It’s my birthday today. So I’ve decided to write about my favorite subject – birds.

When I visit a place to speak, I always ask the audience to raise their hand if they have a pet.

For those who don’t, their assignment is to get one.

This is because pets are great for learning healthy self-esteem.

"Oh boy oh boy. I sure am pretty. Pretty, pretty, pretty birdie."

Let’s take Exhibit A: my pet bird, Pearl.

Pearl is 10 years old this year. Every morning for the past 10 years, Pearl has awoken in exactly the same way. First, I uncover her cage. Next, I open the door and she scurries out. She then makes her way up the side of the cage to the bathroom mirror, conveniently located next to her cage.

Then she looks in the mirror, spies herself, and lets out a loud birdie cat-call. You can almost hear her avian thoughts, “WOW! Pretty pretty PRETTY! I am SO lucky! I get to spend another day with the most beautiful bird in the whole world – ME! Yippee!”

I have to admit, I rarely (if ever) greet myself that way when I first catch sight of myself in that same bathroom mirror in the morning.

"Pat me. Yes, now. Because I'm cute and you want to pat me, and I want you to pat me, so it's a win-win."

Next, let’s look at Exhibit B: my parents’ dachshund, JP Morgan (like the bluegrass song, not the bank).

Morgan is not your average dachshund. He is exceptionally laid back.

If there were “types” in the dog world, he would be a “type c.” Type C’s sleep all day, except when they eat or visit the outdoor outhouse. Or when they are laying on the ground or standing under your feet waiting to be patted.

Morgan never checks first to see if you’re busy if he wants to be patted or played with. When he’s ready, he presents the toy. Or his furry soft body. His time is always “now” and he is always worthy.

We really can take a lesson from our finned, furry, and feathered pets. Even my twin betta fish, Gill and Bob (recently renamed “StinkyFins I & II” when I realized that betta fish smell exactly like wet dog) are totally unapologetic about wanting to be cared for. It doesn’t matter if I fed them five minutes ago. They are always ready to be fed again, and not shy to ask for it.

Today’s Takeaway: Step One: do you have a pet? If not, get one. Step Two: study your pet. How does s/he ask for their needs to be met? Do they offer excuses for why they need what they need or want what they want? Do they hang back, afraid of rejection or shaming? Do they worry that their needs are excessive, or unwarranted? Write down what you learn and apply it to your own life and relationships.