Archive for January, 2009

Taking a Bath is Hard Work!

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Sam will only take baths in his water dish, and he usually begins his bath routine by upturning his water dish. I have often wondered why he does this. But today I went through the logic: His water dish often becomes soiled with Harrison’s pellet debris during the day (he often “dunks” his pellets). If he decides he wants to bathe, he wants clean water. I’d want clean water too. I guess it’s Sam’s way of not so subtly telling me: “Valet, draw my bath water, will you?” And so I do…

After the bath, Sam wants to preen and groom himself in the sun on the tree in the living room, so here is a clip showing how he does that.

Side by Side Activity

Friday, January 30th, 2009

I’ve mentioned before that my two male cockatiels, Chipper and Charlie No-Toe, get along pretty well but they don’t preen each other or physically get too close. However, they would be lost without each other and would grieve terribly if they weren’t together.

For awhile, I had them housed in one very large cage, but I saw over time that they would occasionally have spats over sleeping spots, boxes, etc. Charlie also has a tendency to be competitive and lord it over Chipper. So to keep stress levels down and personal space intact, they are now in separate cages but right next to each other, which seems just right for both of them.

However, when I’m home, they have visiting rights. They are let out and often go into each other’s cages – to check out the latest toys, condition of play boxes, books, and in general just to check on each other. They will frequently do activities side by side, and it’s a lot of fun to watch them together.

They obviously love each other’s company!

This short video is from this morning. I had bought a sprouted wheat grass tub from the local co-op. They LOVE to nip the edges, both for ingesting and to just clip off the tops for fun. It is in Charlie’s cage, and Chipper came over to investigate and “mow the grass.” Charlie joined him, pleased by Chipper’s company.

A Bit of History

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

My day job is located in a small town that used to be a stage stop during the Gold Rush years of Oregon.

Recently, during some digging for landscaping outside our office, this enormous horseshoe was found in the soil. I can only think a draft horse lost its shoe on our grounds long ago. Our building is not far from a large creek that runs through our valley, so perhaps the shoe loss occurred near a watering place.

Last year, we found an old lead musket ball in our back parking lot where some earth-moving had been done.

I find this sort of thing fascinating. It just lets loose my imagination about the far-gone people and animals that trudged through this valley in earlier and physically harder times.

Even the building we work in – recently refurbished, nearly from the ground up – has had several incarnations: biker church, beauty parlor, warehouse, meeting place. We periodically have older people from the area walk in and tell us of yet another business our building housed, “Oh, yeah, this used to be such-and-so….”

But my mind keeps going back to that draft horse and what he/she looked like, and I get an image of a beautiful animal that patiently pulled a heavy wagon of supplies…who knows?


Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Don’t worry! This is not a photo taken before someone got nabbed by a grizzly bear.

No, actually this is a grizzly who was behind a steel enclosure at Wildlife Images last fall. He had reared up on his hind legs in anticipation of receiving his salmon and apples.

But make no mistake, I would not want to be anywhere near him without a steel fence between us! He is formidable and stands well over 6 feet tall when he’s on his feet.

Here is another shot of him foraging on the ground. He is massive.

There is another grizzly in the neighboring enclosure. On the other side of the pathway there is a large enclosure for the much smaller (but still very large) black bears (see last photo). The bears are hibernating right now, but spring is around the corner (I affirm this) and soon these big snouts will start tentatively sniffing the air.

Morning Treats!

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Sam my Jardine’s Parrot is a true creature of habit and if I don’t give him his usual treats in the morning, he sits on a very uncomfortable perch (something I didn’t plan on being a perch, but he made it one) and stares at me. He basically sulks. But his training of me has been fairly comprehensive over time, so my forgetting the routine doesn’t usually happen.

For my part, I do make him work just a little for his special treats.

Here is Sam going for the almond prize that I stick inside a wooden “beanpot” from Parrot Asylum (I apologize for the bad lighting – it was 6:30 am and still dark outside). He pulls it up by hand and then uses beak and tongue to remove it.


Saturday, January 24th, 2009

I celebrated a birthday today and find it has been a time to reflect. The good thing is that I’m past that critical stage when I worry about the advancing march of the Army of Wrinkles. I lost that battle several years ago. The shock has worn off, and now there are far more important things to put one’s attention on!

Thinking of the hard slog my sister will be going through with her jaw surgery takes precedence (Carrie is on the right in the photo). I had forgotten, since it’s been over 11 years now, just how many emotions and fears one experiences in facing the unknowns of a physical condition that can disfigure and potentially kill. When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, the process of digesting this information, realizing the ramifications, having to decide on what course of action to take (surgery, and choosing one’s poison, in this case), and then actually living through it is like dying many deaths. You get through one stage and wonder how you can possibly manage another aspect to the treatments, the reactions to drugs and chemo, the cocky or zombie nurses who seem to be experimenting with a dummy patient, the diminishing health and vitality of one’s body, the wasting before one’s eyes.

Carrie is now going through this process and I find myself reliving what I went through. I wouldn’t want to wish this experience on anybody. And yet….there were those friends and strangers who said just the right thing, fought for me when I couldn’t, held a hand, cooled a fiery forehead, held me up and loved me through the experience. I did survive, and it was life-changing for me. It became an experience I would never have traded for anything, even though its physical effects were to last many, many years. So we hold on to that thought: that through these awful invasive physical changes we have to bear, we will become even more what we were born to be.

The Small and the Large of It

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

I brought Pippin my lovebird to the vet today. She had a beak injury last summer and I must have her beak trimmed regularly until it grows to a certain point.

Her “safe” place her is boutique kleenex box. If I bring it with her in the Wingabago travel cage, she feels safe. Here she is waiting for her avian-cum-everything vet Dr. Ron Dickey of Rogue Valley Veterinarian Clinic. He’s really excellent and I wouldn’t feel comfortable going to anybody else for my birds.

He had just treated a pug puppy, then an African Grey who was in for a beak/nail/wing trim.

As soon as we left the waiting room and got into my car, we found Dr. Dickey hard at work (rectal thermometer in hand) on his next patient, who was quite a bit larger than Pippin.

Normally the doctor makes farm calls for larger stock, but in emergencies, people will often bring in their animals.

I recall some months ago getting into my car to leave the parking lot, when someone rushed in with a miniature horse they had stashed in the back of their SUV! How they got him in there, I don’t know. But I think Dr. Dickey has seen it all. (Dr. Dickey himself owns horses and shows them from time to time.)

I’m just glad he, and others like him, are there to tend to our animal companions, from very small to very large. I love the poem he has hanging in his reception room (which is also filled with original artwork of various wildlife artists):

Dear Father,

Hear and bless thy beasts and singing birds.

And guard with tenderness small things that have no words.

Wesley the Owl

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

I just finished this book about Wesley the captive-kept barn owl.

If you are interested in bird behavior – and owls in particular – this book is for you.

If you are interested in the author’s biologist observations, this book is for you.

If you are interested in reading about the kind of incredibly deep and respectful relationship that can exist between wild owl and his smitten keeper, this book is for you. (And that relationship translates to anyone caring for an animal companion that one feels and cares deeply about.)

If you are interested in reading about how this small creature helped the author through a debilitating and baffling sickness, read on.

I love one of the quotes in the book, which the author’s biologist mentor from the owl department at Caltech told her: “To that which you tame, you owe your life.”

And that is what Stacey O’Brien did for the next 19 years while Wesley taught her The Way of the Owl.

This is a very special book, quite exceptional.

What a Day!

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Inauguration Day! Barack Obama is our new president!

Our boss at work allowed us to bring in a TV to watch the inauguration, which began around 8:30 am Pacific Time.

Three of us huddled around a small screen in our mailroom and were mightily glad to be INSIDE in a warm room while watching the brave and giddy folks out in the below freezing/wind chill-factored cold in Washington, DC.

I have to say, it was terribly hard to work today. What normally would take us an hour to do took twice as long. There were lots of big grins, some tears, and wonder at it all. It was more than distracting.

Well, there is hard work ahead of all of us, but there is also hope.


Saturday, January 17th, 2009

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I had a goat. Her name was Molly. Here she is goofing around with our lab mix puppy Casey when they were about the same age, shortly after both came to our home. They became fast friends and would often chase each other, Molly rearing up to impale Casey with her non-existent horns.

(Caution: Introducing goats to older dogs unfamiliar with goats can prove fatal to the goat, but generally puppies who grow up with goats tend to accept them and protect them.)

Molly was part Alpine and part Toggenburg and had a very large personality. When I first brought her home, she cried for a week solid, missing her mother and her sister. I ended up sleeping with her for the first 2 nights, and my mother would come out with a flashlight to check on me. Molly would be quite content sprawled across my stomach.

As Molly and Casey grew older, my sister and I would often leash both dog and goat and go for walks. Our procession would often turn quite a few heads. I’d head for the forest so that I could let them both loose for a fun run. Casey would run, circling around us and search for a body of water (no matter how cold or hot the weather, if he found water, he’d jump into it).

Molly would leap and jump for the sheer joy of being free but avoid all water at all costs (goats HATE to get wet). They had a great time.

Goats are extremely curious and Molly would follow me anywhere to find out what I was doing. She is “helping” me pot a live Christmas tree here.

Because domestic goats don’t have the opportunity to climb up rocks and keep their hooves worn properly, goatkeepers need to regularly trim the hooves or the goat’s feet can become crippled. Molly HATED this procedure, just as much as parrots hate to have their nails trimmed. The only way I could accomplish this gracefully was to spend an hour, sitting with her quietly under the willow tree. She’d hunker down as close as she could to me, eventually falling asleep with her head in my lap. Then I’d take advantage of her comatose condition, lean over, and sneak in her hoof-trim. Amazingly, she never knew what I’d done.

Casey became Molly’s guardian when I’d tether her to the yard to browse. He did in fact save her life on one occasion when a neighbor’s German Shepherd got loose and ran to attack Molly – goats look like deer to most dogs. Casey tackled him before he could reach Molly, giving me time to unhitch Molly and get her to her pen.

I had planned to breed Molly for goat milk, but life intervened and I left home, leaving Molly in the care of friends who lived in the country and wanted to have her. Casey lived to a very old age, but Molly did not. It was another German Shepherd that actually killed her. My friends’ female Shepherd had had puppies and must have felt that Molly was a threat of some kind to her babies.

I used to dream about Molly for years, feeling guilty that I’d sent her to an unsafe place. Of course, accidents happen, but I felt responsible. Then I had a dream in which Molly was frolicking as in old times, happy as could be. She turned to me and I got the message: “See, I’m OK and happy! You don’t need to worry about me or feel guilty anymore.” So I guess I’ll meet up with her some day where all my other deeply-loved animal companions have gone.

By the way, if you love animals and want to read a well-written, thought-provoking book about deep animal companionship, I recommend Good Companions by Era Zistel. It’s been out of print for some time, but often public libraries still have them. I got a copy for myself from This book happens to be about 2 goats, a stray cat, and a squirrel – all “good companions.”