By Alesha Capone
Budgerigar Astro had a broken wing and was scared of people when he arrived at the RSPCA last year.
Astro spent five weeks under the care of veterinarians before Werribee’s Josie Ginty saw a photo of him online and “fell in love”.
Ms Ginty, a final year veterinary student at the University of Melbourne, adopted Astro last April.
Under Ms Ginty’s care, Astro has blossomed into a “handsome boy” who loves treats, sunbaking and singing.
Ms Ginty said she trained Astro, using positive reinforcement, to help him get used to being handled.
“My goal was to associate good things with my presence, like treats, toys, and music to sing along with,” she said.
“Astro was also healing from a broken wing when I first got him, so he had to learn to climb up on my hand whenever he gets trapped somewhere and can’t fly away.
“He’s still always a bit grumpy about needing help, but will accept it if he needs it.”
Ms Ginty said she was passionate about encouraging people to adopt birds and other exotic pets from animal rescue organisations.
“I think these kinds of pets can be very misunderstood,” she said.
“Since you can buy them cheaply from places like Gumtree, people think these animals are disposable and the iIt’s only worth $10′ mindset can be really detrimental to pet care.
“I’m not saying those sellers are inherently bad, but it makes it really easy for someone to buy a pet on a whim, and not have the knowledge, finances or time to care for that pet properly.
“Ultimately, compared to private sellers, rescue centres don’t have an ulterior motive – they don’t just want to sell that pet, they want the best home for it too.”
Ms Ginty and Astro last year entered the annual Jetpets Companion Animal Rescue Awards, and were named a finalist in the People’s Rescue Story category.
The awards, managed by Pets4Life, recognise achievements in the rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming of companion animals in Australia.
As part of the awards, Astro’s story featured online and on social media.
“Sharing Astro’s story and seeing him amongst all those other incredible rescue stories was a really amazing experience,” Ms Ginty said.
“Astro definitely doesn’t mind that everyone’s first question when they meet him is, ‘Is this the famous budgie?’”
Ms Ginty said that after graduating, she hopes to go into the mixed practice veterinary field, which means working with all animals.
“At the university clinic I do have a bit of a reputation for enjoying working with budgies though,” she said.
“I think having Astro means I’m pretty confident handling birds, and have a lot of empathy for the veterinary care and advice that bird owners need.”
Entries to the Jetpets Companion Animal Rescue Awards will close at midnight on July 19. Details: www.rescueawards.com.au.