Tag Archives: Spike

Spike the Budgie

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Spike the Budgie

The silence is profound and eerie. Spike the Budgie sings no more. Typical of a prey animal, he hid his illness to the end, and sang his heart out to cover his fear. The cockatiels, Vincent and Jorge, shrieked with his song, trying to alert me to his plight, but I did not see the signs soon enough. Now he is gone, and so is his ridiculous, ubiquitous chatter.

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Spike, the acrobat

Years ago, I had a handicapped sparrow who grew up to the incessant conversation of earlier rescue budgies closely resembling their namesakes, Jake and Ellwood. Minus the sunglasses. Of indeterminate age, they eventually passed on, one, then the other over the course of several months. Like now, the silence was oppressive. But it was more so, because the sparrow stopped singing, and over time, stopped eating or caring about anything. I was supply shopping at PetCo and the “Ask about our adoptable bird” sign on the budgie cage intrigued me. It is PetCo policy that once a bird has been treated for illness, it can’t go back out for sale with the others. It must be adopted out directly from their “back room.” He was a dandy little parakeet, friendly and gentle, a spunky sprite that looked me in the eye, fearless. At the checkout counter I filled out his paperwork, and where they asked for his name I wrote “Spike.”

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Spike is above the WOK, and Krumpit the sparrow’s head is just visible at the bottom corner of the green cage.

Spike started singing, the sparrow started eating and we were good for a few more years. Spike turned out to be a small but devilishly quick bird. For a while I kept his wings clipped, but he usually behaved himself and I eventually let him fly. I set up a bird playpen in the living room so he could watch tv with us, or maybe just admire himself in his tiny mirror. When he got bored, he would make a beeline for the open door of his cage, flitting through the dining room, taking a hard right at the kitchen, negotiating potted orchids and miscellaneous appliances on his way home. Unlike other birds I have had, he never dropped out of sight behind bookcases, hid from us high up on beams or hunkered into the folds of curtains. He did some hiking, which is dangerous when you are 3″ tall and the carpet is Persian camo. Most of his trekking was limited to the under-coffee-table area, with its chrome legs and unlimited supply of crumbs.

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Again with the acrobatics

This tiny green demon could be a monster, though. Pirate the handicapped dove also likes to watch tv with us, and he would perch on her basket and stare until she protested. His big cage door also opened to the cockatiel cage, and he liked to clamber up and terrorize the bigger birds, taking over the favorite swing, everyone screeching in protest. Sometimes he would visit The Pirate’s cage, making a note of her food dish contents. Worse, he was an obnoxious neighbor. I finally put up a sign to block his view of The Pirate. The sign reads: “WARNING     noise hazard level B     ear plugs required”

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Spike loved to torment The Pirate.

Mostly, though, we miss his singing. He is featured as background in many of Dobby’s videos.

We marveled at Spike’s ability to sound like dozens of birds carrying on conversations with each other at the same time. He was chatty and cheerful to the end, when I wish he had instead communicated his illness. But that is not the way with prey animals, and he hid it well. Too well.

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Farewell, sweet, silly Spike.

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Daily Drama 46

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Daily Drama 46

More dramas actually mean fewer blogs. My dance card is full, but thankfully, my mother was right. She said “You always worry about the wrong thing.” The Koi/Goldfish Rodeo hasn’t occurred yet, for various reasons. Leonard the koi is still in his home pond. It is a bit like waiting for the other shoe to drop. The Three French Hens had a Happy Story at last notice. Their owner has sold her condo and bought a house where she can keep her hens! That is the best kind of story, isn’t it?

I am currently helping to rehome a sweet bunny whose foster mother is moving this month. Honey is a young male with meticulous litter box habits and he is available now, so if you are interested, please contact me! (Seattle)

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Honey the bunny

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Honey is a friendly, relaxed rabbit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No blog is complete without Prince Dobalob. (We’ll skip the guinea pigs, too. They have had their 15 minutes of fame.) Here is the Dobster, so we can get that over with, and we can move on to more obscure residents.

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Prince Dobalob, stealing the show

Like this dwarf African frog. There are two in a tank in Dobby’s Kitchen. The outdoor turtles are hibernating, by the way. We can no longer hope for any pleasant weather before spring.

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Bonnie Bunny is adjusting to indoor life. She isn’t one of those cuddly types, and she isn’t very adventurous, but it sure is fun to see her skid around on the slippery wood floors.

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Bonnie checks out Dobby’s kitchen area.

Bonnie enjoys a romp in Dobby’s territory once he has gone out for the evening.

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Bird’s eye view of a melted rabbit

She is getting very relaxed indoors.

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Peg-legged Pirate

The Pirate gets out in the evening, too. She has a special kitchen “nest” and a landing strip of her own but prefers to buzz my head to get attention.

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Vincent the cockatiel

My elderly cockatiels  seem to like having a rabbit in the house again. They have been wandering around more since she came inside. Spike, the Puny Green Thing, invades their cage as soon as they fly down to the floor.

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Jorge and Vincent go for a walk.

Wild mallards have invaded, as if to make up for the sleeping turtles. Feederwatch observations started up last weekend, but only 7 of these 24 ducks showed up on my count. I had a Kingfisher late last summer, and I’m hoping he’ll swing through on one of my count days.

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24 mallards in Dobby’s pool

My little flock is adjusting to the recent loss of an elder gentleman duck, Fabio. He is center back in the photo below.

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“Where’s our snack?”

He had a nice summer, but he was walking like a stiff old man and the other ducks were very deferential to him. Even Dobby seemed to acknowledge his frailty, though I doubt Fabio appreciated his nudges of encouragement.

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Little Lula

Lula has been on Metacam forever and settles on a lower roost these nights, but she is much improved from a year ago. The cats like to walk past and swat at her tail.

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I have known Jorge for 15 years, but he was probably about 5 years old when I met him.

Here is Jorge again, just because. I am his third owner, at least, but I think he is older than I originally guessed. He’s pretty frail, too, and his cage is lined with soft blankets because he falls off his perch. The Funny Farm is becoming an assisted living facility for elderly pets.

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Classic Combo: capybara and amethyst

How about me? I failed at retirement and started a new career as a paraeducator at the elementary school where I have been volunteering for the past four years. I’m also designing new jewelry for Georgia Dee’s Gift Shop, in my spare time, of course. You’ll be seeing that here in about a week. I have plenty more to write about my trip to Paris, too, but this is not the time. It seems to me I was writing a book, too, or three . . .

Daily Drama 37

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Daily Drama 37

The daily dramas have taken me beyond the Funny Farm this week. I usually find time to write between disasters, but they are coming fast and furious, so this is a mid-disaster story whose end cannot yet be told. At the moment, The Bartender (my “significant other”) is stable, and so is The Mathematician (my son) so here is what is happening at the Funny Farm.

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Dressing in the dark and racing to the Emergency Room doesn’t leave much time for details. For un-matched shoes, I think I did pretty well.

Dobby is enjoying our fabulous but uncharacteristically balmy weather. Swimming season has arrived! It’s actually pretty cold outside if your swimming pool water is 49f (9c) degrees.

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“I don’t snore!”

Dobby spends a lot of time inside, napping. I have tried to get a video of his snoring, but he is too wary and always wakes as I sneak up on him.

We still spend most afternoons in the garden. Dobby grazes in the front yard, the poultry plays in the back. Lula the hen is on Metacam for her mysterious ailment, and she has even made it out to the back yard a few times lately.

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Garden Party participants, left to right: Penguin, Prince Dobalob, Jello, and Madonna (Squirrel photobomb, background)

Carmen Miranda, our newest duck, has proved to be very self assured. She is trying to claim the rabbit litter-box as a nest. Whatever.

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Carmen, get out of there!

In spite of everything, we have managed to make some improvements to the Funny Farm. We now have five birds in the kitchen: two doves, one parakeet, and two cockatiels.

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BEFORE

Our first goal was to acquaint the two doves and move them from two smaller guinea pig cages into one large bird cage. The Pirate cannot walk, and Luna Dovegood cannot fly, so the cage was equipped with landing hammocks and ramps to allow them to use as much of the vertical space as possible.

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So far, so good. Doves are on the left in the new cage.

The next step was to move two elderly cockatiels and the bullying parakeet into the other cage. I put a horizontal divider in the cage. Spike the Budgie is far too aggressive to share space with the older gentlemen. Plus, he doesn’t need the encouragement of being “Top Bird” so little Spikey gets the first floor apartment.

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Vincent the cockatiel explores the new cage.

Every evening for a week, I rolled the new cage into the kitchen for playtime. I coaxed the birds into their new spaces with treats, and they began to enjoy the new play area.

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The Pirate thought she was very clever to perch on top.

Luna can’t fly, and now that she has been here a while, we know why. She has an inoperable tumor on her left wing. It has grown very large, and she is now on Metacam. Her appetite is good, she moves around her new cage by walking on the ramps, and since starting the medication, she has been cooing a little bit, again.

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The tumor is really quite serious. It is on the other side and you don’t want to see it.

The gray cockatiel, Jorge, is probably older than I first estimated, and has started to stumble and even falls off a perch once in a while. A former pet-sitter adopted him from her neighbor who had set his cage out in the carport while attempting to find a new home for him. Judy had him about four years before he came to me (she died of ovarian cancer) in 2006. He’s just “old.”

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Jorge finally checks out the new cage.

Like the dove cage, this one also has a mattress-like floor to accommodate unexpected plummeting. Instead of ramps, it has ladders so that Jorge can get back up to his perch. Vincent is about 14 years old, but still gets around just fine and has been very comforting to Jorge, who is one of those bird-birds, not a people-bird. Or maybe Jorge was traumatized at some point. I will never know.

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AFTER

Happily ever after, they are all in their new, improved cages. I still have to hang a curtain between Spike the budgie and the doves, though. He is such a pill.

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Shipping goose eggs

It is egg-laying season, so I am constantly raiding nests. The last thing I need is more poultry to care for. I shipped off the first goose eggs, but I have decided to keep the rest and blow them out. They are really very cool.

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Georgia Dee’s Diary

One of my biggest distractions right now is my Mom’s diary. She was 13 years old when she started writing in it in 1940. It goes through 1944, and her personal story is so well told that I would like to share it. I have transcribed it and I am adding photos, a World War Two timeline, and a few footnotes where clarification is helpful.

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A 1943 Eversharp pen and engraved bracelet

Seventy years later, I am discovering artifacts mentioned in the diary. Most of them were gifts from her boyfriend, Andy. She kept them for fifty years and I have had them twenty. It is my mother’s diary, but it is about Andy, and I am certain she would want his memory kept alive in this way.

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Andy

I have contacted his nephew Randy, who is also interested in the project. Depending upon the response I get from my group of previewers, I plan to publish it. Please let me know if you would like to participate in this early review and I will send you a link to the private website in April, when I hope to have it ready. (Comment on this post and mark it “private” if you don’t want it published. I’ll just add you to the list.)

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Dobby isn’t certain he approves of he new cages.

My drakes are fighting, my capybara is amorous, the turtles are out of hibernation and basking, and the wild birds are flying around with beaks full of twigs. It must be spring!

Daily Drama 33

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Daily Drama 33

The biggest thing going on around here is Georgia Dee’s Gift Shop. I inherited my Mom’s jewelry inventory and after a decade of hoarding it, I realized there are some pieces I have never worn. I keep hauling out shoeboxes and finding more nice items. Check out the gift shop before all the good stuff is gone and I start uploading my ashtray collection. All proceeds benefit The Funny Farm.

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Next door to the Gift Shop, my volunteer, Jillian is helping me track the weight of The Dudes.

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First, you have to grab one.

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It’s harder than it looks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jillian has long arms, so she can reach them easier than I can. Plus, I have to take the photos!

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She got Carl and we weighed him.

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The pigloos are full of guinea pigs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you notice the new wall hangings? I just have soft things hanging over their cage. Earthquakes, you know.

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This should be easy.

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Fred has decided not to be weighed today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She really did get Fred, I was just teasing. He is fast, though!

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Fine, we’ll get Stevie Ray.

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Putting them back is easy.

The other indoor project is the New Cages For The Kitchen project. Now that I have two handicapped doves indoors, I need a larger cage. That’s the doves on the left in red and green cages.

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BEFORE

The new cage is big and fits perfectly into the same space. Pirate can’t walk or land, so she has a couple hammocks and some wide ledges. Luna can’t fly, so she has ramps up to the ledges so she can go UP, where a bird belongs. They have only been in the cage a couple days but are adjusting quickly.

I have a new cage for the right side, too. I will divide it horizontally so my elderly cockatiels can have the top. Jorge is old and feeble and I have seen him fall once. It’s time to reduce the altitude in his cage. AND, they won’t be able to see the annoying little budgie, Spike, who will have the basement apartment. (Note the white curtain that hangs between Spike and the doves.) Because it is horizontal, he will actually be able to fly across the cage. If he behaves and I don’t have to keep clipping his wings. There’s one in every crowd isn’t there? The new cage will also mean that the pink Dobby-chewed fabric that is so tatty looking will go away.

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AFTER

Luna the dove saw the vet today because her bad wing is giving her problems. Even an x-ray won’t show us exactly what is going on, and surgery is dangerous and expensive. She is not in any pain, so it’s a wait-and-see situation. She loves the ramps in her new cage, and the two girls love sharing a cage. They are also uncaged every night, as they all are, and as long as Spike spends the evening with me, away from the rest of them, everybody is happy. He’s such a bully.

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Lula is in the infirmary.

The vet also saw Lula. Her symptoms are vague but she is slowly pulling out of this round of the blahs. She’s been up and down with this business since about May, and sometimes she’s just perfectly fine, laying eggs and all.

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Wait a minute! Who is that in the infirmary with her? KITTY HAWK!

We’re going to see if Metacam will help her.

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GROVER! You’re in there, too? Well, she isn’t lonely, anyway.

Here’s little Carmen Miranda. She is always right by my side and so is the first to discover the worms under Dobby’s hot tub.

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Worm soup.

Romeo prefers Dobby’s swimming pool.

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Stand back! That’s cold water!

After I take the photos, the Muscovies are inspired to groom. They are supposed to do that BEFORE the photo shoot.

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Romeo

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Carmen Miranda

Don’t I have three Muscovies? WINKY! Dang it! Where is she? Sorry, gotta go!

Krumpit the Kamikaze Sparrow

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Krumpit the Kamikaze Sparrow

Krumpit was only a House Sparrow, but he was one of the most unique of the many creatures who have shared my life. Brought to me as a nestling by my prodigal daughter, he was all I could not resist. A helpless and unwanted creature for whom I had all the bittersweet hopes a parent has: that he would grow strong and leave my nest. Wildlife rescues never returned her calls, I was unsure of the legal status of an invasive House Sparrow, and none of the nestling feeding information I am finding today was available on the Internet during the summer of 2009. Named, ironically, for a current hiphop dance, I spent his first two years wondering if my ineptitude caused his legs not to grow strong. I know now that krumpit must have been broken from the fall from his lofty nest, and that he would not have lasted the day, had not my daughter brought him home.

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Krumpit, the day he came home

 

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Baby Krumpit

From her descriptions of the site and the horrific fates of his nest-mates, I believe a crow tore apart his nest, high in the poplars towering above the college campus. Setting baby Krumpit in a substitute nest, in hopes that his parents would resume their care, would not have been a reasonable option. The companion who promised to “take him tomorrow” if my daughter would only take him home tonight, well, we know she was never heard from again. And so this helpless creature made his way home to me. How many times did I ask her “Ready to take your sparrow now?” Knowing I could never let him pass beyond this door.

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The angry sparrow child

 

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Becky and Krumpit

The annual fly infestation that we endured that summer supplied baby Krumpit with the best food he could possibly have had. In addition to egg yolk, soaked finch seed, greens, and canned crickets, he was well fed and grew strong. But he never walked. He learned to fly, but his legs never cooperated, so his landings were frightening crashes. Perches were useless. The fleece blankets lining his cage were soft and yielding, his appetite relentless and unfathomable. As he grew, the responsibility for his handicap became more apparent. He would never become independent and releasable.

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Young Krumpit would never walk on his feet.

Krumpit and I explored several cages throughout his life. I tried several open hammocks, but he never seemed to like them. We eventually settled upon a horizontally oriented cage with an enclosed hammock. He never learned to fly into it but would insist at the end of the day that I lift him up to the big hammock for the night. Until I tried the enclosed hammock, though, he spent his days at the bottom of his cage, his nights in a little wooden hut. His toenails would get caught in the fleece from time to time, but generally he stayed out of trouble. One time his bent legs became stuck outside the cage bars, leaving him in a very awkward position. I looked over at the cage, wondering what piece of junk had become lodged up there in such a bizarre way. You, Krumpit, YOU are the bizarre piece of junk!

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One of the first semi-satisfactory hammocks

Yes, I actually do know how he became lodged there in such a crazy position. Krumpit was an angry young bird. He lived next door to The Blues Brothers. I had adopted Jake and Ellwood, two blue parakeets, and brothers, from a local rescue. Krumpit hated them with all the bluster his tiny sparrow body could muster. All day long they would call to each other, hollering their respective sparrow/budgie epithets and posturing in their respective sparrow/budgie styles.

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Jake and Ellwood, top left; Darth, the Gerbil from Hell, center; Krumpit’s green cage with hammock, right; partial guinea pig cage below; obscure species of wild animal, foreground.

Krumpit’s existence, his very purpose in life, was to best those silly blue birds. He very nearly ended his own existence trying to attack them through the cage bars. When they died, first one, then the other 6 months later, little Krumpit fell into a funk. He stopped eating his mealworm salads, he stopped screaming at the popping and sizzling dinner in the frying pan, and he refused to leave the little wooden hut at the bottom of his cage. Then I found Spike the Budgie in the back room at Petco. Nursed back to health, Spike could no longer be sold with the other pets and was one of their “adoptable” pets. Spike came home, the sparrow started eating again, and the raucous repartee resumed.

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Krumpit in the blue cage with the enclosed hammock he loved. He’s just visible at the bottom right of his cage staring at Spike. That’s Spike to the right. Pirate the dove is below, she’s sitting in her seed dish at the far left.

Krumpit also had a smaller cage on a shelf outside the kitchen door, and he spent his summer afternoons out there, flirting with the wild sparrow women. Bathtubs were ignored, food and water seemed to go untouched, and yet he positioned himself to be transported to his outdoor cage with enthusiasm. Toward the end he nearly flew into my hand to be moved from indoor to outdoor cage and back again. It was a sparrow privilege he took very seriously.

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Krumpit’s outdoor afternoon cage

When I told my daughter how he had died, she responded that he was always going to go that way. And she was right. I like to let my birds fly free in the house, but she reminded me of the time that we had tried that with Krumpit. He had flown like a demon throughout the house, darting here and there, and then silent. Like some crazed kamikaze sparrow, he had flown til he could fly no more, then dropped to the ground. We looked for him for hours, off and on. I kept thinking he would call to us, would ask for help. But people who rehabilitate wild birds understand that never can be. A wild bird knows that to call out in distress is to invite predators, and so they stay still and silent. Until, what? Until whatever happens next. Of course, we did find him, under my bed, up near the headboard. He must have hit the wall and slid straight down. And so a tiny brown bird stayed under my bed, waiting, waiting until the next thing. He was lucky that we found him, and we decided that he could not fly free again. There was no single room in the house where he could fly free without peril.

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Staring at Spike

The years went by, cages changed, hammock experiments came and went, and we settled on the cage with blankets, the little wooden hidey-hut, and 10 mealworms a day. He also had a suet log like the outdoor sparrows, wild bird seed, and greens. That bird loved his greens! In winter he settled for parsley, but all summer long, he had fresh dandelion greens. The dandelions just outside the steps to the front door yielded a particularly fine crop, just the right size, always tender, and I picked them for him daily as I walked in the door. I still instinctively reach for them when they are the perfect size, but no, there is no sparrow now. Do wild sparrows eat dandelion greens? Who knows? Krumpit ate a tiny dishful daily. A mealworm salad, the ten mealworms stealthily hiding beneath his greens. Sometimes fifteen, sometimes only five, his greed changed with the seasons, the daylight hours triggering his appetite. I cross that threshold easily now, dandelion season has passed, but as they grow again in the spring, for whom will I gather the tiny greens?

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Traveling with Baby Krumpit (green cage) and other unruly beasts

I have known just a handful of wild beings, but had close relationships, to the point where communication flowed both directions. The capybara, well, he is unto himself, and his story is still being told. The wood ducks, the teals, the mallards and the Canada geese taught me patience and restraint. The raccoon and the vole, though, taught me about survival and the peculiarities of behavior when all is at stake. In the dark ages, before the Internet, care of wild creatures was a challenge to be faced alone. On my own, I had to listen to my wild ones and interpret their needs. The raccoon tale is a convoluted story to be told another day. Rocky’s predictable yearning for freedom was a poignant relief and his transition from pet shop prisoner to woodland creature was seamless. Vincent the vole entertained me for over three years with his charm, his reserve, and his passion for pine nuts and his precious blanket.

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Krumpit’s blue cage with yet another hammock configuration; wild animal below

This feisty sparrow argued and resisted me for five years. In just the last six months he had learned to love his summers on the porch, and had reluctantly responded to his name by peeking at me from the bottom of his cage. He was not dumb, just reserved, punishing, as if I was the cause of his handicap and incarceration. After years of responding to his calls, he reluctantly responded to mine, and we bantered though it was clear I was not a worthy opponent. I will never understand why, in his hour of need, he did not call out to me. Why his flock, Spike the Budgie, Jorge and Vincent the cockatiels, and The Pirate did not alert me, why all these redundant alarm systems failed to screech, when they so often do so for no apparent reason. Why his little life had to grow still, with all of us around him, is a mystery and a tragedy I cannot seem to get past. Becky was right, though. He was always going to go like that.

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Fly free, little sparrow!

Late June 2009 – October 27, 2014


 

Sparrow by Paul Simon

Who will love a little sparrow
Who’s traveled far and cries for rest
“Not I,” said the oak tree
“I won’t share my branches with no sparrow’s nest
And my blanket of leaves won’t warm her cold breast”

Who will love a little sparrow
And who will speak a kindly word
“Not I,” said the swan
“The entire idea is utterly absurd
I’d be laughed at and scorned if the other swans heard”

And who will take pity in his heart
And who will feed a starving sparrow
“Not I,” said the golden wheat
“I would if I could but I cannot I know
I need all my grain to prosper and grow”

Who will love a little sparrow
Will no one write her eulogy
“I will,” said the earth
“For all I’ve created returns unto me
From dust were ye made and dust ye shall be”