Sunday, July 19, 2015

Bravery

On the whole, Loki is not brave. He is the biggest chicken-psittacine I have ever met. Any new surface is hot lava. New toys are to be avoided, given the stink-eye, then carefully inspected over the course of several days/weeks in order to determine the presence or absence of Satan himself. If he even thinks that there is a chance that I might move my hand away from his cage after he has stepped up onto it, he will simply refuse to step up; it's just too big of a risk to be more than six inches away from his cage. Something could kill him.

Loki is to his cage as many children are to pulling their sheets over their heads so the monsters in the dark can't get them.

All of that being said, Loki has made some impressive improvements over the past several weeks. After going through the worst of the Great Grumpy Molt of 2015 (ugh, pin feathers are THE WORST), he is now receptive and actually eager for head scratches. I've been teaching him a new cue: I'll tap a spot on the top of his cage or a perch and say "come here." If he comes over to the spot I tapped, I'll give him all the head scratches and preening he wants. Sometimes he'll run to the front of the cage as soon as I walk into the room, because it means preening time.

Parrots preening each other (called allopreening) is actually really helpful during molting. A parrot can reach almost any feather on its body, except the ones on his head - so parrots often preen each other's heads so that all those tricky little feathers are in good shape. During a molt it helps alleviate the irritation of having all those little hard shafts bursting out all over the place. Scratching his head sort of mimics the natural action of allopreening, and he freakin loves it. It's great bonding time.

The other thing that has impressed me is how quickly he accepted his new travel cage. The carrier that I normally use is a cat carrier that has been reinforced with steel mesh so when he chews through the plastic sides (which he has already begun), he still can't escape. He hates the cat carrier - it's dark and he can't see where he's going. So I got him a travel cage that is actually designed for transporting parrots. It looks like a miniature wire dog crate with a perch in the middle. I set it on the table next to his cage thinking, "yeah, maybe I'll get him to come near this in 10 years," but lo and behold, it's only day two and he has already explored the top of it AND the inside (to get treats, duh). He doesn't really seem bothered by it at all.

My brave chicken.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Birthday Birthday

My birthday was last week! I'm 30 now! I've been told that I look really old, asked how I'm managing to get around without my walker, and it was even suggested that I should receive a coffin as a birthday gift, because my life is basically over. 

Ha ha, life, the joke's on YOU because I DON'T CARE THAT I'M 30. Age is an unavoidable number, and I firmly believe that there's no use in getting upset about things that are unavoidable. Not that I always follow my own sage advice.... but there it is. 

Besides continuing digestive issues, I feel great. I'm (relatively) fit, I eat healthy, I use sunscreen, I enjoy my job, I love the people in my life, and I'm generally in high spirits these days. I am finally approaching a point in my life where I feel like I am getting my shit self together. I'm paying off debt and putting money into savings. I have options. I don't depend on anybody for anything. 

I am an independent woman. 

But back to my birthday. It was great! D flew down from Boise to visit the day after my birthday and he stayed through Fourth of July weekend. We ate great food, saw Jurassic World in 3D, and watched the U.S. Women's soccer team beat the tar out of Japan. He left Sunday evening and I am still sad about that.

I have been receiving a trickle of cards and packages in the mail, which is really exciting for me because I am fond of sending/receiving snail mail. Today, I received something truly awesome from my Best Good Friend Liz. Apparently she had been hoarding photos and videos of Loki and was secretly sending them to her artist friend - who then turned around and created this super charming piece of art.



Obviously I love it.


I wanted to introduce Loki to a portrait of himself since he loves looking at himself in my phone so much. 







After an extremely close inspection and a quick head-boop, he thoroughly approved.

It was a wonderful birthday, indeed. 


Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Week from Hell

Disclaimer: I'm not sorry for how long this post is. I AM sorry for the stupid formatting, making it difficult to read. I absolutely cannot figure out how to fix the problem.

Remember how in one of my Icelandic Adventure posts I wrote that a certain hillside wasn't the hill from hell, but more like the hill from heck because it was mostly just uncomfortable and inconvenient?

Yeah. I'm going full hell on this one. The Week from Hell.

My week started as many people's week does: on a Sunday. I was in Boise, Idaho visiting D where he lives now for work. We had a great weekend and he was scheduled to drop me off at the airport around 6:30 for my 8:05 flight on Alaska Airlines. We left the house around 4:30 with the intention of hitting up REI so I could help D pick some stuff out for camping, then we'd go to dinner, then he'd drop me off. I'd fly to Seattle, land around 8:35, then catch my 9:20 flight to San Diego.

Or so I thought.

We went to REI as planned, then drove to the restaurant we chose for dinner because we were desperate for burgers. As we were pulling up into the parking lot, I got a call from an unknown number. Normally I wouldn't answer such a call, but my spidey-senses were tingling and I answered. It was a very nice lady from Alaska Airlines telling me that my flight was canceled. Awesome. She asked, "How close are you to the airport...? We can get you on a 6:47 flight on Delta Airlines to Seattle." I looked at the time. It was 5:45 and we were about 10 minutes away. I told her yes we could make it and to please book that flight for me. D, disappointed that we would NOT be getting burgers, sadly drove me to the airport. 

I'm just gonna use a list from here on out, because my evening got super convoluted. 

1. D dropped me off at the airport around 6:00 PM. I went directly to the Delta desk. I talked to a very nice lady, who told me that I am not on any of their flights and that I need to talk to Alaska Airlines. 

2. I went to talk to Alaska Airlines and they told me that I was never booked for the Delta flight. They removed me from the canceled flight and told me to go talk to Delta to book my Delta flight. 

3. I talked to Delta, and got on the flight. By then it was 6:20, and the flight was scheduled for 6:47. I asked how far the gate is from the desk, and I was told not to worry because the flight was delayed. It was leaving at 7:50. Phew! That would still get me to Seattle earlier than my original flight! I happily headed to my gate, which was all the way at the end of the concourse (naturally.).

4. I got to my gate and ate a burger (I was hellbent on eating a burger, sorry D). Around 20 minutes later, the flight was delayed even more and was leaving at 8:13. That still got me to Seattle by 8:45-ish. A 35-minute layover was do-able, but I'd have to run to get all the way across the airport (of course my gates were at the opposite ends of the airport. It would be SO BORING if they were right next to each other, and I wouldn't have gotten my daily dose of adrenaline). I changed out of my sandals and put on my trail running shoes.

5. Airport staff brought out a fold-able table and put out free pizza, coffee, and water to try to mitigate some of the inconvenience of the late flight. I was by now very suspicious. I went up to the Delta desk, where the delay time changed to 8:50. Huh. That gave me a 0-minute layover in Seattle. I don't know how to teleport yet, so that was a problem. I asked the gentleman at the desk what I should do. He suggested that I go to the next concourse over and talk to Alaska Airlines again. Good thing I had put on my comfortable shoes.

6. I arrived at the Alaska Airlines desk at 8:00 PM, where I spoke to another very nice lady. It took some phone calls and figuring out the computer system, but she got me on a flight with U.S. Airways to Phoenix at 8:55, with a one-hour layover, and then I would go on to San Diego and arrive around midnight. That was totally fine by me. She booked my flight with apologies and a promise to e-mail me a $125 voucher towards another flight on Alaska Airlines for the inconvenience. Sweet.

7. My new flight on U.S. Airways is literally the gate next to my original Delta gate, so I walked all the way back over there and check in at the desk. As my new boarding passes were being printed, the nice gentleman asked me, "Now, the person at Alaska Airlines DID tell you that the flight from Phoenix to San Diego is completely full and you're the fifth person on the stand-by list, riiiight?" No. No she did not. I asked him worst case scenario, what would happen? He said I'd have to stay the night in Phoenix to try to catch a flight to San Diego the next day... the only problem being that all of those flights were completely booked, too. Neat. In a moment of frustrated desperation, I look at him with sad puppy eyes and ask, "What should I do?" He told me that he was checking me OUT of the U.S. Airways flight and I should go back to talk with Alaska Airlines.

8. It's 8:40. I was now back at the Alaska Airlines desk, talking to the nice lady and a nice gentleman (with a fabulous mustache). I relayed to them that the Phoenix flight was full and so were all the flights tomorrow. The gentleman had overheard the entire original conversation I'd had with the nice lady, and he paused for a moment. He very slowly asked, "So what can we do for you?" I paused. After a moment, I firmly said, "You can get me on the first Alaska Airlines flight out of here tomorrow morning. And a direct flight would be really nice." After some furious typing and furrowed brows, he told me there's a direct flight from Boise to San Diego on Alaska Airlines at 7:30 AM on Monday morning, he got me a window seat in the first row, and by the way, here are some vouchers for free breakfast because of the inconvenience. I said, "That'll do, pig" collected my things, and texted D to come pick me up and have a beer ready for me at his house.

So I got an extra night with D, and I wasn't really terribly inconvenienced because no one expected me at work in the morning. I had blocked off the morning hours and booked a vet appointment for Loki (which I obvs canceled). I feel that every person who travels by air somewhat regularly has to go through the experience of canceled/delayed/FUBARed flight, and it was my turn. I was very polite to every person who helped me, and Alaska Airlines was willing to move heaven and earth to get me on a flight home.


But that's not the end of my Week from Hell story. Oh no. I consider the airline issue to be a minor inconvenience compared to the rest of the week. Like stubbing your toe or burning the toast.

Fast forward one day to Tuesday. I was on a bird survey with a co-worker and it was hot. Like 90+ degrees and humid hot. We were down on this river bottom with steep hills on either side, and no breeze, so it felt kinda like we were ants and some giant kid was holding a giant magnifying glass on us and was burning us with evil lasers. I was drinking regular water and water with an electrolyte tablet in it, but I was definitely overheating. I overheat very easily and am susceptible to heat exhaustion, so I told my co-worker I was heading up the hill. About 10 steps in it hit me hard and fast; I was dizzy, nauseated, light-headed, and sweating buckets. I stopped and my co-worker asked if I was ok. I told her that I was not, but I was going to power through and get to the top of the hill before I really couldn't go any further. I finally made it to the top and started pouring water over my head and arms, and drinking a ton. Blech. Heat exhaustion sucks. 

We got back to the office and I had to stick around for a couple more hours to wrap some things up, and I was NOT feeling well. When I got home it was sweet, blissful, cold shower time. At this point I had drank more than a liter of water, but I still had a headache and began to have abdominal cramps and my skin was still hot and overly-sensitive to the touch (like that achy feeling you get when you have a fever). I took my shower and felt a little better, took some ibuprofen for the headache, and was in bed and asleep by 7:30 PM. 

When I woke up Wednesday morning, I still had the headache and my skin still felt feverish. Odd, since I drank so much the day before. Obviously I hadn't caught up, so I started drinking lots of water. Every once in a while throughout the day I would have a pang of pain in my abdomen, right near my belly button and a little to the right. It would spasm for a few seconds and then go away. Weird, right? I had a bird survey in the morning, then a break for a few hours, then an owl survey in the evening. I powered through despite really not feeling well, got home, drank more water, went to bed early again. 

Thursday morning arrived at 1:00 AM when I was getting stronger abdominal cramps which woke me. I sipped water here and there, and didn't really sleep much until my alarm went off at 5:00 AM. Weeee another bird survey! I headed out, did my bird survey, then went back to the office. My headache was gone, but my skin was still really sensitive to the touch, and I was super lethargic. I texted some folks in the morning saying that I really wasn't feeling well and I was wondering if I should try to see a doctor at this point. I was told GO TO THE DOCTOR YOU FOOL (my wording, not theirs), so around 11:00 AM I walked over to the Urgent Care center that is one block away from my office. They don't take my insurance. Fabulous. I called my Primary Care Physician. He's on vacation. COOL. I sort of desperately asked to see any one of the other doctors in that office that day and I got squeezed in for a 1:40 appointment (thank you Angel of Mercy and Scheduling). 

I headed straight home, picked up a few things, and went to the doctor. After hearing my symptoms and taking my temperature (100 degrees, yup, definitely have had a fever for two and a half days), he tells me that I really should go to the ER and get a scan to make sure I don't have appendicitis. Holy shit crap. Appendicitis. 

The ER was only two blocks away, so I found a close (free) parking spot and walked myself in. The nurses at the check in area were super busy and not paying attention to me at all; there wasn't even a place to sign in. Finally after several minutes one of them asked why I'm there and I tell them that I just saw a doctor and he thinks I might have appendicitis. Those must have been the magic words because I whisked into the office for paperwork and then whisked into the bathroom for a pee sample, and then whisked into a bed in the ER where they stole four vials of my blood and stuck an IV in my arm (first one ever!). At this point my temperature was 102 degrees, and I was told NO BLANKET FOR YOU. Fine, I was sweating buckets anyway. 

The guy in the space next to me (separated by a curtain) needed to have a chest x-ray done, so one of the x-ray technicians came over and put one of those huge lead aprons over me... and then totally forgot and left it there. My nurse came over and didn't even bat an eye at the lead apron. She decided to hook my IV up to a bag of fluids, which was cold going in, and she handed me a miniature bucket of crushed ice and a liter of some mystery yellow liquid. I was told that I need to drink the entire liter in 10-15 minutes because it contains a tracer that will make my insides light up like a Christmas tree when they do the CT scan. They put lemonade Crystal Lite into it to "make it taste good." which it didn't because I do not like Crystal Lite. I powered through and when I was about halfway finished I realized that I was cold. Not like "cooling down from a fever," but like "someone just left me naked out in the snow" cold. I started shivering, and I pulled my lead apron up for a little warmth. I eventually wiggled the hoodie that I had brought with me and my cell phone out from a bag of my stuff they had put behind my bed, and draped the hoodie over myself. I finished the damn drink, and then sat there. I texted and e-mailed furiously, telling everyone what was going on and not to worry, and trying to coordinate work for the next day since I obviously wasn't going to be there. 

And then I waited. 45 minutes passed by. Since I had just had a liter of glowing lemonade and the fact that my bladder is approximately the size of a kernel of corn, I was starting to feel the urge to pee. It got worse. Much worse. Nearly an hour had passed, and not one single person had been over to check on me. I was hooked to the IV and the IV bag was attached to the bed, so I was basically a prisoner. Finally, a nurse who was looking for someone else poked his head around the corner and I desperately cried HELP ME and he came over. I told him they made me drink a whole liter of liquid and then just left me there and he told me that actually I technically drank TWO liters because of the bag of fluids, which was by then empty. SNEAKY SNAKE NURSES. He set me free and I was able to walk to the bathroom. THANK THE HEAVENS ABOVE. 

Finally after a very long time, it was scan time. I was forewarned that the IV tracer that they were going to put into my system would make me feel very warm and that I would think that I was peeing myself but that I actually wasn't. They did not lie. The back of my throat got very warm, as did my lower abdomen and down my legs. Yup. Felt like pee. Was not pee. 

I got back to my bed. Because I had texted a little too enthusiastically, my phone was dead by this point, so I just sat there and tried to sleep. This was, of course, impossible because the man in the space next to me kept screaming that he had to pee and the nurse kept screaming back that he had a catheter in and he could just pee right there. Trust me, buddy, I feel ya. 

My ER doctor came in and told me he has good news and bad news (just like they do on TV!). I was really hoping that he would just laugh at me and tell I just needed to fart and to go home and everything would be fine, but that's not what he told me. He started by saying that the doctors couldn't even locate my appendix on the imaging, so they were not concerned at all about appendicitis. Phew. They did, however, see that around 10 centimeters of the area where my small intestine meets my large intestine is inflamed and infected (hence the fever). Uuuuhhhh, ok? Doc tells me that they suspect it's some sort of inflammatory bowel disease (colitis of Crohn's) and they are recommending a colonoscopy. He sends me home with ibuprofen, tylenol, and an antibiotic, and told me not to go to work on Friday, and probably Monday, too. 

And that's where I am. Yesterday (Friday) was quite painful. I feel significantly better this morning, but still definitely not tip-top. And I get to have my first colonoscopy before I turn 30... how's THAT for a 30 before 30 item?! "Juice cleanses" ain't got nothin on this, I am going to be squeaky clean from mouth to the other end. Try not to be jealous. 

Also, since this is technically a blog about Loki, here's an update. He's molting and looks quite bedraggled as a result, and he's very grumpy about it all. That is all. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Screaming in the Darkness of Night

Title sounds spooky, doesn't it? You know what's spookier? Waking up every single night to blood-curdling screams. The screams of a Goffin's cockatoo. Every. Night.

That was our reality for months.

When Loki and Mango first arrived in California, I tried a variety of darkness levels for night time: blinds open, blinds closed, night light, no night light, etc. For the first few months we had no problems. Then, occasionally, Loki would start muttering in the middle of the night. His room is right next to mine, connected by only a wall between our closets. To make things worse, neither of our closets have doors, so we just had that one thin wall separating us. The muttering progressed to moderate-level chatter. It would wake me up, but not so badly that I couldn't immediately fall asleep. Then, late last fall, the screaming started.

I would wake up with a jolt. Adrenaline would always turn to anger. "WHY is he SCREAMING? Is this going to be my reality forever? Being woken every night by the equivalent of a toddler's temper tantrum?" Then it would take me about an hour to even get back to sleep because although the screaming would stop after five to ten minutes, I'd still be seething.


Loud and Proud.

The resentment compounded. I found myself thinking thoughts like, "I'm going to have to re-home Loki with a deaf person," or, "I wonder what roasted cockatoo tastes like?" One night around 2:00 AM I was awoken while wearing ear plugs, and I desperately turned to the internet. I had to turned to the internet before, but I obviously hadn't used the right search terms because this time I got about a dozen hits to links I hadn't seen before. According to the internet, Loki was screaming for one of two reasons: 1.) he is bothered by the ambient light in the room and from outside the window, or 2.) there is something medically wrong, he is pain, and he's just as pissed off as I am. Since a vet visit complete with blood tests run in the several-hundreds-of-dollars range, I decided to try the cheaper solution to start. The $10 black flat sheet from Target solution. The $10 black flat sheet from Target solution that has pretty much worked since I started covering Loki at night about two weeks ago.

Hallelujah.

We have had a couple of relapses, but those can be attributed to my roommate coming home late and flushing the toilet before going to bed. The wall closest to Loki's cage is shared with the hall bathroom and the toilet is right there; it sounds like a jet engine when flushed so no wonder it wakes him up. Better yet: when he's disturbed by this, he only mutters for a few minutes and goes back to sleep. And he's awake and spritely in the morning when I uncover him, whereas he was grumpy before.

Look at that adorable, non-grumpy face. He loves the chin/cheek ("flufflechops") rubs.

Knock on wood that this lasts. Everybody cross your fingers. And sorry, Loki, that you weren't getting a good night's sleep either.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

ICELANDIC ADVENTURE: THE TARDY GRAND FINALE!


I should have written this months ago. MONTHS. I have two excuses: 1.) I was suffering from some life-crippling depression during the early fall months, and then 2.) I got too busy to remember that I was a person who had human emotions.

SO HERE IT IS. The final installment of our Icelandic Adventure. Enjoy.

Full disclosure: I've had a few drinks.

Days 6 through 10: After the Hike

I left off with D and I having just arrived at our final hut. The next morning we woke up early, made breakfast, re-packed everything, and hauled all our gear out to the bus pickup. I was limping pretty badly and my ankle/foot was so swollen that I couldn't get my boot on, so I wore my little neoprene river-crossing shoes. The bus arrived after about ten minutes, we threw our gear in the gear bay, and climbed aboard. There were several rocky river crossings that the bus had to ford, and we were on one of the ever-present badass four-wheel drive buses that are so common in Iceland, so we had no trouble crossing through fast-moving water up to three feet deep.

A measly three feet deep you say? Ha! That's nothing, you might say. Ok, Sure, if you're riding in a jacked up badass bus, you're right, three feet deep is nothing. However, if you're in a small two-wheel drive SUV, you may encounter some problems. Like these folks did:

Oh yeah, they've got this! Right? Just go kinda fast, don't slow down, hit it at the correct angle, etc.

... aaaaand they're stuck. 

Yeah, that's only about a foot deep. But a foot is enough to fill up the bottom of their car with water, and we had to watch them bail water out of the passenger windows with mugs. I really felt for those guys, cause we all knew that their rental car insurance doesn't cover water damage.

We continued to ride the bus through a gorge latticed with river crossings. I took about 300 pictures of the view out my window alone, it was so beautiful in the morning light.


Twas redonkulous.

We had one bus switch at Seljalandsfoss, a gorgeous waterfall, and then we were on our way back to Reykjavík. Past more sheep, horses (POOOONIIIIIES), the volcano Hekla, and other landmarks that I don't recall because the bus had free wifi and I also fell asleep. 

Once back in the city we hired a cab to take us to our camper van rental from Kuku Campers. I knew going in to this that we'd probably have a camper van that was colorfully painted. That was part of the reason why I chose this particular company (that and they were the cheapest. Let's not shrink away from the truth). We signed a bunch of paperwork after being lectured about the two main rules of the road. These two rules are as follows:


1. Do not speed. Icelanders do not fuck around with speeding. There are speed-trap cameras all over the place, and the police will pull your ass over if you go more than 2 km/hr over the speed limit. Do. Not. Speed.


2. Do not hit any sheep. This was no joke. We were told, "If you hit a sheep, that sheep immediately becomes the farmer's favorite sheep, and he will demand up to 500 euros from you for his loss and suffering."


Armed with our two rules and a key to our van, we were shown to our camper. I am 100% serious when I tell you that the following photo was OUR VAN.






We clambered into the Shania-Mobile, turned on the GPS (a British voice completely butchering Icelandic street names was a highlight), and embarked on the most hair-raising 45 minute drive of our lives.

One important thing to know is that besides the Two Cardinal Icelandic Driving Rules (no speeding, no hitting sheep), there are basically no other rules. Roundabouts are a nightmare. Want to drive the wrong way down a one-way street? No problem. Would you care to run a red light? Go for it. Have an urge to cut off the person in the lane next to you? You do you, bro. White-knuckled and shaking, D hit up an apothecary and a grocery store, and then we were on our hair-raising way to Blue Lagoon.

In hindsight, I consider the timing of our visit to Blue Lagoon to be pure genius, and I nearly dislocated my shoulder while patting myself on the back for it. We were tired, kinda sore, and I was injured, and a looooong five-hour soak in the Lagoon was the perfect remedy.



After the soak, we parked in a parking lot off the side of the road, and tucked in for a good night's sleep in the Shania-Mobile.

The next day our itinerary included another visit to Seljalandsfoss, the very famous waterfall Skógafoss, a drive-by view of the volcano that fucked up the world in 2010, Eyjafjallajökull, a stop in the rainiest part of Iceland, Vík (yes, it rained there), and our final destination: Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Because I don't want to bore you with the details of that journey (lots of glaciers, sheep, etc.), here are some pretty pictures:


Seljalandsfoss

Skógafoss

Skógafoss

Eyjafjallajökull

The Fingers at Vík


THEN we got to Jökulsárlón. Jökulsárlón was actually the inspiration for the entire trip, so I was pretty stoked to be there. 


I AM SO HAPPY TO BE HERE.

Beer brewed with water from the glacier that feeds the Lagoon.

ICEBERGS.

OMG ANOTHER ICEBERG.

The view from our camper van. I just can't even.


We camped at the Lagoon for the night, which ended up being our coldest night in Iceland. We woke up early in the morning to walk on the beach, which was only a couple hundred meters south of where we camped. There were huge chunks of sea ice juxtaposed on the black sand, skuas and northern fulmars soaring in and out of the surf (a sea-birder's wet dream), and perfect light. 


Sea ice

Obligatory Icelandic Beach Selfie

Another view of the Lagoon because I STILL CAN'T EVEN.


We begrudgingly left Jökulsárlón, and headed back east towards Reykjavik. We decided at the last minute to check out Þingvellir, which was the location of the very first democratic parliament in the world, established in 930 A.D. It did not disappoint.


The view. No joke. This is a real place.
Here's where the first dude that decided on democracy stood.


Afterwards we went to see the ORIGINAL GEYSER, named Geysir (REAL ORIGINAL, ICELAND- ha haaaaaaa. I'm dumb.). It did not disappoint: it blew up several times while we were there. Then (long story short) D got scammed by a man who pretended he didn't speak English, we camped in a little campground, and got another glorious night's sleep.

And there it goes.

The next morning we got up, headed back to Kuku Campers to drop off the Shania-Mobile, and took a cab back to the hostel. We accidentally ate horse-burgers, had a few beers, and went to sleep. An early rise saw to us getting to the airport just in time for our flight to be delayed due to 80 MPH wind.

And that's the end. We came back to America. And we've been here ever since.

I will probably write up a gear review next. Like the famous George R. R. Martin's next much-anticipated book, you can expect to read the gear review in the year 2045.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Lokisaurus Rex: Master and Commander of the Step Up

Loki decided that the last day of 2014 would be the perfect time to (hesitantly) step both of his feet onto my hand on command for the first time. Oh good, that only took 214 days. At this rate, I'll have him flight trained and speaking by the time I'm 60 years old.

Jokes aside, I'm very pleased that my scaredy-chicken finally trusts me enough to step up. He still approaches every training session with hesitation, but gradually builds up his confidence so that he'll step up onto my hand and actually stay there for a minute or two before wanting to step back down onto a perch. Today I even threw him a curveball by moving my hand away from the safety of the perch for a moment before moving it back within his reach. He panicked a little the first time I did it, but I distracted him by shoving sunflower seeds in his face as fast as he could eat them, all while praising the fluff out of him. If the tables were turned and someone were training me, I'd do pretty much anything they asked if they were shoveling mini York peppermint patties  (sunflower seed equivalent) into my mouth.*

My little Rainbow-Banshee remains much the same. Broody, demanding, but very sweet when she wants to be. I am casually asking around to see if there is anybody who is interested in adopting her. I approached parrot ownership with an iron attitude that I'd never give them up for anything, but I've come to realize that this attitude is not serving my birds well. Mango needs way more attention than I can give her. There are several factors involved in this decision: 1.) I am away from the house for up to 12-14 hours at a time (although 9 is more typical) due to work. My schedule is inflexible. 2.) The house is not bird-safe enough for her to just come hang out with me before or after work. We have a free-roaming cat who can only be banished outdoors for short periods of time, lots of things she could fly into and hurt herself, teflon pans that emit toxic fumes that could kill her were she out while someone was cooking, etc. etc. The list goes on. I do not own this house, therefore I do not make the rules, and so she must remain confined. 3.) Even if she did have free-range of the house while I was home, so would Loki. And Loki wants to kill Mango. So that's basically the final nail in the coffin. Even if I moved out tomorrow and had my own house, there would still be the issue of Loki's aggression towards Mango. And that's my long-winded explanation on why I've ultimately decided that she would be better off with someone who works from home, is retired, etc.

Sigh.

*I hope D never reads this.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Steppin' Up (Not a Post About a Dance Movie)

PLOT TWIST: I make you wait three months for the last two installments of my Icelandic adventure. But seriously, sorry about that. Motivation hasn't even been in my vocabulary lately.

But! I will tell you about how LOKI IS NOW SOMEWHAT IRREGULARLY STEPPING UP ONTO MY HAND! HALLELUJAH! *angels streaming out of the sky, with their little heaven-trumpets, singing their little angel songs or whatever it is angels do*

It's true. Here's a photo to prove it.

Both of his feet are on my hand. Success.

This was achieved through pure trickery and probably hundreds of sunflower seed bribes over the course of 5 months. Here's a step-by-step (PUNS!) account:

1. Loki loves being on his cage. Loki also loves sunflower seeds. So I figured the first step was getting him off of his cage, which required purchasing a ladder that connects his cage to a table nearby, and then bribing him off of the cage with seeds.

2. I started small by baiting the ladder with seeds. Every day we moved a little bit farther down the ladder, until he was eating seeds off the table. For weeks he wouldn't even step one foot off the ladder, despite me moving seeds farther and farther away. He would just stretch his little chicken neck out until he got all the seeds within reach, and then he'd leave the rest and run back up the ladder to the safety of the cage.

3. One day I put all the seeds completely out of his reach. It took a lot of contemplation and frustrated-dinosaur-noises, but he finally put one foot on the table, and then the other. It was that moment when he discovered that the table was not made out of hot lava.

4. I let him walk around on the table many times before I took the ladder away. The first time I took the ladder away he freaked out. "OMG, OMG, OMG HOW DO I GET BACK TO SAFETY?! DANGER! DANGER!" He shot up the ladder the moment it was reconnected to the cage. We did this a bunch of times until he was relatively comfortable on the table without the ladder.

5. Once we got to this point, I'd offer my hand out instead of putting the ladder back. Honestly, the first time I put my hand out for him to step up, he immediately stepped up and I very smoothly took him directly to his cage and praised the ever loving shit out of him.

I mean, I wasn't really that surprised when he hopped onto my hand, he used to step up for me all the time back in Maryland before I had the birbs moved out here. Something about moving him out here made him really fearful of stepping on hands, or maybe he just LOVES his new cage, or maybe it's for some other reason that I don't understand. He loves head scratches, and long "preening" sessions are a regular part of our schedule now (he "preens" my hands now, and it's so adorable I just can't even) so I know he's not just fearful of hands.

So there's the update. We're working on it, and things are getting better.