The canary in the coalmine.

Transcript from my presentation at LeHigh Valley Parrot EXPO | 5/6/17

Canaries, and all birds, are sentinels. They are so sensitive to smells, sounds and pressures we humans fail at picking up that we have integrated them into systems for our own safety. Canaries and songbirds were, up until about 30 years ago, used as sentinels to warn of oxygen loss or noxious fumes in the coal mining industry. By taking a caged bird into the mines, miners would have an early signal to trouble, giving the coal miners time to escape. The thing is, canaries were effective to a certain depth, if the miners were deep into the job the warning provided no safety. By the time the sentinel died it was too late for the miner to climb out of such depths. Canaries were effective for the first 50 feet of depth or so.

I want to take the idea of understanding ourselves through our sentinel flock and our relationship with our birds, and stack that on top of an important issue no one is currently talking about in the avian community. I’ve not heard or read one word on this, and quite frankly it gives me pause. Because without this truth in our life, we are going to have less success with our parrots. I am talking about our own health. Which is completely based on being honest with ourselves, our parrots, and how we are living this life. Consider this. If we get lost in our daily living because of the complexity of our daily living, we will take our companions on that journey. If we are so busy digging our life’s mine shaft we do not pay attention to where we are actually going, we and our parrots will be lost together. Big stuff huh? I’m not here to play judge and jury, but rather Sherpa. I’d like to take you for a long walk up a hill so you can see a vista of new strengths and possibilities for your companion parrot’s care and happiness. I’ve begun applying these concepts with flocks around the world, and the results are coming back very positive. Culture, nationality, language, money or social status has no bearing whatsoever. And as I work on this next book about these concepts, I’d like to present them to you here today, for thoughts and feedback. So, let’s walk up a mountain of ideas together. Follow me.

There’s a theory in human psychology called the Blink Theory. Basically a human knows what they perceive as a truth inside a situation within a “blink” of an eye. The theory goes further saying this was developed through evolution to keep up alive when we were prey rather than predator. Now that man is the apex animal and heavily reliant in AI technologies, we’ve lost the ability to use the power of our “blink” on matters. We no longer trust our own “gut” on things, and rely on social norms, group think, and technology to guide us through our day to day. There are some professionals who believe the level of anxiety issues in this country is directly related to this evolution of living. We no longer have a close bond to our own truths. No matter the opinion on these ideas, the fact remains humans rationalize our way through life to accommodate discomfort. As a practiced martial artist who has trained in self defense and weapons disarming I’ve invested time to sharpen my personal awareness and “blink”. In all the self defense classes I’ve taken the first rule of fight club is simply to trust your gut. If it feels wrong, it most likely is. Leave. Training time was invested in sharpening the personal “blink” on matters and people. Because the more you know how to fight, the less you want to do it. Stress is the enemy.

I have a strong trust in my blink when it comes to people and parrots. I trust the parrots to give me all the information I need to assess the human in the room. You can not fool a companion parrot. Parrots are literally “blink” driven. They know falsehood. They have no time for insincerity. They make no room for it, and will fight being around it. Parrots want nothing to do with stress. Particularly that stress brought on by insincerity.

We humans, we are so complicated. Parrots are not. A companion parrot is black or white. Up or down, yin or yang. It’s why I spend more time helping people than their birds. They are not the complicated piece of the equation. We are. This isn’t an indictment, but rather a plain truth. Once we wrap our head around all that truth then it’s easier to get better at living with a parrot. WHICH leads to being a better human. I am in total agreement with Dr. Goodall’s statement that, “Respecting animals makes us better humans.” I take her truth and move it a bit further and say, living well with a companion parrot makes us better humans.

So, what’s the point of all this? To be better. Better with our parrots. Better with ourselves. Better with others. The companion parrot lifestyle isn’t a vacuum. Life is too short to be bad at it. We’ve got a personal Zen master in our home and it makes sense to consult the master of joy and happiness and simplicity so that we and they can be even more successful at all this. Our Sentinel Companion can keep us at the top 50 feet of our life mine shaft if we pay attention to both to them, and to our digging.

Successfully choosing the perfect companion parrot does not start with the parrot, it starts with us. Successfully integrating and staying integrated with a chosen parrot also starts and stays with us. It starts with identifying our lifestyle, our nuances and taking an honest evaluation of our personal goals and beliefs in life. It’s easy to get lost in the day to day living cycle. We forgot all our promises to ourselves during all those moments we had to accommodate change or surprises. I’ve worked out a life equation for choosing the perfect companion parrot. So many folks were asking me what kind of parrot they should get. My answer is always, know thyself first. I realized that answer was little to no help, and so I reached back to my schooling and retooled the idea of Life Inventory. I created a simple method that put the truth of ourselves in sharp focus. Know Thyself has been a great success. I realized that equation is also a powerful exercise to take inventory on our parrot/person relationship. I take my Life Inventory (gut check) once a year. It keeps me on track. Some claim life is an obstacle course. That’s too easy. I’ve trained via obstacle courses. You can see what’s coming and prepare yourself for the next challenge. No. Life isn’t an obstacle course, it’s ninja dodge ball! Actually it’s 4th grade ninja dodge ball and we are blindfolded. We get bonked in the head with things we never see coming. And then because of expediency’s sake, and fear of discomfort and the unknown we choose to react to that dodge ball by changing our goals, beliefs or focus.

Don’t think I am trying to impose a moral or value system upon you with this conversation. My prime goal; to help every parrot have a successful life. But a parrot can’t have a successful life, if their human isn’t. Not only are our birds relying on us for care, food, safety and love, they rely on us to be as healthy mentally and physically as we can. We are a flock, and all the members need to be at the best they can.

I am not saying we have to be 100% physically or mentally healthy. This isn’t about perfection. And no human ever in the history of humans has ever been 100% of anything. This is about sincerity. I know many flocks with physically challenged humans. I know many flocks with humans who fight the fight of mental struggle. And they are all successful for the sincerity the human brings to their lifestyle everyday.

If we, the human in the room, have been pushed off course by life, (and haven’t we all?) then our companions are going along for that ride. So, it behooves us to check ourselves once in a while, to see if we are still us.

You’ll need your favorite document creating/saving device. Whatever makes you feel comfortable and allows you free thought. When I work on my books I use pencil and paper journals. I then transfer thoughts onto my laptop. So use that which allows you to think freely the most. This isn’t an SAT test. There is no time limit. So don’t rush the process. AND BE HONEST with all your answers. If you find yourself holding back remember NO ONE has to ever see this document. You can delete/burn any trace of all of it. You must be honest, otherwise there’s no point to doing this exercise. Now later after you are all done you may want to share what you’ve written. I’ve had some people tell me later they took the documents into their therapist for further discussion. I’ve had some say they shared the document with a spouse or good friend because they felt the need to work something out. But for now, remember no one has to or will ever see anything you write, if that is your wish. This belongs to you.

And so we begin our Life Inventory. You could also consider it GPS for your life’s mine shaft.

Consider the days, or times, you have to yourself this past year. Whether they are vacation days, weekends, paid time off days, or retired it does not matter. Just those days, or moments, you were free to choose your path without worrying about the impact your choice would make on others. For most of us we’ll balk at this and say what free time!?! But allow me to just say I work full and a half time on a global grassroots organization, tend social media pages, write books and blog posts, consult via email/messenger, have a life and a husband and a flock and crazy ideas. But I can still think of times I had to myself. So ponder this for a few days. Some people use their Facebook or social media pages to remember things. Even if in 364 days you can only think of 4 instances, that qualifies. Now, write down what you did during those times over the last year. Just general points like mowed the lawn, went to a party, cleaned the garage, read a book, that sort of description. Take your time and really think about those days and what you did with them while you had them. You’ll find yourself jumping between these 3 lists we’ll be making, as one will jog memory for the other. Label this list; ACTIONS.

Consider the days, or times, you have to yourself this past year again. Now write down what you spent your money on during those days, such as food, entertainment, travel. Get specific to a point. Don’t just write food, was it groceries for the house, or did you go out to eat? We are itemizing expenditures for a reason. Make these items clear enough to differentiate from each other. Label this list; INVESTMENTS.

Finally, consider the days, or times, you have to yourself this past year one more time. Now write down who you spent that time with during those days. It’s 2017 so texting, Facetiming/Skyping all count as spending time. Emailing does too. If you reached out to someone in either way, they make the list. After you’ve got those names, write down the companions these people may have at home. It doesn’t matter how small or large their companions are, horse to goldfish, list, count and number them all. Label this list; INFLUENCES.

Alright, now let’s do some revelation equations!

Divide your ACTIONS list into two categories; HOME and AWAY.

Divide your INVESTMENTS list into HOME and AWAY.

Divide your INFLUENCES list into FRIENDS and ACQUAINTANCES. (an acquaintance is someone you’d never give your house key to, which could be a touchy spot if they are family. Hence the privacy caveat earlier.)

Boiled down, human motivations either indicate a settled spirit, or a searching spirit. There’s no judgement to these two states of being. They just are and they just are everything. Including the life you will actually create and provide a companion parrot. If you already have a companion parrot, these results will show you have either grown closer to your parrot, or you have grown apart. Add up your results. Do you spend more time and money centralized around creating a nest or are you working on getting out and away for experiences and revelation? What did your money and time investments create? Were you left with a tangible thing, or experiences? Finally, you are who you spend the most time with in those hours. Are your friends animal lovers or are they pet collectors? You can tell quite a bit about yourself by looking at and evaluating who you consider friends and who you invest your emotional energy in.

You might find yourself thinking, wow, I’ve really slid here. OR you might say wow! I’m a totally different person than a year ago! So what does that say about your life with a companion parrot you have now, or one that you hope to have? What’s the reflection here? I can’t read your tea leaves, I can only provide the cup and dry leaf. But by listing the actions, investments and influences you’ve allowed when no one was looking or affected by them you see your true nature. And your true nature is the blink you may not have paid attention to, or you may have swept under the rug to please others or meet expectations earlier. Where’s your life’s mine shaft heading? Do you like the direction? How does this affect your relationships and your companion? What’s changed? What’s good? What’s bad? These are your results, and for you to cipher.

If you are a settled person with a nature that is content, you have friends that reflect that nature and who also nurture their companions with that same contentment.

If you are unsettled in life, you’re searching for experiences, growth, revelation and evolution while investing in experiences outward rather than inward then your friends reflect that nature.

Our Sentinels may have been giving up warnings for a while, but we were so busy digging through life we didn’t cipher what they were saying, we just saw bad behaviors.

Behavior issues sprout from the behavior of the human in the room. This may sound uncomfortable and it may smack in the face of what you’ve read or been told. BUT parrots act like parrots first. That is a known from the get go. Issues come when our human behavior creates unreasonable expectations for expediency’s sake because of problems that pop up in life, thereby causing stress. And if you have stress, you do not have a confident, curious parrot or communication. And a parrot without communication inside a flock, is lost. And immediately sends out distress signals.

Outside of children, there really isn’t anything like a companion parrot. I’ve raised both. Kids are easier. Our parrots affect our choices and they should, just as deciding to have a child. To choose the perfect companion parrot, you first must choose to see who you really are as a person. Because without that step, it could be a bumpy relationship for both of you. To not keep track of yourself, and your own personal life and personality changes can also create a bumpy relationship. It happens in marriages. We don’t grow apart, we grow different without paying attention to the changes. Much like coal miners not paying attention to the direction they are digging, you find out deep, deep into things you’ve gone the wrong way. GPS fixed this problem for miners. Consider this Life Inventory a GPS for your lifestyle. And your parrot, your sentinel, to set alarms if you start veering off.

The one truth among all parrots is the need to flock in confidence and communication. That one truth will yield the same result across all flocks and all parrots. Mining that shaft of fact allows us to create a direct line into their natural instinct of flock health and balance. Which creates trust, which removes stress, which ends in communication clear and simple.

It’s like yearly healthcare, if you have yearly blood work panels, you already know the baseline of health is good for your parrot. It is a non issue. I am saying with this Life Inventory work we are doing the same maintenance but on our mental and emotional health. Which is just as important. If not more. Stress has a massive affect on parrots. They will do anything to get away from stress, hence biting. Stress has a massive affect on us. Stress is simply feeling out of control. Chemically speaking our body manufactures fight or flight fuel. And we are stuck in that decision moment full of stress. If we already know who we are, and what we will and will not accept in our life (and the why of it) then knowing what we need to do when a ninja hits us in the head with a dodge ball isn’t stressful. It’s just something we will take care of in the long run. Our life and our companion parrots are too marvelous to marginalize.

Here’s another thing that crosses my mind, and I toss it out there for feedback. I value your opinion. I’m at a part in my book where I’m staring at this last unspoken truth. And I want to find a way to discuss it as a truth. We all spend exorbitant amounts of money and time feeding our parrots healthy, proper nutrition. We might even get into arguments about how and what. I am not judging here. But we all spend so much time and money to uplift our birds via nutrition and physical activity, and yet we don’t do it for ourselves. We are the front lines to our parrots. Without us, who and where are they? What happens when we get sick? Our parrots go along for the ride we build with our own health and wellness choices. Ya, I know, that’s an uncomfortable question to say out loud.

The companion parrot lifestyle is not a vacuum. Nor is the human dynamic. Excellence, joy, honesty, confidence, forgiveness, humor, openness, and peace are what we all desire. I’ve never met anyone that doesn’t want those things. We are the only one who can give them to ourselves, and our parrots.

Finally, now that we are at the top of this mountain of thought, and looking at the vista of ideas before us we have to remember the ultimate truth. Our companions need and want us to be sincere and the best we can be. A flock is only as successful as the weakest individual. Their success is directly linked to our own.



I am a Companion Animal Advocate, Owner of, and Author | |

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