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We have had a quick rebound from the storm, and then some. A few weeks ago, about the time the empty bottle was rejected, I also bought a couple of new toys. One is called "Almond Bread", it is thin wood in a bread shape which has corrugated cardboard layers with almonds layered in it. It has bright colored ropes and looked like something Gilbert and Java might like. It was firmly rejected and ejected from both cages. Then, I bought another acrylic based paper roll holder which uses adding machine tape as a refill. Java has had hers for years and we joke that she is a little accountant in there doing her "financials". Gilbert would have no part of it and it was outside the cage where he would climb to play. I didn't leave it there but tore off a short section for him. He wouldn't go near it. I held up a piece to him and he runs away. I showed him how Java will tear it up if I hold a piece for her, nothing doing. So, after the big storm and his whirlwind of momentary chest plucking he has been a little more touchy than usual, but thankfully, no more plucking. This morning he seemed to have an interest in tentatively punching a hole or two in the paper slip I handed him, so I wove it through the bars of his cage near the door. He would skirt around the scary looking thing on his way out the door but didn't play with it. I went over to take it off his cage as I was getting ready to give him his almond and night time scratches. When I started to take it away, he pulled to snatch it back from me. I thought it was just a reaction like trying to swipe me today when I was filling his food dish. I held the paper out and he started pulling off shreds and flinging them and grabbing it to do again. He was standing firmly on the cage top and had a good footing and he started grabbing it and shaking back and forth much like a puppy playing with a rope toy. It was hard to decide if he was upset or if he was playing. I haven't actually seen him play in a year that he has been with us. It was definitely play. He is playing! I let him make a pile of shreds on the living room floor and ripped off another ten inches or so of the paper. He has dragged it to the tip top of the cage top play stand. He is the king of the hill. He is climbing all over the cage top, up and down the curved ladders. It is a new day for Gilbert.

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Thank you Karen.  It takes me a lot longer to do regular things and I tire easily but just as Gilbert's progress has been slow and is a game of two steps forward, one backward, onward and upward we tr

Yeah, that's not a game you want to start.  They will "play" for hours after you have stopped, believe me, I know.  We're still working on a certain sound extinguishing around here and, while progress

Hey, how are you feeling these days?  Is Gilbert taking good care of you?

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As I prepared to go to bed last night, the last thing I do to wind down the night is to have a little snuggle time with Java, then her almond, a scratch for Gilbert and then his almond. He knows when it is his turn now and I don't even ask, he runs off the top of the cage, swings into his favorite perch for a scratch and when I gave him his almond at the end, he did the same fling of the almond and a lunge for a bite. I was quicker this time and escaped his bite. He bit the wires and had a full on tantrum. This time his almond went out of the cage through the open food door and I made a point of picking it up and showing it to him and putting it back in the almond container and told him no bite and he got no night night sweet bird with his snack time. As I awakened this morning, I had an insight. Both these incidents were preceded with a stressor for Gilbert. The first time it was a little while after we got home from my daughters and he had seen her cat for the first time. This time it was the storm and having the excitement of not only going to the basement for shelter which was out of his comfort zone, during a storm which gets him into a turmoil, but we also had company he had never met. They kept their distance and didn't interact with him, but the household was out of the quiet zone he usually finds soothing. When I expected him to be jumpier and out of sorts, he was much more calm and centered than I expected. It was the second quiet day when he had been predictable all day that he had his meltdown and trick bite. I wonder if it is somewhat like my own reaction in life when there is a crisis. During some real crises, I am calm, in an automatic almost trance like state where I make all the necessary motions to be competent and do what must be done. When my children have been sick or hurt would be an example. I may stay awake all night with a sick child trying to get a fever down. When my daughter had a seizure for instance, I would be all business, checking her airways, keeping calm for her. But after the visit to the emergency room and home again with her back to normal, is when I would suddenly start to tremble and feel out of control. Maybe during crisis Gilbert is doing all he can internally not to revert to the plucking and hysteria and it is a day or two later when he is showing me just how traumatic the events have been. This is a maybe, I am just thinking it through. It could be this is his temperment and he is asserting that he wants to be "first" and maybe I took too long to get to him with his almond and he didn't have the patience to wait his turn while he was more "torqued up" than normal. This morning he is singing my praises "good morning sweetheart" in more jolly tones and he stepped up and he let me scratch his head out of the cage. I have to say that with a bruise still evident on my fingernail and the near miss last night, I have a little more fear of a bite coming suddenly without any posturing or "tell" but I believe in feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Maybe I just feel more warmth and forgiveness because he missed last night. I appreciate having this forum so much because what I may not remember, there will be someone here helping me to put the pieces together with a little distance for emotional objectivity. Also by keeping a running "log" I can go back to look at time frames and find nuances that I would otherwise have forgotten.

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I really enjoy reading your insights and enjoy following your thought processes as you and Gilbert progress through this journey. Your writings could be a guideline for patience and understanding a difficult personality whether bird , dog, cat, horse or human that has been through any psychological trauma. Great job of sharing how Gilbert keeps showing more trust and more personality as he feels safer and understands more of your household and your caring interactions. Keep up the wonderful progress reports!

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I am seeing evidence that he is pushing boundaries in other areas such as play as well as he is getting more brave about hopping down onto the floor, then wandering around. This weekend when he got on the floor, I stayed in the kitchen and he came out to me. He would go under a chair, wait until he worked up some nerve, then quickly quickly dash to the ottoman and hang out under there making his warning siren sounds trying to get me to come rescue him. I stayed put and he finally came right to my chair in the kitchen with much encouragement. He only covered about six feet of floor space that wasn't under furniture where he felt hidden. Also, he has been eliciting scratches from my husband, taking almonds from him and even has stepped up when asked. That is major that he is responding to someone other than me. At the same time, he is refusing me at times and discovering that nothing happens, I ask for a step up where he would generally comply and he does not want to step up so he turns his back to me. After he bit me when I was giving him an almond, for the next few days, I just offered him an almond in his dish rather than to set up a confrontation. I am certain that I misread some of his behavior but for the most part I give him room to feel safe. He was playing with me again this morning. I will post a video, you can see him flinch when I move, he is always wound up so tight and so nervous, but I see bits of change. It is very likely he could be getting hormonal with the spring season. If that is the case, I am applauding because it makes him braver to move into some new positive behavior as well. He ran to the bars this morning and continues to elicit a scratch when I get up or come into the room and he is talking and making contact calls to me when I am out of the room.

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I got a very short clip of Gilbert with his paper tape play. You can see he is on the very top of his playtop and he is still quite timid and jittery. Now though, when I leave paper up there on the play top, he will get it and take it to the highest perch to tear it apart. This is big news because for the past year if he is offered any toy or paper, non-food item, he gets frightened and will sit on one perch huddled in a little ball.

Today he was dropping the main piece of paper tape through the bars and then would climb back into his cage, climb to the bottom grate and retrieve it, then carry it all the way back up to the highest perch to play and shred it.
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What a sweetheart Gilbert is in that video... I love seeing how such a tiny little man contains such a big personality! Marcus agrees that chewing up paper is fun :) and he will attest that, little by little, even rehomed birdies with more 'colorful' pasts (that's a nice way of saying it) can eventually mellow out and begin enjoying their lives with their human parronts as they should. I'm so glad to hear that Gilbert is still on his way down that road, himself, one step at a time. :)

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Gilbert is definitely showing signs that he is getting braver. Today he "flew" off his cage twice to follow me from the room. He has been consistently playing with the paper. I feel like jumping up and cheering for him though when I see him move the foot toys on the cage top and when he plays with the little plastic "busy box". I am being very aware of this being a transition time of some sort. Sometimes he postures and bites his bars and throws almond shells or his pellets at me. A second later he tucks his head and asks for a "tickle" which to him means he wants a scratch on his head. I have identified why it made me so darn mad when he bit my finger when I was giving him his almond. Usually, I can pinpoint the loud noise or other stressor that will preceed a bite and I know that he has bitten me from a fear response. Two or three nights in a row when I give him his almond, he may take the almond every so gently as always and then fling it and try to bite me. It seems very premeditated and it just dawned on me tonight that he is absolutely unapologetic. In the past, if he bit me, he would almost immediately look shocked and start saying he is sorry. He has not been saying sorry and I suspect if he is sorry, it is only when he misses. LOL. Sometimes just minutes later, he is letting me scratch his head or asking for a step up. I can't even begin to tell you that in all the years we have had different parrots, the unpredictability with him just in the past few weeks makes me wonder if my friends are right when they say I must be crazy to let him get close to me after the wicked bites he is capable and willing to inflict. I keep thinking, this too shall pass. When he is sweet, there is nothing like the warmth of his head in my hand, it makes me forget to be scared. Or.... maybe it is my increasing age that causes memory lapses. LOL. He gets farther from his cage lately and looked every bit like a rooster strutting around on the kitchen floor today trying to follow me. It is the greatest distance he has branched out from his cage all on his own. I was watching from afar but quietly just looking to see what he would do. Something is changing, I can't quite decide what that is, but I think he is finally getting more curious than his usual tightly wound fear and trepidation.

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I just had to come back in for a huge announcement, Gilbert is sitting in his cage contentedly grinding his beak. This is the first time ever. In fact, I thought it was Java and had to peer in there in partial darkness to see that sure enough, it is Gilbert. He will never cease to surprise me.

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More happy news, Gilbert is on top of his cage trying to get almonds from the apple juice bottle! He has been up there for an hour now. He has been going to the cage bottom for a few days scrounging around looking for an almond he might have missed and didn't find any. I put the almonds in the empty bottle, with no lid, and he has managed to roll it around and get two out of it so now he is rolling it and working it over pretty good. I just can't say how much it pleases me to see the changes he is exhibiting, even if it means he is more apt to bite while he is working up his courage. Late last night, after midnight, when David returned from a business trip, Gilbert was very excited and talking to him from a dark room in his cage. We let him "get up" to see Daddy and he was letting David scratch his head just as sweetly as if he has been doing it all his life. We turned the lights back off and he gave his little "hey" which is a request for attention, so we turned the lights on again and he let David scratch him again but would not let me. He is still very unpredictable with me and tries to bite me through the bars one minute and wants a scratch the next. Something new he has been doing is when he holds the bars to get in his friendly position, if he is uncertain and keeps swinging around nervously, I have been rubbing his toes. He stretches them right out and lets me touch them. He has also been letting me rub his beak through the bars. When he sees us coming, he runs quickly into his cage to his favorite spot and gets into his head rub position, so he really seems to be coming around.

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It was hard to decide if he was upset or if he was playing.

 

This times a million - as the kids say these days.

 

I've said it before, but it's almost shocking to me how similar your stories of Gilbert are to what I see from Spencer. Just last weekend he wandered onto the kitchen floor to follow me around as I cleaned the two fish tanks. He was VERY interested in the splashing water and would walk right up to me to see what I was doing. The moment I would show him any attention, though, he would retreat and get defensive. He very much wants to explore things on HIS terms. It's also funny to me what will set him off. I can present all manner of new toys/bottles/paper, and he'll either play with, destroy, or toss them. Yet I got a hunk of grape vine I plan to use on a play stand, and he is TERRIFIED of it. It's almost funny, but of course not. This is real terror. Maybe it's too 'snake-like,' though not any more so than the 'wacky wood' perch already in his cage.

 

It is a long road we travel with these guys - with bumps and potholes along the way. Just remember (as I know you do) that the journey is as important as the destination.

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Wouldn't it be something if we found out Gilbert and Spencer were from the same breeder? It is a long road and the journey is certainly filled with rollercoaster thrills-a-minute. I think we have been slowly chugging uphill for the past year and when we hit the crest we will be cheering and hooting together through the twists and turns. Today when my husband came in the door, Gilbert made a monumental effort to fly. He carried himself twenty to thirty feet losing altitude the whole time but then he did it again an hour or so later.

 

You know Wingy, I think you are onto something there. I have taken classes and prepared for foster children twice, but we were too likely to get moved out of state so I couldn't commit. So, I have taken it upon myself to find families through our children at school and help foster families take break time whenever I can. I am just getting started working with a quilt group to make quilts for foster children and it is a goal to be involved even if I am not in a position to be a foster parent myself. I had not thought about Gilbert's behavior in that particular perspective, but you are right, his trust has been broken and he is paying a heavy price for the decisions of others. I know he is going to shine in his own right, it just will take some time for him to find his way.

 

My daughter is one of his favorite people and she is coming to stay for the weekend while we go to a wedding in Texas. I am of the mind that for the short term, it is really just a day and a half I will be gone, but hoping absence makes the heart grow fonder. That would be on his part, even when he is grumpy, I love him to the last little pinfeather. I would have to admit, I would bite someone occasionally if it were socially acceptable. LOL. He has been particularly active today and I even saw him digging foot toys out of the stainless steel bucket that has been on his playtop since he came here. I often pull toys out and show them to him. I untie the leather laces and give him a bead, then let him watch while I tie it back on. It just warms my heart to see him getting more active and a little more physical.

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I know it is still early, but I am getting more certain that Gilbert is on the verge of flight. Today he landed in a chair in the living room at least twelve feet from his cage, there was a lot of flapping and bouncing and his little chest was heaving. It didn't "really" look like "flight" but it is a start and it is the farthest distance he has covered without being almost on the floor. We went out of town to Austin Texas for a wedding. I was concerned for the little guy since he has been in a bit of a change of behavior, but our daughter is one of his favorite people and he did fine while we were gone. I found a few of the downy feathers from his chest around his cage, nothing alarming. He is definitely a little more grumpy so I am gently giving him a little room and letting him lead the way. Last night he refused his night time almond and then sounded his foghorn warnings while he watched me snuggle Java and scratch her head. He called out to her and called her pretty girl, so it wasn't her that made him "owly". I don't think my absence was too traumatic, more that he is just letting me know it wasn't on his agenda. On the bright side, today he has been extra acrobatic on the outside of his cage, crawling around on the grates at the bottom and had ventured to attempt to fly several times toward where I am in the room. As soon as he gets to me, he steps up and asks to go back. The mood swings seem to show much internal conflict. My greatest hope is that he really is on the verge of being able to fly. It would change our lives. I am convinced it would give him a lot more control and I think that would ease a lot of his fright and nervousness. It might increase mine though, LOL. His occasional tantrums have so much rage, it scares me just a little, but we can handle it together.

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Three cheers for Gilbert!!! Obviously very sorry to hear about the bites and tantrums, and his angst during the storm, but his confidence is obviously growing, and to hear of him playing, beak grinding (amazing) and offering little kisses to David, just makes my heart smile! Three cheers for you too Dee! xx

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I was desperately hoping for a silver lining in our grump fest and I see some positive changes that make me more certain that this is a developmental stage or phase Gilbert is going through. I had heard about the honeymoon phase and unpacking baggage and all, but it seems that a year in we would have seen most of the worst of it. Last night at bed time, just out of the blue he ducked his head and begged for extra attention. I stayed up a long time stroking his head and neck through the bars where he feels safe. This morning he greeted me and went from spot to spot to ask for a scratch and I obliged. He seems back to his old self again. The new things though are so encouraging. He goes to the cage top and so very delicately, cautiously, he picks a toy from the bucket and then jumps and drops it. I see more evidence that he was playing while I was out of the room yesterday. This morning he rattled the empty bottle with an almond in it and was much more assertive about it. He also pulled a thick leather lace down through the bars of the cage top and then he swung on it. The way he was flapping and squawking, I couldn't tell if he had a grip on it or if it had him. He has been beak grinding a little more and that just is music to my ears. He makes my heart smile too Lyn. I think every sweet moment is accentuated when he has been so unpredictable. I am seeing him be more... hmm, I don't know what, I guess less uptight and frozen with fear would be more like it. He is coming off the cage several times a day now and they are not precipitated by a fright, more that he is exploring. When I come to pick him up, he always leans in to me and lets me kiss the top of his beak and makes a kissing sound back. I spent the entire day downstairs yesterday at the long arm quilt machine. He kept calling out to me and I would come upstairs and check on him. It was still too cold down there to take him with me, but it is looking better for today. Maybe a change of scenery will do him some good.

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O Happy Day! Not only is is playing a little, he is trying new things. I have been seeing him on the bottom of his cage more often, he stands in the open doorway at the bottom and looks over his kingdom, perhaps dreaming of further exploration. Last night he was on the tip top perch on the cage top and he was pulling on some strings of a large toy hanging there. Then he held still for a long time and David and I were wondering what he was doing. I got up for a closer look and he was kind of hunched over, he was leaning his head into the toy as if he was asking for a scratch and he was slowly rubbing his own neck. I asked if he wanted a scratch and he leaned right over and let me scratch his head with no bars between us. Considering his moodiness for the past few weeks, this is monumental. Then when I stopped, he offered me a step up and came to sit on the back of the sofa for lots and lots of scratches and closeness. He still jumped and took a swipe at me when he heard David banging around in the kitchen to take the trash out and when he heard a sound outside, but for the most part he was all warm and cozy with his eyes closed. He is definitely opening up and his progress is encouraging. I will take what he is able to give and not put too much pressure on him, but it is good to see him play a little with toys and start to lighten up a bit.

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Two days? Oh just in two hours he was scurrying over for what I thought would be another scratch offer and instead he tried to bite me through the bars and then threw pellets at me but in seconds, then tucked his head for a scratch. When Sarah described his "issues" over the two and a half year time with her, she said he was unpredictable. I thought they all were, but lately I don't know who will meet me in two seconds that it takes for him to go from one extreme to another. I do look at the long long range plans and give him room to explore his many moods. Actually, I understand that alter ego, mine is Dolores and she comes out in ugly traffic. I try to keep a lid on the ole bugger though. Maybe if Gilbert traveled with me more often he would be too scared of her to get skittish and fling pellets. Or..... he has seen her and that is who he is pelting with empty almond shells. LOL. All I can say today is how happy I am to see him playing. He discovered the wall behind his cage today and was leaning on it and talking to hear his resonance or something like that. He was "drawing" on the wall with his beak, hanging upside down behind the cage and testing the wall behind him. I am still mesmerized by the little character.

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I was being generous with the "two days." :D So you're a Jekyll and Hyde, too, huh? I've gotten much better since being a father - have to parent by example, right? And perhaps also since having Spencer. But all patience has limits.

 

As for the beak thing, Spencer LOVES checking out what sounds things make when he taps his beak on them. Glass and plastic bottles, mugs, plastic buckets, a metal colander - anything new has to be 'thumped.' Also, if he can put his head INSIDE the item, he'll do that and make some clicks or grunts to see what those sound like 'from the inside' as well. Funny stuff.

 

Question about the almonds - do you give them in the shell? Can he open them? I've given Spencer a few nuts in-shell, but he doesn't seem to know what to do with them. Even ones I crack for him, more times than not, he'll toss the nut and play with the shell. Turkey.

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