Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Bond Between Abandoned Parrots & Broken People

Animal Healing

Kookie and Mandy, male and female eclectus parrots. Charles Siebert for The New York Times Magazine writes:Up and down the aviary-lined corridor of Serenity Park are the winged wreckages of such broken bonds. On and on they go: the ceaseless pacing and rocking and screaming, the corner-cowering, self-plucking and broken-record remembrances. And yet at Serenity Park, the very behaviors that once would have further codified our parrot caricatures — ‘birdbrained,’ ‘mindless mimicry,’ ‘mere parroting’ and so on — are recognized as classic symptoms of the same form of complex post-traumatic stress disorder afflicting the patients in the Veterans Administration Medical Center. They’re also being seized upon as a source of mutual healing for some of the most psychologically scarred members of both species.”
Photo Credit: Jack Davison

An article, by Charles Siebert in The New York Times Magazine proves once again that animals have a special place in our lives and can do amazing things in the areas of healing and companionship. This is chiefly a story about how parrots (psittacines) make bonds of healing with broken people, in this case military veterans who suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Where this takes place is Serenity Park Parrot Sanctuary, a part of  the 27-acre Veteran’s Garden, which is part of West Los Angeles’s Veterans Administration Medical Center, a large sprawling complex. What is more remarkable is that most of the parrots also suffer psychological disorders; all are former pets abandoned by their owners. One can say that there is in this bond a shared loss of something valuable, and of finding redemption of identity and being.

In “What Does a Parrot Know About PTSD” (January 28, 2016), Siebert starts the story by writing about Lilly Love, 54, a former Coast Guard helicopter rescue swimmer, who lost her way almost 30 years ago, with half the time being treated via traditional means, including counselling and  psychotropic drugs, for PTSD. Then Love discovered the parrots in 2006, a year after the bird sanctuary opened, a program initiated by Lorin Lindner, a clinical psychologist and preventative health educator involved with animal rescue and disabled veterans.
‘‘They had me loaded up on so many kinds of medications, I was seeing little green men and spiders jumping out of trees,’’ Love continued, as a six-inch-tall female caique parrot from the Amazon Basin named Cashew dutifully paced across her shoulders. Back and forth she went, from one side to the other, in determined, near-circular waddles.
For the next 10 minutes, Love, her eyes closed, her arms still at her sides, continued to engage in one of the many daily duets she does with each one of Serenity Park’s winged residents, listing her shoulders up and down like a gently rocking ship, Cashew’s slow, feather-light paddings all the while putting Love further at ease. Now and again, Cashew would pause to give a gentle beak-brush of Love’s neck and ear, and then crane her head upward toward Love’s mouth to receive a couple of kisses. She made a few more passes, back and forth, then abruptly climbed atop Love’s head. Smiling broadly, Love let her loll around up there on her back for a time, Cashew using the same upward scooping wing flaps that caiques employ to bathe on wet rain-forest leaves.
Both parrot and person derive a benefit; each becomes for the other an agent of care and compassion and, yes, of friendship that crosses the boundaries of species. If the parrots have been rescued, so then have the humans. From the demons of despair and other horrible unspeakable things. Serenity Park becomes the sanctuary for both humans and birds.

There is much to be thankful in this story. Charles Siebert has written a truly beautiful story that might make you cry; I know I did. Lorin Lindner, the person behind the parrot sanctuary and so much more that is good and beautiful, deserves much thanks and praise. When someone does good, she deserves recognition. So, thank you, Dr. Lindner for doing such a wonderful thing, not only for humanity, but also for the other species that inhabit our world.

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For more, go to [NYT]