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A man has formed a special bond with two support owls who perch on his shoulders and help him cope.
Dad Jaylo Miles, 39, from Llandaff North suffers with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, which means he experiences severe anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
The bond he shares with the two British Barn Owls, named Oscar and Louie, helps Jaylo communicate with other people and provide comfort when he's out in the world, Wales Online reports.
“My journey started with me being extremely ill, and one day I decided ‘I’m going to cycle across Wales,’ which is incredible considering I couldn’t walk to the shop at the time,” Jaylo said.
Jaylo cycled from Anglesey to Cardiff and set up a Facebook page, Many Downs, Time To Get Up, to raise awareness of his battle with mental health and to inspire others.
Jaylo said that there was no particular reason he chose an owl as his support animal, but that it was “just meant to be.”
“Oscar’s role for me is to go out on days when I’m struggling and kind of keep people a little bit at bay, if that makes sense.”
For the first six months after Jaylo took Oscar home, they walked around his local area to build his confidence.
Then a breeder contacted Jaylo to say that they had two eggs that had come from a clutch.
The breeder told Jaylo that the chances of the eggs’ survival were low and that the mother had kicked them out of her nest.
Jaylo suggested that she put the eggs in an incubator and said that he would take the owls home if they hatched.
“And I did. Six months later we had Louie, Oscar’s brother by two generations, and his sister, Maggie Mamoo,” Jaylo said.
“He reads body language, he reads my anxiety, he reads other people’s anxieties and he has a very calming nature to him,” Jaylo said.
“He’s fantastic with people who have disabilities.”
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He says that, because of his owls, he has become something of a local celebrity, and has been contacted by people from all over the world.
Jaylo’s Facebook page has gained followers from across the globe, and he posts pictures of his owls to raise awareness of mental health and give out a message of hope.
“It doesn’t matter where I go in the city, or who I meet that day, somebody always knows somebody who’s dealt with mental health, and they say ‘I wish I knew this was here then.’”
Growing up in the care system and never having lived with his parents, Jaylo says he was placed in over 200 placements across the UK as a child.
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He entered the military at 16-years-old, but says his mental health got worse while he was enlisted.
“I’d become a danger to myself and my own thoughts, and I lost my career.
“And then I lost my brother, and that was my major trigger for it.”
Jaylo said he became homeless when he left the army and began drinking and taking drugs.
“I used drugs to deal with what I was dealing with at the time – my emotions.” he said.
Now a father, Jaylo says he’s been able to turn his life around.
He met his partner while living in a hostel and she told him that he needed to make a choice – “it was us, or the drugs,” Jaylo said.
He began volunteering in a youth centre and has since become recognised for his campaign work for children’s rights.
- Mental Health
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