Edgemoor, California - She catches her ball, dances, screeches and talks – a little. She can be slightly bratty, but is still very well-liked.
Dusty is 15 years old and the pet star of the County’s Edgemoor Skilled Nursing Facility Therapy Program.
How does the umbrella cockatoo know she is a star? She’ll bounce up and down, flap her wings and tell you it’s because “Dusty is a pretty bird.”
Since her arrival at Edgemoor three years ago, Dusty has commanded the pet stage but has to share the spotlight with Mr. Peepers the cockatiel, the facility’s veteran entertainer who is 10 years her senior and has lived at Edgemoor since he was born.
Regardless of who is more popular, Dusty and Mr. Peepers’ main mission is to entertain and bring joy to Edgemoor residents, who receive long-term care for complex medical needs.
“The birds are great because patients get to interact with them and they make Edgemoor more of a homelike environment,” said Anne Monaco, therapeutic recreation supervisor for Edgemoor.
Pets are known to bring comfort and healing to people with physical or emotional ailments. They help reduce stress and high blood pressure, and they make people happy.
Dusty and Mr. Peepers are the resident pets at Edgemoor and make the rounds twice per day, but they are not the only ones.
Monaco, who keeps the therapy birds in their cages in her office, also brings in dogs, bunnies and other small animals to interact with the residents once a week.
“Residents come alive when they see them,” she said. “They really enrich the lives of the residents.”
Edgemoor residents Cheryl Brock and Cheryl Crawford agree.
Both were present during a birds’ visit, though Dusty, who typically loves the attention, was being a little bratty and wouldn’t let Brock pet her. Mr. Peepers is not as accustomed to human interaction and usually just stays and sings from his cage.
“I like them a lot,” said Crawford, who readily admits Dusty is her favorite. “She is a very nice bird and fun to be around.”
Brock said she loves them both the same.
“I love animals. Both are my favorite,” said Brock. “I’ve known Mr. Peepers for years. But Dusty laughs. She laughs just like she is human.”