A week on the ranch (March 14 - March 20, 2011)
by, 03-21-2011 at 11:27 AM (805 Views)
Very little happened on the ranch this week, because we were hit by several storms, and I think I had one full day of dry weather to actually do anything in between bouts of rain, hail, and wind. I guess winter is digging in its heels, and has decided to let its presence be known one last time before giving in to spring!
I have decided to devote this week's blog to the animals who share my life. I mention them, but I don't think I've ever discussed each one in any detail.
The first of my birds was Froggy, a yellow-collared macaw. I met Froggy when I was visiting an African Grey baby who was going to be coming to my home. Every weekend, I would drive to the breeder's home, trying to decide which baby (of two) I wanted. And every weekend, I would see Froggy. Froggy had a phobia of hands and was missing his upper beak, but he took a shine to me, and if I offered him my arm, he would jump on and run up my shoulder to snuggle. The breeder told me that Froggy was promised to someone, so we would visit, then Froggy would go back to his cage, and I would go back to visiting the Greys. The week before I was to take my new bird home, I visited one last time, and the breeder, out of the blue, asked me if I wanted Froggy!! The woman who was supposed to take him had commented that she only wanted him if he could "talk," and also wasn't sure she wanted the responsibility of having to hand-feed (because of his beak injury) a bird that could live 30 years or more. I had a cage set up for my new arrival, but that night, Froggy claimed it, and the next day, I scrambled to buy a second set-up.
Froggy will always be my favourite. He is a character, and came to me saying his name, "Froggy," and also saying "Ammit" and "Od Ammit" because he didn't do consonants well, and the breeder swore a lot, apparently!! Froggy's upper beak grew in just enough to allow him to eat on his own, although he needs lower beak trims, because his upper beak isn't long enough to wear the lower beak down.
A week later, Kenya entered my life!! Kenya, my African Grey Parrot, is the bird who taught me that animals are truly sentient beings, not just possessions. He is a typical Grey, scary intelligent and very reserved. He loves learning new words and phrases. He "answers" the phone when it rings, singing out, "Helloooooo," and when I leave for work, he calls out, "Gotta go to work! Bye bye!" At night, he tells me, "Good night," or "Night night. See you tomorrow!"
I kept visiting the breeder (a friend of the family), and several months after Kenya entered my life, she asked me if I wanted Herbie. Herbie, a Hahn's macaw, had been reserved as a breeder, so he had very little human socialization. (She didn't believe that birds who were socialized to humans would be good breeders, a philosophy I don't agree with.) So Herbie lived without much human contact for about a year, but turned out to not be interested in breeding, so he was stuck in a dead zone - not profitable as a pet or as a breeder. But, again, for reasons unknown to either of us, Herbie "took" to me. He would call out to me when I walked by, and I would stop and visit him. On our first introduction, he stepped up without biting, and that sealed the deal. (Apparently, he bit the breeder frequently.)
Herbie rivals Kenya in his talking ability, and is the clown of my three. If there is mischief to be gotten into, Herbie will be there. He is also possessively obsessed with cardboard boxes, and woe the hand that gets too close to his box when he is in it!! Herbie is about half of Froggy's size (recently weighed in at 161 grams), but shares a cage with Froggy and is definitely the boss!
Next, the dogs:
Chewy, a red Chow Chow, was the first of my current dogs to enter my life. He is the fourth dog I have ever owned. He came to me at about three months old as a foster, because his family had been evicted and couldn't keep him anymore. It was immediately apparent that he had health issues - hot spots and joint pain - and a trip to the vet resulted in Chewy being put on a special diet and being diagnosed with hip dysplasia and panosteitis. The vet said Chewy would need new hips by the time he was two years old. I relayed this to the family (who had stated their intent to reclaim Chewy upon finding a suitable home) and they admitted that they couldn't afford such treatment, so they surrendered him to the rescue, and I (who had already fallen in love with him) adopted him immediately.
I call Chewy an anti-Chow, because he is opposite of what you read about Chows. He is loving and sweet, gentle to everyone and everything, and a wonderful ambassador for his breed. When I take him for walks, people want to come up and pet him. I was once "stalked" at a pet store by a guy in a wheelchair, who finally got the courage to roll up and tell me he used to have a Chow who looked just like Chewy, and who asked to pet him. Chewy, who had never seen a wheelchair in his life, played it like a champ and let the guy come right up to him.
Chewy was my only dog for a while, but I had a succession of fosters, and he would be really happy when I brought him a new friend, then depressed for several days when that friend went away. Then, one fateful day, a San Diego Lab rescue asked me to transport Riley, a lab mix, from the Lake Elsinore animal shelter to them (along with about four other dogs). Riley was scheduled to be euthanized that day, so this was a last chance for him. I drove him the two hours south, but when I got to my destination, the rescue took one look at Riley and said he was too "pitty" and that they couldn't take him. She instructed me to return him to the shelter. When I resisted, she said I could foster him privately, and bring him to their events, but that they couldn't pay for any of his costs. So Riley came home with me. And I drove him the two hours to the lab rescue events, and people LOVED him. He typically stole the show from all the purebreds. And Chewy loved him. And I could never find just the right home for him, even though I had a lot of offers. Until I realized, finally, that I had already found the perfect home for him, and Chewy had a companion for life.
Riley, a yellow lab-pit mix, has been my wild child. He went through his terrible two's and chewed anything that stood still long enough to allow him to get his jaws around it. He has a very strong prey drive and has killed more than his share of small animals (including one cat). He digs out of the property whenever he feels like it, unless I patrol every day and fill in his holes. I have said over and over to him, "Riley, now I know why you ended up at the pound!" But he has been the most loving companion a person could ask for. He would be happy just sitting in my lap and getting neck scratches all day.
For almost ten years, those were the only two dogs in my life. Then, Crash entered the picture. Unlike Riley and Chewy, I don't consider Crash a rescue. He had plenty of people interested in adopting him, but I had an "in" with the rescue group sponsoring him, and they put a good word in for me at the vet, so I got him. Crash is a chocolate lab, and by all appearances a purebred. He was found on the side of a road, apparently the victim of a car accident. The vet took him in and estimated he was only 5-6 weeks old. I had been thinking about getting another dog for several years, and just never found the right one. Then I met Crash, and even though I am not really a lab kind of a person (had my heart set on a German Shepherd or Rottweiler as my next dog), Crash just sort of fit into the family. Like most labs, Crash is spastic and goofy. He loves to play fetch, and he loves to go for walks with me. Unlike Riley and Chewy, he is not into being petted and hugged. He likes to help me with whatever I'm doing, but isn't much into sitting and contemplating the world with me. Like most bratty little brothers, he torments Riley and Chewy ruthlessly, trying to get them to play with him.
Crash is a work in progress, but at a little over a year old, is shaping up to be a wonderful dog. He shows his love in a different way than my other dogs, and it took me a while to figure it out, but now that I have, I think we are evolving out of our owner/pet relationship and into one based more on friendship and mutual respect. I sometimes have to stop and remember how much Riley tried my patience when he was a puppy, and give Crash allowances for that!
Angus and Ariel are my bunnies. Angus is a white English Angora and Ariel is a grey lionhead bunny. They are residents, but I don't consider them pets really. I groom them and keep their nails trimmed, and we visit daily, but neither is into being picked up and cuddled, and I respect that.
In the same room with the bunnies are my finches and budgies, mostly all rescues, except for the Lady Gouldian finches.
I also share my home with the donkeys (Dusty, Buddy, and Girl), who came as rescues shortly after I moved to my property; my goats (of which Topaz, my ANCIENT angora-cashmere cross, is the matriarch); and my chickens (including Jack, the hand-raised [and ungrateful] attack rooster).
And the most recent addition (although we'll see if she sticks around) is Miss Kitty, a feral cat who has been hanging around and bumming food off of me since around November of last year. I was able to trap her, because she was obviously injured, and she is currently residing in a dog crate in my laundry room, with a splinted front leg, because a vet visit disclosed that she had broken both bones in it. She'll be hanging out there for another three weeks, after which she may or may not choose to hang around anymore!!
I think that is it for critters who rule my days, unless you count the wild flock of turkeys who have adopted me and who expect chicken food every day now. See you next week!