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,


Going to the Wolves

Silhouette of a soldier against the sun.

On Braving Wildness

Do a Google search on veterans and recovery from War, and, without doubt, you’ll find more than your fair share of dog stories. I’ve mentioned a few myself, in fact. But wolves? Check out this piece from the British 24-hour news channel, Sky News, entitled, “Wolves Helping to Heal Veterans with Stress.”

Although from a European source, this story is actually out of the US, with an interesting take on the cool of California meeting the cool of Alaska, with (pardon the cheesy metaphor) heartwarming results.

The Lockwood Animal Rescue Center is a private organization dedicated to rescuing wolves and wolf-dogs, located in Frazier Park, a mountain community in south central California. Since 2011, they have sponsored a program entitled “Warriors and Wolves,” pairing combat veterans with rescued wolves to help both adjust to lives of “being in-between.”

The Center cares for the wolves in an environment that is not quite wild, yet not quite domestic. And seeing a good metaphor there, they turned the metaphor into a reality for combat veterans who themselves often feel as if they are stuck somewhere between war and peace.

I have to say: kudos go to retired seaman Matthew Simmons and psychologist Dr. Lorin Lindner for their having come up with this idea.  I myself have met many a combat veteran who more than has the energy and even the “wildness” to be willing to face a fellow creature with similar attributes, approach it respectfully, yet strongly, and find a way toward a common ground that could be mutually beneficial. Dogs are for us all. Wolves, anything but pets, need special handlers.

And clearly there have been men and women who have served who still have what it takes not only to handle, but also to accompany the canines the wild has to offer.

While I often talk about connections that calm quietly, there are some connections that calm quite vigorously. Man and wolf may not be the usual pair, but in the mountains of southern California, they are a pair who are clearly fitting into a land that most would find vigorously challenging, and human and animal are finding there, if not quiet moments, at least warmhearted ones.

Beats Alaskan winters any day. Even for a wolf, I suspect.

Good luck to all.

Until tomorrow, be well,


To learn more about Warriors and Wolves

click here.

Hope from the Pound

Silhouette of a soldier against the sun.

Shelter for All

Great story out of Massachusetts, USA, about Operation Delta Dogs and its mission to connect combat veterans with “pound puppies” to “rescue” both: “Life-Changing Group Helps Military Vets Cope, One Shelter Dog at a Time.”

As someone whose family has had the joy of welcoming shelter dogs into our home, I know firsthand the pleasures–and, yes, the challenges–of life with such creatures. We’ve brought in the good-natured one, an able sidekick to a larger, more emotionally-driven alpha (ish). We’ve brought in the anxious one, so curious, yet so in need of calm herself. And so grateful therefor.
Perhaps that is why I am so intrigued by this opportunity afforded the combat veterans of New England, here in the northeastern US.
Like the veterans who seek their companionship, the dogs have experienced life in many different ways by the time they hit those shelters. What unites both veteran and dog at the point of their meeting is a tale of the past: survival. Yet by engaging together, having survived, now connected, each gets an opportunity to re-tell a life story, with a different cast of characters.
Different just enough, by one, to make all the difference.
I wish them both many nights of much pleasanter sleep.
Until tomorrow, be well,
To learn more about 
Operation Delta Dog (OpDD),

All the Buzz

Silhouette of a soldier against the sun.

The Healing Life of Bees

Well, now this is something: from Wales in the UK, check out “Military Veterans in Wales Turn to Beekeeping to Tackle War Traumas.”  (Click the “Skip the Survey” if you get the pop-up.)

What a great idea.

Many times I’ve urged service members to connect to their dogs, their cats, even a bird or two.

Now a sweeter connection in addition, perhaps.

Self-calm through connection. You still have what it takes to find the connections in the world that will bring you some peace, even if only for precious moments. Moments can turn into minutes, into hours, into lives.

It’s your mission: self-calm through connection. Then, and only then, will you be able to engage with survival sufficiently to energize life fully—a life that, I might add, has already found energy through the connections you have made.

It can be as sweet as honey.  Literally.

Until tomorrow, be well,


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