Tag Archives: sanctuary

Daily Drama 82 Back to School

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Daily Drama 82 Back to School

Once upon a time, my days were simple. Dobby, the ducks and hens, the cats and I had a daily routine. I’d go out to the aviary, check food and water, come back in. I let Dobby decide whether or not to help. In the afternoon, I fed the cats and secured them in their section of the barn. The ducks and hens exited the aviary for their garden party in the back yard. Everyone shared some bird seed, and then Dobby and I went to the front yard. At dusk, everyone went to bed.

Dobby was the best helper, ever. And he knew it, too.

Everything, and I do mean everything, has changed. Dobby is gone. The sheep have arrived. One cat has departed and the other has diabetes. Two new ferals have arrived. One little hen has a heart murmur and lives indoors. We recently went off daylight savings time, blasting our days into darkness before cocktail hour. The Garden Party starts shortly after lunch and there’s never enough time for me to run out during the day to do an errand. There have been enough changes lately to disrupt everything and everyone, and it seems I am constantly training and reorienting the flock.

No no no, Princess! Not on the sink again!

Princess moved indoors a year ago and gets meds 3x a day. She sleeps in the bathroom and spends her days in the living room. In the late afternoon, she goes outdoors for the garden party where she gets to be a chicken for a couple hours. In summer, I give her 4:00 meds and out we go. This time of year, I toss her out the kitchen door, feed the cats, move the sheep to the front, locate Princess for her 4:00 meds, and go back out to supervise the sheep in the front yard. At dusk I can hear her hollering for me to let her into the kitchen, so I go back there to let her in the door. The Bartender hears her cackling in the kitchen and escorts her up to the bathroom. She walks all the way through the kitchen, turns right into the hall, hops up half a flight of stairs to the bedroom, all the way coaxed by The Bartender. She stops where the bathroom tile starts and wipes her beak on the carpet until he gives up and sets her onto the edge of the bathtub. A couple minutes later he goes back in, takes her down from where she has flown up to perch on the edge of the bathroom sink, and sets her back down on the edge of the bathtub, where she sleeps. Until I wake her for her midnight meds. And clean the sink. Those fancy feathered feet pick up and carry in a lot of mud.

She really is a princess. (Photo by Briana Bell)

Princess moved indoors a year ago and gets meds 3x a day. She sleeps in the bathroom and spends her days in the living room. In the late afternoon, she goes outdoors for the garden party where she gets to be a chicken for a couple hours. In summer, I give her 4:00 meds and out we go. This time of year, I toss her out the kitchen door, feed the cats, move the sheep to the front, locate Princess for her 4:00 meds, and go back out to supervise the sheep in the front yard. At dusk I can hear her hollering for me to let her into the kitchen, so I go back there to let her in the door. The Bartender hears her cackling in the kitchen and escorts her up to the bathroom. She walks all the way through the kitchen, turns right into the hall, hops up half a flight of stairs to the bedroom, all the way coaxed by The Bartender. She stops where the bathroom tile starts and wipes her beak on the carpet until he gives up and sets her onto the edge of the bathtub. A couple minutes later he goes back in, takes her down from where she has flown up to perch on the edge of the bathroom sink, and sets her back down on the edge of the bathtub, where she sleeps. Until I wake her for her midnight meds. And clean the sink. Those fancy feathered feet pick up and carry in a lot of mud.

Poor old Kitty Hawk, before he moved into the infirmary. (Photo by Briana Bell)

Princess is fairly well trained, though we still think she can make it up to the bathroom by herself. But here I am trying to write this blog and my alarm for Kitty Hawk’s evening meds just went off. He is at my mercy for his insulin, and no amount of training can make him do it himself. This training is for me. Gone are the leisurely mornings over coffee and current events, checking my email. In order to give him insulin twice a day, evenly spaced, night owl that I am, I have chosen 9:45, AM & PM, for his injections. If I drag myself out of bed early enough, I can still enjoy my coffee and be out there for the morning “stabbing.” No, Kitty Hawk is not curled up on my couch, he’s out in the barn. Jacket on, boots on, cat food, duck lettuce and treats all ready to go. My chores take from half an hour to two hours, depending upon a million variables. It’s the evening stabbing, in the dark, that’s the most fun. That’s the one I just did. Kitty Hawk is doing okay, but lately he had a setback and is locked into the infirmary. He’s so wobbly I am afraid he’ll topple into Swimming Pool #5, currently deteriorating and barely functioning as a duck pond.

So how about the new feral cats? What kind of training do cats get? In addition to my usual chores, I spend about a half hour a day with the new cats. Considered unadoptable by the Alley Cat Project, I took them on. Half-Stache had done well with his foster owner. Before that, he had a dismal but not surprising feral response to adoption and refused to leave his cage. He was shy when he came here, but he’s been very responsive, probably because I am kind of stingy with the cat treats, so he had to beg for them. For this cat, it was an excellent strategy and we are best buddies, now. His partner, a female named Larry, had never warmed up to her previous owner or her foster. She’s so pretty, I think everyone tried to make her into a house cat. She got fat and frightened. Here, she is continuously on the prowl. She climbs trees and races around like a wild thing. I think she wanted to be an outdoor feral again, and she can be that cat here. Every day she approaches closer and closer to me, and I have even been able to pet her– under her terms, only. So there is that training, which is that both cats have trained me to allow them to approach on their own terms. On my side, I have some strict rules: they must allow me to lock them up in the cat barn during the garden party. The gates are open to allow the ducks and hens to return to the barn whenever they want to, but the kitty cats are not allowed to leave the aviary. They have been quick to learn the routine and I find them napping in there, waiting for their food, every afternoon. They have been extremely cooperative.

Hamish & Charlie (Photo by Briana Bell)

So guess who have not been cooperative? Charlie & Hamish, the ridiculous sheep. When I open the gate for Garden Party, the geese, ducks, and hens are supposed to come out into the yard, as they have been doing for almost twenty years. But the sheep are, well, intimidating, and they stand by the door. Nobody comes out. The sheep are not allowed to go in, so of course, in they go! I have some little fence panels* I arrange like chutes to keep out the sheep, but then the ducks can’t come out. So the sheep go in, then the ducks come out. Next, I race to close the barn door, because the sheep like to eat the chicken food. Dobby liked it, too, but his big schnozzola couldn’t really fit in the bin. The delicate narrow sheep noses fit perfectly. And they can eat enough chicken food in about five minutes to make them sick. Or so I have heard, but I don’t want to find out whether it’s four minutes or six.

Jump up and touch your nose, Hamish! (Photo by Briana Bell)

So the sheep are locked out of the barn, but gallivanting about in the aviary. The ducks are in the garden waiting for their birdseed and cracked corn that I have been giving them for almost twenty years. The wild mallards are patiently waiting on the roof of the house. The squirrels and crows are gathering for peanuts. The birdseed and peanuts are stored in galvanized garbage cans on the deck. I ever-so-quietly lift the lid off the can– gallopy gallopy and the sheep run out of the aviary and clatter across the deck and I suddenly have one set of ram horns under each armpit. Mind you, the birdseed and cracked corn can make them sick, too, but I can dole out a safe ration, and anyway this is for the geese, ducks, and chickens, right? I am still working on this, but I think they are training me to escort the sheep all the way to the front yard before I dole out the garden party treats. That means convincing the sheep to follow me through a gate, into the chute, through another gate, and then out another gate (this one stays open) and into the front yard. At which point I have to run back and close the middle gate. then I can open the chute so the ducks can go through. Now I can give the ducks their treats. As I lift the lid off the galvanized garbage can, I hear Baa (Charlie makes the classic sheep sound) and Aaaargh (Hamish sounds like an old man falling backwards off the top of a ladder). They heard the lid and came back from the front yard already, and are waiting for me at the closed gate. We’re still deciding who is training whom on this activity.

Charlie loves visitors. (Photo by Briana Bell)

Target training for the sheep is literally crackers, as in Saltines. They both touch their nose to the target on command, and after the training session they continue to touch their nose to it, “just in case.” Charlie does a very nice “turn around” while Hamish prefers the classic “jump up.” I’d like to weigh them, but getting them to operate independently is problematic. Using the target I can get anywhere from zero to eight feet on the scale, which is perfectly useless. I guess I need to work on “taking turns” first. I’m also working on halter training. They love to stick their mouth through the halter opening to eat crackers and are getting used to the feel of it on their head. Will I eventually be able to take them for walks? Runs, maybe. Sheep like to run and they are speedy!

Hamish thinks he is in charge, but Charlie is more patient and wins out in the end. (Photo by Briana Bell)

So, we’ve made it to the front yard, the sheep have done a few tricks and are settling down to eat the shrubbery (There’s a rumor going around that they eat grass, but so far, no.) I decide to sit down for a few minutes, close my eyes, relax. Quack quack quack! That’s my alarm going off. Time to give Princess her 4pm meds. She’s in the back yard and we are in the front. That means sneaking past the sheep and getting through that gate without them noticing. Even if I sneak in, they are always waiting for me when I head back out. And Princess? Takes her meds like a champ. She’s all trained.

Squirrel is getting a lot of attention these days. (Photo by Briana Bell)

Some events are easy and bedtime is one. Unlike human kids, animals seem to know when bedtime is, and are eager to settle in for the night. How refreshing! But I’m not through yet. Squirrel the guinea pig has toenail fungus, and needs a foot soak. I know, sounds crazy, doesn’t it, but it’s similar to ours. Soak the foot once a day for a month or two, and it might go away. He’s also losing weight for no apparent reason, so he gets a ration of oats, and he’s enthusiastic enough about the oats to sit still for the soaking while he munches away. He still likes to step on the dish and spill the soak solution, so we have a bit more training to do.

So here’s the nutshell version of the training schedule:

  • Morning cat stab
  • New cat orientation
  • New cat feeding and naptime lockup
  • Garden party shifts and treats
  • Sheep target training
  • Princess meds
  • Bedtime for outdoor birds
  • Princess bedtime
  • Squirrel foot soak
  • Evening cat stab

Hey, I’m looking for volunteers! Anyone want to come do the evening cat insulin injection? Pretty please?

*Lately I have observed Charlie calculating the height of the little fence panels and analyzing the length of the runway and landing strip on both sides. I don’t let him rest his chin there any more.

Photo Credits: Many of these photos were taken by my board member, Briana. Thank you!

 

Daily Drama 56

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Since my last post, I have welcomed two incoming farm residents, heard of a surprising demise, racked up expenses for several veterinary visits, and I am considering renaming Carl Sagan the Guinea pig “Methuselah.” The new washer has astonishing capacity, making Dobby’s daily washing a breeze, and his gigantic blankets drop into it like the Enterprise entering a black hole.

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Squirrel, the nutty Guinea Pig

Squirrel is my new Guinea pig, and working him into the Dude Ranch is exciting. He came from a nearby rescue and had not found a permanent home. Until his well-pet check, he lived quietly in his own cage. He’s a friendly boar, leaning out of the cage, interested in anything coming in through the door. Digging through his vegetable dish, he runs off with the carrots. Eventually he tastes everything and then the dish is empty and he’s back to begging.

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Squirrel, foreground, in his isolation cage. Dude Ranch behind, Carl barely visible in a pigloo.

The veterinarian agreed with my age estimate of 2-3 years, well under the 5 years I was quoted. This means he is still young enough to neuter, and that little surgery took place last week. He’s so over it, raring to go again. Because, you see, this one is a maniac. I don’t know where that quiet one went that I adopted, but I don’t think he’s coming back.

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“You’re going to surgically remove my WHAT?”

Once Squirrel was deemed healthy, I took the next step of partitioning the Dude Ranch in order to introduce him to the herd. Ancient Carl is too fragile to live with anyone new, but eventually, Stevie Ray will appreciate a companion. They can live side-by-side until I am certain they will get along. So I put little Squirrel into his side of the Ranch, and he went wild! He grabbed the partition with his teeth and shook it until all the water sloshed in the bottles and food started to fly from the food bins! Wow! Stevie Ray and Carl both came over to investigate, and I realized how close their tender little ears were to the toothy fury that was their new neighbor! Out Squirrel went, back to his old cage. It was quiet again.

I put a double divider in, a space between them, a demilitarized zone, so to speak. Squirrel went back in, the fury ensued, the cage shook, the boys came to investigate, and Squirrel was airlifted into his old cage. Wow! I continue to maintain that I am smarter than a Guinea pig, smarter than a capybara, even. Because if I’m not, I can’t do this. So I thought about it overnight and the next day I implemented my solution: I lifted the wire cage top off of Squirrel’s cage, plopped it into the dude ranch, thrust him in with his food dish and hay box, and stood back. He calmly walked around his familiar territory and started begging for vegetables.

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Squirrel is in the white cage-within-a-cage at the far end of The Ranch.

The Bartender glanced in as he passed by.

“He’s in jail!”

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I’m still smarter than a Guinea Pig. Squirrel completely calmed down within his familiar enclosure.

Yes, I suppose so. A couple days later I lifted his wire cage jail out of the Ranch, and Squirrel barely noticed.

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“It’s all cool, man.”

I left the demilitarized zone in place, though. Carl is now too fragile for even indirect contact, even though Squirrel has calmed down a bit.

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Stevie Ray and Carl are still safely separated from the maniac, though Squirrel hardly ever rattles the divider any more.

Blur the banty hen came to me as the result of a failed backyard chicken experiment. Her buddy was taken by a raccoon and her owners threw in the towel. She was too noisy: lonely for chicken friends. She is absolutely minuscule, about the size of a pigeon, and I can hardly wait to see her eggs. To tell you the truth, when I saw her I was concerned that my bigger hens might not accept her, or that the cats might take an unhealthy interest in her. I put her in the infirmary with my handicapped hen, Lula, and they have bonded and are nearly inseparable. While Ping (the tiny new duck) was sequestered in the bully pen, they spent their days with her. They shared the safety of the apple tree pen during the afternoon garden parties. Now that Ping has been integrated with the other ducks, Blur and Lula continue their friendship wherever they are. Princess Blur seems to feel she is in charge, and knowing the routine runs over to be picked up when we are changing venues. She can walk, but Lula can’t, so they both have to be carried everywhere.

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Lula (black) and Ping (white), Dobby the capybara, and tiny Blur just behind him, in the apple tree pen.

“Honestly, if ever I was tempted to bring a hen indoors, it would be little Blur.”

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Princess Blur, the banty Mille Fleur hen. She might be 6″ tall.

The Bartender looked a bit panicky when I said that out loud, so I won’t mention it again and we’ll see what happens.

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Ping the duck and Cubicle the goose are friends. Shamrock is just beyond the top swimming pool step, and Carmen Miranda the muscovy is beyond him.

Ping, the little white duck, has settled in with the flock and follows the drakes everywhere. I’m not sure why they haven’t noticed how cute she is. She and my goose, Cubicle, have long amicable conversations, and I think she is getting some good advice. Or maybe she’s hoping to interest Ping in Shamrock, the relentless drake who shamelessly follows Cubicle everywhere, to the annoyance of her mate, Norman.

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Dobby plays hide and seek in the front yard.

Romeo, who went to the most fabulous pond imaginable, had a good month there and then suddenly wasted away before there was time to see the vet and he’s gone. Our ten cent diagnosis is hardware disease, a peril I have lost several Muscovies to. I feel badly that he probably ate some ugly junk here only to die of it at his new home. We will never know, but I guess it’s time to sweep the farm with my magnets again.

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Pouffy Man. We’re working on a new trick. Do you think he can get pouffy on command?

Carl Sagan (Methuselah) has again made it to his birthday month of October. Born in 2006, that makes him – YIKES! -ten years old! Sadly, he looks all of his ten years, and he is fading fast, but his appetite is youthful! He is my last goodnight, and the little pet I check on first thing every morning. In Guinea Pig years, he’s about 100. You are a champ, Carl!

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Stevie Ray and Carl Sagan. Ha ha, can you tell which end is which?

In other news, Dobby’s presidential campaign has stalled somewhat. He is bitterly disappointed that he wasn’t invited to the first debate, but is now complaining that he was unable to prepare due to an unexpected nap computer glitch. Maybe he’ll get off his throne and do some campaigning, maybe not. We’ll see.

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Dobby takes a selfie.

Daily Drama 55

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Daily Drama 55

Writing a blog is easy when there is so much to write about. Sometimes, though, the material piles up so fast and furious that there is no time to write! Taking a vacation creates a windfall of material, but if taken correctly, induces a predictable and even desirable stupor. The school year aspect of my life (that I don’t write about) creates an artificial deadline which looms like a cliff of doom to rodent aficionados. So while I have a couple blog posts in the works, why not start and finish a third, and really confuse the heck out of everyone?

As a sanctuary (also called a LOFT, Live Out Full Term facility) I see many animals through to their last days. Older pets aren’t as adoptable and often find their way here. Some have just been here a hella long time. Carl Sagan the Guinea pig is one of them.

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Bath and blow-dry time for Carl Sagan

His brother, Ankhsheshonq, left us long ago, complications due to dementia. Carl will be NINE* TEN years old in October, but he is having some issues with right rear axle paralysis. He’s perky, doesn’t seem to be in any pain, still interacts positively with Stevie Ray, and races to the treat bowls on cue. Still, he has no strength in his hip and leg, and flops over as soon as he is stationary. Because he isn’t as active, this gets fairly messy, so he has been getting baths, as needed. He likes the extra attention, and the older I get, the more sympathy I have for these old pets. I hope Carl makes it another year, to TEN ELEVEN years old, but in case he doesn’t, I have located an older boar companion for Stevie Ray, who remembers when the Dude Ranch was 5, not 2 dudes. You will be hearing about him in a while.

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Fat Bonnie attempts to explore the living room. Watch out, Fat Bonnie! The wood floor is LAVA!

Fat Bonnie Bunnie seems to be making an effort to overcome her fears, and we have started to let her into the living room for romps. She doesn’t seem as fearful there as she is in the kitchen, such nonsense. Her sister and litter-mate, Helen, was so joyous and playful, I know Fat Bonnie had a nearly identical history. I am reading some of Temple Grandin‘s fine work, and thinking maybe my little fatty has some brain anomalies, but whatever the problem, the treatment is the same: minor adjustments, one at a time, to her daily routine until she responds positively to something.

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If he performs outdoors, that is one big help! Thank you, Dobby!

Dobby continues to be a big help around here. He eats grass from my bucket, apples from the raked up pile, bamboo that sticks through the protective fencing. He marks my tool handles, my jackets, and surprisingly, he now marks Kitty Hawk the tomcat!

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Grover (Cleveland) and Kitty Hawk

He’s back up to 116# but that’s still below his pre-veterinary visit weight of 117.5#, and well below his previous 125#. He has gained weight during apple season before, so we’ll see. His big secret is that he’s writing his memoirs, but I’ve seen it and if he wants my help publishing it, he’d better tone it down a bit.

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Dobby taste-tests the bird seed. Is it okay for the hens to eat?

I can tell you that a capybara that falls off his bed- it’s a pillow on the floor!- during a nap doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room in the dignity department.

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Seriously, he fell off this bed.

In other Dobby News, he has a couple new-from-Florida wind chimes, and a beach ball that he despises!

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“My mom and dad went to Florida and all I got was this cheesy beach ball.”

The wild animals around here are out of control. A mother raccoon and three babies peered in at me while I was feeding the chickens- during the day. I had to pick the bumper crop of grapes, too tart to eat, but rats in the arbor are not as adorable as they sound. These aren’t my cute Wistar rats, no they are the other mangy kind, and they don’t look so hot this year. 

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There are rats up in the apple tree, too. [No rats in this photo, use your imagination.] Go ahead, walk right under this arbor. Don’t cheat and look up!

And Dobby had 28 visiting mallards yesterday, prompting a brisk recall of the cracked corn appetizer I put out for Happy Hour.

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Only a few Mallards here, but my little flock is still too timid to chase them away from the treat bowl. Imagine this scene with 16 in the pool, the remainder distributed in the yard. Too many freeloaders!

Enough is enough.

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Mrs. Mallard is the only one brave enough to swim with Dobby. She’s been hanging out here (pre-pool) longer than Dobby has, 8-9 years.

At least the hummingbirds are satisfied: my garden blooms for them all summer and I can ignore the feeders for a while.

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Ping the duck! She has angel-wing and is tiny, but she’s very spunky.

I was contacted by a Facebook friend of many years, and we made a very satisfactory duck exchange. Her little Ping is small, white, and has angel wing, and probably wouldn’t thrive in the natural environment available to her there. My thuggish Muscovy drake, Romeo, has not mended his ways, and my little hens have been living in fear. Norman the goose isn’t too fond of him either.

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Dobby checks out the new duck. Ping is that little white blob beyond him, keeping her distance.

Romeo’s hen-directed activities are inappropriate, but he is friendly to people and ducks, and he is a big drake, able to take care of himself. So we traded, and while we are still watching to see how it goes, I think we both came out ahead. Just yesterday I noticed how quiet it is around here. Romeo himself was quiet, but he had a way of stirring things up, and it is nice not to hear Norman honking at 2am!

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Dobby says it’s time to return to the back yard, asking to go through the front door this time. He’s right, it’s closer, but oy vey, the cleanup as he trashes his way through the living room! Never again!

UPDATE: I stand corrected. After talking to Carl Sagan’s owner (Carl is a foster guinea pig), I am stunned to report that Carl will be 10 years old in October. He’s doing great, and I honestly think he’s going for 11!

Video: the drama of Jamieween! | Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest

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What do you give a chimpanzee for her birthday?

Cowboy boots, of course! With a pear hidden inside!

Follow the link to see the video!

Source: Video: the drama of Jamieween! «

Daily Drama 45 | Carl Sagan, Birthday Boy

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Daily Drama 45 | Carl Sagan, Birthday Boy

Hey Carl! Come over here! Let’s do an 8th Birthday photo shoot! We don’t know the exact day, but you were born around Halloween.

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“Corn is an extra special treat. Surely you don’t need me NOW?”

Okay, we can wait a couple minutes. I’ll get the camera set up.

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“I got dressed up in my favorite t-shirt!”

Very cute, but I had something fancier in mind. I do appreciate that you picked out a nice orange t-shirt to match the pumpkins.

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“Orange is my favorite color.”

Ha ha, nice. But everyone has already seen that costume. Don’t you have something else?

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“I’m getting seasick. Urp.”

Ah, yes. The hat I brought you from Venice. You make a very cute gondolier!

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“Oy vey! Oops, I mean, OLA!”

And here’s the sombrero I brought you from Zihuatanejo, Mexico! That is a great color on you, Carl.

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“Yes, I’ll have another pina colada, thanks for asking!”

Where did you find that lei from Hawaii? I don’t think that belongs to you. You’re right, though. It’s way too small for Dobby.

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“I do like these cowboy hats. After all, I live in a Dude Ranch.”

Now we’re talking! Sheriff Carl Sagan and his horse. Wait a minute, is that Capycoppy?

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“Now we’re just getting silly. Can I get back to my corn?”

Taking your dog for a walk down to the mailbox? Looks like you dodged the rain.

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“From bad to worse. I’m in a police lineup here. Aren’t we finished yet?”

The best costume of all is actually being a cute guinea pig, isn’t it Carl? Those friends of yours certainly have better manners than Stevie Ray and Fred!

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“I am NOT hanging around for a mugshot. I’m outta here!”

That’s right, Carl. You are INNOCENT! Happy Birthday!


[Carl absolutely LOVED the attention, but not all guinea pigs tolerate costumes. I also had an experienced volunteer on hand for the wrangling. Use good judgment if you decide to dress up your pet. Make sure it is fun for everyone involved.]