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Pet Stories: In Your Own Words

Lessons from Crackers

By: Cheryl Bentley

These are the things I have learned from Crackers, my 18-year-old cockatiel:

* Shower loved ones with kisses and cuddles.

* Sing. (When Crackers was hospitalized with a lung infection, and was so weak my heart stopped every time I called the vet staff at 8:00 in the morning to see how he had fared through the night, he still trilled.his bliss in spite of a sick little body. Every day.

* Strut when doing the above. (Crackers, after all, is a child of God, and wings held from his body, forming a heart-shaped "cape," promenading for his audience, he proclaims his divinity from every cell.)

* Communicate your desires unashamedly. (In Crackers' case, The Squawk is remarkably effective.)

* Be aware of your feelings. (Crackers keeps a running commentary of his inner state through vocalizations.)

* Do anything that's fun.

* Refuse to do what isn't.

* Relish your body. (Ah, the joy Crackers gets from stretching, taking every feather, one by one, and lovingly running it through his beak, and just touching a loved one.)

* Bite the person who cages you. (Although Crackers has trained me so that he spends very little time in his cage, when I am not at home, he has to be caged for safety. Knowing from my body language that it's Cage Time, he rushes up to me and bites me.)

* Soften the bites to loved ones. (Crackers has bitten other people hard, but for me bites are symbolic, the running of his mouth along my finger.)

* Ask for love.

* Receive it with an open heart. I have a feeling that once, thousands of years ago, I knew these things, but this time around I'm a little slow. No matter. Crackers loves me just as I am. And this sweet, pure, simple unconditional love is his biggest lesson of all.

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