I took Butters to the Vet's today for her annual checkup and a bit of advocacy work!
She's in her travel cage (okay, it's a dog pen for a Great Dane, whatever). Butters is impatiently waiting for me to pay the bill at the counter. A woman walks behind me and past Butter's location and poor Butters becomes incredibly upset. You see the woman has a little basket with a towel over it. It's the towel Butters can not abide. She's had quite enough of towels today.
I turn around to see an older woman in her 60s. Her charge, a young male cockatiel not yet fledged. And advocacy begins.
"Is it friendly?" She asks standing awkwardly over Butters with her towel and basket hiding her treasure.
"Yes, but she is terrified of the towel you are hanging over her head. Please step back." I say.
"Oh." She's steps back with little regard to who is behind her. "So it's friendly then?"
"Butters is extremely kind and friendly. You just happened to meet her on her checkup day. If you put that towel and basket down I could introduce you." She doesn't.
"Does it talk?" She asks, without moving properly quite yet.
"SHE speaks well, yes." I answer.
"It's a Macaw, right?" She asks, still holding her basket, towel and fledgling.
"SHE, She is a blue and gold macaw named Butters, yes." I answer. I walk forward and take her space passively forcing her to step back and away without comment. "Who do we have in this little basket?" I ask after creating a safe space for Butters.
"Oh this is Sammie. We don't know if it's a boy, but I think it is." I agree, it's a male cockatiel. Sweet, young, not fledged with a full crest and a naked spot on his head. Another week and he'll be flying.
She continues while looking at Butters. "It never fails, everytime I get a cockatiel there's something wrong with it."
I could go on, but I want to leave this storyline because advocacy opportunity just exposed itself. Everytime, she said. So she's had multiple baby cockatiels. And multiple events bringing her into the Vet's office (she gets a point for that). We spoke a bit more, it seemed Sammie had a bit of formula stuck in his vent. No problem. Dr Zellner will fix that right up.
But here's the thing. She, after more than one cockatiel baby, does not know better, continues to use the word "it" and continues to ask the questions that generally non parrot companions ask. She, as the human in the room, has not allowed evolution of companionship to enter the relationships she continues to bring into her home. I introduce myself, FlockCall and creating a successful companion parrot lifestyle. It's what I do, it's where she needs to be for Sammie.
Jump forward 40 minutes. We are home. I have Butters in her travel cage on the front porch while I search for magnolia branches in the front yard. We are about to go back into the house. Our neighbors across the street arrive from a day of school. They have two lovely daughters. I adore their kids. Sweet, intelligent, kind and open. They see Butters and I invite them over and into the house to visit the flock. They've not seen every one up close, only through open windows in the Fall while they ride their bikes outside in the street and Butters and Snickers yell, "HI!".
The girls didn't say a word, their eyes were too wide to leave room for their mouths. Mom couldn't believe the size of macaws, or their colors or how beautiful they look. Felix talked up a storm and flirted none stop. Kirby asked for far too many kisses. It was a wonderful visit for them and us.
Mom said, "I have never seen parrots like this! I mean. I've seen little parakeets at PetsMart, and I thought, they look horrible! They look sick. Is this what parrots look like? This can't be right!? And now, here I am seeing beautiful, colorful, friendly parrots that are so big! Felix has yellow eyes! A red tail! I have never seen a real parrot before like they are supposed to be. I've only seen them in PetsMart. Now I know the truth." She was genuinely excited. "I always knew they were just like children. I knew it. I always knew there was more about them. I just never saw this myself."
Advocacy isn't about trying to fix someone else's experiences or contextual learning. Advocacy is sharing the truth through example, help and revelation. This is where the great divide plays out. Somewhere between emotional rage against the machine, and simple sharing of truth. Parrot people have the best advertising for conversation in the world. We have our companions! They start conversation. Advocacy is leading. It is not pushing. It is leading with an excited heart about a wonderful way of living and how to do it well.
Never underestimate your daily moments of advocacy. They are powerful, edifying, amazing, clarifying and leave indellible marks that we may never personally see to fruiition. But that does not matter. We plant powerful seeds of advocacy. That's what we do.