Diane Miller and her therapy bird Rocky Rockafeller, an umbrella cockatoo, can regularly be found at local seniors care facilities, where the feathered attention hog is in his element, being admired by residents.

Therapy that is truly for the birds

Rocky the umbrella cockatoo ‘brings out everyone’s inner child and, in that, he heals people,’ says owner

There is nothing Rocky Rockafeller loves more than being the centre of attention — that’s when the 21-year-old therapy bird comes alive, puffing out his white head crest and feathers to give a little dance and a song.

After Diane Miller took ownership of Rocky six years ago, she realized the outgoing umbrella cockatoo needed to light up more lives than just hers.

“He’s a miracle bird,” said Miller. For the past couple years Miller has been bringing Rocky to local seniors homes where many residents suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s. Some haven’t smiled or spoken a word — until they see Rocky.

“Rocky has them smiling, laughing and talking again. This one woman had a real growly face and so I put one of Rocky’s feathers on her hand and blew on it a bit and Rocky did his thing. The next thing you know she is smiling,” said Miller. “There are extremely moving moments with Rocky.”

At Magnolia Gardens, Rocky attended a 94th birthday party, where he took off people’s hats and made everyone laugh.

“I was told that was the best birthday that man had had,” said Miller.

They doubled her hours at one care home because of the response Rocky was getting from residents with dementia.

Patricia St. Hilaire, recreation co-ordinator at Evergreen Care Home provided Miller with a letter of appreciation for the therapy work Rocky has done.

“He brings out everyone’s inner child and, in that, he heals people —he’s healed me.

“If someone is grieving, he can help pick them back up again.”

He enjoys bopping to Elvis and loves cream soda. He gets into mischief when you aren’t looking and can say several things, including his name.

Miller brings him to big events like the Canada Day celebrations, Cloverdale Rodeo and events in downtown Langley.

“Everybody loves him. We can’t go anywhere without him being swarmed. But we love it, he makes people happy,” she said.

“Including me.”

Miller was fleeing an abusive relationship when she found Rocky.

“I guess he kind of rescued me,” she said.

“Rocky helped me put the tears away and live again. I knew I had to share his gift with everyone.”

She is Rocky’s third owner. Before Miller, Rocky lived on the road with a truck driver.

“You have to make a commitment to a bird because they live so long, and that’s what I’ve done with Rocky.”

Cockatoos and parrots demand attention and get bored easily. If they are left alone too long they will pluck their feathers out, she said.

Miller has also made it a point to spread the word about the BC Exotic Bird Society. The society is non-profit group of bird loving members who exchange information about proper care, feeding and habits of all feathered friends.

Rocky is available for birthdays and any special events. Call Diane at 604-363-7060.

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