REVIEW: Birds of a Feather by Lorin Lindner
Animal lover though she was, Lorin Lindner was definitely not looking for a pet. She was busy training to be a psychologist. Then came Sammy – a mischievous and extremely loud bright pink Moluccan cockatoo who had been abandoned. It was love at first sight. But Sammy needed a companion. Enter Mango, lover of humans (“Hewwo”), inveterate thief of precious objects. Realizing that there were many parrots in need of new homes, Dr. Lindner eventually founded a sanctuary for them.
Meanwhile, she began to meet homeless veterans on the streets of Los Angeles. Before long she was a full time advocate for these former service members, who were often suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and finding it hard to navigate the large VA Healthcare System Ultimately, Dr. Lindner created a program for them, too.
Eventually the two parts of her life came together when she founded Serenity Park, a unique sanctuary on the grounds of the Greater Los Angeles Veterans Administration Healthcare Center. She had noticed that the veterans she treated as a clinical psychologist and the parrots she had taken in as a rescuer quickly formed bonds. Men and women who had been silent in therapy would share their stories and their feelings more easily with animals. Now wounded warriors and wounded parrots find a path of healing together. 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.
*WARNING* – the beginning of the book describes the capture and transport of wild birds. It is difficult for an animal lover to read. It is told as the story of Lindner’s bird but in all honesty, there’s no way this information could be known about the capture of any one bird. I took it as an amalgamation of what a wild caught bird might have endured.
I was interested in reading this book for a couple of reasons. The Wounded Warrior/Veteran is a common character in the books we read with many now focusing on those with PTSD and the use of service animals to help them. Service animals themselves have been in the news lately – often due to negative publicity in regard to air travel. And I had a close friend who dealt with finding a new home for her sun conure in the months before she died of cancer so I knew a little about the problems faced by long lived birds outliving their human companions. But note that the animals in this program are not service animals per se.
The book is about helping veterans heal but also about helping the birds who are often abandoned by the humans who had no idea what they were getting into when they got these birds in the first place. Many have been traumatized by neglect and mishandling and have as much trouble trusting and accepting as the veterans. The story of how the VA program in LA to help homeless vets got started is mixed in with Dr. Lindner’s efforts on behalf of her initial birds who then begin to take a role in easing these withdrawn people back into society and giving them a safe way to decompress to a nonjudgmental audience.
Realizing that a formal program could help both the veterans and more needy birds, she then worked on setting up a sanctuary which gives the men and women job skills, work to help them feel useful and time to heal along with the birds. It’s not all rays of sunshine as many of the vets have addiction, prison time and broken families in their pasts. Reading about the conditions some of the birds were taken from and how little their people have understood their basic needs is heartbreaking.
Brief mention is made that not everyone who started the programs has a happy ending but the stories we learn in detail focus on those who do manage to stay on the road to recovery. And lots of the birds finally find a place where they can live out their lives with companionship and understanding. B