Ringneck Visitors

Sure, I’m in the middle of the city.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t get visitors.

In this case, though, I think they’re not exactly here for me.

They’re for the bar.

The way this started was with Oscar, the orange wing amazon parrot I have had since 1986.  Bloody long time, right?  Well he’s here.  He’s never gotten lost, I guess I’m too good at taking care of him for that.  I have taken him out back many times when it is raining because Amazon Parrots Love Rain.

Just leave the cage out by the pool in the middle of a thunderstorm and let the parrot play in the water.

Step number one, remove the wire cage from the plastic base.  This must be done without freaking the bird out or catching my fingers in the mesh … or the beak within.

Step two.  Go outside.  Better said than done.  I’m a bit unwieldy at times, somewhat clumsy.  One step down to the Florida Room.  Over the threshold and through the double doors to the Lanai.  Out to the pool deck.

And… trip.

It doesn’t happen often but the last time it did, the cage collapsed and had one rather scared green bird within a metal mesh and me freaking out to try to reassemble the cage without letting the bird fly off.

Oh, did I say that this is with Oscar being “Fully Flighted”?

Never mind all that rot.  He just took it all calmly in.  He stepped on my index finger, let me put him inside the cage, grabbed onto my finger a little harder than I prefer and back onto the perch.

That last grab was probably because he was saying I’m being an idiot I guess.

Basically when I have to put Oscar anywhere it is usually in the back yard.  It is quiet there and while we do get “visitors” they are normally at night when I’m snoring into my pillow.

Yes, you can hear it from the corner… well yes that is TMI so I’ll stop there.

Anyway, if I put Oscar in the Florida Room or out back, the outside birds will come to visit.  They range from finch sized little things to the buzzards that have just come to roost for their annual visit.

We also have the Hawks.  Oscar doesn’t like Hawks and will get loud if they come near.

Remember Parrot = Loud.  If you want a quiet house, don’t get a parrot.

I tell Oscar when he gets loud that he can go play with the hawks if he likes.  He has never taken me up on the offer.

This particular day, Oscar was in the Florida Room since it was sunny.  That was when the Ringnecks came for a visit.  Their call is like something out of The Simpsons with “Meh! Meh!” in a reedy voice.  I knew they were here for a visit with Oscar since he was clearly in view of the big double door in the back.

Settling onto the bar for a bit they watched.  I was in the kitchen puttering.  Oscar made some gentle chatter in the back.

Ok, so I spoiled that visit by taking pictures out the Kitchen window, but hey, it is my house after all.

But they do still visit.  If the hawks are particularly active, I will have a bougainvillea full of small birds hiding.  Not today, but many days.   At least it keeps Oscar entertained.

Rack and Oscar’s Visitor at the Door

This was One Of Those Moments.

One Of Those Moments where you just have to scratch your head in confusion, and laugh.

It all started when I got the house to myself for a long week.  About 10 days.

I was rattling around by myself through the holidays, and December 27th, that was going to end.

Boxing Day, December 26th, I had to pick things up.  It was time to stop being a bachelor, and to begin to clean the house.

Living in South Florida, there is a fine layer of dust and sand that gets all over things.  You don’t notice it at first, but you start looking behind things and under things and on top of things that you forgot to look, and there it is.  A layer.  Sometimes there are whole civilizations of dust mites living in it.

You get used to it, so you periodically “Deep Clean” things.

But in just a week, there’s enough that it needs to happen.  Move the furniture around, clean where it was, and move it all back.  Normal boring crap.  However that means that it would get loud.

Oscar Likes Loud.  Oscar, my Orange Wing Amazon Parrot will make noises with anything in the house.  It could be a pencil dropped on the floor, he will chatter to it.  He laughs like I do, says “What?” in appropriate times, and believes that “Hello?!?!?” is an appropriate response to food.

As in “Hello, you had better be bringing me some or else I will get louder”.

Louder can be heard a half mile away.  You don’t want that.  He does “Louder” when the vacuum is run.  The vacuum would be run through the entire house today.

“Oscar, want to play with the Hawks?”

I put Oscar out on the front porch on Aunt Betty’s white plastic table.  She gave it to me with two chairs when she went back Up North and there it sits.  It was pristine when I got it, now three years of Dust later, it isn’t.

Did I say that the dust is from the beaches 2 and a half miles away?

Did I say that the dust is also from The Bahamas about 120 miles east of me?
Did I say that the dust also comes from The Sahara Desert half a world away?

Yes, really.  And it all got cleaned up.

I got out the vacuum and did the house.  Yes, even under the tv table cart and the couch.  All the chihuahua dog worth of loose dog fur were vacuumed away.  You never knew that a McNab Dog would shed so much, after all, he only has one coat and no undercoat.

At that point things got weirder.  I managed to mop the kitchen fairly quickly, and started on the dining room when I noticed that Rack the McNab SuperDog (TM) was acting concerned.  “Concerned” in most dogs will mean they might grumble or even bark.  Not with Rack.  He just stares holes through you with twin yellow-green laser beamed eyes as he melts your heart with curiosity.

Or in this case urgency.  He plopped himself in the middle of the living room staring at me.

I looked past him through the big window noticing that Oscar was not being bothered by anyone.

“Rack, I’m going to need that room soon.”

Rack looked at me again as if to say “You had better check the door”.  He’s great for delegating responsibility since he’s afraid of his own shadow.

I went back to finishing the dining room.

Straightening out my own frame and blocking off the dining room, I found out what was going on.  The house had visitors.

Rack retreated to The Corner where he hides but was keeping an eye on both me and Oscar.

Oscar was looking at something just out of view and lunging at it.

And there it was.  A Muscovy Duck.

Mind you, these ducks are completely harmless.  Since they’re Outdoor Animals, they probably have all sorts of things that I don’t want Oscar getting so I watched.  But instead of going to the door and shooing the creature away, I realized it was watching both me, and Oscar.

I reached for the camera and squeezed off a couple pictures hoping that the light in the window wouldn’t wash things out too badly.  It did and I would find that out later.

But there I was.  I was locked in another Wild Kingdom moment.  My house was visited by the ducks again.  This wasn’t a surprise, we’ve got dozens of them.  I am only a short couple blocks from the nearest river and they never quite leave the neighborhood.  They are non-aggressive and harmless.  Since they eat the grubs in the grass, I can even say they’re beneficial.

They’re certainly entertaining, but I never expected them to come quite this close.

There was one a while back that decided that since I hardly ever drive my Jeep, it would roost under it.  I became a foster parent to a brood of baby ducks that would hide under there from the neighbor’s formerly outdoor cats.  Not wanting to disturb them, I would always make certain that I could get outside quietly and go about my business.
Rack doesn’t seem to mind them, but understands that they don’t belong on the porch.

Like this rather curious one.

It hopped onto the porch to see what this green parrot, Oscar, was doing on Betty’s table, and discovered that there was me indoors watching it, and Rack watching all of us being confused.

I squeezed off a few shots more, turning on the flash for the last one.

The duck had had enough at that point when I tried to walk to the door.  It slowly turned around and walked back under the Jeep.  It had to be a part of the brood here.

So that’s the thing.  You may have been used to living around nature, but nature never quite leaves you here in South Florida.  Sometimes it even pays a visit.

I went back to my cleaning and by the time I was done, it was wandering off the neighbor’s property.

Nice to have a little visit when you’re ready for a break from doing things, isn’t it?

Getting Rack Ready For The Walk

Ok, I don’t know which TV Show scarred me for life with these little sayings, but let me get them out of the way first!

“I caught you looking at my butt!”

“Quit looking at my butt!”

*WHEW*!  There we go, back to normal!

You see getting Rack ready for his walk is a ritual.  It could be as many as three or more rituals.

It all depends on the time of day and “which” walk we’re taking.

I suppose we could throw weather into that too although it’s either dry or rainy here.

You see Rack the McNab SuperDog (TM) is a herding dog.  A McNab Dog like him loves routines.  He can predict what will happen next and when we make a change to the house, we can see how he’s a bit confused by it all and then adapts.

After all I can’t say “ready” without him wanting to go somewhere.  I changed that to the Spanish “Listo” for when I am “ready” and want to go somewhere and don’t want him to know.  He will learn that and I’ll find another Key Word.

Suggestions anyone?

Herding dogs like the McNab, any collie, or any breed with Shepherd or Heeler in their names were bred for intelligence and flexibility.  You can teach them anything.

I didn’t realize I was teaching him to crawl between my legs.

Yes, they are my legs, but we went through this already.

To get him ready for a walk all I really have to do is show him a leash.  The leash has the harness already clipped to the end for convenience sake.  I hold the harness open and he simply walks through it.

But in typical “One Plus One Equals Three Fashion” of a herding dog, Rack … keeps walking.

Around 43 pounds of wriggling mostly black fur wants to keep going.  The easiest place to go was between my legs.  So as I am trying to reach under his chest to snap the harness together, he has his head stuck back there and is looking around excited.

Trust me, an excited McNab Dog is a very interesting thing.

He will stand there trying to walk forward while there.  I weigh about five times more than he does, roughly, so he’s not going anywhere.  But he’s trying to move forward.

Put your hand under him and push him backwards?  That doesn’t really work, he simply walks forward until he’s stuck.
Step aside?  He’s walking to the front door.

Sure, he’ll come back if called since that is the hallmark of a well trained herding dog, but standing aside isn’t really effective.

So there I am.  A dog sticking his head between my legs, wagging his tail, and waiting to go explore the world.

I’m shaking my head, amused at the entire thing.  Wriggling dog and all.

Rack Does Not Want His Food. He Wants Mine.

Up at 5AM, we go through our normal routine.

Rack has been getting more excited about exploring Wilton Manors lately.  He’s been dragging me on a mile and a quarter and then some, almost two full KM walk each morning.

I could use the exercise, he could use the exercise, and it’s great mental stimulation for him

Great, it’s a win-win.  He is showing that he’s less afraid of that monster five lane highway that is Wilton Drive since I specifically take him through there every morning to get him less afraid.

We get on the last block to the house and he’s tugging to go home just like he’s expressing his opinion by selecting longer routes to extend our pre-dawn march around town.

I got back and got delayed.  I had to make coffee, get some things running, a couple downloads, and other odds and ends.  His breakfast got delayed a bit as a result.

That grey brown stuff in a purple bowl is one of the highest quality foods we could find on the No China and No Grain Food List that I keep to religiously.  It’s the color it is because it is soaked in water to soften it.  Rack is missing a “Pre-Molar” and without that tooth, dry food can be difficult.  Soft food is just a major headache and expensive as well.

But he doesn’t like it.  Or rather, he doesn’t seem to.  I was used to Lettie, my departed dog.  If I tossed a bit

of food in the air, she’d get it before it hit the ground.  To feed her by hand, I had to tell her to “Take Nice” or I’d feel teeth hit my skin.  That’s more normal.  To give a “normal” feeder a pill, wrap it in a piece of cold cut and toss it over your shoulder.  It wouldn’t hit the ground either.  In fact, the act of going into the kitchen meant you would have a dog on your heels before your hand touched the fridge door!

Rack, well, he’s a ultra-beta dog.  I have to go out of my way to remember to praise him until his tail is wagging that he’s done something right.  That includes eating.  His bowl is on a stack of bowls as a stand to put them at the right height.  The food is the right temperature, not too hot, not cold.  It has to be softened but not too soft. 

Yes, he is picky.  If I just toss it in a bowl and walk away, he starves himself.  A normally 50 pound dog, he hovers in the mid to lower 40s and when I tried that “take the bowl away” trick, he skipped three meals and went down to the high 30s in an eye blink.

No.  That’s cruel.  I have to be involved.  Tapping the bowl, spinning it around, drawing his attention to his food, holding it under his nose.

That’s the trick.  Eventually he eats it.  Grain free, all meat, no poultry. 

Then the praise, then he wandered off and hid.

I swear, he’s part cat.

But I wanted Pork for lunch.  Specifically, Char Siu Pork, cooked in the crock pot.  Chinese Barbecue Pork.  Savory and slightly sweet.  It’s the same recipe as the little bits of sweet pork you get in Pork Fried Rice.  The sauces take a little time to make but they can be made ahead of time, and the pork should really marinade overnight, but it isn’t required.

I started out to the kitchen.  I heard the thump of a tail hitting the plastic of the crate.  Four feed padded almost silently into the kitchen and stopped.   I had company.  I was having twin brown eyes staring at me, turning into lasers to burn holes through my resolve not to feed, and my heart.

I’m a soft touch.  I admit it.

I started to make the first sauce.  Hoisin sauce.  It’s a sweet garlic sauce.  Dark and deep brown, it’s used in a lot of Asian Cuisine.  It is also quite expensive at the stores, so I found a killer recipe to make the stuff

Reaching into the fridge for the Soy Sauce, even Oscar the Parrot got involved.  “HELLO!”.

No, you silly bird, you don’t want any of that!

I did wander back, stepping around the speed bump that is Rack, and opened up Oscar’s cage.  In reality, Oscar just wanted some Out Time.

Coming back into the kitchen, I stepped around the black and white cookie that was my dog, the canine Speed Bump, and got the honey out of the cupboard.

See a trend?  This repeated for each of the ingredients for the Hoisin sauce.  While the hoisin sauce is excellent on its own for recipes, I wanted Char Siu.  The spices were different. 

Rack was still staring.  I went to put the peanut butter away.  Rack’s ears perked. 

“Show me what you want, boy?”

Rack stared at the peanut butter jar. 

“Oh here you go” I gave him a little peanut butter on the tip of the butter knife and went back to making sauces.

Tossing the Hoisin into the crock pot, I added the other spices to the mix to change it to Char Siu. 

Normally, this step of making the sauces and marinades takes about 10 minutes to complete.  20 with help from my Rack.

All that stepping around the furry speed bump would slow me down.

I got my sauce done with the addition of the last bit of honey and sesame oil and stirred it in the crock pot with a whisk. 

Rack was still staring.

I grabbed the pork that was on the counter and slid it into the crock pot.

At this point, Rack went into overdrive. 

“No, Rack, it has onions, you can’t have any”.

A McNab Dog, like my Rack, the McNab SuperDog (TM) is an amazing creature.  If you have never experienced it, you have to take my word for it.  You speak in English, he learns abstract concepts.  I told him before that “Onions will kill you, you can’t have any” and any time he hears onions, he stops begging.  Like a light switch. 

Yeah, that smart.  Freaky smart.  I am waiting for him to pick up on the Spanish I am trying to learn.

Donde esta los calcitines?  Los Calcitines es aqui, en sus pies.

(or something like that.)

He left the kitchen at this point.  Went out to the front room, sniffing around clearing the floor of Oscar’s food, wandering around the house in a Perimeter Search, and made himself scarce.

He understands Onions.  Smart boy.

I still had another bit of work to do clearing out all the spices and wiping up the counter.  He decided it was no longer time to beg.

So, being a soft touch has its benefits.  I get company of the best sort in the Kitchen.  Rack doesn’t demand much, although he does beg for food.  I don’t get told that I put too much onion in the sauce, or I’m overcooking something, or I need to add something to thicken the barbecue sauce instead of reducing it. 

I’ve heard all that before.  Too many cooks spoil the broth and get growled at by the Chef anyway.

But Dog, go eat your own food without any back talk first, OK? 

It’s almost as hard as getting me to eat Olives. 

No.  I won’t do it.  I’ll call out for Pizza first!  Even crappy frozen pizza before olives.

Happy Fourth Of July – Now, Keep Your Pets Indoors Tonight

I’m glad that this sort of thing is getting some “traction” these days.

Oh sure, those without dogs will just shrug, or worse laugh it off and toss firecrackers around the yard closest to your side of the fence.

But as someone who has a fearful dog, I see it first hand.

When the storms come, my own Rack, the McNab SuperDog(TM) crawls into a corner and hides.  Then he starts to shiver to the point where the furniture is vibrating.

It’s not a good scene.

We’re expecting Thunderstorms today, in fact there’s a rogue cloud floating around

at this very moment.  That was what got me started on this bit.  I’ve got on my own noise canceling headphones and some electronic trance music on so it’s got to be close for me to hear it.  But when it goes quiet, I hear Rack’s dog tags rattling. 

He’s not a happy camper when it comes to this sort of thing.

Last night, Friday, I knew some yahoo would be firing off fireworks.  We had dinner, then our dog walk, then I sprang into action.  I drugged my dog.  That sounds a bit severe, but I do have some “herbal stuff” I got from the Vet.  It takes the edge off, and it helped.

When dusk happened at 8:30ish, they started firing off their rockets.  Rack was breathing a bit hard but wasn’t shivering.  At least I knew that the “Herbal Stuff” helped.

Tonight I’ll do the same thing.

If you’re going to give your dog a sedative, do it with the Vet’s knowledge.  Don’t just grab grandma’s happy pills and “hope for the best”.  The pills I’ve got here are prescribed.

As for the timing?  That was intentional – I did it a couple hours before sunset because if your dog is hearing all those fearful rockets and you give him the pills, they won’t work. 

I’ll be doing the same at around 6PM tonight.

As for that first picture?  Well I’ll copy in what I said last year.

Having borrowed the first picture from Facebook, I wanted to credit the organization I borrowed it from.

The N.O.A.H Animal Adoption Spay and Neuter Center – or Northwest Organization for Animal Help (NOAH) “is dedicated to stopping the euthanasia of healthy, adoptable and treatable homeless dogs and cats in  Washington State. We are committed to high quality spay and neuter programs available for low income residents, family friendly pet adoptions,  humane education, and volunteer programs through our state-of-the-art facilities and Spay/Neuter Center.”

They are based in Stanwood, Washington so if you are thinking about a pet you can check out their furry friends that are available or check out their photo tour.

Rack! Rack! Rack! Run! Run! Run!

I need to stick a video camera to my head.  Maybe glue an old cell phone to a baseball cap or borrow a Go Pro.

You see, we have a new game in town.  It used to be that I could just stomp or jump and Rack the McNab SuperDog (TM) would run around the yard a couple times.  Keep that up for a good five or ten minutes and we end up with a tired dog.

A tired dog is a happy dog, right?

He got onto us and stopped running around after a good clap and stomp.

Not good.  That run just before the dog walk would have him go back to the wormhole behind the shed and do his business where the iguanas, opossums, and racoons would come into the yard at night.  Him leaving his business back there in the beach sand that passes for soil here left scents and kept the wildlife away.

Now before you get started, I like wildlife, I just don’t want it using my pool for a place to wash their food.  Cement ponds, movie stars?  Well the wildlife droppings doesn’t mix well with crystal clear salt system chlorinated pools.

When they pay the mortgage, they have a say.  I can hear someone say that already.

So, what to do?

I jumped once, and Rack got interested.

I’m a big guy.  6’4″ and 225 pounds.  My workouts consist of a lot of aerobic activity in the way of some very high speed inline skating and a lot of walking.  It also means that I’m a bit wobbly.  Oh, I am fine on my feet, but when I stop I end up shifting from foot to foot.  The phrase “Built for speed” is appropriate there.  You can make me wobble but I can’t easily be knocked down.  I’m too used to moving.

So I jumped again and this time I missed my landing.  I ended up stepping forward to remain upright.

Rack was immediately interested and ran over to my side.

I trotted away.
Rack ran past jumping the entire way.

Fine, Rack, since you like that sort of thing, lets try this…

“This” was me jumping and trotting around the palm tree and bougainvillea in a figure eight.

You can’t outrun a McNab Dog.  It doesn’t happen.  He was right on my heels.  However he did end up in front of me.

I chased him for a change chanting “Rack, Rack, Rack!  Run, Run, Run!” in an excited voice.

He did.  This brought back the energy I was trying to drain.   He started to chase me, while I was chasing him.  We were in a feed back loop.

Winding around the palm tree in ever tighter circles, it created a vortex.  The winds were effected and the trees started to bow into the calm in the center of the storm.  There was a collapse of space-time and Rack and I ended up falling into an area beyond the universe.

We saw the Tardis fly by and waved at Dr Who when he was doing his wibbly wobbly timey wimey thing.

I forget who slowed first but it was enough to break the spell.  Rack ended up flattened out on the grass rolling onto his back to show his joy that Dad, that’s me, figured out what to do next with this high energy black and white cookie of a dog.

Mmm, Black and White cookies!  Yum…..

I gave him a tummy rub, a well earned one, and then stopped. 

Rack’s brown eyes flashed potential excitement.
I trotted off again “Rack, Rack, Rack!  Run, Run, Run!”.

Rack sprung to action back onto his feet.  Leaping over the cashew tree, he was on my tail like a flash.  We had a second session of running around the palm tree and more high pitched laughter from me.

If the neighbors were home they’d laugh too.  It’s that kind of neighborhood.

After we fell back into normal space time post visit to Rack’s family on the other side of the wormhole in the alternate universe, we slowed down to a plod.

Both of us were tired, excited, but very, very happy.   We had created a new game.  It turns out that my running at full speed isn’t really necessary, a brisk walk is enough. All I need to do is walk toward him and say “Play!” and we’re at it again, giggling, and trying not to fall.

This game is that.  See who gets dizzy first.  It’s not always me, in fact I’d say it is probably equal, fifty-fifty.  Rack will flatten out when he needs a rest and I get to gather up my own wobbles and catch my breath.

Eventually I know it’s at its end.  Rack will either try to drink from the swimming pool or trot over to the back door looking to go inside.

“Water?” I ask and get a tail wag in return.

Nothing like a little fun with the dog, right?

How To Keep A Parrot Happy – Don’t Blink

I have had Oscar, my Orange Wing Amazon parrot since 1986.  It’s entirely possible that he will outlive me.

That is common with the midsized and larger parrots, they have long lives, and there was a Yellow Naped Amazon who lived in Homer Alaska to the ripe old age of 106.

Yeah, Alaska.  Of All Places.

You end up having to find coping strategies with them.  You see, it’s not like with a dog.  Dogs bond in a pack mentality, friends is a good way to describe it.  You work together as a team, even if that work is sitting on your lap and keeping you comfortable.   They do jobs, they give you companionship, they give you help in many different ways, and they give you love.  I have even heard a pretty good discussion as to how the Human Race would not have survived had it not been for the assistance of the dog.

But Parrots?  Well they’re a very strange creature in their own right. 

You see where Dogs see you as a co-worker, Parrots see you as a mate.

Yes, for 29 years I have had a small green mate in my house.  It takes getting used to. 

There are better bonded parrots.  I had a Goffin’s Cockatoo named Sonny who was so closely bonded to me that he would “get loud” until I opened the cage, and no matter where I was in the apartment, he would then hunt me down so that he could be near.  Then he would act silly.  Backflips, barking, chattering, and the like.

Squeak, my Grey Cheeked Parakeet used to ride all over Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia inside my shirt.  I would walk into shops, he would climb out just enough to see where he was, then if he liked the people there, he would climb out to say hello. 

But Oscar is somewhere in between indifference and bonding.  He is named Oscar because he’s a bit of a

grouch.  It’s a coincidence that he’s green like the Sesame Street character and that was what got me calling him that. 

He will interact with you but only on his terms.  I am his favorite person, which is to say he won’t shred me to pieces with that beak of his all of the time.  I can get him to go back into his cage when I say “Go Home”, and he shows his appreciation by talking to me.

At sounds louder than a Jet Engine at 3 in the Morning.

So I have learned.  He is an intelligent creature and requires mental stimulation.  If he doesn’t get it, he makes his own, learning how to bounce sounds off of walls for echo location, especially if those walls are three blocks away.

At least that is what I think he’s trying to do.  I can’t fathom why else 130 db are necessary other than to gauge distance.

But there his cage sits on the room divider.  I keep oddball things there to keep him from eating the room divider because anything that is wood will be chewed.  We would like to keep the divider in one piece since we are somewhat attached to the architectural element of it.

I found a long time ago that he will go quiet if I put toys on top of the cage.  Beach Balls are the best since they are light and too large for him to get his beak around.  They also won’t destroy anything when they are ejected in his favorite game of “Make the Human Fetch”.  Anything left on the room divider is fair game to be ejected, to the floor, post haste.

Don’t leave anything “food related” on there because he does want to sample.  Usually at 130 db. 

Yes, the word Hello gets used loudly and often since he has figured out that I pay attention to it.  In his little world, Hello really means “I Want”.

I want that food you have.

I want your attention.
I want a shower in the rain.
I want it NOW.

It’s like living with a two year old version of Verucca Salt from the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movies. 

At 130 db.  A pain inducing one hundred and thirty decibels.

So if you see me covered in rain, parrot feathers, some scattered food, and a couple of scratches on my arms, it’s a normal day in the life of a parrot owner.  Just don’t blink.  He’ll be into something else real soon.