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Laddie>>Back to Index
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.

Laddie                                                          First week notes
Laddie                                                          Week 2 notes
Laddie                                                          Week 3 notes
Laddie                                                          Week 4 notes

LaddieFirst week notes

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.

As 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 innocence.

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 December day.

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 the heart.

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.

LaddieWeek 2 notes

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 world.

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 the residents.

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 be loved.

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.

LaddieWeek 3 notes

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 world.

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 snowflake.

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 it.

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 to Ann.

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.

LaddieWeek 4 notes

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 it.

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.

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