Credits: @rhea_thenakedbirdie/ Instagram

Rhea- The Naked Birdie’s Human Mom Tells All About Rhea And Her Upcoming TV Show

by | May 13, 2019

The heartwarming story of Rhea- the Naked Birdie who turned her human mom vegan and will soon have her very own animated television show! As a part of the ongoing Raise Vegan’s ‘people of veganism’ series, I got a chance to talk to her human mom, Isabella Eisenmann. Know more about Rhea and her amazing journey, through Isabella herself.

Rhea was an Instagram sensation, with several thousands of followers who loved catching a glimpse of her daily life. She tried on different dresses, walked around happily in the fuzzy warm sweaters from her wardrobe, and loved being clicked. With her bright personality and undeniable charm, she could have easily been an Instagram model only if she were a human and not a bird. In what can be called, “Keeping Up With Rhea,” she touched many hearts with her zest for life. Meet Rhea- the cute naked birdie whose story is nothing short of a heart-warming Disney movie plot. She is the biggest reason behind turning her human mom Isabella Eisenmann into an ethical vegan!

rhea- the naked birdie
Credits: Isabella Eisenmann
Rhea- the naked birdie

Wait, did you check out our first story of the People of Veganism series? Here it is, one of the firsts of its kind- vegan Hindu wedding in Singapore!

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Heart-Melting Rescue Story of Rhea- the Naked Birdie Will Brighten up Your Day

Rhea’s rescue story is incredible. Rhea was to be put down for her disease but her future human mom, Isabella, adopted her in the nick of the time. Isabella was working in Boston at the time of Rhea’s rescue and had been going to Back Bay Veterinary Clinic (BBVC) for her dog’s regular checkups. One day while scrolling through Facebook, she stumbled upon a post by BBVC that told a story of this cute little naked bird (Rhea) who needed a home ASAP.

Without a second thought, she forwarded this post to her (now) husband as she was pretty sure “Rhea has to be hers and they have to adopt her.” Her husband had his fair share of doubts for she was about to start her new job and didn’t have much free time to take care of an ill bird. Nevertheless, she called BBVC and told them she was interested. The process took about a month. She got a call from them a month after to let Isabella know that they had chosen her to adopt Rhea.

The very second Isabella and Rhea saw each other for the first time at the vet BBVC

Rhea’s struggle to survive

When Rhea was rescued, Isabella had no idea about Rhea’s disease or what had to be done. But Isabella said that she grew up with birds around her so she felt confident that she could manage this. Rhea suffered from Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD), a contagious, fatal viral disease responsible for the deaths of a lot of birds from the Psittacidae family. Isabella spoke to Raise Vegan about Rhea’s amazing zeal for life, her survival, and how she turned her into a staunch supporter of ethical veganism.

It is pleasantly surprising to know Rhea survived in spite of suffering from a contagious fatal disease. How did you manage to save her?

Rhea was actually about to be put down because of her disease, I learned this a year later after the adoption and could not believe my eyes. I had every single email from the past owner in my hands were she explicitly explained that she thought this was the best option. Thankfully, our vet did not think this had to be done and ended up convincing her to let her be adopted. 

Rhea- the naked birdie
Credits: Isabella Eisenmann

Rhea’s condition was clear, she had Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD). PBFD is a contagious, fatal viral disease that affects the beak, feathers, and immune system of birds belonging to the Psittacidae family. It developed when she was about 2 years old out of the blue after her bird companion passed away (most likely because of the disease).

I didn’t have to do much with her really, she was like any other bird in the sense that they need “minimal care.” You change their food and water daily, clean their cage and give them attention.

What was Rhea’s personality like?

She needed “minimal care” like other birds, but at the same time, she was VERY different from any other bird. She demanded so much attention, hated to be inside of the cage for long periods of time, had no feathers, was very sassy and was incredibly smart.

What was the biggest challenge you faced while trying to rehabilitate Rhea? 

I guess the biggest challenge was her skin in general. Boston is very cold pretty much year round, while Rhea couldn’t get cold, otherwise, she could die (birds with this disease mostly die from secondary conditions). So the heater was on all day, which made her skin dry, so I had to lather her skin with coconut oil to moisturize it. Aside from that, she also had a heating lamp which was always turned on while I was at home. This is the reason why #RheasSweaterCollection started. She was always cold, looking for #RheaCaves to hide in. A woman, the owner of Sock Buddies, sent me for free a how to manual on making Rhea a sock buddy to keep her warm. I posted this and started a revolution. I had over 500 sweaters that followers sent me frm all over the world. 

Did you experience any changes in your emotional and mental makeup post-Rhea’s entry into your life?

OF COURSE. It’s natural for people to feel for these animals (and people) with special needs. I finally became vegan thanks to her, it made me have a different perfective towards animals in general (and I’ve been a huge animal lover and activist all my life). The truth is that Rhea changed my life and the lives of so many. She made me think of her as much more than just a bird, she had emotions and had such a big personality. She taught me that everything is possible, to smile at the smallest things and most importantly that different is beautiful. It was beautiful to experience how she was happy in her own skin, something this world needs to learn asap. We should be happy that we are alive.

In a way, you credit Rhea for turning you into a vegan. Can you recall the moments that led to your personal epiphany? 

Yeah, I totally do. Long story short, I stopped eating red meat and pork when I was about 14/15 years old (so about 10/11 years ago). This was a decision I took without truly knowing much about the industry and how terrible it is for our health. I was a kid who simply thought that red meat was disgusting because it was exactly like ours and I grew up with pigs so I didn’t want to eat them. This was really hard because as usual, the family gets in the middle and they wanted me to eat these things. I won.

Fast forward to 2016, I got very sick (I have many gastrointestinal diseases) and the first thing I was asked by my doctors to eliminate from my diet was dairy/lactose. So because I wanted to get better, I eliminated dairy and have never had dairy since then.

Rhea came into my life that same year. Let’s be honest…SHE LOOKS LIKE A CHICKEN. So it didn’t take me long. I recall the exact day that this happened… I was grocery shopping and my husband had asked me to get roasted chicken. I don’t know what changed that day, but I saw the chicken and I saw Rhea. I felt sick, very very sick. So after that very day, I have never gotten close to eating a chicken.

Then came the turkey. I was offered turkey meatballs and then it happened again. I remember thinking “omg, turkeys are basically chicken.” So let’s just say, I never had poultry again.

In 2017 I was a pescatarian (but consumed no dairy products). One day I got a fish and I remember my mom joking and saying, “now the last thing left is that you stop eating fish because you have a pet fish.” That comment stuck real bad, the joke is on her…that following week I had a terrible nightmare that woke me up. I dreamed that I was eating shrimps and that they sort of came back to life in my throat and were climbing back to get outside. OMG, it was bad. I woke up feeling so crappy and guess what there was for lunch…SHRIMP. So yeah, that day I said bye fish. I don’t remember the exact day this was, but I became fully vegan and cannot be happier. It was 10000% thanks to Rhea.

Up to what extent she touched your life and what everlasting changes you are experiencing?

Well, she left hundreds of people heartbroken and wishing to have more of her. Everlasting changes: I am a totally different person. People recognize me in the streets all the time and many have cried when telling me their life story and how Rhea impacted their lives. I still get hand written letters all the time. I have been able to meet people from all over the world, that I would’ve otherwise never crossed paths with in life. I wrote a book about our life together, which has yet to be published….because….. her very own TV animated show is in the works!!! My biggest outtake from this experience is definitely, as I mentioned before, is that different is beautiful and we have to learn to embrace our own differences. The show will touch upon this topic to teach these important values to children.

After she passed, I promised myself that this was only the beginning. I owed her so much and one of those things was saving every animal in need that crossed my path. I had adopted over 10 birds since she passed, Lucky being the toughest case of them all. I found her on the street, bleeding without a wing. After months and months of taking her to the vet every day to get shots, she was finally stable enough to have an amputation surgery to take out a tumor on her wing.

Lucky’s x-ray before the surgery

Every day is a struggle with her; she has several health conditions and visits the vet every two weeks, but she is a fighter. She is still with me to this day and will probably be for a long time (she is about 5 years old and they can live up to 60 years in captivity…. hahaha). 

Lucky

Do you think if people had a chance to meet the farm animals that are doomed to be on their plates, it would make them more empathetic towards their sufferings? 

Omg yes. I think that people who still eat animals haven’t done research on what goes behind the scenes, what this is doing to our planet and how unhealthy eating animals can be (especially nowadays because they are packed with antibiotics, chemicals, etc). I bet a million dollars that if people had to kill animals in order for them to eat them, a very VERY high percentage of people would become vegan. Watching the animal suffer, cry and die is not something we want to see. It puts life into perspective, they have no voice and cannot fight for themselves. This is why I became vegan, I want to be their voice.

Did you fell in love with Rhea- the naked birdie? Stay tuned for her upcoming TV show!

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