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Home > News & Events > Other Announcements > MAARS Turns 13 - Join the 2011 Flock Challenge! > Rascal: The Funny Wrestler

Rascal: The Funny Wrestler

by Jamie McCarthy, Volunteer Director

Rascal, a Blue-front Amazon, arrived at MAARS in August, 2008. He had been left at the Animal Humane Society and was lost and confused when he came to MAARS.

This was a busy time at MAARS as we prepared to make our big move to St. Paul and as we settled into the new shelter birds were moved around as we searched for the most compatible groups and the right space for them. Rascal did not show a particular interest in interacting with people and seemed fearful when approached but to a new flock member the humans also probably seemed distracted and always in a hurry.

Rascal made a great effort to befriend another blue front Amazon, Chuck, who had arrived at MAARS at about the same time. But Chuck and Rascal have very different personalities. Chuck is quieter and more contemplative; Rascal is energetic and wily. Rascal loves to wrestle, hang upside down and “buzz” volunteers and other birds showing off his precision flying.

As it became clear that Chuck would not be the close play friend that Rascal sought, he sank into a deeper and deeper funk. He became less playful and more aggressive.

The MAARS Avian Care Committee, responsible for overseeing acute and long-term care regimens, reviewed Rascal’s case. The Committee solicited feedback from volunteers who knew him well and weighed multiple options to help him be happier in the flock. Several members of the committee felt strongly that Rascal’s quality of life could be improved through intensified one-on-one work with a small group of volunteers.

Several volunteers across multiple shifts agreed to work with Rascal and communicate with each other on the best way to approach him, work with him and figuring out what he enjoyed doing.

The first thing we learned is he is crazy about nutriberries, particularly tropical fruit nutriberries. This gave us a way to establish contact in a non-threatening way. We also quickly learned he really enjoyed playing “make-the-humans-fetch” with wiffle balls (but not too big!) The way he played demonstrated he was very smart and had a sense of humor.

We began initiating contact during wrestling matches. He especially enjoyed chains and ropes so he could work his way toward our hands.

We also noticed that when one of his people came in the room, Rascal would do a happy dance in his house, turning upside down and bouncing until he received a special greeting.

About 9 months after starting our work with him Rascal took the brave step to grab a volunteer’s finger with his beak. It was a little harder than one would like but the volunteer recognized it for the breakthrough step it was.

Over the next few months, Rascal continued to work on appropriate beaking and playing. And he started saying “I love you.” He had kept that to himself until he was sure.

In June of this year Rascal had another breakthrough. With no wrestling or other play, he stepped up for a volunteer and gave her a kiss. After years of working with the MAARS flock it continues to amaze us that we can have these experiences that stop our hearts and make us feel that all the grungy, grunt work of cleaning enclosures is worth it for the opportunity to connect with another being in such a meaningful way – two different species figuring out how to trust and communicate with one another.

He is now turning into a regular snuggle monster. He loves getting his cheeks and jaw rubbed and preened, having his beak rubbed and getting his belly tickled. In these moments of play and connection, Rascal is pure joy.


Join the MAARS 2011 Flock Challenge and Help Birds like Rascal!

Such success stories are the reason MAARS Staff are exceptionally dedicated to the organization's work and are able to continue year after year, despite witnessing so much suffering, tragedy, and trauma. Birds like Rascal who demonstrate courage, resiliency, and the willingness to forgive and trust, provide us with great hope and priceless rewards.

To show your support for the work MAARS does to help birds like Rascal, join the MAARS 2011 Flock Challenge and become a MAARS Supporting Flock Member today!


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