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The Teachings of the Little Parrot

November 1, 2009

I have seen so many writings on what animal companions have taught those close to them.  Each life special, and for a brief moment in time, seemingly inexplicitly entwined together.


Conan 2/17/2009

My path has been joined by many animals over time.  As I look back towards my first memory of these joinings, I now understand it is with guilt that I remember …  what I could have done better and what I didn’t do.  It sometimes strikes me that what causes us to learn is sometimes at the expense of our loved companions. 

I decided on purchasing my first parrot in 1990.  My cubicle mate’s wife owned a cockatiel and he would share their adventures.   I remember that prior to hearing Reggie talk about his wife’s and cockatiel’s seemingly unorthodox friendship, I strongly felt that birds were not to be caged, but to fly free.

And then one day, I somehow made the decision to acquire a parrot.  And so I researched, diving into all books I could find relating to parrots.  I learned about conures, their personalities and their faults.  Looking closer at the many types of conures, I found the peach front conures.  Compact, beautiful, and in my opinion, not as vocal as the Nanday or Sun.

I searched for breeders, and located one, down south.  I called him, speaking at length.  The next day, after an hour drive, I arrived at his house.  Eggs had hatched only days earlier.  The chicks’ feathers were still encased in the protective sheathing, with promises of one day soon emerging bright, new, and green.  I chose one, and named him “Conan” because of the supplements the breeder was using in his hopes of producing quality birds.  I was asked if I wanted to finish up the hand-feeding, and I answered with a definite NO.  I had a fear of somehow screwing up the potential life that this somewhat odd looking mass of evolving feathers was facing.  So, it was agreed that after a brief prior-planned vacation to Florida, on my return I would drive again to the breeder’s, but return with Conan.


Conan 3/9/2009

The day of Conan’s arrival I was filled with joy, fear, anticipation and hope, all at the same time.  Conan’s rather huge cage was ready, and filled with size-appropriate toys.  His food was in canisters waiting for its first use.  I had further read articles about parrot behavior, and somehow I knew that this little ball of feathers would find a quick path to my heart.  Now, if only I could actually use all of the knowledge I had acquired.

On the day I drove to pick him up, it was hot.  And I remember being so concerned about regulating the air conditioner in the car.  No drafts, I had read.  No extreme temperatures.  Roger that!

So Conan shared his life with me.  Every part of it, and every day.  We moved several times, and went through hardships and good times and ups and downs together.   It seemed as if our time together was destined and blessed, and would remain so forever.  His “hi, baby!” will always put a smile on my face.

On a day in this past May 2009, I uncovered his cage to begin our day.  I noticed that he had not slept in his “box,” which was unusual.  I did a quick “poop check,” but all of his droppings looked normal.  I monitored him throughout the day, and noticed that he was very quiet.  Most of his day was spent looking out of the window, and he made no sounds.  But he ate.  Had he not, he would have been taken immediately to the veterinarian.  So in my mind’s checklist, both the eating and the pooping were checked “OK.”  By early evening, however, it was fearfully apparent that something was critically wrong.  Conan, although still eating, was beginning to demonstrate problems.  His poop was not looking right.  And he was still quiet.

I located the ceramic infra-red light, and placed it over his cage for warmth.  In addition, I placed his cage cover on his cage, putting a temperature gauge at the center of his cage to monitor the heat.  Before I went to bed that night, I did a final check.  He did not look good.  But he was still eating.  But he still did-not-look-good.  I said my “good night,” and could only hope that either two things would happen tomorrow morning ….. that he would be OK, or that I could get him into the vet immediately.

Sunday, the next morning, I deliberately stayed in bed an extra hour.  There was something inside of me that dreaded even seeing Conan’s cage.  When I did get into the kitchen area, his cage was silent.  I was asked if I had looked in to see how Conan was doing, and I answered no.  The cage cover was lifted, and I was told that “he is OK!  He’s on the bottom of the cage, and alive!”  My heart stopped as my mind raced with fear’s panic.  No …. he never gets on the bottom perch.  And then I looked in.  He was in a corner, melted into a sickly ball of feathers, just barely alive, not able to stand.  All I could say is “Oh Conan,” as I swept him up into my hands, running into my bedroom, shutting the door, and sitting in the rocking chair, holding him close, and crying.  He was dying.  And it seems, as crazy as it may sound, that he waited for me.  I believe that if I would have taken yet another hour to have gone to his cage, he would have mustered up the courage to wait ……

I called my mother, crying, panicked and full of fear.  “He’s dying …. I’m holding him, but I don’t know what to do.  Help me.”  My mother, aware that we are all on our own spiritual path, responded simply, “Release him.  Do not fear.  Know that he is one with Spirit, as you are.  Love him.  You cannot fear.  Do not keep him a prisoner in his body because of your fear.  Let him go.  This is what you can give him in return for all that he has given you.  Give it freely.”

It took several minutes to find that fearless point.  It was not easy.  During this time, I felt Conan’s body stiffen, and then relax, over and over again.  Part of me was screaming to him ….. die!  Please die!  I cannot do this for you!  Another part was busy beating myself up …. What did I do wrong?  How could I have let this happen?  Why did I not take him to an emergency avian veterinarian last night? 

And then finally, Peace.  I was one with him, and Spirit.  Fear was replaced with Love, Truth.  I was calm.  It was at this exact moment when Conan became still.  And at peace.  This I will never forget.

Conan taught me what a prison fear can be.  It binds us to these bodies.  It ensures that we do not find Peace and Love.  It keeps us here, but yet searching for what we truly know and want, but yet do not want to see.

Thank you, Conan.


In the days that followed, I found my mind still beating myself up, again with thoughts of what did I do wrong, etc.  I remembered that when I had first decided on a conure, I had read that their life expectancy is 30 years.  Yes, I told myself, I did something wrong.  Counting years in my head, I determined that Conan was only 15 years when he died.  I had cut his life short. 

A few days later, I was talking to someone who has in-depth knowledge of parrots.  I shared my grief with her.  And then she surprised me by telling me that peach front conures, one of the smallest conures, have a life expectancy of 15 years ….. not the 30 that I had assumed.  OK — I felt better, but I needed to know for sure. 

Fast forward a couple of days:  Going through my animal records, I found Conan’s sales receipt.  While glancing over it, I gasped.  The purchase date was 4/20/1990.   He was 19 years old when he died.  The disappointment  I had felt towards myself was immediately released.  And at that moment came the realization that had I taken him to the emergency veterinarian that Saturday night, he would have died anyway.  There would have been nothing anyone could have done to have forestalled his death.  And he would have died, after countless pokings and probings, in an incubator, alone.

Please see The Flock

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