You might know Shannon Cutts through her popular book, Beating Ana. Or maybe you are familiar with her groundbreaking work at MentorCONNECT. Possibly, you listen to her inspirational music. What you might not know about Shannon is that she is a proud birdie mommy. I learned about Shannon’s heartfelt relationship with her cockatiel Pearl by reading her new book, Love & Feathers. (I was honored to read an advance copy!) A refreshingly unique and beautiful love story, Shannon’s upcoming book is a laugh-out-loud-page-turner. Even if you aren’t enthusiastic about birds, you will be about this book. Because Shannon’s journey with Pearl is such a healing experience, I asked her to write about it below. Thanks, Shannon, for sharing your feathery friend with us.
Love & Feathers: How Our Animal Companions Mentor and Heal Us
By Shannon Cutts (with Pearl Cutts)
One of my most vivid memories comes from the summer when I was eight. That year, my family went on our usual summer trek to the East Coast to visit my mom’s folks. Not long after we arrived, we headed up to historic Plum Island to spend the day.
So there we were, in the central town square, surrounded by picturesque red and white cobblestones, traditional storefronts, a black antique wrought iron bench…..and an entire flock of soft round grey pigeons.
Somehow I ended up sitting in the middle of the bench surrounded by the whole group of pigeons. I was beyond charmed. I couldn’t fathom why these winged things—so free to come and go as they pleased—would choose to stay and sit with me. While it probably had something to do with the tasty bread I was holding, I would have offered a whole loaf—even a whole bakery—for a few more moments with them.
I have returned to that memory many times over during the last four tumultuous decades. Just two years after our Plum Island excursion, I became sick with anorexia and then bulimia. Upon recovering from the eating disorder (in my late 20’s), I promptly developed a drinking problem. After kicking the drinking, I began experiencing escalating cyclical anxiety and depression, which meditation and then medication have since steadily helped to ease.
In between the many challenges and opportunities of ongoing recovery, I have been able to record two CDs of original music, write a book called Beating Ana and found a nonprofit based on that book called MentorCONNECT, heal and restore my family relationships, and meet my longtime mentor and best friend for life (as well as many other wonderful friends).
Throughout, I have always kept company with birds. My current avian companion of 14 years is a grey and white cockatiel (parrot) named Pearl. It has only been through my passion for mentoring that I have been able to recognize how powerfully Pearl mentors me each day. His zest for life is coupled with complete devotion to his “flock” (me, my parents), total honesty, unfettered self-approval, and complete vulnerability and courage.
Pearl was born knowing how to do all this. To him, it just makes sense. If you need help, ask. If you love somebody, show it. If you feel lonely/angry/scared/sad, reach out. If you are hungry, eat something. If you feel full, stop eating. If something is fun, enjoy the heck out of it. If something is not fun, try to do less (preferably none) of it. And if you see a very pretty cockatiel in the mirror, stop and say hi!
This is how my Pearl lives his life. Instead of second-guessing how he looks or who he is, he embraces and enjoys each moment as it comes. He takes care of every feather on his body like it is a priceless treasure. Pearl is missing three claws on his toes and his left wing is permanently injured (from sibling abuse when he was a chick). So he is a bird, and he can’t fly. Yet he doesn’t complain or feel sorry for himself. Rather, he makes the most of his round black eyes, fetching grey and white feathers, and fabulous personality, and everyone he meets is a new friend.
On that note, I am so happy and excited to share the title of my new book: Love & Feathers: what a 75-gram bundle of fluff has taught me about life, love, and healthy self-esteem. This book is based on Pearl’s popular blog by the same name, and it features 70 full length stories of our life together, each highlighting a wonderful lesson my cute feathery mentor has taught me.
Pearl has taught me that life is challenging for each of us, regardless of species and no matter what we struggle with. Ultimately, the name of our struggle doesn’t really matter. What matters is whether or not we get what we need to heal and thrive. Sharing our lives with animal companions can help fill us up with these essentials – and give us the courage to share them with others in turn.
You can reserve or pre-order your copy of Love & Feathers now. Advance reservations cost nothing. Pre-orders are just $15 + shipping (automatically calculated by Paypal based on your mailing address).
Whether you want a copy for yourself, for someone you love who is struggling, for a loved one who adores animals, or for all of the above reasons, I leave you with this thought—Love & Feathers is a gift of the heart that promises to keep on giving, inspiring, and healing with each reading!
Pearl & Shannon
Do you have a furry or feathery friend as a mentor? Below, please introduce us to your companion. You can even post a picture with your comment!