Feathered friends in high places

Lively whistles fly around the room as two pearl cockatiels entertain each other. The birds are in their new home with Patricia Paravolos, who adopted them through the Wings of Love rescue program.

Birds of a feather: Patricia Paravolos and her dog Penny welcome their new rescue cockatiel, Sweetie. photos by Jonathan Welch

“Hello, Sweetie,” Paravolos croons, and Sweetie rewards her with more whistles. “I tried to teach him ‘London Bridge,’” she says a bit ruefully. But learning that lesson may only be a matter of time, given the cockatiel’s obvious affection for her—and time is what this rescue program is all about.

Wings of Love, a program targeting senior-housing complexes, is the brainchild Randy Broo and education volunteer Silvia Tennison, both associated with the Asheville-based parrot-rescue nonprofit Phoenix Landing Foundation.

Broo and Tennison are soliciting local senior complexes for foster or adoptive parents for rescued birds. They see it as a natural fit—small, homeless pets that don’t need to be walked and don’t require a pet deposit, coming together with people who live alone and are likely to have too much time on their hands.

Paravolos is a good example of the results they’re looking for. She once owned, but recently lost, a cockatiel named Petey. “Petey and Penny [her dog] used to eat out of the same bowl,” Paravolos says, remembering the household bond that was severed with Petey’s death.

Depressed by the loss, Paravolos attended a Wings of Love introduction at Battery Park Apartments and wound up taking two of the birds under her wing. An immediate result: “It really helped my depression a lot. She [Sweetie] gives me kisses every day.”

Sweetie and her not-yet-named second bird “really are happy,” Paravolos says of the two-week residents. “They’re getting used to being here. They sing all day long.”

Battery Park Apartments resident Mary Ault admires her new companion, Willie. photos by Jonathan Welch

Small birds, Tennison observes, provide “huge company.” And parrots, she adds, have the intelligence of a 6-year-old human, contributing to their value as companions.

Tennison teaches parroting-education classes for Phoenix Landing, including an owner-training session called “Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Got a Parrot” and a parrot-psychology course to help owners understand the situation of a prey animal living with a predator. She put that prey-predator knowledge to work with a recent Battery Park check-in, a visit with Mary Ault and her new cockatiel, Willie.

“This is the payoff,” says Tennison, watching Ault talk to her new roommate: “You come to Momma? You like your picture taken? Good boy!” Willie is slightly distracted by the beautiful bird’s-eye view of Town Mountain from his cage beside the bedroom window.

Ault had been worried that Willie wasn’t adjusting well, but it only takes moments for Tennison to put her at ease by pointing out the numerous signs he is showing of trusting her, and describing easy ways to continue building his confidence. By the time the visitors file out of the small apartment, Ault seems proud of Willie’s progress and eager to take the next steps in their relationship.

Broo and Tennison are proud, too, and planning their next introductory session for seniors. The nascent program has drawn enough support to furnish all the birds’ needs for fixed-income adopters: cages donated by individuals; food provided by the Lefeber Company; and toy donations from Asheville Pet Supply. All the seniors have to provide is the love.

The next Wings of Love training session will take place Wednesday, April 11, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Asheville Terrace on Tunnel Road. For more information, visit www.phoenixlanding.org or call 658-0088.

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