For the Birds

Silhouette of a soldier against the sun.

Polly Wants a Recovery

Yesterday we went to the wolves. Today, it’s the birds. From the Los Angeles Times comes another case of the wild being domesticated—sort of—in more ways than one. “How Orphaned Parrots Help Troubled Veterans, and Vice Versa.”

Yesterday I introduced you to the Lockwood Animal Rescue Center, a private organization dedicated to rescuing wolves and wolf-dogs, located in Frazier Park, a mountain community in south central California, that has developed a program to help combat veterans through their bonding with America’s dogs of the wild.

Well, program managers Matthew Simmons, a retired United States Navy seaman, and Dr. Lorin Lindner, a psychologist, didn’t stop there when it came to “wild” ideas.

So, be honest: would you have ever imagined a bird park on the grounds of a Veterans Administration hospital? Neither would have I, but near the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center lies Serenity Park Parrot Sanctuary, a maze of open-air, wire homes set up to treat abandoned and injured exotic birds of all types and sizes.

Abandoned and injured. Not quite domestic, not quite wild. It appears that Mr. Simmons and Dr. Lindner have this thing about taking metaphors and making them living realities of recovery, not only for furry and feathered creatures, but also for combat vets who have no problems whatsoever connecting with the emotion of a wolf’s or cockatoo’s nuzzle.

I strongly urge you to check out the link and to hear the vets themselves on a YouTube video as they talk about their experiences caring for those stunningly beautiful (and stunningly loud) birds. Mr. Simmons himself talks about vets’ needs to heal from the inside out, or, as I might put it, for vets’ needs to re-discover that by still having what it takes to do what needs to be done, they still have what it takes to feel connected to fellow creatures that are more than willing to connect back, when given the chance.

And let’s face it: there’s just something about seeing a bird on someone’s shoulder, looking at you as if it were listening to your every word—and not buying whatever it is you’re trying to sell. Even if only with a squawk, they always seem to pipe in at just the right time to burst anyone’s big-shot bubble, as if to say, “Save your breath, pal. I’ve heard it all.”

And then they just look at you and dare you to say anything in return.

Sounds like a few combat vets I’ve met. Talk about a match made in Heaven.

A match made between two souls who’ve fallen to Earth a few times more than wanted, who’ve picked themselves, shook themselves off, and marched on, muttering to themselves, and yet smiling at each other all the same.

March on, my friends. And pass the crackers.

Until tomorrow, be well,


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