Thursday, September 18, 2014

Service animals

One of our local group homes is part of a pilot program involving domestic fowl service animals. Apparently these birds are cheaper to train than dogs, and they work well with severely impaired people, especially ones with limited motor skills. Some of the chickens, particularly the Dutch Bantams, who are supposedly very well suited to this work, are quite beautiful. And it's kind of neat to have a fancy chicken hand you a library card from its beak. Like so many things at my job the best approach is to act as if it's normal and pretty soon, it comes to you; it is normal! For good or ill just about everything is.

It is also a joy to see a group of disabled people working their way through the library with a small retinue of turkeys, chickens and guinea fowl, who are subtle vocalizers and the best of the three at quietly conveying their intentions. For some reason I wish someone had a duck, maybe just because I like them, but apparently ducks are poorly suited to this sort of work, too independent minded, and the wrong sort of beaks. Geese are considered too big, and apparently potty train badly. But even among what is known as "The Big Three" (chickens, turkeys and guinea fowl) the variety amongst the birds can be dazzling. Blue chickens? Green, orange and umber turkeys? Oh, and those daffy, brilliant guinea fowl with red eyes and bright blue heads looking sideways at you like they know just what you're thinking! Ah, how a small troupe of wheelchairs, attendants, and fancy birds in quiet procession never fails to make me happy that I work where I do, in a land of pure imagination.

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