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A Lot of Attitude Going on There

November 6, 2015

Above: From a TINY journal I made with paper I was testing (Rives lightweight—too light for much of anything really, but it is fun to sketch on it in pen). I think the pages are about 4 inches square. (It’s across the room so I’m not going to go measure it right now. The notes were done at one time and then later in the day after I had visited my mother-in-law, I stopped to sketch the finches in the aviary before making my way home. One of the maintenance guys I always chat with came by too look over my shoulder. "At it again," he said laughing. "Yep, I can't help myself, and this guy is really standing still watching me today." (Finch on the left.) We both laugh.

Dick just came in to kiss the top of my head as I worked, and then go off to his own work. I had some bird sketches up on the screen, debating about whether or not to do some paintings.

Looking over my shoulder he said pointing to the bird on the right:

D: There’s a lot of attitude there.

He said it as if it might be a bad thing, a thing we should be wary of, a thing we should be prepared to deal with, but something he was also smiling at.

R: I think the guy on the left has more of an attitude.

Dick leaned in for a closer look.

D: There’s a whole lot of attitude going on there too. In fact…

He paused and looked between the screen and me and back again to both. Finally just looking at me.

D: Both are just self portraits.

He shrugged at the obvious. With that he left the room muttering in his stage voice, “Yep, a whole lot of attitude.”

I think that’s a good way to start the day. Time to bike. Cold, but no snow yet. 

    • Karen
    • November 6, 2015

    The bird on the left is wearing a coat.?

    • sue c
    • November 6, 2015

    The expression on the gouldian finch is so spot on! They sometimes get them in the pet shop in the UK and they get bought up really fast. Are there many in the aviary? They move pretty fast in the cage at the pet shop. But you’ve really got its expression. It’s great!

  1. Reply

    Thanks sue, most of the time there are two Gouldian Finches at anyone time. A while back my favorite died and his partner was alone for awhile (all the birds are paired up).

    The Aviary is pretty large, probably 12-14 feet long and about 8 feet tall and 3 feet deep. There are lots of branches and perches in the middle of the height and nesting boxes at the back.

    I find the Gouldians we’ve had are pretty curious and like to sit on the branches and watch me, so while they may move a lot they stay pretty much in one area and return to the same position a lot. The one I really liked used to come and sit on the end of the branch that was closest to the front, and cock his head and look at me and my book, look down at my book, probably because that’s where I would look back and forth to. Other times I swear he was posing, “How beautiful am I.” They are used to residents watching them for long periods of time so I think they are a bit calmer about being watched than pet shop birds. I’m glad you like him.

    • Julana
    • November 8, 2015

    Do the elderly residents ever go sit and watch these birds? I always wonder if you are the only beneficiary of the facility’s avian investment.

  2. Reply

    Julana, 99 percent of the time there is at least one resident sitting in a chair near the aviary watching the birds. We usually have a chat as I’m sketching. During certain times of the day, because their days are pretty structured with meals and activities, there will be no residents there, but if I’m leaving (because Phyl wants to play Bingo and I’m not into it) I’ll stand and sketch and there are usually some staff nearby watching. And it’s not unusual to find family, or the youngest (bored) members of a visiting family, standing there watching, while the rest of their family is in the lovely fireside sitting area that is adjacent.

    So I would say there are lots of people benefitting.

    Studies show that elderly with access to something like this, have better attitudes, less depression, more engagement, etc.

    I think it’s well worth it, based on those studies and my own observation. (They sure help me adjust my mental attitude!)

    In the past 6 years because of the folks’ health issues and those of some friends, I’ve been in a lot of care facilities and most of them have this type of set up (some even bigger with lots of doves). There always seems to be residents and visitors around them, though I can certainly make a chart of when I know I’ll be the only one there because of the schedules in the facility.

    What I’ve found most interesting is the way the extremely old interact with their grandchildren and great grandchildren, who are toddlers, when they are sitting and watching the birds in the aviary. That’s really fun to see.

    I don’t know what they have to pay to keep something like this going, but I would definitely say it’s worth it. I hope if I make it to extreme old age and live in a care facility they have one of these! Even if I’m not sketching any more it will be fun to watch the birds.

    And I should say there are lots of “garden-park” areas in the complex where residents can go out and sit in nature and see birds and squirrels, but it’s just so much more accessible for a greater number of residents, some of whom can’t go out on their own because of mobility issues.

    • Julana
    • November 8, 2015

    That is fascinating, because I’ve never seen or heard of animals in assisted living places around here. My father has had several rehab stays, and the only animal I saw was a therapy dog, visiting once or twice. Not even an aquarium or outdoor bird teeders.
    We recently visited an amazing new state-of-the-art facility near here, with a small theatre, library, small store, game room, VW in the therapy area, all along a mock “Main Street,” with wings called neighborhoods. There were no animals or plans for them, that I saw.
    I believe the benefits you describe, for everyone involved.

  3. Reply

    This facility doesn’t have an aquarium (that I’ve seen, it might be tucked away somewhere). I have seen people come and visit with their family dogs. A staff member brings in her small dog. His skittish behavior is proof he isn’t therapy dog-trained, but he is pleasant and the residents enjoy him. (He’s not a fear biter or anything like that, just too curious and always in play mode.)

    Several wings have cats at this facility. There are notes on doors with photos of the cats giving their names and telling you which “house” they belong in, should they wander out. The cats are some of the best I’ve seen, not pushy and demanding, but quiet, observant, and then they reward repeat visitors with familiarity.

    So there is definitely a lot of animal action at this facility.


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