As my son and I walked toward the door of the Fletcher Hills Library to leave, I saw something that startled me. A man sat at the computer stations, a cockatiel on either shoulder.

"Now that's something I didn't expect to see in a library," I thought.

Always eager to show my son something out of the ordinary, I nudged him and told him to look at the birds. We stood, awe-struck, for a minute, before a library employee approached the man.

"Sir, excuse me. We don't allow birds in the library," she said gently. Given the unusual nature of his pets, I'm sure she was braced for some sort of craziness. What he said I could never have predicted.

"They're service animals," he replied.

Service animals?? This I had to hear.

"Service animals, sir? What do you mean?" the employee clearly hadn't bargained for that answer.

"They provide therapy," was his answer.

The conversation continued, but I decided we didn't need to be a part of it. As I left, I wondered if the birds truly were service birds, and what exactly they did. Cheered him up if he was depressed? Helped him search the Internet? Fed him crackers?

I realized I was skeptical, as many would be, of the nature of the birds' roles. But it is plausible, and in fact, upon writing this, I discovered that a variety of animals are used as service animals (including miniature horses and monkeys, in addition to birds). Birds are often used to help people with psychosis issues. The American Disabilities Act authorizes people to bring any service animal in any public place. So the man was completely in his right to be in the library with the birds.

This situation has stayed with me, and serves to remind me that sometimes I need to stretch my willing suspension of disbelief. We tend to make assumptions about the way "things should be," and when we find out they're different, we reject the possibility. I, for one, am glad I saw him and learned about service birds. This man's situation has had a ripple effect that went beyond just him and his birds.

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