Monday, August 1, 2011

Heidi Fleiss Prostitutes to Parrots – More Parrots Please

Like a lot of parrot lovers I was anxious to see the new Heidi Fleiss Prostitutes to Parrots program on Animal Planet. I had known it was in the works for quite a while now. The name Heidi Fleiss immediately conjures up all sorts of salacious stories and no doubt was the hook to get people to watch. However as a parrot person my hook was the twenty macaws! Finally a program featuring parrots. There are millions of parrot people who have been waiting for the world to learn what we already know. Sharing your life with a parrot can be truly amazing.

Clearly Heidi adores her parrots and her concern for their well being is genuine. I got that and I do think other parrots lovers could relate. However I do wonder about the folks who don’t have parrots?

The most important personalities overlooked in this program where the stars themselves, the parrots. Parrot people do tend to be labeled as crazy. Heidi herself keeps referring to herself as acting like a crazy parrot person. While there were a few things about her parrot care that could be less odd, I do understand why she loves her birds. But without spending some time focusing on what it is about parrots that makes them so important to her I don’t think the rest of the world got the message. Instead we see Heidi being obsessive and reclusive playing with a mob of macaws who don’t seem to do much of anything except take over the house and bite the hired help.

I know that is not the image I want people to see when they think about pet parrots. And I tend to think that is not what Heidi would want either. Television is a powerful tool. It can entertain but it can also educate. I think there is a huge opportunity to help people understand the powerful positive aspects of life with parrots. People can learn what makes them special, how to provide excellent care, what to do about those biting behaviors, how to provide a great habitat for them (and why spending $2000 a month on pistachios is probably not such a good thing for parrots.) I do hope if the show lasts beyond the pilot the producers will let us get to know the parrots. There is a story there that people want to see.

Right now it seems most television is about when animals attack, or about people who hoard animals or keep dangerous pets. It reminds me when it was OK to dress chimpanzees in tutus and have them ride bikes. People flocked to the attraction and money was made. However at some point somebody stood up and said that is the wrong message to send about animals. And now most of the world doesn’t support that type of animal experience.

I think we are at similar crossroads with animal related TV. Where is the television that showcases the positive impact animals have on our lives? I personally have no interest in those animal attack type programs and I have a feeling I am not alone on this one. Let me know what you think in the comments below and I will make sure to let Animal Planet know what you would like to see when it comes to parrot related television.

Barbara Heidenreich
Copyright 2011


big tom mccarthy said...

Your words are strong, very strong. I cannot agree more!!

lisalazarus said...

Thanks for bringing this up--I was curious about what kind of portrayal the birds would get...she has created a bit of craziness for herself and probably made the birds a little more crazy too. I was a little too unstructured for my tastes--the birds don't NEED to be in every nook and cranny and especially not on the floor--I don't know if I'll watch again--it was definitely not ABOUT THE BIRDS...I'm glad for her and I can see how the birds help her, but she's not doing the best by them by not making some of her show educational--once again--parrots are so misunderstood--which is why I got into parrot rescue.

Debbie The Parrot Lady said...

Well said, Barbara. I have not seen the show, nor would I normally under such a horrific name. Yet, like you, I want to see the stars, the parrots. Having been a very small part of the hoarding show, which was about a friend of mine who is not a hoarder but we were mislead thinking it was about amazing animal families. Nope, it was hoarding. That said, why is it that people give so much viewership (how is that determined, anyway) to such garbage things and not the things that help us all look better or feel better about ourselves or the world around us? Like the home makeover show. That's a good one...why can't we have something good about animals?

Mary Genotti-Collins said...

I am not getting the impression these birds are well cared for. Thus far we've seen her shower attention on her favorite and feed them eggs from a fork or squash soup from a bowl. I think any animal behaviorist and most parrot owners could set her "on the straight and narrow" about parrots in less than a week. But---would she listen or take the advice? Where are the authorities demanding she provide proper care? "Love" isn't enough to sustain a bird, Love is finding out what the "best" is and trying to provide it. Letting a child run the streets is not love, neither is letting parrots have free rein to destroy your home. I'd like to see a "well thought of behaviorist" and possibly a veterinarian straighten this "hot mess" out. That would keep me watching that show.

Pet Expectations said...

I completely agree with you on this. Animals in my life has made it richer and more full of laughter than I have ever experienced with humans. I lived in a silent marriage without children. When parrots came into my life so did the sun. I'd always had pets but parrots have completely changed my life. I never stop laughing and each one has their own personality. For obvious reasons I chose life with my pets and left the lifeless marriage behind. There is definitely work involved and I feel a program that really shows what's involved but what an incredible experience it is to share a house with them would be a real gem! When I clean cages I work but I also get entertained! They're all hanging out with me wanting to know "what are you doing", we do silly laughs I practice songs with them. They energize me.

zoob said...

I have not seen the show, but I think that the points that Barbara made are very important. Television sensationalizes topics to get an audience; how it affects things, the societal impact is often ignored. Wouldn't it be amazing to see how people's perceptions and actions might change if there were programs that modeled positive interaction and care taking of pets and other animals? How would our cultural understanding shift? One way people learn is by observation and exposure. If millions of people were to observe and be exposed to realistic and positive images of these relationships, I have to think (or at least hope) that over time there would be a shift.
In my own case, as I learned more about each type of animal I have had, I can look at the trend over time. I see how my interactions and thoughts were influenced by those around me; it wasn't always positive, especially in the earlier years of dog training. I feel fortunate that when birds came into my life (aside from my special parakeet when I was a child) I had a knowledgeable friend and then quickly found the likes of Barbara.
Just my meandering thoughts on the topic! Thank you for your forum, Barbara!

Parrot Monk said...

Thank you so much Barbara for sharing your thoughts and providing such strong words. Being someone that has worked with animals since childhood, and with bird in particular for over 35 years, I completely agree with your comments.


Anonymous said...

I agree that she cares about her parrots, but I think she's not doing what is best for their health or safety. Allowing macaws to freely destroy the house and cause an electrical fire is not in the best interests of the birds (Oh, the tragedy if they were to have been burned alive.). The way she feeds them is not in their best interests. Not providing them with any boundaries as to how to properly interact with people is not in their best interests.

We all know these birds will probably outlive her. She needs to care for them in such a way that they can have a decent chance at successful rehoming when Fleiss dies.

Anonymous said...

I saw a promotional thing for this Heidi Animal Planet show on this mornings Today Show. 11/16/2011
I'm owned by a 19 year old Grey Parrot that we adopted / rescued. ( they were so mean to him ). He had pulled his feathers out and was biting everyone. Now he has all of his feathers, and is a very polite parrot. He sings and laughs, tries to argue, boss me around, or beg and plead. He has a vocabulary that rivals a toddler. I love the bird it loves me, NOW, that said... They are a lot of work. Sure they talk and that is cute, but sometimes they won't shut up. They are so intelligent and can live for such a long time when cared for properly, that most people have no business buying a parrot. Think about it, ...over half of the marriages in the USA don’t last 10 years, yet people buy parrots for the spoiled kids. They spoil the bird, and when it acts spoiled they get mad whack it around, eventually they ignore it, and it ends up in a corner covered up screeching and pulling it’s feathers out... with the mentality of a toddler, living like that for the remainder of it’s 65 years. And THAT is nothing short of torture in my eyes. Parrots are great friends. If you have a chance to adopt a parrot, think it over long and hard, get ready for a life change and then do it if you can. Personally I think they should not be sold to just anyone. I feel that with a good person they are the best animal friends you could ever ask for, but in this consumer culture we live in, some if not most could end up living a very sad life.

I would give my life for the African Grey that owns me. But it only gets to come out when it’s good. ( that is most of the time because he asks please ) He only gets treats if he eats his parrot food, and it’s fruit and veggies. He is a little spoiled in that he has real separation anxiety. We have a perch that he loves to sit on, and we can easily move it from room to room so he can be with us as part of his perceived flock. They are great friends but not the kind of thing that should be sold in your average pet store or purchased over the internet.

Mocknbird2 said...

I agree that people should have to get some sort liscense to own a parrot. Something that shows they've learned proper nutrition and other needs to keep a parrot healthy and happy. Also to show their commitment to the bird. I get sick when I hear someone say they have to give up their bird (or any pet)because they're moving. What a LAME excuse. I would never live somewhere my birds couldn't be with me. ANyone who would should never own a parrot.
I admire Heidi Fleiss' devotion to her birds. Yes, there are things she could do better and she probably would if better informed.

Mariel said...

I have 2 macaws and have had up to four macaws in the house at any one time. Almost all of my macaws are re-homes or rescues. I was disappointed by this show also; her birds were beautiful, but it gave the impression that owning macaws means you need to let them chew up your home. I adore my birds, but I sure do not allow them to hurt my visitor's. Homes are for people and their pets--we need to respect each others needs.

sarah said...

Good response heidi is doing what she can