This book is subtitled "A True Story of Hope and the Healing Power of Animals" but too often in reading it, I wondered if that subtitle should have read, "A True Story of Finding the Love of My life" given how much of the text is devoted to the author's partner, who was one of the vets she help bring back into society through what might be loosely described as her 'pairing with a parrot' technique.
There were so many vets who needed this help and according to the text, they got it, but only two of them seemed to get anywhere near the coverage that her husband gets. I found this to be peculiar and slightly annoying. I know he's more important to her than anyone else, but objectively, he's not more important than any other vet, nor was his case unique in any significant way. To be frank, I felt this rather cheapened her message and demeaned other veterans a little bit, but overall, I thought the story was too important and valuable to dismiss it on these grounds alone.
So that irritation aside, I found this book to be a worthy read because it really does get into the problems that both the birds and the vets have, although I could have done without the totally fictional account of the early life of one of her feathered charges named Sammy. Although the story of her capture is firmly rooted in the reality of the abusive wild capture of these magnificent and intelligent birds, the story she told in this particular case was way too anthropomorphized and melodramatic, and it almost made me quit reading the book in disgust.
After that though, things looked up considerably. We learn of how the author, in training to be a psychologist, came to be the caretaker of Sammy, a salmon-crested cockatoo, also known as a Moluccan cockatoo, who had been kept in the most appalling conditions. These birds are a part of the parrot family, although they are not true parrots, and most of these creatures are used to living in flocks. They are very intelligent and they suffer considerably when confined to cages, and neglected through lack of attention and stimulation. I noted at one point that the author erroneously describes budgerigars as “frequently but erroneously called a parakeet” but budgies are indeed parakeets! The author is in error!
This suffering of intelligent animals applies to very many sentient creatures of course, but some such as the parrot family, the corvids, the cetaceans, the canines, along with elephants, monkeys, and great apes, feel it much more because they are so very intelligent and sensitive. It isn't surprising, in this regard, that people do anthropomorphize them, and though I balk somewhat at that, I do not have any doubt that they need to be treated much more like humans - or perhaps more like children - than ever they are at present.
That does not mean they necessarily think as we do or perceive things in the same way we do, but it does mean they must be treated with respect, and as individuals, and as thinking, feeling beings, not as "nothing but animals." This is why owning a parrot is an unwise move. As the author points out, they form attachments and are long-lived. Additionally, they need the freedom to fly and explore, and they need frequent companionship.
It's downright cruel to buy one and stick it in a cage in the corner of the room and think you are caring for it. You're not. It's equally cruel to care for one and then give it up after it has formed an attachment to you. It seriously hurts them and it takes them a long time to recover and re-socialize. It's far better not to own any sort of parrot, especially if you want your house to be quiet and your furniture to remain intact....
The book is short and has short and quite pithy chapters, although there is some repetition in the pages and the story is more about the author, her husband, and parrots than it is about veterans although the latter are not exactly neglected by any means. The author tells us her story of how she first got to caring for parrots and how she also, through her work, got to caring for troubled veterans, and how purely accidentally, these two aspects of her life came to coincide with the sum being far greater, more amazing, and infinitely more worthwhile that either section was on its own.
Although, as I mentioned, the story is irritating at times, overall - be warned! - it's a real tear-jerker and the stories of how both the veterans and the parrots are treated - or more à propos, mistreated, can be heart-breaking, but the author, through her sterling efforts created, with the help of the veterans, and advised by the parrots, a haven, and the result is truly startling and exemplary. I recommend this book fully.