A few years ago, when I was living in Honolulu, my neighbors had to move, and I agreed to take in their cockatiel, Charlie. I'd never had a bird before, but he was really sweet—he'd wolf whistle at me when I walked by. Then I read about parrotlets, these little birds from Mexico, Central America and South America. I couldn't believe how cute they were, yet I read that people often abandon them when they realize how much work and expense they require. These small creatures may be delicate one-ounce bundles, but they need a tremendous amount of attention and care.

I decided I wanted to take in parrotlets that needed homes, so after I moved to California, I got in touch with the rescue organization Mickaboo. Now I have four—Bertie, Kai, Daisy and Bella—and I'm fostering one more, Ace.

Parrotlets don't realize how small they are. They have big personalities—funny, inquisitive, territorial. They can also be nervous and excitable, like Jack Russell terriers. My day job can be emotionally and intellectually intense—I'm responsible for a department that runs clinical trials to help save the hearts and brains of people who've suffered medical emergencies or trauma. But when I look at my parrotlets, I instantly feel better.

They love to burrow in pockets or snuggle inside shirt collars. Bertie will try to stick his head under m hair to get cozy when he's sleepy. When they're relaxed, they grind their beaks, and it makes a distinctive raspy noise. It's a sign of pure contentment. They'll cuddle up and chirp, flick their wings and shake their bottoms when they're happy. Bertie also loves to come in the shower with me for a "sauna." I put him down on the glass shelf inside, and he immediately walks to his corner and closes his eyes, waiting for the hot water. Then he gets in meditation mode. Sometimes he falls asleep. When I see his teeny puffs of breath against the glass, it brings me such joy.

Parrotlets are like inhaling sunshine. After all, life can be hard. There are all sorts of hurts out there: big, small, serious, not so serious. But I can have a relationship with this beautiful little being, and that helps me let everything else go.


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