Buddy is my 26-year-old blue-and-gold macaw. He was 19 when given to me in August 2012 by a friend whose job situation was requiring extensive travel. Knowing that I moved to a house specifically so I could get a macaw, she called saying she had a housewarming gift for me. Best gift ever! She and her husband brought Buddy and his six-foot-wide cage down from a small town in northern Arizona to my house in Mesa. Buddy and I hit it off instantly.

Buddy and I became a registered Pet Partners therapy team a year later in September 2013. Soon after, we were recruited for a local reading therapy program for kids. Buddy loves being read to by the kids and has proven to be quite an active listener. His favorite book is Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham, but he’ll sit patiently on a child’s lap for 15 minutes at a time for just about any book, hanging onto every word and studying every illustration.

Buddy continues to be active with the reading therapy program, but we also volunteer as a team with a group specializing in helping kids with autism spectrum disorder. While close supervision is used during visits, Buddy is very tolerant. He’ll give me a look to tell me the petting is a little too heavy or enthusiastic, and I’ll direct the child’s hand to a lighter touch. In addition, we’ve visited kids at The Foundation for Blind Children, children with Down syndrome, Special Olympics athletes, and participate in a monthly birthday party for some incredible foster children and their loving foster families.

People often ask how I trained Buddy to be so good with kids. They’re usually surprised when I explain that I didn’t train him. I just introduced him to opportunities, and nurtured his naturally sweet disposition, while reassuring him. Love and a strong sense of security go a long way with any therapy animal, but especially for a bird, as they are prey animals by instinct. Working with Buddy as a therapy team allows us to help kids, but it also allows us to educate them about what amazing creatures parrots can be. After seven years, Buddy still amazes me every day.

Story submitted by Dan Lee