full stories at: http://www.wtopnews.com/?nid=598&sid=1318253
DAMASCUS, Md. (AP) - Paralyzed on his right side and unable to speak following a car accident, former firefighter Brian Wilson credits his parrots with helping him get back on his feet.
Now, he is returning the favor by caring for birds others no longer want. "I was supposed to be in a wheelchair, in a nursing home," Wilson said, recalling how his parrots helped him recover from the brain injury suffered shortly after retiring as a Montgomery County firefighter in 1995. "They kept repeating one word, and they knew I would say it right," Wilson said.
"It was like I was a child. But it worked. They taught me how to talk again.
Then I had to learn to walk, because I had to let them out and take care of them and clean their cages."
Now, people bring him birds, often warning he won't be able to hold them. He often amazes the owners by winning the birds over in minutes.
"Ninety percent of them have been so neglected, they don't want to come out of their cage because they don't know what will happen," Wilson said. Wilson speaks with a deep voice when he instructs parrots to step up or down, and softly when he tells them he loves them and gives them kisses as rewards. If they don't respond correctly, he ignores them.
"They need attention all the time," Wilson said. "I give them everything they want and deserve."
They also need a balanced diet, Wilson said, noting seeds alone will cut their life span in half. Parrots enjoy fruits, vegetables, and even chicken bones, which they chew to get to the marrow, but can't have chocolate, caffeine and avocado and apple seeds, which can be fatal.
Wilson said his finances are becoming tighter because he is moving from disability to retirement and is seeking donations for his Wilson Parrot Foundation, including a reliable van a car dealer might want to donate. Government workers can help through the Combined Federal Campaign of the National Capital Region and Central Maryland.
For those considering a parrot as a pet, he advises them to let the bird choose the owner.
"Know that they are messy, destructive and need attention," he said.