|What follows are notes and observations about
Laddie, a young blue and gold macaw, from our
aviary that is bringing hope, light and love to
seniors in an assisted living facility as a therapy
bird. These writings and pictures are a chronicle
of his first 2 weeks with Rossanna , both in her
home, where she lives with her human family and
3 other macaws, 2 mature blue and golds and 1
greenwing, and at her workplace in the assisted
living facility. He is companion to Rossanna who
is in charge of this facility and regional manager
of other assisted living facilities in her area.
Date: Sat, 4 Jan 2003
I never in my wildest dreams thought that the
beginning of Laddie journey with the residents
at Fairlawn Heights could go so amazingly.
I brought him through the front doors I was
met by several residents. I do not know who
was more excited the residents or Laddie. It
was as if he knew that he was exactly where
he belonged. I saw the excitement in Ann's face.
She had been waiting for this day for a long
time. Laddie had finally arrived. As I sat him
on his perch and had turned to reach for the
bag that I had brought with his food and toys
Ann reached up to him and he literally jumped
into her waiting arms. I held my breath knowing
that Ann had never held a macaw. Her unsteady
arm did not faze Laddie. She looked at him with
enough love that the unsteady
arm did not seem important. I watched with a
lump in my throat as she stroked Laddie. He
did not care that she had no experience with
such a large bird, he only knew (yes, I know
he knew) that he was safe. The love was instant
and I feel blessed to have been witness to such
Next in line was Arlene, Geri, Marion, Amy,
Trish, Martha, Pearl and the list goes on. Laddie
was receptive to each and every touch. He did
not shy from strangers holding him, stroking
his back, or rubbing his head. In fact he seemed
to thrive upon each touch.
Laddie came to me via the best aviary anywhere.
Rita and Mark are the owners of Avian Adventures
Aviary and they have an assistant Lydia. I could
never thank them enough for the hard work that
they do. Laddie began his life with them. They
gave him love, love and more love. Their slogan
is that their birds love to be loved and Laddie
is the personification of that slogan. It was
all of their love, caring, and hours upon hours
of building a solid beginning that have enabled
myself and the residents to be blessed with
such an amazing little guy.
I continued to watch Laddie as he drew in more
and more residents with his beautiful colors
and loving personality. He brought sunshine
into the halls of Fairlawn Heights on a dreary
I had to almost pry him away from the residents.
I explained to them that he needed to eat and
rest for a while. After lunch Laddie resumed
his job as the heart of Fairlawn Heights. As
we left at the end of the day Ann stated, "I'll
see you in the morning Laddie." Laddie
leaned towards Ann as if to let her know that
he understood and that he wanted her to know
he would be back.
An exhausting first day it has been. I am truly
astounded as to the success of his first day.
It is a privilege to be a part of something
that cannot be defined in words, only felt in
Day two is going just a well as day one. Ann
was waiting for us when we arrived. The most
incredible thing that happened today is that
one of our residents Marion who never comes
out of her room except to eat meals and rarely
speaks to anyone came into my office and sat
and talked and talked to Laddie. In a very quiet
voice she asked me if she could hold Laddie.
I picked Laddie up from his play stand and gently
placed him on her arm. She had tears in her
eyes. Laddie turned his head and looked at her
and it seemed that he took part of her pain
and loneliness away from her and took it upon
himself. She stroked Laddie and I showed her
how to rub the top of his head. I promised her
that she could stop by every day and hold him
and I would also bring him to her room. Again,
I could only watch in amazement at Laddie's
capacity to love and understand.
Laddie has been at Fairlawn Heights with me
for a week now. I tell him in the morning that
it is time to go to work and without a doubt
he knows where we are going. He comes to life.
Everyone loves him and he loves everyone. Even
one of my employees that said before Laddie
came that she hated all birds, has fallen under
Laddie's spell. She holds him and sneaks him
toast with jelly on it in the mornings. I explained
to her that the sugar in the jelly was not what
Laddie needed in his diet. She told me that
Laddie had personally told her that he "Needed"
it. She only gives him a pinch so I guess I
will have to continue pretending that I do not
know what she is doing.
As I make these notes daily I keep going back
to the fact that I owe this blessing to Rita,
Mark and Lydia. All macaws are amazingly beautiful
intelligent loving animals. However, the love
that Avian Adventures Aviary gives to all of
their babies can be seen like a star in the
sky through Laddie.
Laddie and I will rest this weekend and begin
week 2 on Monday.
Date: Sun, 12 Jan 2003
Week 2 went even more smoothly than week 1.
Ann continues to meet Laddie and me at the door.
My biggest problem is that now Laddie literally
jumps from his play stand right onto Ann's chest.
It is quite comical to watch him land square
on her chest. He does not even attempt to land
on her arm. He knows when he is on her chest
that he can snuggle with her and/or play with
the strings that she has on her sweatshirts.
I have tried explaining to Ann that it is not
a good idea for him to be doing this because
I do not want him leaping onto anyone else.
She seems to ignore my pleas and Laddie looks
at me as if I have lost my mind when I tell
him no. He and Ann seem to have a private conspiracy
to see what they can come up with next that
will send me into orbit. I can only chuckle
to myself that I am fighting a losing battle.
Laddie learned to say hi this week. It is so
funny to watch one of the residents come into
my office and have him scream (no, he is not
quiet about it) HI. He has a very deep voice
when yelling hi. It is my best guess that it
is Marks voice because of how deep it is. Either
that or Laddie is the Barry White of the macaw
It is incredible to watch Laddie with all of
the residents. He has the capacity to bring
sunshine and smiles where there were clouds
and pain. Even my resident that stated to me
"I do not want a dirty bird in my house"
comes to my office door and talks to Laddie.
He will tilt his head and listen to her as if
she is the only person in the world. I have
no doubt that in the very near future that she
will come into my office and pet him. I cannot
help but believe that he understands the loneliness
and fear that comes with the aging process and
it is his joy to put a smile on the faces of
Laddie also seems to know that employees can
have a bad day and they all come into my office
to visit Laddie and walk out smiling.
I got an envelope slid under my door this week
that I found as I came into my office on Thursday
morning. Inside was a thank you note and $20.00.
The note read, "Thank you for brightening
up my Mom's world. Here is $20.00 for you to
buy some more toys for Laddie, Kenneth. "As
I wrote last week, Marion was the resident that
never ventures out of her room except for meals.
She now comes to all activities that we bring
Laddie to she is also a regular in my office
visiting and holding Laddie. It brought a lump
to my throat that the love Laddie gives has
extended to even family members.
It is difficult at best to be in a facility
and not in their own homes for the residents.
As much as I have always tried to make a facility
into the resident's home and to always let them
know that I love them, I cannot replace "family"
that does not visit. Laddie has become that
"family" that is there 5 days a week.
He has not hidden agenda, nothing to gain financially
by being there. His only motive is to love and
If you sit back and think about life we could
all take a lesson from Laddie. Life is really
as simple as we can only get back in life what
we give from our heart. Laddie gives of himself
and the love that is lavished upon him is also
given from the heart. What better legacy in
life than to be known for our hearts and not
the "things" that we have.
I make sure that when I take Laddie home that
he gets time to relax, have fun and be a bird.
I worry a bit that giving so much of himself
every day could take a toll on him I watch him
closely for signs of stress. As of yet I have
not seen any. He goes home and gets to be surrounded
by Knight, Beauty and Jasmine. Knight is the
daddy of the flock. He feeds each and every
one of them. Beauty is my macaw that had been
abused prior to my getting her. She loves Laddie
to pieces and they both are my acrobats. The
swing upside down from their swings and make
the strangest noises as they are doing so. It
is obvious that they are having a blast. Jasmine
is my baby. She is absolutely gorgeous, bossy,
and just plain ornery at times. She is also
has enough fun personality for 10 macaws. Laddie
has even begun playing with her. They have all
accepted Laddie into their flock. Their acceptance
of him into their flock allows him the time
after work to just be a macaw which I think
is very healthy for him.
I cannot reiterate enough how blessed I feel
to be a part of something so amazing. There
are moments when I cannot help but have tears
watching such love. I also cannot thank Rita,
Mark and Lydia enough for making Laddie believe
that giving and receiving love is what life
is all about.
Date: Sat, 25 Jan 2003
Laddie has had a busy past two weeks. He saw his
first snow, he has fallen in love with the mailman,
he discovered that leaping onto my back when I
am bent over the filing cabinet makes everyone
laugh (except me), he learned that loved ones
can go away for a few days and it is very confusing
and most importantly he knows being loved and
loving continues to be the best feeling in the
We had our first snow fall last week. As I
was taking Laddie to the car to go to work he
looked up at the snow falling. He looked at
me, then back to the snow then finally his little
tongue stuck out from his beak and he was trying
to taste and feel the snowflakes. He reminded
me of a Norman Rockwell poster with the little
boy tasting snowflakes. He was memorized by
the snowflakes. He bobbed up and down on my
arm then spread his wings playing with the snow.
I let him try to catch the snowflakes for a
few seconds, but with the cold wind blowing
I did not let him play for long. He was not
happy when I put him into the car. He kept sticking
his tongue up to the window trying to play with
the snow again. Once again he amazed me at his
innocence and reminded me of the beauty of a
We have a regular mailman that comes to the
facility every day. Laddie has fallen in love
with the mailman. When Laddie sees him coming,
he says "hi, hi, hi." Each day the
mailman takes off his gloves and picks up Laddie
and strokes his head. Laddie loves to run up
his arm and onto his shoulder. I had to explain
to the mailman that macaws and shoulders do
not mix. That he is a mailman not Long John
Silver with a parrot on his shoulder. I have
taught him how to get Laddie down if he gets
up there and am working with him on how to prevent
him from getting up there in the first place.
The joy Laddie brings to his day is evident
in the smile on his face as he leaves. The draw
back to this is that our outgoing mail gets
left behind about 50% of the time because the
mailman is too busy playing with Laddie to think
about the mail,
Laddie has discovered that everyone laughs,
that I have to turn into a contortionist and
or a stripper if he jumps onto my back when
I am at my filing cabinet. This has turned into
a fun game for him. He lands right in the middle
of my back. It is a spot that makes it is almost
impossible for me to reach him. The staff and
residents when they see him do this laugh hysterically.
This in turn causes him to start bobbing up
and down and going from side to side. I had
to take my arms out of my sweater and twist
it around to the front of me to get him off
of me on Wednesday. Ann and Marion were in my
office at the time and both were laughing so
hard that they had tears coming from their eyes.
I am not sure how or if I am going to break
him of this habit with all of the encouragement
he is getting from everyone that witnesses his
game of Macaw Keep Away. Again, I think it is
going to be one of those things that I am going
to have to grit my teeth and learn to live with
Ann was in the hospital last Thursday and Friday.
When Laddie and I entered the building Ann was
not there to greet him. Laddie looked perplexed.
As the residents were coming to the dining room
(my office faces the dining room) Laddie kept
looking out of the door. It was obvious to me
that he was searching for Ann. His continual
stretching of his neck trying so hard to see
out in the hall continued until all of the residents
had left the dining room. I knew that without
a doubt that he was looking for and missing
Ann. I picked Laddie up and took him into Ann's
room. I showed him that she was not there. I
know some people that have never had the honor
of being around a macaw will not understand
what I did. Let the nay Sayers think what they
want and call me a "bird brain," I
can handle the criticism. The truth is Laddie
needed me to explain to him where Ann was. I
sat in Ann's chair and told Laddie that Ann
was in the hospital but she would be coming
back. Laddie laid his head on my shoulder; he
needed to be close to me. He needed the security
and words that everything was going to be all
right. The exact same scenario repeated on Friday.
Unless you have ever been privileged to experience
the depths of love, feeling, and intelligence
of a macaw I do not expect you to understand.
For those of you who have had this privilege
you know exactly why I did what I did. Laddie
was missing Ann and once I explained what going
on he was calmed down and relaxed.
On Monday morning when we walked into the facility
and Ann was there waiting I could barely hold
onto Laddie when he saw her. The minute we were
close enough he jumped onto her chest like he
always does and snuggled up under her chin and
that is where he stayed the entire morning.
They had missed each other. I walked into Ann's
room to check on them at lunch time. She sat
crocheting in her chair with Laddie perched
on the back of the chair, both content with
the world. Their love for one another is unconditional.
The trust that they share is boundless. Ann
is at the last stage in her life as Laddie is
just at the beginning. Ann knows that Laddie
will be with her as she walks her final journey
in this lifetime. What more can any of us ask
in life but to know that there is a beautiful
soul that we can be hold and love, that will
be with us until the end? That knowledge is
the comfort, peace and joy that Laddie brings
All of the residents and staff continue to
come in and see Laddie. All of them pick him
up, stroke his back, talk to him and love him.
He never shies from their touch. He continues
to rain down love to anyone that is willing
to accept it. He can brighten up everyone's
day just by being himself. He brings more smiles
to faces than I can count in a given day.
I called Rita on Thursday to tell her how Laddie
is getting along. I love sharing the adventures
of Laddie with her. She loves all of the babies
that began their life at Avian Adventures Aviary
and wants to know how they are doing. I think
that Laddie has a part of Rita's soul. Laddie
is as kind, gentle, loving and caring as Rita.
(Maybe my ornery Jazzie acts like Mark, lol)
Many breeders would not welcome follow up. Not
Rita, she wants to know how her babies are doing.
I have the comfort of knowing that if I have
any questions I can call her. It is also fun
knowing that she does not think I am nuts!
As I am finishing writing these notes I look
around and see all 4 of my babies taking their
afternoon nap. I know in my heart that I am
blessed to be able to share my life with such
beauty and love. I would not trade a second
a get to spend with them.
Date: Sun, 9 Feb 2003
Another two weeks have passed and Laddie continues
to be the sunshine that fills the halls of Fairlawn
Heights. I have had a lot of pets in my 42 years.
I have loved each and every one of them. My four
macaws are somehow different. They are more a
part of my family and heart than I thought a "pet"
could be. They are capable of giving and receiving
so much love. They have so much personality and
make me laugh each and every day. Each one has
their own distinct personality. Knight is my clown
I have always said if reincarnation exists then
he was a comedian in a past life, Beauty is my
cuddly very talkative acrobat, Jasmine AKA Jazzie
is my sweet, lovable, cuddly, bossy, brat and
Laddie is also a bit of a clown however, Laddie
has the heart and gentleness of a saint.
Last week when I came into work Ann met me
at the door as she always does. She had tears
in her eyes and asked if she could talk to me.
We went into my office and I got Laddie situated
on his play stand. As Ann began to tell me why
she was in tears Laddie sensed that Ann was
upset. He jumped from the play stand onto Ann
and melted into her chest. She continued to
explain what had her so upset as she petted
Laddie. I watched as the tears were replaced
with her laughing. In the middle of her story
Laddie had popped his head up and yelled, "Hi,
Jazzie No." I had to explain to Ann though
both she and I laughing that at home when the
birds are upset it is usually because Jazzie
has done something that she isn't supposed to
and our response at home is "Jazzie, No."
I assume that Laddie somehow thought that Jazzie
was responsible for Ann's tears. Those simple
three words made Ann smile and laugh. She and
I continued our conversation with her much more
relaxed and solved her problem. Laddie stayed
in her lap through out and she took him to her
room where he watched her crochet. It was incredible
to watch Laddie not only calm Ann's tears but
to make her laugh.
I am sure that anyone that has an office knows
that sales people are not fun when the interrupt
your day. Well, Laddie being in my office makes
their stay that much longer. I had two sales
ladies come into my office. They both sat and
played with Laddie. One of them has an eclectus
that she cannot handle. She was stunned at how
lovable Laddie is and how she could pick him
up and cuddle him. The other lady sat and talked
for a long time about macaws and cockatoos.
Her daughter wants a cockatoo. I gave both of
them Rita's website and told the one that when
she decides to buy one that Rita is the only
breeder to buy one from. Both said that they
would make Fairlawn a regular stop on their
trips to Topeka to see Laddie.
I have decided to focus most of these past
two weeks on Laddie and how he is doing at home.
As I have said before I have amazing macaws.
They are all loving and accepting of everyone.
When I got Laddie I was not concerned if the
other three would accept Laddie. Maybe it was
me being naive but I have always expected my
babies to behave a certain way and they almost
always do what I expect. I knew that I could
not just put Laddie into the middle of them
immediately when I walked through the door.
I knew that I had to introduce him one at a
time, which I did. The next morning I had Laddie
in the large cage in the living room but left
the door opened. Knight and Beauty ventured
down to look at the newest arrival. Beauty went
into the cage with him and began to feed him.
It was just a few minutes later that Laddie
came out of the cage. He climbed onto the top
of the play stand right into the middle of all
three of them. Jazzie did not appear to be happy
about the latest addition to the flock. I talked
with Jazzie and explained to her that Laddie
is a baby and she had to be nice. Although Jazzie
was still not thrilled she watched as Knight
and Beauty accepted Laddie with open wings and
after a few weeks she too has accepted Laddie
just as the other two have done. They all play,
groom, and feed each other now. Beauty and Laddie
get on the swing and twirl round and round.
Beauty flaps her wings to get it going and Laddie
is just along for the ride. Laddie has also
learned how to get to Jazzie. He will sit atop
of the tree and say "Jazzie no" over
and over again. Jazzie climbs to the top of
the tree and promptly tosses him off. He has
learned that there is a consequence to his actions.
Yet, he seems more than willing to take the
consequence for the enjoyment of irritating
Jazzie. Jim has taught all of them to cluck
like chickens. Laddie has learned this quickly.
There are times that it sounds like a barnyard
in my house.
Laddie is as loved here at home as he is at
work. Jim is Laddie's favorite rough house play
toy. Laddie climbs on top of the couch and then
pounces on Jim and rolls down his chest. It
is hilarious to watch. When Laddie is done wrestling
he will lay down in Jim's arms like a baby.
Porscha my daughter is in love with Laddie.
She takes him into her room and they lie on
the bed and watch TV. The more people that love
Laddie the happier he is. Porscha is teaching
Laddie to play ball. He has not mastered the
art of throwing the ball but he loves to chase
My two year old grandson Jonathan loves Laddie.
Jonathan has been raised around my macaws. He
has always loved them and he and Jazzie play
a game with a container of blocks. Jonathan
dumps them out and Jazzie puts them back in.
It is fun to watch to two of them. Although
Jonathan has always petted Knight, Beauty and
Jazzie he has never wanted to hold one of them.
He has had a healthy respect of their powerful
beaks. Again, Laddie is different. Jonathan
will hold Laddie and stroke his head. He will
tell me as he pets him, "He's just a baby."
I never thought I would have enough trust in
a macaw to allow a two year old to hold him.
On the other hand, even a two year old sees
the gentleness of Laddie's soul
Laddie has my heart. There is something so
special about him. Everyone recognizes it even
those that are in their words are afraid of
birds. He has a way of softening even the hardest
of hearts. I think back to when Laddie hatched
and I told Rita that I only wanted him if he
was a she. I only wanted a female because I
was unsure how Knight would react to another
male. Things had gone so smoothly introducing
females to Knight. I was worried that bringing
another male would not go as smoothly. When
his testing came back that Laddie was a male
I remember Rita telling me how special he was.
I thought about it for just a few minutes and
decided that I wanted him. I had no idea that
when Rita said Laddie was special just how special
she meant. When I watch Laddie turn tears into
laughter and give of himself unconditionally
I fall more in love with him. He is my little
blue and gold special angel. I will never tire
of watching his beauty. I try each day to give
back to him the love and that he gives to everyone.
I cannot imagine a greater gift in my life than
my four feathered babies.