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-by Maryanne Lovell

Seventeen year old Sweet Pea (aka: "Parrotten") is a five-day-a- week volunteer at Highland Terrace Nursing Center in Camas, Washington, where his owner, C.J. Hamstreet, is Social Services Director for the 90-bed facility.

One of Parrotten's chief duties as weekday volunteer is to daily tour the facility on his mom's shoulder, providing a visual treat for the residents who are bird and animal lovers. When C.J. and Parrotten are not circulating through the building, Parrotten reigns supreme in the Social Service office atop his open cage, supervising meetings with families and others who genuinely appreciate his colorful presence. At night, the Blue Front Amazon Parrot checks out when C.J. does and heads out to her car, perched on her shoulder, another day's satisfying work as Pet Therapy Volunteer completed.

Highland Terrace has been a leader in facilitated pet therapy in Clark County for the last few years. Besides housing an aquarium in a resident-accessible area, the facility boasts an Activity Department composed of animal and bird lovers who encourage families to bring in pets to visit their loved ones as well as decorate bedside areas with pet photos or animal motif wall decorations. Local businesses, nonprofit organizations such as 4-H groups, and community individuals are invited to participate in Highland's monthly Sunday afternoon Pet Parades. Residents are treated to hands-on visits from a variety of birds, even including farm chickens, well-groomed dogs and cats, and a Noah's Ark of other visitors which have included llamas, miniature pigs in costume, lambs, iguanas, a miniature donkey, a full-sized horse (which stayed outdoors, probably a good idea), and guinea pigs dressed up in fancy outfits. Southwest Washing-ton Humane Society has provided the same dedicated volunteer for over two years, Jan Idomir of Ridgefield, who visits twice a month with her Shih Tzus, Scrappy and Elvis.

Parrotten is among those helping to take the institutionalism out of nursing homes. The residents look forward to Parrotten's daily visits and this Blue Front Amazon wouldn't miss a day of work either.

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This article was written and submitted by

Maryanne Lovell, owner of

Four On The Floor pet sitting.

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