Tag Archives: Vincent

Daily Drama 70 – Vintage Bird

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Old Jorge is gone. Poor old guy. Have you ever had a pet where every morning he looked back at you, it was a miracle he was still alive? His arthritis was so bad I finally lined the bottom of his cage with a “mattress” so when he fell off his perch he wouldn’t get hurt. I bought him a little bird heater and he spent most of his final days huddled up to it, and I found a little corner platform perch so he didn’t have to worry about falling down. He had his own food and water at the bottom of the cage, and seemed happier to eat down there than up at the regular water and food dish above. At bedtime, he took forever to decide where to sleep: which one of his favorite places would it be? By his heater? Near the doves, at the top of the cage? Early years, he liked his swing. But this past year, I would say goodnight and wait by the light switch for him to decide. He’d slowly clamber up and down ladders and finally settle in, usually up by the doves. I would wait patiently, watching in case he took a tumble, and then I would turn off the light and go to bed myself. Now I just call “goodnight” to the birds, and go to bed. Sadly.

When Jorge was walking well enough to enjoy “floor time.” He never flew around much.

Jorge (pronounced Hor-hay) arrived here in 2006. My petsitter had rescued him around 2002. She heard him shrieking every day which is how she found him, a few doors down, in a cage in the carport, hardly a safe situation. The owner wanted to get rid of him, “How about $50?” Judy couldn’t afford him, and I couldn’t take him in, because at the time I had a cockatiel who was feather picking, and we didn’t think a screamer would be any help to my guy. Judy eventually bought him and cared for him four years. Until she developed ovarian cancer, when she asked me to take her birds. Jorge had never tamed down but we never blamed him for that, and respected his wariness. We suspected he spent time in an unpleasant situation, maybe worse than the carport. My feather-picker had passed and my remaining cockatiel, a rescue named Butterfree, proved to be a worthy companion for Jorge until he, too, passed.

Vincent doesn’t seem overly lonely, with the doves next door. He will surely miss the reciprocal grooming with Jorge.

Jorge was devastated by this loss. He wasn’t friendly to people, but he had bonded to beautiful Butterfree. I decided to look for an old male to become a companion to Jorge, and found Vincent. Vincent was a friendly older bird needing a new situation and he immediately bonded to Jorge. The two old males ate together, explored together, and groomed each other until Jorge passed last week.

Two old birds, out for a stroll.

When Vincent arrived, Jorge had a large cage outfitted with climbing ladders, swings, and toys. I thought they were about the same age, and they might have been, but Jorge seemed to age, while Vincent seems to be the same age he was when he arrived here 12 years ago. That’s not possible of course, but Jorge became a crotchety, stiff old man and fell off a perch one day.

Vincent doesn’t have to fight for “swing time” any more.

The second time he fell off his perch, I realized I was dealing with a much older bird who would need a safer environment. The tall cage was no longer suitable.

That’s a long fall if you lose your grip on a top perch.

By now I had a motley collection of birds: the two cockatiels, Spike the budgie, and two handicapped doves, The Pirate and her mother Snow White. Dobby was starting to eat the pink cloth “cage diapers” I put at the bottom of the cages to catch miscellaneous bird debris: he discovered he could get at the forbidden bird food by tearing open the fabric. The cages are in his area, after all.

I long ago learned that it isn’t the number of animals that creates the work, it is how many cages you have to clean. Note the torn pink “cage diaper” leaking bird debris onto the floor. Yep, Dobby.

My volunteer, Jillian, and I put together two new cages and we transferred everyone over. I divided Jorge and Vincent’s cage into two “flats” and Spike moved downstairs. (That’s where Spitfire lives, now that little Spike has passed.)  I made a fleece covered mattress for the bottom of the cockatiel cage and arranged ladders to accommodate Jorge. The handicapped doves had a new matching cage, also with a mattress. Everyone was surprisingly blasé about their new homes. It helped that the location and neighbors were the same.

The old switcheroo. The new black cage is all “birded up” and ready to move into the location of that white cage.

After years of mis-matched hand-me-down cages, it is nice to have new ones that I can customize. The ladders in the cockatiel cage allowed Jorge to climb to every perch, toy, food and water dish. The new cages are larger and easier to clean. The fleece at the bottom of the cages results in “bird laundry” to add to my rabbit and capybara laundry, but that’s why I have an industrial oversized washer.

The Pirate checks out the new cage. The last time I let them all out together was not a success, but flock dynamics change over time. Maybe it’s time to try again, but the doves can be shockingly aggressive. The budgies are even worse bullies. For the moment, everyone seems happy with separate “out” times.

Here’s a gratuitous photo of Dobby, checking out the new cages the following day. He notices everything. Poor Dobby, with no “cage diapers” to destroy, he soon learned to get directly into the bags of bird food stored below.

“What happened? Too many changes! Where’s my alternative food supply?”

The left cage is customized for the two handicapped doves: One can’t walk, the other can’t fly. If you can’t walk, you can’t perch, so The Pirate has a hammock at the top. She can fly up to it. The ramps are for the walker, Snow White. I lift her up onto a perch every night at bedtime, and in the morning she hops down onto the mattress below. Flying down is a lot easier than flying up.

One advantage to the new cages didn’t become clear until months later: it reinforced the flocking behavior of all the birds. Jorge and Vincent started to roost high on the left side, as near as possible to the two snoozing doves. They ate together, too, and eating my lunch in the kitchen was a signal for them to join me. Birds are funny that way.

Ramps, ladders, and hammocks everywhere.

About a year ago, Jorge began to spend more time on the floor of his cage, so I added a lower food dish (with supplements added) and crock of water.  On signal, when I brought fresh water, he would amble down the nearest ladder and take two sips. “Thank you!” Then came the wall-mounted cage heater and platform. He had been blind in his right eye for about the past six months and he took longer and longer to decide where to sleep. The seasons changed from winter to spring, yet Jorge chose to spend more and more time by his heater. His passing was unexpected, I honestly thought he might live on forever. I will spend the rest of my days wondering how old he really was.

 

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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 . . .

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”

Daily Drama 26

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Daily Drama 26

Spike the budgie is a twit. I’m sure everyone is familiar with parakeet mirror obsessions and their fondness for toys. I’m not certain that people understand how aggressive they are.

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Spike on the left, Jorge and Vincent on the right.

In the evening, when large rodents are in bed and the kitchen door is no longer opening and closing, and dinner is cooked and the frying pan and pots of boiling water are gone, the bird cage doors open. Spike often comes out to the living room and watches tv with us from a tray set up as a bird playpen, similar to the one on top of his cage that no one likes. Sigh.

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I don’t have any living room playpen photos, so here he is with a cake cover.

Lately, when the cage doors open, he immediately abandons his own cage for the cockatiel cage. He is such a bully, he chases Jorge and Vincent out of their own cage, and they end up on the unpopular playpen or on top of their cage, just underneath the top shelf.

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If it makes you dizzy, just turn the picture upside down.

Last night, tired of his shenanigans, we took him out to the living room. He played happily for about 20 minutes, then flew off, in a big arc, toward the dining room. He does this all the time, and we go get him and bring him back. Last night, though, he disappeared. We looked high and low. We got out a flashlight and looked behind furniture. We check rooms in the opposite direction, just in case. We looked in the kitchen, atop cupboards, behind plants, any little nook or cranny possible.

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Ha ha, the joke is on you!

Suddenly, I heard Dick laughing. “Found him!” Spike had flown in an arc, all right. He had flown straight into the open cockatiel cage! In fact, I had shut the door and closed him in, which explained all the cockatiel chatter for the previous 1/2 hour! D’oh!