Bob Sifrit, an 88-year-old resident at The Cedars, has a routine he follows after each meal — spending an hour with his special friend, Delilah the cockatiel.
The Cedars is home to two cockatiels. Darlow is a 6-year-old male and Delilah is a 5-year-old female. Both of the birds came to live at The Cedars in 2016.
A retired Church of the Brethren pastor, Sifrit began stopping by the bird room three years ago to visit Delilah.
"I would open the cage and talk to her in a soft voice," Sifrit said. "She would hook one foot on the cage and the other on my chest. For three weeks we did that and then, one day, she stepped onto my shoulder."
The pair have become used to each other, even though Sifrit had no prior experience with birds and Delilah is skittish around most humans.
"It blows my mind that a wild bird would even let me touch her," Sifrit said. "...She has a mind of her own and why she decided to pick me to be close to, I have no idea."
Sifrit wears a towel across his shoulders and places one on any nearby furniture to protect against bird droppings when he has Delilah outside of her cage.
"They are very indiscreet," Sifrit winked.
Sifrit also has to remember to take out his hearing aids when interacting with the bird or she will grab them and drop them on the floor.
"For some reason or another, she has bonded with me," Sifrit said. "I take her around to some of the apartments and the staff."
Once as he was walking down a hallway, a fellow resident who had never acknowledged Sifrit noticed the bird riding on his shoulder.
"She immediately walked right up and started talking to Delilah just like she was human," Sifrit said.
That incident gave Sifrit the idea to start using the cockatiel as a therapy bird and he was given permission to take Delilah around to visit other residents at The Cedars.
Sifrit shared that spending time with Delilah is also good for him, as his wife has dementia and cannot walk.
"The lady I married is not here anymore," Sifrit said. "She turns everything so negative and that was not my wife. So this is my therapy bird."
As Delilah sits on his shoulder, Sifrit pretends to fight with her, receives pecks of affection and lets the cockatiel eat the edges off of paper from a joke-a-day calendar.
"They're supposed to talk when they're 5 years old, but she hasn't started that yet," Sifrit said. "...She likes music, so I'll hum real quietly and she'll chirp. I think she thinks she's singing with me."
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