Tag Archives: rescue

Daily Drama 67 – Between Disasters

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Daily Drama 67 – Between Disasters

No, I haven’t been slacking off, and I’m not out of material to write about, either. It’s just that I can only find time to write when I’m between disasters, and today qualifies. Right now the only problem is the dead microwave oven. I’m re-discovering the joy of steaming and I will soon perfect re-heating leftovers in the new toaster oven. At $50, it was a bargain compared with replacing the built-in microwave. This is the third microwave I’ve had perish here over seventeen years.

And then there is the IRS audit. We’re all paranoid when it comes to fat envelopes coming from the IRS, aren’t we? Our Tax Compliance Officer reassures me that we are not being audited due to any action, lack of action, or violation. When I submitted our initial application, I used the fabulous new 1023EZ form instead of the old 1023 long form. She said that, unfortunately, there has been “public outcry” regarding the EZ form, and that it isn’t thought to be thorough enough. The IRS is now evaluating a random sample of the organizations who used the EZ form to determine whether the form should be amended. Lucky us. I am honored to have been selected to verify the validity of the EZ form, and hope future users of the abbreviated form will appreciate the week I spent helping them out.

The clogged “so-called drain” is at about the center of this photo, above the bright flare. Typical Pacific NW basement.

Time to get the drainline reamed out again. It’s cheaper to snake out the drain every six months than replace the 50′ of pipe between this basement drain and the outlet by the driveway. There is a discontinuity in the seventy year old sectional concrete pipe, caused by groundwater rearranging the substrate and allowing the sections to relocate. Underneath the basement floor and driveway. Don’t worry, everything stored down there is waterproof or up on little planks. It’s important stuff: all my spare cages, equipment, and supplies. The water has to rise another three inches to begin flooding the downstairs, but don’t worry, everything down there is waterproof or up on little planks, too. And anyway, it has been fixed now, and should make it through the season.

What would I do without Briana? All this stuff would still be neatly stored on shelves, not doing any good for anyone. My mother, Georgia Dee, would be so excited to see what we are doing with her inventory!

In stark contrast to recent disasters, our Jewelry Manufacturing Centre is up and running! New board member Briana Bell has dedicated herself to creating some exciting new items for Georgia Dee’s Gift Shop. We are specializing in earrings this year, by popular demand. You will start seeing new inventory . . . soon! Watch this space!

Stevie Ray, already looking a bit rough, and Squirrel. Stevie Ray was so good lookin’ he didn’t have to have a personality at all. He was cool, you know?

Little old Stevie Ray left the Dude Ranch in mid-October. He had been diagnosed with an abdominal mass in April. At seven years old, surgery was not an option. He rallied and had quite a few good months before he decided to check out and that was that. I miss his silly antics and his good looks, and so does Squirrel, his cage-mate.

Brutus (named before her gender was known, but I don’t judge) and Cookie Monster, beyond, with her four-different-colored feet.

Waiting in the wings are Brutus and Cookie Monster. They were thoughtfully referred to me by Stevie Ray’s veterinarian as potential future companions for crazy Squirrel. They were recently spayed and are in the process of being slowly introduced to Squirrel, after occupying a nearby-but-separate space. Rushing the process rarely works and these spoiled girls are first class prima donnas. Fingers crossed!

Oh, Conchita!

Conchita had her final veterinary checkup (Apparently Dobby had issued instructions regarding how to register a complaint.) and moved out to the infirmary as a first step toward reintroducing her to the flock. Now that Samantha has joined the flock, Conchita has advanced to step two: navigating the Bully Pen (a separate enclosure within the larger aviary). Her broken leg has healed but she’s got an uneven gait. Mostly, she’s got to re-negotiate her position in the flock. Pecking order is no joke.

Samantha at the green bowl, Eartha, Windy, and Frieda this side of the fence, then the little white hussy, Ping, and her useless but devoted boyfriend, Boxcar.

So, who is Samantha? Samantha, otherwise known as Miss New Hampshire, is an older hen whose companions are no longer with her. Lately, a bobcat had been spending his afternoons staring at her through the secure fence that surrounds her coop. She was lonely and so now she’s here. Introducing a new hen can be challenging, but the flock has been very cooperative. She started out in the Bully Pen. Norman the Goose magnanimously accepted her without controversy. It wasn’t long before Eartha befriended her and joined her in the Bully Pen.

Ping in the distance, then sweet Eartha, and Samantha. Adelita is outside the fence.

It wasn’t long before Samantha was accepted by all and she is enjoying her new friends and her new home.

For cryin’ out loud, Windy! That’s pathetic!

The hens molt (get new feathers) this time of year. It isn’t always graceful. Most will lose and re-feather gradually. You’ll see the feathers around the yard, but otherwise it’s no big deal. Once in a while, a hen will have a very rough molt, like Windy. She’s uncomfortable, and she’s going to kill me when she discovers I posted this unflattering photo. The new feathers emerge through the skin encased in a waxy substance (How else would you push a feather through skin without mussing it?) that she’ll pick off as she fluffs up the feathers. The intact new feather shafts look like little toothpicks on her neck.

Turkey and a few friends. They have figured out that my flock comes out for a catered garden party every afternoon.

Remember Turkey the duckling who grew up in my bathtub and was released? Here she is! She’s the female with a mostly orange bill, more slender than the others. I’m serious: she’s in that crowd somewhere.

Not Cinderella’s coach.

Lord Dobbington, as he was referred to recently, always steals the show. The weather turned cold, so I jokingly got out his old halloween pumpkin costume. He seemed glad to see it again, so I found this rubber ducky rain slicker on sale, free shipping. He would wear hats and clothes when he was a baby, but refused during his haughty teen years. Now it seems he has discovered the practical side to jackets. Hats, not so much.

Rubber ducky raincoat on capybara.

Dobby is kind of a goofball, possibly a spoiled one. Grazing time is short, and pickin’s are slim, so he often has Uber deliver a bucket of bamboo to the kitchen. “Someone” has knocked over this bucket and spread out the bamboo for inspection. “Someone” is also demonstrating that his milk bowl is empty.

Foot-in-bowl disease is rampant at the Funny Farm.

October’s most time-consuming effort was the publishing of Dobby’s book. Rewards were autographed and shipped out to the Kickstarter backers (Thanks, again, everyone!)

“I could eat that!”

Prince Dobalob’s book is available online as a print-on-demand paperback, so any “not available” baloney you may see on Amazon is simply not true. If you have trouble buying your copy, please contact me here and I’ll try to figure out what’s up. I’m also collecting links to international sources, so let me know if you find it abroad, especially in Asia. The eBook will be available as an ePub edition soon, and I’ll update this post with a link here when it’s up and running. Sorry, no Kindle version: it doesn’t like graphics and it loads up sorta goofy. We haven’t given up on Kindle, but don’t hold your breath.

Gotta get this published before I am interrupted by any more baby pigeons coming in! It’s always something!

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Daily Drama 66 – The Chicken in the Bathtub

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Daily Drama 66 – The Chicken in the Bathtub

Little Free Library Charter 38388

The good news is that the wasps have vacated the Little Free Library! I had a big warning sign up and thought no one had come near it for a few weeks. When I took down the BEWARE OF WASPS sign, I noticed that someone had stuffed my library full of great books! As you can see, it is much larger than most Little Free Libraries, and the donator failed to organize them properly: non-fiction on the lower shelf, Children’s books middle shelf right, hardback fiction at the top. By the time I had them all sorted out, I realized there are at least 50% more books in there than what I seeded it with! It isn’t fancy (It’s a discarded china cupboard I found on the corner with a “free” sign on it.) but it is a success!

So here’s the part about the chicken. Conchita is one of three hens dumped at a local feed store back in 2012. Adelita and Conchita survived whatever took Bonita out, and rule the coop over the four other hens who put up with them. Conchita developed a bad habit of hopping over the 4 foot tall chainlink fence that keeps the bully drakes separated from the little white call duck hussy, Ping, and her dimwitted beau, Boxcar. I found Conchita whimpering at the base of the fence with a broken leg and now she lives in my bathtub. What a klutz!

Chicken in a cast.

Conchita and I went to the vet where they confirmed my diagnosis, pinned her broken leg, put on a cast, prescribed antibiotics and pain meds, and sent us home. She went straight into the bathtub, leaving me to contemplate the surprise vet bill.

Chicken in a bathtub

A week later we returned for an x-ray to evaluate her progress. Her leg was healing up dandy, she had finished her course of antibiotics, and only needed pain meds once a day. She was lonely for her friends, and I knew she would eat more heartily with the flock around her, so I took her out to the infirmary in the aviary. We were still having nice summer weather and there is a heated pad out there so it would be an easy transition from indoors. The following vet visit, they removed her cast. Of course, she couldn’t walk yet, but she was much more comfortable. And she was within conversational distance of her friends.

Chicken in the infirmary

The next vet visit was a surprise. It was another surgery to remove the pin. With a fresh wound where the pin came out, she was prescribed another round of antibiotics and pain meds. In addition, I was given a bottle of antiseptic wash to cleanse the wound. I read the post-surgery instructions while they were settling the bill. Anesthesia, lethargy, vomiting, loss of appetite, blah blah blah. Medications 1, 2, and 3 blah blah blah, clean wound daily for 10 days.  At the very bottom of the page-> Other Special Instructions: Recheck in one week   Keep Conchita inside to keep wound clean

INSIDE! Really? I was crushed. She had been so unhappy indoors. The Bartender is a good sport, but this is our master bathroom. Okay then. When I considered the daily cleansing, the twice a day meds, how well she was healing . . . it wasn’t a good idea to chuck her back outdoors, even though she would miss her flock while she was back in the bathtub.

Conchita knows it’s med time: that’s as far away from me as she can get.

A bit more serious about her indoor accommodations, I hauled out a stack of old cage blankets so I could freshen up her pen at a moment’s notice. I had noticed that she liked to sleep on her picked-over corn cobs, so I moved in a couple of sausage-shaped toys for pseudo ground perches. Set her up with a Ring For Service bell. Made the all-day trek to IKEA and bought her an abacus (which she loves) and a baby bug mobile (which she ignores). The rest of the crew made out like bandits: Dobby got new rugs to sully and a toy box to knock around. Fat Bonnie the rabbit got stacking cups to knock over and a basket of plushie vegetables to toss. The Guinea pigs got new floor blankets and a plushie pig to abuse. Even the rats got new sleeping bags.

Conchita began to stand on one leg, using the broken one as a crutch for balance. Ever the optimist, she learned to whimper every time we approached the bathtub: “Let me out of here! Please? Anyone?” The twice daily med routine was a groaner for both of us. The cleansing was a quick efficient affair once I cleared a path to the lost laundry tub in the far corner of the cluttered workshop better known as The Dungeon.

Another vet visit, another surprise: out of the wound they pulled an exceptionally clean and solid plug of pus the size of a checker. Then they stapled her, closing the pin hole for good. Whew! All finished! But wait, another round of antibiotics and pain meds. And of course, there would be one more vet visit to remove the shiny new metal staples.

She was very proud of herself for getting up there, but she was happy to get helped down in the morning.

She really started walking around after that visit. Climbing the short flight of stairs to the master bedroom, we began to see a Conchita head pop up as she greeted us. “I gotta get outta here! Please?” I decided to put up a little fence around the tub. It wouldn’t keep her in if she got active, but I hoped it would discourage any escape plans. The very next night at bedtime, we discovered her up on this perch! What do you think? Tall enough fence? Maybe not.

“Dang, that’s a tall fence!”

Poor Conchita, the next day I switched out her little fence for this big ex-pen. She hasn’t been up on the perch since. To tell you the truth, I absolutely cringe at the thought of her jumping up and down from anywhere. She did hop up there today when I cleaned her blankets, but she always waits for me to lift her back down. Even that night when she slept up there she didn’t get down until I lifted her gently down in the morning.

Chicken peek-a-boo

So this is what we see every time we climb the stars to the bedroom. “Please! I’m begging you, let me outta here!” She has a vet appointment tomorrow afternoon (those staples), and even though they might say it’s okay to put her back outside, I’m not sure I’m ready to do it. We’re going to miss having her inside. It’s kind of fun having a chicken in the bathtub.

Stevie Ray, still handsome

Little old Stevie Ray will be my next challenge. He used to be big and fat, but in April, the vet discovered an abdominal mass, undoubtedly the cause of his weight loss. At his age, surgery isn’t an option. She said he probably had another three months, and we discussed what that would mean for his buddy, Squirrel.

Stevie Ray still tussles with Squirrel for his salad.

At seven years old, Stevie Ray can look a bit rough, but he cleans up nicely after a warm bath, shampoo, and blow dry. It has been five months now since he saw the vet, and he even gained a little weight over the summer. Now, he’s starting to have some old-age problems, and he’s losing weight again, but his appetite is great and he doesn’t seem to be uncomfortable.

Cookie and Brutus have finally learned to share.

Brutus and the Cookie Monster are young girls that came my way shortly after Stevie Ray’s depressing diagnosis. They graciously donated the ex-pen you see here to the chicken. In return, they have Conchita’s lower grid fence. They managed to escape the ex-pen once, so I’m anxiously awaiting their escape from the short, lightweight fence. If they work together, I’m sure they could shove it around. Maybe they’ll push it near enough that blue Thomas the Tank Engine step (with the IKEA pig on it) so that they can make a flying leap escape. I’ll let you know.

Spitfire is so subtle.

Meanwhile, I have this great new blog helper. Spitfire the budgie is very inspirational if you like mirrors, paper clips, pieces of string, and seeds all over your keyboard. Oops! She just flew across the room. That’s how I know I’m at the end of a blog! Bye!

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

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Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

One of the highlights of my trip to Phoenix was visiting Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo, and finally meeting Sherry and Chris Pietilainen! Melanie was there, too, because of BlogPaws, and our new friend Jessica joined us. I knew that Chris and Sherry had an interesting collection of animals, but seeing so many unusual rodents in one place was a real thrill!

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Back to front: Chris, Sherry, Jessica, Melanie’s Hat

I hadn’t seen a Paca since my trip to Panama, where they were so elusive. They are very sweet animals and very friendly, as you can see!

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Jelly Bean

They are perfectly pet sized and seem to be pretty well behaved. Like many wild animals, though, pacas have proved to be challenging in captivity.

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Cuniculus paca, Lowland Paca

It’s tempting to say “Oh, I definitely want one!” but I am willing to let experienced professionals like Chris and Sherry work with them first.

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Oscar, showing off his zygomatic arches.

The males have a wider face due to a bony jaw extension, supposedly used to amplify vocalizations, which we did not hear. Oscar has kind of a pouched-up hamster look, doesn’t he? And what do they sound like? I will let you know if I find out.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

This is Oscar’s second home, and he is settling in nicely.

There are more Oscar and Jelly Bean photos here.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Nibbles and Nugget, the agoutis

There are about a million agoutis in Panama, and there is a park in Rio de Janeiro with about a trillion of them! They are so adorable, and I was so excited when Chris got his! They get pouffy in a funny way when they’re excited: just the back half of them gets sticky-outy fur! It’s very silly looking, like fancy pants.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Common agouti

Agoutis are the perfect example why we let professionals check these guys out first. Chris had told me that they stink, so I quit thinking about pet agoutis long ago. Now he tells me why: when you give them a morsel of food, they scurry around, bury it, then urinate on it! What an adorable habit! It’s also disconcerting to see them easily bite into a Brazil nut. I usually have to open those with a jackhammer! So, agoutis are cute, but not for me.

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Sheila and her little Joey. JoJo, the dad, is not shown.

The little marsupial Bettongs represent a special part of the “Down Under” portion of the petting zoo.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Baby Brush-tailed Bettong, so tiny!

The Pietilainens have three breeding pairs of Brush-Tailed Bettongs! (JoJo & Sheila, Sydney & Dundee, Wego & Izzy) They were resting quietly when we were there, and I didn’t dare disturb them, so these are Chris’s photos.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Not surprisingly, the tail has a brush at the end!

The Bettongs are critically endangered and the Pietilainens are part of a program that is trying to help the species survive even though they will never be able to recover their natural habitat. They have placed 9 pairs so far and know of at least 4 babies from those pairings.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Darby and Blue

Chris and Sherry started the rescue about a dozen years ago and the zoo evolved from the rescue. Today it’s more of a sanctuary than rescue. Like my sanctuary, many of the animals that come in now are not adoptable due to their age. They are nice relaxed animals for a petting zoo, though!

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Cheerio!

There is a growing need for rabbit and guinea pig sanctuaries. Chris has already taken in more guinea pigs since my visit!

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

What else has been in the living room?

Don’t we all have chicks in the living room? In most homes, these little guys would be getting all the attention, but we walked right past them, because Chris was already outside talking to this guy.  There’s one in every crowd, and Chris let Alfie know we wouldn’t be putting up with any of his shenanigans.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

“We have guests, so behave yourself!”

The Patagonian maras, on the other hand, were eager to meet us!

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Jessica and the mara.

And then there was this guy, a ring-tailed lemur. His large cage was right outside the door.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

King Julien

He looked very dignified until Chris fed him. He sure gets into his food!

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We picked a glorious week to visit Phoenix. It hadn’t been under 110º for days and had measured 120º just a few days before our visit. Quite a few of the animals kept to the shade by the house, but there were plenty of adventurous guys out and about.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

The Patagonian maras are Amy, Rudi, Cody, Layla, Mia, Lanie & Lonie.

The maras were all over the place, and the chickens proved how spunky they are. This little white duck refused to live with the other call ducks, and was all over the place. I wanted to bring her home, but I was still trying to figure out how to sneak Cheerio into my pocket.

These guys had their own outdoor air conditioning- see that big red fan? There’s a reason why they’re all huddled around it! I wanted to join them!

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

The Fan Club

Wait, who is that way over there? Well, it’s Addy! It’s a capybara, of course, and amidst all these fabulous animals, you know the capybaras are what I came to see.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Addy the capy, getting some “space”

Chris! What are you doing over there with Becky the Emu? We need to see the capybaras!

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Rebecca the Emu (Becky) getting some TLC.

So here’s Collett, posing, and looking very colorful in a coating of DRIED MUD. Nice.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Pretty Collett

How about these guys, tussling through the fence over who is to be Lord Of The Rake! Dobby does the same thing- guys just like tools, and all of my tools must be properly marked.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

“It’s MINE, you fool!”

There’s nothing quite like a proper mudhole when the thermometer keeps going up!

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Scrappy, Collett, and Chris

Chris has been breeding capybaras for a while. He’s working on a couple special breeds. Here’s one he calls “Hood Ornament” with a classy duck front and center.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Standard Duck Hood Ornament

Here’s another that is sure to become popular, the “Two-Toned” model. Available soon, at a pet shop near you!

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Two-Toned Scrappy

Daily Special: Two Female Albino Ratties!

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ADOPTABLE: two female albino rats

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The one on the top is Ghost, and the under-rat is Yuki

These sweet young rats were recently rescued from a behavioral studies lab at the University of Washington.  They were going to be euthanized so a student adopted two of them, but now the student is graduating and can no longer keep them. Rats are sweet, gentle, and entertaining pets. Though rats are short-lived, they should have a happy three years in a cat-free and snake-free home. 

Names: Ghost and Yuki (means Snow)

Gender: both are female (albino Wistar laboratory rats)

Birthdays: unknown, they are about 5/6 months old so they were probably born sometime in January. 

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The one on the left is Ghost, and the right is Yuki

Personality: Yuki is sweet and a little more on the shy side, very relaxed. Ghost is very active and loves exploring. Both love to climb and be petted. Ghost will start falling asleep if you scratch her behind the ear! They get along well– they have occasional wrestling matches but it never goes far and they like to sleep together. 

They come with:

-brand new cage (powder-coated) from Martin’s Cages

-tub of food

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This is their basic diet, but they like a variety of grains and vegetables, too.

-16 oz water bottle with cage attachment

-4 cardboard tubes that they love to relax/sleep in and chew on

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The tubes provide enrichment. Rats are very smart so toys and hobbies keep them happy. You can make them nifty little cabins out of clean cardboard boxes!

Please contact me if you are interested!

An Unremarkable Duck

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An Unremarkable Duck

The last few weeks have been horrendous, and to write about it just now would be emotionally devastating. Dobby is writing about his own gruesome story, so that eases my burden. I will soon be distracted by my own root canal, a little surprise with a price tag to rival the veterinary bills that are stacking up like pancakes so cold and ugly no one will eat them. Unfortunately I can’t just toss the bills to the chickens. So I am left to contemplate the consequences of my decisions, and the random death and destruction at my funny little farm. Why do some survive without effort while for others life is a continual struggle? Life isn’t fair, but death has got to be a lot worse.

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Dobby the capybara, and Norman the goose watch over the Funny Farm Flock. Fabio is at the center. October, 2015

What about the survivors? How about Fabio the duck? Why did he live so long? Why him? Is long life just a random assignment, like good hair, or getting in the fastest checkout line?

Fabio is second from the right. Guinea fowl in the middle. May, 2007

Fabio came in with six other ducks, a term I use loosely, because Miss Goosey was, well, odd. She was probably half Muscovy duck, and certainly had the big feet and obnoxious personality. The others were “Runner Ducks” but in fact they were mutts. Some Rouen, some Khaki Campbell, a bit of Swedish, and then Fabio, with his telltale Powder Puff parentage.

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Fabio, left, young and handsome. Barry on the right.

Destined for the soup pot because they were no longer effective for herd dog training, a friend delivered them to me. From the moment they arrived, the seven moved around the pen as a unit. Obviously they would be no challenge for herding dogs. I also discovered they were all drakes, save for Miss Goosey. That didn’t prevent me from naming two Paris and Nicole (they were inseparable). Barry had an odd marking around his head, so he was named after my son’s teacher who had recently undergone brain surgery. Jose II closely resembled my first drake back in 1984, and Beetle Bailey wore his khaki camo uniform with pride.

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Fabio, Beetle Bailey, Barry, and Jose, L to R, background. Yes, that is baby Dobby, five weeks old. March 21, 2009

Fabio witnessed many changes to the Funny Farm. Twenty doves arrived and a domed cage was built. A couple dozen hens and Muscovy ducks came and went. He saw guinea fowl and quail, rabbits invaded and then a couple tomcats moved in. Paris and Nicole were the first to leave the flock, and then Beetle Bailey. Goosey tried to die once, getting her neck caught in chickenwire I had used to keep her out of my whiskey barrel full of goldfish. She loved to play “pretend nesting” in the rabbit litter box, and then she passed, too, during The Raccoon Massacre of 2010. Barry, Jose, and Fabio flew below the radar and survived winters, summers and The Raccoon Massacre of 2012. Major repairs were made to the aviary, and more Muscovy ducks and hens arrived. Eventually, Jose and Barry passed, leaving Old Fabio with the geese, murderous Shamrock, and the rest.

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Shamrock and Fabio tussle over possession of the “nest.”

Fabio had witnessed the arrival of Dobby and the geese, all six swimming pools, and I recognized how old he had become. He moved more slowly, became even more timid, and spent his Garden Party afternoons quietly observing the others. I thought every winter would be his last, but Old Fabio survived over and over, and managed to limp through another summer.

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In a rare victory, Fabio won.

By now, my flock was all drakes. Females were easier to rehome, but nobody wants drakes, and without the girls, the males fought less. Even so, Old Fabio was fragile, so I set up the bully pen. At first I separated Old Fabio out to keep him safe, but quickly realized he was missing the garden parties during his incarceration. I turned the tables and locked up the bullies, allowing Old Fabio the luxury of his usual space and activities. And he lived on and on and on. Norman the goose, my flock manager was always protective of him. Old Fabio was his elder by many years, and as cruel as fowl can be, they do seem to respect the old ones.

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Demolition crew. They all love to help install the new straw bale steps for Dobby’s swimming pool. Fabio is in the foreground, January, 2011

When Fabio passed, it was no surprise. During his last several years I had been checking for him first thing each morning, always surprised by his continued survival. I feared he would outlive his little legs that had been lamely supporting his limited senior activities. He had moved himself to the barn for sleeping, out of the rain and cold, but distant from his ducky companions. He knew how to survive, that one.

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Fabio, on high alert because I usually bring out lettuce. Vinny and Sal in the background.

It was near the end of his stay here when I bought Mazuri waterfowl food, again. It comes in GIGANTIC bags, 50 inefficient pounds of expensive food, especially if they refuse to eat it. And refuse to eat it they had, at least three times previous. “We hate it!” But it is supposed to be the best, right? Old Fabio was so feeble, I decided to try, one more time, to try to get them to eat it. The flock turned up their noses nares and walked away. Fabio, shy old codger, walked up and took a bite. And loved it! For a few weeks, he was the only one who ate it. Eventually, the others caught on, though they always deferred to him and ate second. And so he taught them to eat proper duck food. And I’m glad it comes in such big bags, because now they are pretty hysterical about it, lining up and waiting turns until it is gone.

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Last summer he was looking a bit rough, moving slowly and with caution. He spent more time in solitude. I kept an eye on him, but he managed pretty well, and marched out the the garden with the others most days.

Reminiscing about Fabio I realized how I had always taken him for granted. Months later I miss looking for him, checking on my shy old drake, morning and night. He was my old pal. 

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My Old Fabio, July 2015

Fabio was stand-offish, painfully shy. He wasn’t aggressive, not submissive, either. He was an unremarkable drake. I looked through nine years of photos and while he was in some of the group photos, he was usually in the background, or even behind another duck. I began to realize this was how he had managed to survive. He blended in with the flock, never drawing attention to himself, quiet and discrete. For nine years. Yet he led them to proper nutrition.

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Fabio on the left, still joining the Garden Party in the afternoon, about a month before he died, almost 10 years old. October, 2015

I try not to play favorites with my animals, and yet I do have preferences. I tend to like the bad animals. Not necessarily the bullies, but the naughty ones. The insubordinate, the asshats who are a constant challenge. They nip and chew and destroy. I am not much of a disciplinarian, so they wreak havoc and I live with their supposed dominance. Yet these frisky ones never seem to live as long as the Fabios. Their risk taking, their aggression, seems to put them on the front line. Shall we all take a moment to appreciate the quiet ones, the unremarkable pets who bide their time? Without them it would be nothing but mayhem, so thank you, little shy ones.

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Garden Party, Fabio in the center. Note the wild mallards, foreground.