Ziyal, the Rescue Of A Moluccan Cockatoo
"What kind of creatures are we?"
Ziyal was born as 'Nikki' to an obviously loving handfeeder. She probably was sold to a pet shop, then soon after was bought by someone who loved her very much. For her first few years of life, Nikki was probably spoiled and very loved. But unfortunately for her, something in her owners lives changed, and she found herself in a new home....and after some time of getting used to her new family, Nikki was again uprooted and had to adjust again to a new family. Well, she didn't want anything to do with it. She was scared, lonely, and beginning to learn not to get too close to anyone because her life would probably change again soon. And change it did.
Nikki. who was about 8 years old, once more had to adapt, but this time it was different. She didn't have gentle hands to cuddle her - she had an older Moluccan male who wanted to mate with her. Nikki liked his gentle preening, but was too young and too people oriented to know about 'the birds and the bees'. She did not welcome her mate's advances, she just wanted to be left alone. Her mate became more and more aggressive, and soon began to batter Nikki. Thankfully the breeder separated the two before he could kill Nikki (he had killed his last mate, and the one before that).
The breeder had good intentions - another mate was to be purchased and slowly introduced to Nikki - visions of baby Moluccans and the dollars they would bring danced in the breeders mind.
So here was Nikki. She once was adored, cuddled and treated as one of them family. Seven homes and eight years later, here she sat. Thoughts like "Why is it that whenever I start to trust someone, I get sent away? Why did that other bird want to hurt me? Why am I all alone in this cage, locked in night and day with nothing to do? What is the matter with me? Why can't anyone love me?" filled her mind. She was scared, alone with no hope.
The breeder could not find a male Moluccan that was suitable (he wanted a young male, but did not want to pay too much for it) so Nikki was off once again to another temporary home - a pet store somewhere in the Toronto, Ontario area. Time went by, and a nice, older man bought Nikki. The older man gave Nikki to his wife as a gift with the hopes that caring for Nikki would bring them closer together. The couple, whose children were all grown up, were having marital problems, but loved Nikki and treated her like a child. They gave her love, good food, and lots of toys. Nikki was finally happy. Unfortunately, Ziyal's story doesn't end here.
A few years went by, and the couple were fighting a lot. The nice old man wasn't so nice anymore, and the wife was never home. Nikki began to feel neglected. One day the wife left, and never came back. 'Divorce' was the word that brought Nikki's happy, contented life to an end. The old man began drinking, and ignored Nikki for days. Nikki tried to cheer him up with her singing, but it just made him more angry. She begged for cuddles, but instead of love, she felt the sting of the old man's hand hitting her. "Shut up, you dumb f***ing bird" he would say as he hit her. (I know this because she this phrase a few times in the beginning when she begged me for attention and I didn't respond right away)
Nikki, now afraid and confused, called for the wife. After a couple of days of calling, being hit, calling some more, being hit more, the old man put her in a closet. There in the dark, Nikki sat. No more wife who gave her cuddles and good food. No more sunlight. Her world was now a cage in a dark closet, sunflower seeds for food, clean water every few days, and nothing left to do.
Nikki began to occupy her time by preening. Preening became more interesting if she shredded her feathers. Shredded feathers were too itchy, so Nikki pulled them out. "Pulled feathers are fun to play with...l think I'll pull some more out to play with" she must have thought. With no more feathers, Nikki's skin became dry and irritated. Scratching was not enough, so sh began to bite her skin until it bled. "Hmmm... a new thing to do! I can make myself bleed, and it feels good to be the one in control of my pain. I can make myself hurt, and if I keep at it, maybe the old man might pay some attention to me!"
The old man remembered to feed and water Nikki one awful day, and he saw what she had done to herself. His Ex-wife was gone, his children were gone, evenmhis bird was trying to leave him by dying.
Remorsefully, his hand reached in to gather Nikki up and hold her. He wanted to apologise to Nikki.
Nikki was terrified that his hand was going to hit her again. From somewhere deep in her soul she decided she had gone through enough. With every ounce of strength she could muster, she took a stand. She bit that awful hand and shrieked as loud as she could. The old man, drunk and angry, grabbed Nikki's wing. A sound that Nikki had never heard before echoed in the air. The old man had broken her wing. He closed her cage door. "It's your own fault, you f**ing bird," he told her as he closed the closet door.
Days went by, and the pain began to fade. Nikki had decided as her wing was broken that she will never trust another human as long as she lived. "Humans live to hurt you. Humans only love you until something better comes along. Humans abandon you. Humans are the most evil thing that lives. Humans cannot be trusted at any cost," she must have thought.
The old man once more tried to get Nikki out for a cuddle. She held on to her perch tight and yelled at the old man. He grabbed his lighter and placed it under the pads of her feet to make her step up. Her skin blistered and burned, but she held on tight. The pain was excruciating. When he finally gave up and left her in the darkness once again, she fell off her perch in agony.
Once again the old man wanted to make amends. His daughter was coming to visit him, and he wanted everything to be the way it once was. He opened the closet door and once again tried to get Nikki to step onto his hand, but Nikki was too weak from her wing fracture and her lack of food. She was on the bottom of her filthy cage, lying in her own droppings. The old man gently picked her up, and maybe he even said he was sorry.
Nikki somehow managed to find some strength, and once again let out a blood curdling screech. The old man had had enough. In a drunken rage, he threw Nikki across the room and into the corner of the wall. Nikki felt her keelbone break as she fell into blackness.
The old man's daughter came over that day. She found her father drunk, asleep on the couch. There was blood on the wall. There was blood on the floor. She followed the trail of blood droplets to her mother's closet, and when she opened it, she saw Nikki. Within minutes Nikki was at the Vet's office. Nikki's broken body could be fixed, but she may not live. Nikki's broken spirit would probably never heal. Putting Nikki to sleep seemed like the only option for her, but Nikki caught a tech's attention, and soon the word was out - Nikki would be operated on if someone could adopt her, and keep her forever. No money was to exchange hands, only the assurance that Nikki was going to stay with me for life.
In February 1998, I drove home from Toronto with a very angry, very abused Moluccan Cockatoo. She hissed the entire 6 hour drive. Nikki's first few days with me were fairly unremarkable, she stayed in the back of her cage most of the time and hissed at everything and everyone. She took her antibiotics and Haloperidol with very little fuss. The only time she really became uncontrollable is when she heard her name. Calling her Nikki would send her slamming against the bars of her cage, so after a lot of thinking, I settled on the name Ziyal (zee-al), or Z (zee) for short. I also did something that I don't recommend - I gave her total freedom. Her cage door was removed, and to this day I have NEVER locked her in her cage. The vet removed Z's stitches, and with her help, we weaned her off of the Haloperidol (an anti-psychotic drug) and introduced Z to a balanced diet. After she gained a bit of weight, and some strength, and she could once again tolerate the light (months of darkness affected her eyes) I began to work on her 'soul'. I hate to use the term 'rehabilitate' because it reminds me of convicts who have done a vile deed and must be rehabilitated in order to rejoin society. Z is not a criminal, she is a victim.
My first step was to show her that I was never going to hurt her. I like to use reverse weaning to accomplish this, so I handfed her with a spoon, and soon she began to beg for food. While she would eat, I would talk gently, and give her scratches. By the time Z was 3 months old (I think of Feb. 2nd as her birthday - the start of her new life) she was letting me cuddle her. She began to sleep on the edge of my pillow at night, and call for me if I left her alone. I had to take her everywhere. She was bonding to me very nicely. Her first moult was a very trying time. She began to pluck out her new feathers, and self-mutilate, so I had to put a collar on her. She began to test her boundaries, and tried to find out what she could get away with. Z was really starting to blossom into a wonderful companion. She was into everything, and was starting to play with her toys. Her feet were all better, and she began climbing apple branches that I brought in the house for her. She even began to say "Hello".
Z has been with me for over a year now, and she is truly a joy. She is still afraid of men, and still is afraid of new people, new things, new food, but as long as I am near her, Z's confidence allows her to meet these new situations and explore the possibilities they present. She has developed a wonderful zest for life, and loves to play. She chases the cat, she insists on cuddle time, she 'helps' with my daily chores by chasing the broom, shredding my dishtowels, eating my wooden spoons, and gets into all sorts of mischief.
Ziyal has brought so much to my life, and has taught my children firsthand about the power of unconditional love and what it can do. She may not look very pretty to most people, but to me she is the most beautiful bird in the world, both inside and out.
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