I moved to Irvine and could not manage the 2 hour rush hour commute for the one hour class back in Torrance, either. I just let it go.
Anyway, that job and that city led me to Arizona and another job and then got married and had a kid and life and yada yada yada. Long story short, I never made it to Moorpark College.
In my early 20’s while still in school, a friend of mine was a manager at Petco. She offered me a job as a Bird Specialist and I’d be in charge of the department – ordering, feeding the babies, caring for the cages and animals, stocking, etc etc. I took it knowing any knowledge needed I’d have to research myself since they do not have any sort of extensive training for this. I loved it. It was sad – seeing the state they were delivered in from breeders – but it was also gratifying – being able to educate people on a pet. I was absolutely astounded at how many grown people have a fear of birds. Kids would readily go into the bird room while their parents stood outside shaking their heads and twitching at the thought of wings coming at their face. (a common fear, apparently)
Anyway, I suppose that’s where the seed was planted. Ironically twenty years later I’m working the other side of the pet industry. It’s exactly opposite, actually, right down to me volunteering and not getting paid to care for the birds that people could not for a million and eighteen reasons commit a lifetime to. It’s so rewarding that there’s about 65 volunteers that the sanctuary heavily relies on for feeding/cleaning/food prep/grooming. I’m always impressed with the volunteers that balance this work with a paying full time gig. There are students, retirees, unemployed (moi) but we all, I think, look forward to our time there helping out.
Everyone has their niche. Some people like the cage work; cleaning and feeding. Some people like the massive open flight area. Some like the rooms and some don’t even interact with the birds. They handle food only. My happy place is the room. I have one room where I’ve learned about 70% of the birds names and know them fairly well. I don’t handle many because, quite frankly, I’ve seen enough bites to not be excited by that happening. I’ve had only one bad bite that’s left a scar, but like most stories of bites it was my own fault. I took a bird out and she didn’t want to return to the room when I needed her to. Instead of getting a perch, I kept insisting she step up on my arm and after repeatedly pushing back with her beak, she finally gave me a good clear chomp. … then I got the perch. Duh.
Funny enough two of my favorite birds reside in rooms completely different than my favorite. I don’t hold it against them, though 🙂
Anyway, I don’t know if I’ll ever get to fulfill my wish of actually working and interacting with wild exotic animals for a job, but truthfully my kids and these crazy parrots seem to be filling my heart. So while I figure it out, I’ll just keep taking pictures and hope people enjoy them.