A fateful summer’s eve in 2016 marked the beginning of a beautiful friendship for the residents and staff of Ruth’s House Assisted Living. A brilliantly colored yellow cockatiel boldly walked into the building, strutting down the hallway in all its glory. The beloved bird has been there ever since.
Mary-Anne Schelb, Director of Business Development at JGS Lifecare, the organization that operates Ruth’s House and Leavitt Family Jewish Home, assumed the bird was a neighbor’s pet and called area occupants, animal shelters as well as the police, but no one came forward to claim ownership. The staff decided to keep the bird until its owner was identified. Fast forward six years later and Tweety, as he was affectionately named, is now a treasured resident of the assisted living.
Tweety enjoys singing to the residents, serenading himself while looking at his reflection in the mirror, and visiting residents in their apartments. Not surprisingly, he is a “natural” in front of a video camera! Staff members believe he provides emotional support to the residents. Susan Halpern, Vice President of Development and Communications of JGS Lifecare, noted that research indicates that some bird sounds may offer relief from mental fatigue and stress. “Studies with bird sounds have showed that they may have a restorative effect on individuals,” stated Halpern. “Of course, it’s not an exact science,” she clarified, “but I do notice that our residents light up as soon as they see or hear Tweety.”
Over the years, Tweety has brought great joy and camaraderie to both residents and staff alike, helping make Ruth’s House a warm and inviting environment, and even more like a real home. Tweety can often be found walking about on the shoulder of Greg Gale, a member of the life enrichment staff. One could say that he is Greg’s assistant, sharing his gentle and loving personality with everyone he meets. During activities, Tweety makes special appearances. He particularly loves the trivia games and has been known to participate by sitting on the back of a participant’s chair. When a resident answers a trivia question, Tweety will often squawk as if to answer himself!
“Pets have a delightful way of opening doors that would otherwise be locked or difficult to open,” noted Gale. “For many people a dog, cat or bird brings into mind positive memories and stories of life experiences. If one is feeling sadness or loneliness the visit of a pet can turn these feelings around and raise them to levels of gratefulness and joy. When a caregiver is trying to reach the essence of a person in need a pet visit can be extremely effective in cleansing sour attitudes with positive experiences. Here at Ruth’s House we are lucky to have a resident cockatiel “Tweety” who makes special appearances to activities or visits to a resident’s room when they are feeling ill.”
Overall, the unanimous consensus is that Tweety is a wonderful addition to the assisted living. Mary-Anne Schelb sums up his presence perfectly. “Six years ago, Tweety literally walked into our lives,” said Mary-Anne. “Today he is a vital part of the Ruth’s House family. I find myself walking by his cage at least a few times a day,” she admitted. “He never fails to make me smile.”
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