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A Form of Hope

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We begin in the middle of a phone call with Lulu Miller, who tells us the story of a couple with a seemingly unsolvable problem. It's the 1970s, and Richard and Tucker are very much in love. They'd like to get married, but it's against the law. And that would have been the end of the story...except that Richard, worried about Tucker and frustrated that he couldn't legally provide for him, came up with a very unusual (but totally legal) solution.

Lulu says these moments, where one little switch can reframe reality, are a kind of duct tape for the ethereal sadness. It's a form of hope, where an imperfect workaround opens up a door and makes life a little bit better.

And that brings us to a man named Jim Eggers, who suffers from a problem that not only puts his life at risk--it jeopardizes the safety of everybody around him. Producer Pat Walters explains how Jim found a way to manage his anger with the help of a bird named Sadie. African Grey Parrot expert Irene Pepperberg helps us understand how this could work, and shares some insights from her work with a parrot named Alex.

 

Guests:

Irene Pepperberg

Contributors:

Lulu Miller and Pat Walters

Comments [9]

Susie from Portland, OR

The last part, about the "fake" bus stop outside the nursing home, is similar to how I've had to handle my mom's need for the illusion of freedom. Her car sits in the parking lot of the assisted living facility where she has an apartment. She does occasionally drive it, perhaps once or twice a month, but just seeing it outside her window is usually enough to comfort her into knowing she is not "trapped". Sometimes she just goes and sits in it, listening to the radio.

Jul. 07 2014 04:21 PM
kelley from atlanta, ga

does radiolab keep a list of the segue music between stories? I hear such great clips on the program and want to look up more of the same...

Apr. 07 2014 09:06 AM
Travis

Didn't you already run this story a few years ago? About the guy with his parrot?

Apr. 02 2014 04:02 PM
Shirley from Phoenix, Az.

I have been around Grey's & know that they will talk to you just like what Jim is saying. I have a Lesser Sulfur Crested Cockatoo that when I am not feeling well will ask me "are you OK?" or say "It's OK" Like the doctor said the birds may not know what this means but they can feel the change in there ppl when they say things. We are there flock & that is important to the birds that there flock are together & if someone in there flock is upset they feel it. I think it is sad about the ones doing disability animals are not open to any other animal's besides dogs & mini horses. There are many animals that are out there helping ppl with disability's : dogs, cats, horse (different never heard of), monkeys, birds. I think they should look at the animal see if they are able to help & be more open minded.

Love the story & can relate very well with Jim. I don't have the outburst like Jim but do have my disability issues

May. 18 2012 11:48 PM
Susan from Charlottesville, VA

My husband has bipolar, and one of our dogs absolutely knows when he is becoming manic (which is what's happening with Jim when he starts to feel "tingly"). We've never trained her to behave this way, but she warns him very early on in a manic episode. It's incredible to watch. I'm assuming it's a chemical change she can sense in him. I would guess that's what is up with Jim's parrot as well.

Nov. 25 2011 08:13 AM
evrbdygoz2heven from Castle Rock, CO

Deepak Chopra explores animal/human connectedness in his latest book about the afterlife. Since all life is quantum, how could there not be communion.

Jun. 04 2011 12:15 AM
Emily from Buffalo, NY

Common, RadioLab. I expect more science from you. Don't get soft. Service dogs can be trained as seizure-alert dogs. They can alert people with epilepsy seconds to minutes before they have a seizure. Is this anything like that?

Apr. 26 2011 03:14 PM
Yona from Washington, DC

I have an African Grey for over 10 years and I know that they are capable of far more than mimicry. No, they don't understand individual words, but they understand the timing and they associate phrases with events. For example my bird has done the following:
1. Associated my going to the door and reaching for the dog leash with the phrase :"Coco out?" and saying that phrase every time I was about to call my dog.
2. Calling out my first and last name (his cadence is perfect) as soon as the phone rings -- anticipating my usual business greeting.
3. Saying "bye bye" during my phone calls (but never any other time. I don't know if because he is anticipating that I'm about to end the conversation (he is usually wrong about this one) or because he is trying to create the event that follows my saying "bye bye" -- i.e. hanging-up.
3. Screeching loudly and then anticipating my admonishment by declaring "Quiet Mongo!" before I can say anything.

I

Apr. 24 2011 06:50 PM

The strangest things occur when one works with animals. I grew up with a mother who was a veterinarian, and it's amazing the number of cats who learn to call out "No" or "Mom" or "Home" when they're kept at a vet clinic. For a parrot, it must be even easier.

Apr. 17 2011 10:35 PM

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