Birds of a Feather: Hope, Healing, and the Power of Animals

A new book by Lorin Lindner shows how much other animals can help us along

Posted May 15, 2018

The need for communication, and the need for companionship, is as deeply engrained in parrots as it is in humans. (Lorin Lindner, Birds of a Feather, page 38)

Reading books and asking dozens of experts about parrots was one thing: sharing my small home with a thoughtful, intelligent, mischievous, and extremely loud exotic bird was another. (page 39)

All parrots need the 'Four F's': foraging, flying, flocking, and um ... 'mating'. (page 35)

Dr. Lorin Lindner's new book called "Birds of a Feather: A True Story of Hope and the Healing Power of Animals" is a game-changer. I picked it up one night thinking I'd read a few pages and then get back to it the next day. I was wrong. I'm not a night person, but I wound up reading it through way past my usual bedtime. It is that good. Her and her team's tireless and selfless work on parrot rescue and rehabilitation, nonhumans who "have agency and act autonomously" (page 21) that has expanded to include many other species including humans, is a model for everyone who works in this area regardless of species. Stories of the horrific lives of so many -- indeed, far too many --parrots -- suffering and dying either during capture or transport to market, being forced to live alone and literally going crazy, being otherwise abused, and being moved from one home to another during the course of their long lifespans are sickening, but throughout this wonderful book there is hope not only for the nonhumans but also for the humans who work with these amazing animals. 

I was eager to find out more about Dr. Lindner, her incredible work on behalf of nonhuman animals (animals), and why she wrote this landmark book. I asked if she could take the time to answer a few questions and gladly she said "yes." Our interview went as follows:

Courtesy of Lorin Lindner
Source: Courtesy of Lorin Lindner

Why did you write Birds of a Feather?

Birds of a Feather is my life story, or at least a part of it, and it needed to be told...for the parrots and for the veterans who help each other heal at Serenity Park Sanctuary.  Although parrots are the third most common companion animal in American families the majority of people know little about the emotional intelligence and social lives of these beautiful and compelling fellow beings.  Until we do we will continue to imprison them in tiny cages, isolated from conspecifics, and kept from conducting the very behaviors that define who they are -- flying, foraging, and flocking. 

How does it relate to your long-term interests in the lives and well-being of other animals and to the work you're doing at Lockwood Animal Rescue Center? Please tell us about some of the projects you have going on there.

I started Serenity Park Sanctuary on the grounds of the West Los Angeles Veterans Healthcare Center to help wounded warriors and wounded parrots find a common path of healing from trauma.  It is the first, and to the best of my knowledge only, program at a VA Hospital where both the animals and the veterans are healed -- not one versus the other.  When I became aware of the benefits gained by both human and parrot, I expanded the program to the Lockwood Animal Center, along with my husband, a combat veteran, who I met and married at Serenity Park after he came to the VA for treatment for PTSD.  

Lichen and Matt; courtesy of Lorin Lindner
Source: Lichen and Matt; courtesy of Lorin Lindner

My dream had always been to rescue horses and focused on those used in the pharmaceutical industry to make Premarin, the hormone replacement therapy for women (literally Pregnant Mare Urine).  In addition, my husband and I learned of the epidemic of wolfdog breeding, one of the new "trophy pets" that people buy and soon relinquish because of the difficulties in keeping a part wild animal in a home environment.  Filling the shelters where they are quickly euthanized because they cannot be adopted out, wolfdogs are a human-made creation that are in crisis.  We began rescuing wolfdogs as well as pure wolves and saw how the veterans working to care for these animals developed bonds not unlike those with the parrots.  We call it the Warriors and Wolves program and as the relationships develop between the two species a unique and healing bond forms.  

What are your main messages? 

Legislation is becoming increasingly necessary to help reduce the amount of cruelty inherent in keeping part-wild and undomesticated animals as "pets."  I hope to get a legislator to carry a bill to limit the sale of parrots in pet stores as many of them come from the deplorable conditions inherent in birdie mills.  With the longevity of parrots, the revolving door of relinquishment from home to home is a tragedy for these birds who bond strongly, and for their entire long lifetimes, to their family members.  Same thing for wolfdogs, the breeding and sales of these part wild animals needs to stop.

Courtesy of Lorin Lindner
Source: Courtesy of Lorin Lindner

Who is your intended audience? 

Anyone who is interested.  I believe the book will have an impact on veterans and their families, mental health professionals, stakeholders and policy makers at the DOD and VA, animal advocates, environmentalists, and parrot lovers everywhere.
Do you have hope that the future will be much better for other animals in an increasingly human-dominated world? 

We need to take deliberate and immediate action in every way we can imagine if we want to keep anything left of the wild...wild.  Not in cages in private zoos in our own homes or even in public ones.  Wildlife needs to be valued not for any perceived benefit to humans but for its own sake and for the foundational role in plays in supporting our biosphere.  I'm not talking about opening bird cages and letting our parakeets fly free, but the idea of animal "ownership" and "stewardship" needs to be completely re-evaluated. 

What are some of your current and future projects? 

Our Birds of a Feather Program at Serenity Park Sanctuary, the Warriors and Wolves program at Lockwood Animal Rescue Center, and our WolfGuard campaign to protect wild wolves in Montana and Idaho.  We are also in the middle of closing down a horrendous wolf fur farm in Minnesota.  

Is there anything else you'd like to tell readers? 

Individual action can never be discounted.  It is what has turned the tide on so many issues and staved off extinction of several species.  I started by rescuing one parrot and turned it into three sanctuaries over the course of 30 years -- every little bit helps.  It also helps our spirits, the antidote to despair is action, as Ed Abbey glibly prescribed.

Birds of a Feather is ultimately a love story between veterans and the birds they nurse back to health and between Dr. Lindner and her husband, a veteran with PTSD, who healed at Serenity Park. Full of remarkable people and colorful birds, this book reminds us that we all have the power to make a difference.

Thank you Lorin, for taking the time to answer my questions. I'm at a loss for words in how to summarize your book, so my simple and humble advice is for people to read it, read it again, buy a few copies to share with others, and try to put into practice the principles that are discussed concerning how we should treat other animals and other humans with respect, dignity, and love. And, the time is now, not when it's convenient. Other animals and numerous other humans need all the help they can get, and all people who can do something, must do something on their behalf. 

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