Serenity Park Parrot Sanctuary Eases Pain for Both Birds and Veterans
Emotional pain is a crippling condition that can wreak havoc with both the human and animal psyche. It is devastating and can lead to desperate measures, such as mutilation and suicide. Veterans suffering with PTSD feel isolated from loved ones and relive the trauma of the battle-field with every breath they take. The abused birds, so in need of love and care, help them heal, and together, from the ashes of their mutual despair, heroes are born with a new and loving spirit. (See my article on The Cat Who Dialed 911.)
The power of love bonds and heals
Group therapy and medication have their distinct and rightful place in the field of rehabilitation, but somehow, in the case of these traumatized veterans, it couldn't ease the anguish inside until they were faced with caring for abandoned and abused parrots. An unexpected and indelible bond was formed.(See my article on Blind Dog Teaches Children to See.)
If you are wondering what a parrot could possibly have in common with a veteran suffering from PTSD, think not further than that old idiom about birds of a feather flocking together. In this case, their wounded hearts 'flock together' in this haven of peace and not similarities in species or deeds.
The birth of Serenity Park
Psychologist, Lorin Lindner, works with veterans whom she often transported to a parrot sanctuary she herself managed north of Los Angeles. She saw something special in the interaction. In her own words: "All of a sudden, I'd see this transformation come over them. They'd be cuddling the birds in their arms and calling them sweet terms, and I hadn't seen that in the group therapy I'd been doing with them." A decade ago, she convinced the V.A. Medical Center to donate some land to set up a few birdcages. Serenity Park was born on a budget supported by local donations. (See my article on Sassy the Chihuahua.)
Meet Zoe the African Parrot and Veteran Mike Flenniken
Zoe is one of three dozen birds at Serenity Park that comprise a unique animal therapy program in which parrots are paired with veterans suffering from PTSD. Mike Flenniken served a tour in Vietnam and 22 years in prison for armed robbery, but as you can see from the picture above, he and Zoe are what you might call "an item."
In his own words:
"If you had told me five years ago that I'd be sitting in a cage like this petting a bird, I'd have told you, 'You're out of your mind'! She adopted me three days after I got here...I think she immediately saw something in me that I needed...I can't explain it because I don't know enough about parrots or birds or anything, but it's just a great feeling. She makes me feel like I am important to her..."
Sometimes heroes spring from the unlikeliest of sources, appearing when needed, out of the blue, like angels of mercy. (See my article on Tara The Hero Cat.) But every so often those angels need help too, and when wounded hero helps wounded hero, the communion is unlike any other. The bond is formed from a mutual state of pain where unresolved trauma and physical abuse have bruised the soul. The love soothes the bad memories and nourishes new ones filled with hope, patience and compassion.
Remember the lyrics of that beautiful song:
Did you ever know that you're my hero?
You're everything I wish I could be
I could fly higher than an eagle,
'cause you are the wind beneath my wings
See also: Bretagne