Meet the woman who runs a parrot rescue mission out of her Owasso house.
BY JULIE WENGER WATSON
Lisa Moser also houses parakeets, macaws, Amazons, Cockatoos, Cockatiels and love birds. Valerie Grant
“He’s flirting with you,” Lisa Moser assures me on a recent visit to her home.
The signs were there: the puffed-out chest, the slight cock of the head and the seductive sideways glances. But the gentle nips on my forearm and the constant circling threw me off.
Moser’s house is filled with parrots — everything from African Greys, like my flirtatious friend — to tiny parakeets and imposing macaws.
A cacophony of squawks and a riot of tropical color greet every visitor at Moser’s Owasso home. A true friend to the feathered, Moser and a sympathetic volunteer crew of avian activists have taken in countless parrots in need from across the U.S.
Through her nonprofit, Soft Landings Parrot Rescue Inc., Moser has matched over 30 displaced birds with loving humans, while fostering an additional 60 or so at any given time in her own house. What started out as a single rescue has turned into an all-out family mission, with Moser, her husband and her kids sharing their lives with an ever-expanding flock of flying friends.
“My husband and children are a huge part of this mission, and without their help and support I could not do what I do to the scale that we do it,” Moser says. “We have given up a lot of things to do this, but we have also gained things.”
When not working nights as a nurse, Moser spends significant time rescuing parrots, caring for those she has saved and finding new homes for these birds. Her husband, Chad, and their six kids support her mission, whether it requires them to drive cross-country to fetch an abandoned pair of cockatoos, fill water bowls or clean cages.
“This is a complete family endeavor,” Moser laughs over a din of squawks and the flapping of wings.
The birds are messy and extremely intelligent. Some can live 75 years or longer. Moser says many owners don’t understand that when they bring one home. The result is countless abandoned or mistreated animals.
For Moser, the key is education. “Parrots aren’t domesticated,” she says. “We’ve brought the wild into our home. Often what gets labeled as a behavioral issue is a natural behavior.
“We have to understand that they are what they are, and to think out-of-the-box in order to accommodate them so they can have an enriched life.”
An unexpected bond between damaged birds and traumatized
veterans could reveal surprising insights into animal intelligence.
By CHARLES SIEBERTJAN. 28, 2016
Nearly 30 years ago, Lilly Love lost her way. She had just completed her five-year tour of duty as an Alaska-based Coast Guard helicopter rescue swimmer, one of an elite team of specialists who are lowered into rough, frigid seas to save foundering fishermen working in dangerous conditions. The day after she left active service, the helicopter she had flown in for the previous three years crashed in severe weather into the side of a mountain, killing six of her former crewmates. Devastated by the loss and overcome with guilt, Love chose as her penance to become one of the very fishermen she spent much of her time in the Coast Guard rescuing. In less than a year on the job, she nearly drowned twice after being dragged overboard in high seas by the hooks of heavy fishing lines.
Love would not formally receive a diagnosis of severe post-traumatic stress disorder for another 15 years. In that time, she was married and divorced three times, came out as transgender and retreated periodically to Yelapa, Mexico, where she lived in an isolated cabin accessible only by water. She eventually ended up living on a boat in a Los Angeles marina, drinking heavily and taking an array of psychotropic drugs that doctors at the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration Medical Center began to prescribe with increasing frequency as Love proved resistant to traditional treatments like counseling and group therapy. One night, after her fifth stay in the center’s psych ward, she crashed her boat into a sea wall. Finally, in 2006, she was in the veterans’ garden and happened to catch sight of the parrots being housed in an unusual facility that opened a year earlier on the grounds of the center.
‘‘This place is why I’m still here,’’ Love, now 54, told me one day last summer as I watched her undergo one of her daily therapy sessions at the facility, known as Serenity Park, a name that would seem an utter anomaly to anyone who has ever been within 200 yards of the place.
Inside one mesh-draped enclosure, Julius, a foot-high peach-white Moluccan cockatoo with a pink-feathered headdress, was madly pacing, muttering in the native tongue of the Korean woman who, along with her recently deceased husband, had owned him. Next door, a nearly three-foot-tall blue-and-gold macaw named Bacardi, abandoned by a truck driver who was spending too much time on the road, kept calling out for someone named Muffin, before abruptly rising up and knocking over his tray of food to surrounding squawks of delight. Across the way, Pinky, a Goffin’s cockatoo, the castoff of a bitter custody battle between his original female owner and the husband who threatened to spite her by cutting off her beloved pet’s wings, was mimicking a blue jay’s high-pitched power-saw plaint. More screams rang out and then, in the ensuing silences, random snippets of past conversations: ‘‘Hey, sweetheart!’’ ‘‘Whatever.’’ ‘‘Oh, well.’’ ‘‘Whoa! C’mon man!’’ Soon, from a far corner, came the whistling, slow and haunted, of the theme from ‘‘Bridge on the River Kwai.’’
‘‘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.
In the wild, caiques, diminutive dollops of luminous yellow, white and deep blue-green, fly in huge, tightly knit flocks whose collective wing feathers make a singular whirring sound above the rain-forest canopy. Cashew, however, for reasons unknown, had her wings overclipped by her former owner, who had bought her as a pet and then abandoned her. So each day now, Love helps her learn how to take to the air again.
The flight lessons are usually administered at the end of Love’s daily rounds. Each morning at dawn, she arrives at Serenity Park from her boat at the marina. For the next four to five hours, she, like the six other veterans in the work-therapy program there, brings food and water to the parrots, cleans their cages and nuzzles and coos and talks and squawks with them. Love, by far the most animated of the veterans that I met at the park, flits from enclosure to enclosure, miming each bird’s movements, mimicking their individual voices and attitudes and, as with Cashew, tries to restore what was taken from them.
She had only to say her student’s name once that day and Cashew was upright in Love’s right palm, a knowing head tilt signaling her readiness. Love set Cashew on a nearby perch and with the thumb and forefinger of both hands took hold of each wing by the tip and moved them up and down a few times as though priming a pump. She then extended an index finger, held Cashew briefly aloft and with a quick thrust upward let her fall free. Some frantic flailing quickly morphed into firmer flaps, Cashew’s wings finally gathering just enough air for her to gain the netting on the far side of her large mesh home. ‘‘You see,’’ Love said, beaming. ‘‘She can actually go a little distance.’’
Taking hold of Cashew once again, she cupped her against her cheek. ‘‘Their spirit gives me the will to get up and do it another day. They’re all victims here. Kind of like what the veterans have been through, in a way.’’ Love lowered her hands and watched Cashew roll over once more on her back, a play position known as wrestling that is peculiar to caiques. ‘‘They don’t belong in captivity,’’ Love said, rubbing Cashew’s white breast feathers. ‘‘But they have a real survivor’s mentality. These forgotten great beams of light that have been pushed aside and marginalized. I see the trauma, the mutual trauma that I suffered and that these birds have suffered, and my heart just wants to go out and nurture and feed and take care of them, and doing that helps me deal with my trauma. All without words.’’
Abandoned pet parrots are twice-traumatized beings: denied first their natural will to flock and then the company of the humans who owned them. In the wild, parrots ply the air, mostly, in the same way whales do the sea: together and intricately. Longtime pairs fly wing to wing within extended, close-knit social groupings in which individual members, scientists have recently discovered, each have unique identifiable calls, like human names. Parrots learn to speak them soon after birth, during a transitional period of vocalizing equivalent to human baby babbling known as ‘‘subsong,’’ in order to better communicate with members of their own flocks and with other flocks. This, it turns out, is the root of that vaunted gift for mimicry, which, along with their striking plumages and beguilingly fixed, wide-eyed stares, has long induced us to keep parrots — neuronally hard-wired flock animals with up to 60-to-70-year life spans and the cognitive capacities of 4-to-5-year-old children — all to ourselves in a parlor cage: a broken flight of human fancy; a keening kidnapee.
There were 34 parrots at Serenity Park when I was there last summer — representing a range of the more than 350 species in the psittaciformes order — a majority of them abandoned and now deeply traumatized former pets that had outlived either their owners or their owners’ patience. A parrot separated from its flock will flock fully and fiercely to the attentions and affections of its new human keeper. And when that individual, for whatever reason, fails to uphold his or her end of such an inherently exclusive relationship, the effects are devastating.
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.
‘‘The problem with parrots is that they’re so intensely attuned,’’ Lorin Lindner, the psychologist who founded Serenity Park, told me one afternoon as we stood watching Julius pace back and forth, speaking in Korean. ‘‘Parrots have so many social neurons. Their brain is filled with the capacity to mirror their flock. It’s so crucial for survival to be able to know what the flock is doing, to know what the danger signs are, when they have to get together, when night is falling and they are called to roost. They’re so attuned to being socially responsive that they can easily transfer that to us. They have the ability to connect, to feel this closeness with another being, another species.’’
Listening to Julius that day reminded me of a story I read not long ago in the journal Current Biology about a 22-year-old male Asian elephant named Koshik that resides at the Everland Zoo in Yongin, South Korea. Separated from the two female Asian elephants he was raised with in captivity, Koshik lived alone at Everland for seven years, a period during which he construed a way of speaking perfectly intelligible Korean words by sticking his trunk in his mouth and then using his tongue to shape his own plosive trumpetings into the language of the zoo’s workers and local visitors. Such ‘‘vocal learning,’’ the researchers who wrote the paper concluded, isn’t an attempt to directly communicate with us so much as it is a way for a highly social species like the elephant ‘‘to cement social bonds’’ with the only other species available.
It’s one of those unlikely natural outcomes of the so-called anthropocene, the first epoch to be named after us: the prolonged confinement of intelligent and social creatures, compelling them to speak the language of their keepers. And now, in yet another unlikely occurrence, parrots, among the oldest victims of human acquisitiveness and vainglory, have become some of the most empathic readers of our troubled minds. Their deep need to connect is drawing the most severely wounded and isolated PTSD sufferers out of themselves. In an extraordinary example of symbiosis, two entirely different outcasts of human aggression — war and entrapment — are somehow helping each other to find their way again.
Lindner, a 59-year-old native of Queens, N.Y., knew little about parrots when she first came to Los Angeles in 1976 to finish college and go to grad school in behavioral sciences at U.C.L.A. Then one day in 1987, a week before Christmas, she received a call from a friend who knew of her deep affection and affinity for animals. ‘‘He was looking for someone to take this female parrot he heard about named Sammy,’’ Lindner recalled. ‘‘She was living alone in a Beverly Hills mansion. The owner had put the house up for sale and decided to leave Sammy behind. The bird matched the place’s décor, and he thought the new owners might like that. He was sending his driver over once a week to feed her. When I went to get her, the feces in her cage were piled up in a pyramid that reached her perch.’’
The following year, Lindner started a private practice in Westwood and began to do pro bono work with the increasing number of homeless veterans she encountered in the community, many of them living at that time in encampments under the nearby 405 freeway while awaiting appointments at the West Los Angeles V.A. medical center. Overwhelmed by their stories, she began devoting herself full time to veterans, eventually enlisting the backing of the state to head a nonprofit homeless-veteran-rehabilitation program, known as New Directions, at a residential treatment center.
Spending more and more time at work, Lindner soon decided to take in another orphaned cockatoo named Mango as a ‘‘flock mate’’ for Sammy. Before long, she was tending to both New Directions, which was relocated in 1997 to a newly refurbished building on the grounds of the V.A. center, and a sanctuary for homeless parrots that she started that same year with a friend on a four-acre plot an hour-and-a-half drive north in Ojai. One morning, near the end of 1997, Lindner found herself leading yet another veterans’ group-therapy session that was getting nowhere.
‘‘The guys are sitting around, all stoic, arms crossed, not saying anything,’’ she recalled. ‘‘They’d been like that for a number of weeks. So for a change, I took them up to Ojai to help build some new aviaries there. All of the sudden these same tight-lipped guys are cuddling up to the parrots and talking away with them.’’
Lindner was soon repeating the same exercise with other veterans. The transformations she saw in both species were so pronounced that she promptly set about persuading the V.A. to allot her the grounds of an old outdoor basketball court just down the hill from the medical center so she could move the birds from her Ojai sanctuary and start a work-therapy program there. (Veterans are paid a stipend to work in the sanctuary; some, like Love, volunteer their time.) She began with two 25-foot-high aviaries; there are now nearly two dozen. Some hold as many as three or four birds, like Kiki, Phoebe and Dino (a.k.a. the Three Stooges), a now inseparable troika of umbrella cockatoos who spend their days cuddling and grooming one another. Others contain just one bonded pair like Mandy and Kookie, a female and male eclectus parrot couple, a species native to the Solomon Islands, or Jester and Tango, one Harlequin and one green-wing macaw, who never leave each other’s side. And then there are the quarters of the inveterate loners, birds still caught somewhere between their inherent, wild selves and their captive ones: Cashew, Bacardi or Julius, who is afraid of other parrots because, as Lindner explained, ‘‘he doesn’t think he is one.’’
As I stood talking that day with Lindner, who is warm and effusive, with long blond hair and bangs, I watched Jim Minick, a former Navy helicopter-squadron member who did three tours of duty overseas and suffered severe upper-body injuries in a fall from his chopper, get his fingernails cleaned by Bacardi, the blue-and-gold macaw. In another enclosure, Jason Martinez, a wheelchair-bound Army veteran, sat alongside Molly, an African gray, resting on her perch, the two of them just staring at each other.
Love approached. She was holding an elderly Goffin’s cockatoo named Bobbi, a bird kept most of her life by her owner in a kitchen drawer. She looked like a tiny plucked blue chicken, her only remaining plumage some straggly wing and tail feathers and a frayed skull cap of the ones she couldn’t reach with her beak to mutilate. Love held Bobbi aloft on her index finger and then went dashing down the path between the compound’s two rows of aviaries, shouting, ‘‘Fly, Bobbi, fly,’’ giving her fruitlessly flapping charge at least the semblance of flight.
‘‘You can look in their eyes,’’ Love said, returning with Bobbi, ‘‘any of these parrots’ eyes, and I myself see a soul. I see a light in there. And when they look at you, they see right into your soul. Look around. They’re all watching. They notice everything. It’s intense.’’
I turned to take in a multitiered array of stares, feeling at once beheld and uplifted by creatures a fraction of my weight. I couldn’t place it at first, the slow-swiveling sideswipe of their gazes, the way they’ll dip their heads below their own bodies and then crane smoothly upward, like a movie camera pulling focus. And then it came to me: They reminded me of those C.G.I. velociraptors in films, except that the scales have turned to feathers and the stunted forelimbs to vibrant wings. Time, all at once, lurched wildly backward and ahead, depositing me right back where I’d been, in that moment, and yet deeper and more present.
‘‘God is a parrot,’’ Love said. ‘‘I know that now. God supposedly interprets and mimics what we do on earth, right? Is a reflection of us? So I believe God, if she exists, must be a parrot.’’
Animal-assisted therapy is hardly a novel prescription, having been employed at least since the 18th century, when the York Retreat for the mentally ill opened in England in 1796 and began allowing patients to roam the outside grounds among farm animals. At his office in Vienna, Sigmund Freud regularly had his chow Jofi on hand during psychoanalysis sessions to reassure and relax his patients, allowing them to open up more readily. The U.S. military used dogs as early as 1919 as a therapeutic aid in the treatment of psychiatric patients at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington. Still, what distinguishes the mutually assuaging bond that the veterans and parrots are forming at Serenity Park is the intelligence — at once different from ours and yet recognizable — of the nonhuman part of the equation.
There is abundant evidence now that parrots possess cognitive capacities and sensibilities remarkably similar to our own. Alex, the now-deceased African gray parrot studied for years by his longtime companion, Dr. Irene Pepperberg, a psychology professor, is regularly held up as the paragon of parrot intelligence. His cognitive skills tested as high as those of a 5-year-old child. He mastered more than 100 words, grasped abstract concepts like absence and presence (Alex excelled at the shell game) and often gave orders to and toyed with the language of researchers who studied him, purposely giving them the wrong answers to their questions to alleviate his own boredom. Alex was also given to demonstrating what we would characterize in ourselves as ‘‘hurt feelings.’’ When Pepperberg returned to Alex one morning after a three-week absence, he turned his back on her in his cage and commanded, ‘‘Come here!’’
Stories like these are, in fact, legion among those who keep and work with parrots. Dr. Patricia Anderson, an anthropologist at Western Illinois University, told me that her expertise in anthrozoology, the study of human-animal relations, is daily tested by her own cadre of adopted, orphaned parrots, including the first bird she decided to take in nearly 30 years ago, a Quaker, or monk, parrot named Otis.
‘‘He was so bright,’’ Anderson told me. ‘‘I taught him to say ‘thank you.’ Very anthropocentric of me, I know, but he generalized it appropriately to anything I ever did for him. He never said it randomly. He only said it when I did something for him, so it appeared to have meaning to him. There appeared to be some cognition going on, and this totally blew my mind.’’ Anderson read extensively about parrots and learned that anytime she left, she should say, ‘‘I’ll be right back.’’ ‘‘I started saying that, and then whenever I began to put my shoes on in the morning to get ready to go to work, he’d say: ‘Right back? Right back?’ ’’
Though the avian cerebrum possesses only the tiniest nub of the structures associated with mammalian intelligence, recent studies of crows and parrots have revealed that birds think and learn using an entirely different part of their brains, a kind of avian neocortex known as the medio-rostral neostriatum/hyperstriatum ventrale. In both parrots and crows, in fact, the ratio of brain to body size is similar to that of the higher primates, an encephalization quotient that yields in both species not only the usual indications of cognitive sophistication like problem-solving and tool use but also two aspects of intelligence long thought to be exclusively human: episodic memory and theory of mind, the ability to attribute mental states, like intention, desire and awareness, to yourself and to others.
Nature, in other words, in a stunning example of parallel or convergent evolution, found an entirely other and far earlier path to complex cognition: an alien intelligence that not only links directly back to minds we’ve long believed to be forever lost to us, like the dinosaurs’, but that can also be wounded, under duress, in the same ways our minds can. In one recent psychiatric study conducted at Midwest Avian Adoption and Rescue Services, a parrot sanctuary and rehabilitation facility in Minnesota, a captive-bred male umbrella cockatoo who had been ‘‘exposed to multiple caregivers who were themselves highly unstable (e.g. domestic violence, substance abuse . . . addiction)’’ was given a diagnosis of complex PTSD. ‘‘When examined through the lens of complex PTSD,’’ Dr. Gay Bradshaw, a psychologist and ecologist and an author of the study, wrote, ‘‘the symptoms of many caged parrots are almost indistinguishable from those of human P.O.W.s and concentration-camp survivors.’’ She added that severely traumatized cockatoos ‘‘commonly exhibit rapid pacing in cage, distress calls, screams, self-mutilation, aggression in response to . . . physical contact, nightmares . . . insomnia.’’
Veterans, of course, share similar psychological scarring, but whenever I asked any of them how it is that the parrots succeed in connecting where human therapists and fellow group-therapy members can’t, the answer seemed to lie precisely in the fact that parrots are alien intelligences: parallel, analogously wounded minds that know and feel pain deeply and yet at a level liberatingly beyond the prescriptive confines of human language and prejudices.
‘‘They look at you, and they don’t judge,’’ Jim Minick, the badly injured helicopter-squad member, told me. ‘‘The parrots look at you, and it’s all face value. It’s pure.’’
One afternoon at the sanctuary, I went up the hill to the V.A. hospital to talk with Leslie Martin. A clinical social worker and a director at the center’s trauma-recovery services, she often recommends parrot therapy for patients, including those who are ‘‘treatment resistant,’’ like Lilly Love. I asked Martin if the primordial nature of the parrot’s intelligence might have a particular effect on certain veterans. ‘‘Everyone knows these animals are very sensitive, like children,’’ she said. ‘‘The pure, primitive nature of their feelings, their emotions, activates your primitive brain. And then when they speak to you, it’s a real high.’’
Previous studies have shown that effective trauma therapies can help the brain construct neuronal bypasses around the scarred areas of a traumatized brain. ‘‘They’re only just starting to do research on this now, but there are phenomena that are operating in the prefrontal cortex,’’ Martin said. ‘‘There are some physiological and chemical changes happening that are real, that are measurable.’’ Lindner says she would like to one day enlist researchers to study the brain science behind the efficacy of parrot therapy and whether it is the parrots themselves that are helping the veterans or whether there are other variables at work. For now, however, she uses as her measure the nearby veterans’ garden just across from Serenity Park. For years, afflicted veterans were brought to work in the garden as a way of treating their trauma, essentially working in the same tranquil setting as the veterans at Serenity Park, the one obvious difference, of course, being the parrots. Lindner said she thinks that, using conventional measures of improvement for veterans suffering trauma — the ability to stay clean and sober; keeping up with their case-manager appointments; reuniting with family; finding gainful employment, and so on — the veterans who have been working with the parrots are doing better than those who spend time working at the garden.
‘‘There’s definitely something different going on at this place,’’ Lindner said. ‘‘We know that what’s preserved across species, all vertebrates truthfully, is the ability to feel compassion. As for birds and humans, we both have sympathetic nervous responses. We react the same way to trauma on the physiological level and in terms of the reparative nature of compassion and empathy. That’s what is doing the healing. That’s what is bringing the broken halves together. We don’t know what the actual healing factor is, but I believe that it has to do with mental mirroring. That the parrots get what the veterans are going through and, of course, the veterans get them, too, because, hey, they are all pretty much traumatized birds around here.’’
One afternoon at Serenity Park, a white pickup truck roared to a stop behind the work shed. Lindner emerged from the passenger side with a wooden box containing the ashes of her first parrot, Sammy, who died last March after living with Lindner for 27 years. Sammy was to be buried at the park later that day. The truck was driven by Serenity Park’s manager, Matt Simmons, a tautly built, square-jawed 43-year-old, who came to the sanctuary in 2006 after making little progress as a patient in traditional group therapy at the V.A. When his therapist first instructed him to visit the aviary down the hill, Simmons thought he was going to be ‘‘dealing with chickens,’’ he later told me. What he found instead was himself, through the eyes of the park’s winged trauma victims. He began devoting his days to caring for the parrots, forming attachments that gradually drew him out of his sense of isolation and mistrust and allowed him, in turn, to start connecting with people as well. He and Lindner grew increasingly close, and in 2009 they were married at the sanctuary. Sammy was flower girl. Lindner held a bridal bouquet made of fallen parrot feathers.
Simmons built his first computer in grade school. He joined the peacetime Navy right out of high school, he told me, to spite his father, who wanted him to go straight to college and then law school. He scored so high on his recruitment aptitude tests that the Navy wanted to assign him to a nuclear submarine. Simmons managed, instead, to secure what he believed would be a relatively easy tour as a yeoman — essentially an administrative and clerical position — on an aircraft carrier, until that ship made a sudden turn in early 1991.
The PTSD stemming from his time in the Navy wasn’t formally diagnosed for another two years. A friend suggested that he visit the West Los Angeles V.A. for help. Simmons told me that until then, he had no idea that what he was experiencing had to do with his military service. The regimen of new drugs that were prescribed by a psychiatrist there proved ineffective, and he grew increasingly closed off in therapy sessions that were dominated at that time by long-ignored Vietnam veterans with issues entirely different from those associated with the Gulf War. ‘‘I told my therapist this,’’ Simmons said, ‘‘and he basically said that if I didn’t go down and help out at the sanctuary, he was going to stop treating me.’’
Simmons instantly connected with the yellow-headed Amazon, Joey, who had adopted and raised from infancy two other birds at the sanctuary — a pair of female lilac-crowned Amazon parrots that had fallen from their nest — regurgitating his own food to feed them. For a male parrot to raise two females from another species is a rare display of altruism, Lindner told me, a behavior long thought to be exclusive to humans and other primates.
‘‘Joey came to Serenity Park around the same time I did,’’ Simmons told me. ‘‘That’s the first thing we had in common. I had learned that yellow-headed Amazons are not that friendly, so when Joey made an effort to befriend me, that meant even more. We were different species, but we got each other. I was shy, burned by humans, isolated, angry. Joey had what seemed to me the same attitude. So we bonded. He let me touch him. Only me.’’
Within weeks of his arrival at Serenity Park, Lindner told me, Simmons had pretty much taken over the place. He was up at 3 a.m. every day in the New Directions kitchen, preparing breakfast for all the veterans. Then he came down to the sanctuary and worked there until 6 in the evening, clearing out the compound, building new aviaries and expanding the existing ones.
When I asked Simmons to describe what happens to him when he is with a parrot, he instantly went into one of his signature high-speed soliloquies. ‘‘Here we go,’’ he said. ‘‘Write it down. There are things I have seen that will never leave me. There’s this huge sack of guilt and shame and pain that I carry with me, and I got it when I was 18 years old in Bahrain. Now, when I’m with a parrot, it’s not a total time-change thing, but I do have to act like a 12-year-old boy again. And here’s why. Because parrots are not domesticated animals. They haven’t been bred for hundreds of years to be at my feet.’’ Simmons paused for a sip of Coke, the third one of the night. ‘‘So in order to have a relationship with a parrot, that parrot has to select me. In order for that to happen, that parrot has to be comfortable. I have to come in open and quiet and calm. Much like that 12-year-old boy that met the mean dog next door and never had a problem. Much like that 12-year-old boy that went hiking and saw a mountain lion. I’m acting like the 12-year-old boy again around the parrots, and what that does is help me confront my trauma rather than carry it around. Because now I’m with a psychiatrist, and I’m talking about how this bird didn’t feel so good today and wasn’t very comfortable and was kind of hiding in the back of the cage, and the psychiatrist goes, ‘Hmm, you’re starting to talk about emotions.’ I’m talking about how the bird was feeling, but I’m also transferring my own emotions. So being with the parrots allows me to take that third-person look at my own trauma, which you can never do when you’re whacked out on Vicodin and Budweiser and living under a cement highway bridge.’’
We often think of empathy as a skill rather than the long-ago, neuronally ingrained bioevolutionary tool for survival that it actually is: the ability to inhabit the feelings of fellow beings (the word empathy derives from the Greek en, which means ‘‘in,’’ and pathos, meaning ‘‘suffering’’ or ‘‘experience’’); the ability to feel, for example, their fear over a threat; or thrill over a newly found food source; or sorrow over a loss, which has as much to do with the fabric of a community as any other. Empathy, in this sense, can be thought of as the source of all emotion, the one without which the others would have no register.
The more time I spent at Serenity Park last summer, the more I came to think in terms of the expansive anatomy of empathy. And not just the shared neuronal circuitry that has now been mapped across species, from us to the other primates to elephants and whales and, we now know, to creatures with entirely different, nonmammalian brains, like crows and parrots. I thought, as well, of the extraordinary capacity conferred by that circuitry to recognize and respond to the specific infirmities, both psychic and physical (although those are essentially one and the same) of another species.
I got a sense early on at the park of which parrots and veterans seemed most drawn to one another. The way, for example, Simmons said that the lilac-crowned Amazon, Dagwood, came to life around Jim Minick, the former Navy helicopter crewman. But I learned only later about the true depth of such bonds.
‘‘You know, Jim does a great job of hiding how wounded he was,’’ Simmons told me. ‘‘He has tattoos all over the elbow he can’t use anymore, and he won’t talk about it, but at one point he was sitting on the edge of the bed with a shotgun in his mouth and tears rolling down his face. On that same night, he drove his car into a tree, drunk out of his mind. So he comes to Serenity Park, and Jim doesn’t know the history of any of the birds, and which bird loved him at first? Dagwood, the one with a screwed-up wing and a crooked beak. There’s no way to explain it.’’
Jason Martinez, who suffered traumatic brain injuries parachuting into Afghanistan and now suffers from epileptic seizures, was immediately drawn to Molly, an African gray, the only parrot at Serenity Park, he learned only later, with epilepsy. And then there were the daily cheek-to-cheek murmurings between the bedraggled, drawer-bound Goffin’s cockatoo, Bobbi, and a blond 21-year-old ex-Marine named Josh Lozon.
‘‘Let’s talk about Josh,’’ Simmons said. ‘‘A good-looking guy with curly hair. He’s a little scary. He’s so broken, all of his wounds are still hidden. Who gets along with him best? Bobbi, mostly naked, bleeding from her remaining feathers. A bird who looks like a damn pterodactyl that went through a buzz saw.’’
Of all the veterans I encountered at the sanctuary, Lozon was by far the most skittish. The one time I was able to chat with him at length was when I found him early one morning atop an elevated wooden porch, one flight above a work shed, scrubbing the bars of an empty bird cage with a brush. My decision to head up the narrow steps that lead to it effectively trapped him up there.
He joined the Marines, he said, because he ‘‘wanted to hurt somebody.’’ He told me he received an exceptional score on his recruitment aptitude test, which landed him an office job working with computers, a post suited to his intellectual abilities but not his disposition. Sent to the V.A. for evaluation after frequent episodes of insubordination and erratic behavior, he was prescribed mood stabilizers and antipsychotics, neither of which, he sheepishly confided, he was presently taking, thanks to Serenity Park.
He was not able to put into words what exactly went on between him and the parrots. All he kept saying was, ‘‘It’s something about the cages.’’ Feeling his growing discomfort, I descended the stairs. Back on the ground, I looked up at Lozon, who was peacefully cooing and chirping back and forth with Koko, the Australian Adelaide rosella. He suddenly looked down at me. ‘‘They’re in these cages and helpless,’’ Lozon said, ‘‘and it’s not their fault.’’ He paused, and I started away. ‘‘But for me,’’ he continued, ‘‘I think it’s also that when I’m alone with them in those cages, I feel I don’t have to conform to what everyone expects of me. I’m free to be an animal again.’’
In the late afternoon on my last day at the sanctuary, I seemed to be the only one around. I passed Koko in his cage, sounding his particular strains of the park’s ongoing symphony of stranded human speech. I thought then of the numerous anecdotes people have told of wild-parrot flocks learning, via ‘‘cultural transmission,’’ to speak the human words taught to them by reintegrated former pets. In the parks of Sydney, Australia, where there are native wild-parrot flocks, people regularly overhear a ‘‘Hello, darling’’ or ‘‘What’s happening?’’ sounding from the trees above. The early German naturalist explorer Alexander von Humboldt wrote of encountering, during his travels in South America toward the close of the 18th century, a parrot that was the last living repository of the language of the extinct Atures Indian tribe.
All alone now among the sanctuary’s parrots, I got a sudden glimpse of a possible future. One long beyond us and our traumas. A world of winged dinosaurs, soaring and chatting back and forth, their different local dialects inflected here and there with the occasional broken shards of a long lost one: ‘‘Hey, sweetheart.’’ ‘‘Whoa! C’mon man!’’ ‘‘Whatever!’’
Nearing Serenity Park’s exit, I decided to turn back and step inside Cashew’s quarters for a moment. I had only to nestle close to her perch and she immediately hopped on my back. Crisscrossing my shoulders as I had watched her do with Lilly Love, she stopped at one point for what I assumed would be the parrot equivalent of a kiss. Instead, she began to clean my teeth: her beak lightly tapping against my enamel, the faint vibrations strangely soothing. Immediately afterward, she took a brief nap in my shirt’s left breast pocket — it felt as if I’d grown another heart — then re-emerged and crawled to the top of my head. She strolled about there for a time before plucking out one of her own deep blue-green feathers and then descending to gently place it on my left shoulder. I have it still.
The most heartbreaking things I face on a regular basis revolve around the ‘less than perfect’ birds…not from the birds themselves, but from the humans who encounter them. Here are just a handful of the facts and theories I have about the topic of plucked birds…
1. Don’t feel sorry for a plucked bird to any higher degree than a non-plucked bird. All are captive; all deserve respect, not sympathy. We created the problem, so we need to stand by them. Seeing a plucked bird here, then giving the ‘Bless his/her heart’ is not helping that bird; adopting him/her is.
2. Don’t assume a bird is plucking because he/she is in rescue; that is rarely the case. We have only had two of hundreds, and I am sure other rescues have the same experiences.
3. Don’t assume plucked birds are bored, unhappy, or sick. We don’t see plucked birds in the wild because if they exist, they are plucked out of the gene pool by predators or death; that is natural selection.
4. If your bird is plucking, take your bird to the vet for a full check up, including blood work, to determine if medical causes are to blame. If so, fix them, if not, love your bird as they are. If you are providing a good diet, enrichment, proper sleep, a toxin-free environment, etc. odds are, this is your bird’s ‘normal’. Accepting is and loving him/her as they are is far better for them and you than to constantly be stressing over appearance. Doing this is far less expensive for you than buying every snake oil product out there aimed at ‘fixing’ the ‘problem’.
5. Don’t send your plucking bird to a breeder because you cannot stand how ‘unhappy’ he/she is. Odds are, if you are doing the above, the bird is nowhere near as unhappy as others make you feel the bird is. Sending plucked birds back to breeders is one source of the problem…taking plucked birds into the breeding gene pool that is already messed up, and breeding more birds with the potential genetic predisposition to plucking is only adding fuel to the fire. Mulligan, my M2 that started the rescue was one of these birds frown emoticon
6. Expect it to be a bigger problem in the future. Without the influx of wild parrots into the gene pool and so many breeders not doing their research, we are soon to be facing serious problems from inbreeding. Immunity issues, feather issues, new diseases and abnormalities we have never seen before…hold onto your hats folks…
7. Just love them for who they are. They do it to you every day, just follow their lead
In the group Nutrition For Pets, Dr. Scott Echols has commented that
“…not only is coconut oil very high in saturated fat (which is not all bad) but it has no appreciable omega-3 fatty acids. Besides the issues of destructive farming to get red palm oil (not an issue with all products) it is even higher in omega-6 fatty acids (and again no appreciable omega-3’s) than coconut oil. There are some beneficial fats in both oils including medium chain triglycerides and more that are used in a number of body systems. Some have touted the antioxidants and more. However, there are 0 refereed studies of feeding coconut or red palm oil in parrots. At least red palm oil has been shown to significantly increase omega-6 levels in the blood of chickens. There is generally already plenty of omega-6 fats in our and our pets’ diets. We really don’t need more. So until I can see some solid proof of benefit (I am open to research I am not aware of), I really cannot recommend feeding coconut or red palm oil to birds.”
Written by Jo Lod Lease of Lair Of Dragons Bird Rescue
Ch-ch-chia! Chia seeds—particularly the Salba variety—are high in iron, folate, calcium, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids and soluble fiber. The superseed’s calcium and magnesium promote bone and dental health, while the omega-3s help your heart by lowering triglycerides, the bad fats in your blood that can cause heart disease. Their soluble fiber helps decrease cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar, and make you feel full longer. The nine amini acids in chia make it a high-quality sourse of protein. One ounce of chia delivers 11 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein.
Not just for hippies, these superseeds are a great source of complete protein and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They also contain phytosterols, plant-based compounds that help lower cholesterol levels. Hemp is loaded with protein. Just one ounce of shelled hemp seeds contain more than 10 grams of protein. Not only are they loaded with protein, they are also a good source of other important nutrients including iron, magnesium and zinc
Also known as pepitas, these superseeds are a source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc, and protein, and are particularly rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which may help lower anxiety. Pumpkin seeds also have high levels of essential fatty acids that help keep blood vessels healthy and lower bad cholesterol.
These underrated superseeds are an excellent source of B vitamins, including folate (which helps prevent birth defects), and vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that protects cells from damage, helps maintain healthy hair and skin, and may work to prevent cancer. They are also rich in protein and heart-healthy fats.
These little, brown, nutty-flavored superseeds are a great source of soluble fiber (each tbsp. contain about 8 grams) as well as a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, copper, thiamin and magnese which helps lower cholesterol, makes you feel fuller longer, and aids in stabilizing blood sugar levels. Flax seeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acid, which benefits eye and brain health, and can help lower triglycerides, protect against immflammation and high blood pressure. High in lignans, a plant-like form of estrogen, they may also help prevent certain cancers.
The nutritional powerhouse of the wheat kernel, wheat germ is loaded with protein, iron, and B vitamins such as folate. The high fiber content of this superseed helps prevent constipation and keeps your appetite in check although it is high in calories, so modertion is key. And wheat germ is low on the glycemic index, so it doesn’t spike your blood sugar. The health benefits of wheat germ include a boost to the immune system and a preventative measure against cardiovascular disease and cancer. Wheat germ has anti-aging properties, and can positively affect mental agility, muscle development, stamina, and the healing rate for wounds. The nutrients in wheat germs can also aid in digestion, prevent damage to the arteries, and help in efforts to lose weight. Adding wheat germ or certain types of wheat germ extracts to your diet can help you reduce the risk factors for multiple types of cancer.
This South American seed is at the top of so many superfood list. One cup of cooked quinoa has 8 grams of complete proteinand 5 grams of dietary fiber. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Essential amino acids are the amino acids that must come from food, since our bodies can’t produce them. Quinoa is rich in several of these essential amino acids, making it an excellent source of plant-based protein. Since quinoa is cholesterol free and also full of fiber, it is a healthy alternative to animal-based sources of protein, including meat and cow’s milk. In addition, quinoa contains more than 10% of the dietary recommended daily allowance for a wide range of vitamins that includes thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and folate and is packed with minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper and magnese.
This seed is truly is the king of all seeds when it comes to protein. One cup of cooked amaranth contains more than 9 grams of protein. Unlike a lot of other plant-based proteins, amaranth contains all the amino acids (the building blocks of protein) that we need, making it a complete protein. Amaranth is also a good source of fiber (5.2 grams per cup), unlike animal proteins. When you consider the vitamins and minerals that are packed into this grainlike seed, you will be amazed. One cup of cooked amaranth contains more than 10% of the RDA of vitamin B6,folate,calcium,iron,zinc,copper and selenium and it is a great source of magnesium,phosphorus and magnese.
I have seen many comments on this subject and it is clear that there is a misconception that Adult birds in a rescue need more bird education to adopt rather than just purchasing a baby bird. This is absolutely not true! It is in fact just the opposite. A baby bird is going to require a huge amount of time to even have the hope of reaching maturity and not having behavioral or health issues. Babies taken from their parents too early are more likely to develop behavioral issues like biting, plucking, screaming…and the list goes on. Babies should not be weaned for quite some time, some species require a year or more. So that two month old baby being sold as weaned??? Most likely a baby is going to have issues just from forced weaned to early. It is also very important that birds have annual avian checkups. No matter if it is a baby or an adult parrot, everyone needs to do a huge amount of research to even begin to understand a birds wants and needs. Taking a parrot into your life at any age is a huge commitment. There are sacrifices that must be made if you are going to provide for them and meet all their needs.
Birds in rescues are not there because they just happen to be bad or have issues. Most of the time birds end up in rescues due to being purchased as a baby and then the owner was not prepared for what happens when they become adults. Birds are messy, loud, require special diets, loads of mental and physical stimulation and they will chew whatever they can get their beaks on. They require regular avian checkups due to the fact that they hide illness so well. There are many things that are toxic to them and so you must remove and quit using many household items. The list is very extensive and most do not take the time to learn and educate themselves prior to bringing home the bird. These are the main reason birds are given up, they were just being birds and the humans were not prepared for it.
The reason there are so many birds in rescue now is due to the lack of education prior to someone purchasing the baby birds in the first place…. impulse shopping! Now I do understand that there may be other circumstances where a bird is given up to a rescue, but the majority of cases are just that the human is having issues dealing with the bird being a bird. All Baby birds are sweet and cuddly, but as they mature so do their personalities and they are not going to always be that sweet baby you brought home. In fact they are most likely going to do a lot of changing especially when they reach hormonal maturity and then what? That sweet lil baby bird you brought up may decide they don’t even like you. Especially if you do not have the prior education to understand the emotions and changes that they are going through. Hormones can be dealt with and those who truly understand parrots know it is an annual occurrence and how to get the humans and bird through this very difficult times.
Rescues do require a person interested in adopting to fill out a questionnaire which does ask if you have bird experience. And I have seen where some believed this was because the birds in rescues are bad and require more work than babies….this is completely an ignorant statement. They ask because they want to make sure that you have the skills, knowledge and commitment to give a bird what they truly need. Their greatest desire is to make sure that should you adopt from them, that the birds is going into a loving educated home and the bird will have his best chance of staying there forever. Birds that are shifted from one home to another are more likely to develop behavioral issues… like trust. Birds are flock creatures and since we become their family they do not understand being given away especially time and time again. Rescues want to make sure that they are giving the birds in their care the best possible chance of this not happening. Pet stores and breeding facilities that just allow you to walk in a purchase a baby without any questions….as long as you have the desired amount of cash….how much do they truly care about that babies future? Not one bit! It is all about the cash to them and nothing more.
There is also a lot of controversy over the fees charged by rescues. Nobody seems to question a breeder or pet store requiring payment though. Here is a fact that some may not be aware of. A legitimate rescue makes sure every bird coming in is seen by a qualified avian vet…this can be a couple of hundred dollars or more depending on what tests need to be done, species and where the bird is coming from. A rescue then must provide cage, proper food, toys, mental and physical stimulation for each and every bird and continued vet care. All of this can run them hundreds of dollars monthly per bird. Many times the fee charged for adoption does not even cover the initial vet fees. Rescues are NOT making any money! What they are doing is making sure that each bird is well taken care of and is placed in a home with the best possible chances for that bird to have a happy life. They are taking in these precious Feathered ones that others have cast aside and hoping they can make a difference for them.
Bottom line is the reasons rescues are full now is NOT due to the birds being bad or anything like that. It is because these precious creatures are so misunderstood and there is a lack of education prior to people purchasing them. Most people are not willing or understand the commitment needed to provide for these babies for 30 plus years and so.
Take the time to educate yourself properly on what these precious creatures need. Visit your local avian rescues and take a look for yourself. Volunteer at the rescues, ask for the education. Do your own research from many many sources. Talk with an Avian vet. Education is key into helping ease the burden on the Avian Rescues. There are literally thousands and thousands of birds in Rescues just waiting for someone to adopt them. To think that these are all bad birds is just ridiculous. They are just birds being birds and waiting for someone to look at them and see them for the beautiful creatures that God created and accept them as they are.
Let one choose you and you will forever be thankful you did. I have 11 all adopted and they are the most loving babies ever!
Been doing some research as I was not sure about rather Sweet Potatoes were safe to be served raw. Well this is the info I found and I researched in many places and gathered this…
Sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamin A and contain energy-giving carbohydrates, vitamin C, folate, calcium, dietary fiber and potassium. Serve them to your pet bird cooked or raw. (Peel or scrub thoroughly first.) Introduce young birds to mashed sweet potatoes so they’ll enjoy them all their lives! Even canaries love sweet potatoes. Discard sweet potatoes that have become moldy in the pantry, because cooking may not kill the spores.
Sweet potatoes and yams are actually two different vegetables. Both are tubers, but the sweet potato is native to South America, and the yam hails from Africa. The important difference is that, according to USDA reports, only the true sweet potato contains Vitamin A.
Pumpkin is also a good source of vitamin A. Birds will enjoy the seeds, fresh or roasted, as well as the cooked pumpkin itself.
Brussels sprouts contain vitamin E, vitamin B6, vitamin C and folic acid. Feed them to your bird cooked or raw.
Cauliflower is a source of biotin and pantothenic acid.
Carrots are highly nutritious and readily available year-round. Cut them into sticks or chunks; offer them raw or cooked, and include the tops: small birds love bathing in the wet greens.
Cook hard beans (kidney, navy, black, etc.), potatoes, beets and white potatoes prior to offering them to your pet bird. Boil corn on the cob briefly to reduce the risk of mold. Many birds enjoy cooked butternut or acorn squash and pumpkin. Cut these vitamin-A-rich vegetables into chunks, or serve them mashed, like potatoes.
It isn’t necessary to cook most vegetables, such as broccoli, peas, string beans, peppers, well-scrubbed sweet potatoes or leafy greens, but if your bird refuses raw produce, try cooking it. Add a few hot pepper flakes for flavor if you wish.
“Sweet potato shows trypsin inhibitor activity. That means it contains an enzyme inhibitor that blocks the action of trypsin, an enzyme that digests proteins. The trypsin inhibitor prevents the digestion of protein. Sweet potatoes with higher protein levels have more of the trypsin inhibitor. This makes raw sweet potato difficult to digest. The trypsin inhibitor is deactivated by cooking. One way the raw food diet helps people is by supplying food enzymes. Food enzymes do part of the work of digesting the raw food. Enzyme inhibitors increase the amount of work that your body needs to do to digest foods. Enzyme inhibitors force your body to produce more digestive enzymes. This uses up resources that could be used to produce detoxifying enzymes. When animals are regularly fed enzyme inhibitors in research, they become sick. Sweet potato should not be eaten raw”
In order to get the optimal amount of Vit A from sweet potatoes, or carrots that they need to be at least slightly cooked or steamed.
AMY LYNN NEEDS OUR HELP!
Amy Lynn is a Moluccan Cockatoo that is currently in the care of Diane Dwyer in Chalk River, ON, Canada. She came to Diane in desperate need of help. There was barely a place, anywhere on her body that was not “self-mutilated”. Amy Lynn has now been to her first vet appointment and the results are staggering. She is suffering from heavy metal poisoning – most likely from the chain that is currently lodged in her stomach. Here is a picture:
If that were not bad enough, somehow, it appears that almost all of her toes have at one time been broken. That is pretty tough for a creature that has little choice but be on her feet 24/7.
Amy Lynn is on injections for the next 10 days to try to stop the leaching of the metal into her system. With a great deal of luck, the chain will pass though but that is a big unknown at this time. Regardless, it as to come out of there somehow and she is going to require a lot of vet care. That, as we parrot lovers know, becomes very expensive, very quickly. (So far over $500 plus travel expenses etc.)
Bill, the Moluccan Cockatoo happens to be in the position to help. Bill is a legendary “carver”. Anyone who shares their home with a cockatoo (or any parrot) will understand. Her “Mom”, Diana Slater of the Too Crazy Birdy Hotel provides lots of wood around a window in her bird room for Bill to chew to her heart’s content. Here is what it looks like when it is a work in progress:
Diana saves the “carvings” for Gail, the Artist. Gail and Bill work well together as Gail can always see the design that Bill had in mind. She paints them for Bill and the result is amazing! The first collaboration was “Bill’s Selfie”
Bill has also created a Lesser Sulfur Crested Cockatoo perhaps a rendition of her friend Billy:
And also a Galah, probably inspired by Joey, who stayed for a few weeks at the Too Crazy Birdy Hotel:
With the love and blessing of Bill, Diana, Gail and F.E.A.T.H.E.R.S. these three pieces of original cockatoo artwork are to be offered for auction to benefit Amy Lynn and Diane Dwyer of Second Chance Parrot Shelter.
Bidding will start on Friday, October 3, 2014 at 6 p.m. Pacific Time and run until Wednesday, October 8, 2014 at 6 p.m. and will be administered from the F.E.A.T.H.E.R.S. Facebook page – Feathers in BC
To follow Amy Lynn’s story go to Diane Dwyer’s Page
This is where we go into the response methods in removing birds, or animals in either element of a Disaster, or Criminal Case. In a Criminal case most times there is already a Shelter, or Temporary Shelter that has been put in place. Once the warrant has been has been served, depending on the situation, all who are responding to the crime scene will already have certain directions and orders to follow. They will be given tasks they must follow. Some of these people will remove birds or animals from cages and be placing them into transport cages or carriers, a photographer will take photographs, and each cage will be given an Identification number. Animals that may appear to be ill will be removed first and a priority will be given. These are the ones who are to receive immediate veterinarian care first, much like a Triage Area.
Birds and animals that are paired up or caged together should try to be kept together to reduce the stress of the animal, they usually share the same ID number with a, b, or c and so on attached to their records. Depending on the number of animals to be removed, several transports may be required, with again priority given to the sickest, and most stressed animals first. In a criminal case remember you are handling evidence, but also handling a living breathing being. It is possible to be professional, and compassionate.
Make sure during the removal that all paperwork remains with the carrier until it reaches the shelter. Like any response there will be areas called staging, at the primary scene or response scene, and at the shelter. There will be many swift moving things occurring around you, with lots of noises, and orders being given, make sure you focus on your task only, unless otherwise told by the operations commander on the scene. That will usually be the Humane Agent or Animal Control Officer. While on the scene you may see other aspects of different agencies working the scenes, so be sure to stay out of their way, they will be collecting other evidence in the case.
Shelter Operations and Triage
During the day of operations, and while the animals are still being removed, some of the most critical care animals will be arriving for care. Depending on the size of the operation, there may be several exam areas set up to start a general exam and start care of the animals that start coming in
A Vet Care team will do primary exams, and treat animals coming in. The team will consist of the following members.
The Veterinarian: who will do the primary exam.
Vet Tech: or experienced person to assist in restraining the animal during exam.
Scribe: who will take notes and record the Veterinarians findings during the exam and make notes of any medications prescribed on the animal’s records. Also keep a record of the team personnel.
Photographer: Photograph the animal, for ID purposes and or anything the Vet finds important to the case.
The team will work and stay together as a team until all animals have been examined.
Once each animal has been examined that animal will be handed off to a runner, and will go to the section of the shelter that has been cleared by the veterinary team. The animal will move on to Hot Quarantine, Cold Quarantine or General Population areas. (We will describe this later in a future part of the series).
The animals will be then placed in their prospective housing be it cages’ or crates. At that time they will be fed, and watered and also be observed be Animal Care Staff in the shelter to ensure they settle in without any issues. Should there be issues, they need to notify someone in the veterinary team immediately.
This will continue until the Primary Operations cease.
(On a personal note this is the most difficult day for everyone involved to deal with. It is very fast paced, and you will see things that you wish you didn’t have to ever witness. You may witness death, and need to take a moment. This will not because of anything you have done wrong, but because things went on in the case of abuse and neglect for too long. Again as in the first segment, this is not for everyone, and can be heartbreaking for a few, but joyful for others who made it out. You will have been a part of that escape.)
In a Disaster Operation
Many of the things such as Vet Triage and basic shelter care will be the same, it is important to maintain as healthy environment as possible for all involved. The biggest difference is that the animals are not going to be treated as evidence. BUT… Disasters occur without a lot of warning, so things move just as quickly, and without everything being prepped as neatly as one would like. So keep that in mind when responding.
Next in the series – Ongoing Operations and Shelter Support