Look What My Neighbor Brought Me!

I was outside trying to weed out the flower beds this morning when my neighbor pulled up and rolled down his window.  

“Here!” he said handing out a small conure sized woodpecker-ish type bird.

“Where’d you find that?” I asked.

” He was standing in the middle of the road.  I  think he got hit by a car.”

I get this a lot.  I’m willing to bet that anyone who owns birds gets this a lot.  However, a lot of people also know that I want to go into avian medicine and seek me out as well.  And I always like trying to help.  This particular neighbor is a huge animal activist, has two rescued pit bulls and a rescued boxer, doesn’t eat red meat, and breaks for butterflies, so it didn’t surprise me that he would stop his car to pick up a bird.  

The bird was actually a red bellied woodpecker.  He was stunned and dazed when I got him, so I put him in a brooder and covered him with a towel to avoid him going into shock and promised my neighbor that if it was something I couldn’t handle I’d take him to the local wild life center.  I took him upstairs to my upstairs bathroom, an area that my birds have never and will never have access to.  Then, we closed that bathroom door and surveyed the damage.  

The woodpecker didn’t have any open wounds or broken limbs, but he still wasn’t acting like a wild bird.  He did start screaming and trying to bite me as I put him into Bella’s old cage, which was a good sign, and he was fluttering around and perching just fine, but he wasn’t as responsive as a wild bird would normally be.  So, I decided to let him hang out in the bathroom for a few hours and see if he improved or if he was going to the wildlife center.  We were going to a cookout later at a friends house that was near the woods, so if he was feeling better it would be the ideal place to release him.  So, we left him with some pedialyte and meal worms and checked on him every half an hour for signs of improvement.  

We also started looking up everything we could about red bellied woodpeckers.  They common in this area and are classified as least concerned in the endangerment rankings.  They eat insects, mostly worms, larva and moths.  They nest in tree cavities that they hollow out and are very important for all of the food webs and ecosystems because their empty tree hollows provide nests for many other species of birds.  They’re also often mistaken for a red headed woodpecker.

Each time we checked the woodpecker he was more alert and more responsive.  I think he might have just gotten stunned off a windshield or a mirror and needed a little down time to recover in a safe place.  By the time it was ready to go to the party, he was trying is hardest to get away from us when we checked him, and even went as far as to scold us for invading on him.  We decided to take him with us and see if he could fly away.  We packed him up with us, took a few pictures, and took him up to the cook out for a release.  The home that we went to visit was only a few miles from where he was found, so if he really wanted to, he could find his way back.  However, I think he’ll be much safer and happier where we released him.

As soon as we let him go, he was gone without a glance back.  We later found out that the area had many other woodpeckers, so hopefully he went and found so friends.  I’m just glad that he was ok.

I can’t wait until someday I can treat more than just a bird that needs a little rest, but I am happy that I can even do this little bit.  He was such a cutie too!


The Solution to my Cook Out Dilemma!

I’ve finally figured it out!  The answer that I have been pondering since I became a vegetarian!  How to find something substantial to eat at friends get togethers!

I’m quickly coming up on my one year anniversary of being a vegetarian, but this will be my first summer as an herbivore.  In the last year, I have struggled through learning what is available at fast food restaurants, have survived eating tons of stir fry at school, and have eaten strictly side dishes at holidays.  However, with Memorial Day being a mere day away, I realized I was faced with yet another tough challenge; how to eat at cook outs without starving to death.

The typical American cook out consists of burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, macaroni salad, and occasionally fruit salad or house salad.  I have never considered house salad a meal, and I definitely do not like potato or macaroni salad enough to gorge myself on.   This leaves me with the dilemma of either not attending, being hungry, or bringing my own food.  

I’ve always hesitated at bringing my own food.  To me, it  feels like I’m telling the host that I don’t like what they have to offer me.  I don’t want to dirty their kitchen by cooking or make extra dishes.  I don’t want to demand special treatment from anyone either.  After all, I’d be pretty irritated if someone came to my house and demanded I cook them a steak.  

However, today I was invited to a cookout and I finally found the answer to my situation; vegetable foil packets!!  I figured that my host wouldn’t have much that was veggie friendly, so I went to the store and bought some fresh veggies.  I cut up some yellow squash, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and onions and threw them on a piece of aluminum foil.  I squeezed some lime over it, put some salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano on it.  Then, I wrapped up the foil and made a nifty foil packet.  

My family makes vegetable foil packs all the time when they grill their steaks and need veggies on the side, so I just made my personal sized.  When we went to our cook out today, I took my little foil packet, threw it on the grill next to the burgers and hot dogs and had a meal in just a few minutes.  While everyone else was hanging out with their burgers, I had my little foil pack.  I still had plenty of room for sides, so the host didn’t feel that I didn’t like their food, I didn’t make any mess because my foil was my pot and plate, and they didn’t feel bad about not having food for me.  It was perfect!

I’m going to another cook out on Monday and I have all my left over veggies ready and waiting. I’m super pumped I figured this out this early and not at the end of summer.

 And besides, it was so darn tasty!

Feed Them? Spay Them!

I think I can officially say I have do not possess the life of a normal 21 year old college student.  This weekend, I spent all my time trapping stray cats and assisting with spay and neuter surgeries of said cats, and I thought it was the greatest.   

A while back, Lance’s aunt started feeding some stray cats.  Of course, I told her we needed to get them all spayed and neutered asap.  With the amount of unwanted cats in the world, the best thing we can possibly do is sterilize as many as possible.  I made arrangements with my adviser to take some cats to her this weekend and went home to start trapping!

One of our ferals 'Marley' before surgery. Cute!

Lance’s aunt has been feeding five cats regularly, and out of the five, four were relatively friendly.  She sits out and plays with them, so they are hardly feral at this point.  Which was good because I didn’t have any humane traps, just normal cat crates.  My original plan was to  try and lure them into the carrier with some tasty wet cat food and lock them in after they walked in.  However, the cats were way to smart for that.  So, I spent much of Saturday night chasing cats around the enclosed patio, scruffing cats, and shoving cats into carriers.  We caught three out of the five that way.  Which worked out great, until the last one bit me.  The next day we woke up and drove the three cats out to my adviser’s house.  She has a mobile clinic made out of a trailer in her backyard where she does a lot of feral cat spay and neuters, as well as her vet work for her shelter, Frankie’s Friends.  I was quickly reassured that my chances of the cat having rabies are very slim, and that there was really no need to worry about it yet; as long as the cat is alive in 10 days, I’m fine.  The cat comes and eats every night at Lance’s aunts house, so in ten days we’ll have to

Our little boy cat, Jadyn

 call her and make sure she’s seen the cat coming to dinner.  Should he disappear, I’ll have to go to the hospital and start on the series of rabies shots, which with my health insurance shouldn’t cost more than $300, a lot better than $8,000.  Essentially, they all told me, if you work or volunteer around feral cats, rabies is an occupational hazard.  Pretty much everyone there dropping off cats, helping with surgeries, and volunteering had said they had been bitten or scratched by a stray cat at some point or another.  It’s just something that happens.  It made me feel a lot better to know I wasn’t out of the ordinary, even though I’m not completely out of the woods yet.Saturday night was pretty much the scariest night of my life.  I leafed through site after site of articles telling me how I was going to die a horrible, painful death, or have to get a million needles stuck in me that cost over $8000.  The cat that nipped me got away, so I didn’t even have anything to watch for the recommended 10 days to see if it dies of rabies.  I sat up from three in the morning onward crying and worrying, and I even woke poor Lance up and asked him to come sit with me, where he reassured me time after time that I wouldn’t be dying.

Dr. Morrow preforming a surgery in her amazing mobile clinic

After I knew I wasn’t going to fall over and die, I enjoyed the day a lot more.  I got a lot of hands on experience in all the different parts of surgery.  I learned how to knock feral cats out, learned how to prep for surgery, learned how to give vaccinations, and got a lot of experience working with ferals.  Our three kitties were by far the most well behaved and calm cats in the whole clinic.

"I look like Darth Vader, and I am ready for my spay"

All of the kitties who came in got spayed and neutered, ear-tipped so caretakers can tell who is already done and who is not, a rabies shot, a shot of long lasting penicillin, Frontline, a basic check up and any immediate medical attention taken care of, and the females all got a shot of pain killer so they weren’t too sore after their spay.  Out of our three, we had two girls and a boy.  Everyone thought that our little boy was a girl and we thought that our one girl, who we dubbed ‘Loca’ because she was a little crazy, was a boy.  

Lance with little Jadyn. Love him!

Lance completely blew me away with how well he did in surgery.  He always cringes when I tell him about surgeries and said he really didn’t want to be a part of it, but he was holding legs back for neuters and helping move cats around like no other.  He also totally fell in love with one of our little kitties and begged to try and take him home with us.  I found it oddly attractive, lol.

The whole weekend made me realize how much I love being a pre-vet major.  I love the animals, I love the work, and I love the people who are involved in it.  The rescue world is so devoted to making a difference.  They’re people I can really relate to, and who really understand how I think.  And it’s so awesome that I can justify spending my time doing these types of things.  I’ve always wanted to get involved with volunteering with animals and rescue organizations, and before I decided I wanted to be a vet, everyone told me it wasn’t a good use of my time.  However, now I can go to as many bird talks as I want, volunteer at as many shelters as I want, and it all counts towards my future.  Perfect!

Learning to give vaccines!

It also reminded me of what a wonderful boyfriend I have.  How lucky am I to be blessed with a guy who loves animals as much as I do?  Since being down at school, Lance and I have pretty much been inseparable.  While other couples fight constantly or need a lot of alone time, our alone times are relatively small and we act essentially like an old married couple.  I love being around him, because no matter how much we talk about it, he’s always game to talk about animals, and he’s the most loving and supportive person I know.  He knows me better than I know myself, and he never fails to make me laugh, even at 4 in the morning when I’m freaking out about possibly having rabies. I know, I’m being all sappy, lol.  Having him down here has just been a piece of Heaven.

All in all, we had an amazingly busy, yet productive and exciting, and dare I say, fun weekend.  

Our little crazy cat, Loca, after her spay

And about the rabies, well, I’ll let you know how that’s all turning out.  We’ve got 8 days to watch Mr. Kitty and see where we take it from there.

The Lovely Cordyceps

Usually, I do not write about people.  To be honest, I don’t really like writing about people.  It gets you in trouble, everyone judges you, and I rarely like to write while in a bad mood.  However, sometimes in life you come across that one person that just makes you want to either run away and give up everything just to get away from them, or commit some act of violence that is generally frowned on in society.  

For me, this person is Cordyceps.  

Well, I guess that’s not actually her name.  But for all intensive purposes, that’s what I call her so no one actually knows how much I dislike her.  The name Cordyceps was actually coined by Lance.  Cordyceps is actually a genus of parasitical fungus that feasts on small insects or other fungi, which seemed like a pretty accurate likeness to the real Cordyceps to me.  Lance’s favorite type of Cordyceps invades an ant hill and turns the ants into zombies who later climb up a blade of grass, hang from their jaws, and allow a mushroom to sprout from their head.  

I have never in my life felt so much raw hatred towards anyone in my life other than Cordyceps.  I’d like to think that maybe it is her platinum blonde hair, her manicured nails, or the way she is constantly smacking her gum with an open mouth that drives me batty.  For the record, I do not like hating people.  I wish it was something superficial that I disliked about her so I could dismiss it and move on in my life.  However, to me, she partakes in the activity of utmost disgust for higher education participates.


I’ve seen dear Cordyceps cheating not only once, but twice on different exams.  And for someone who blows her brains out studying and works two jobs constantly, it makes it very difficult to like someone who takes exams with her notes at her feet and spends her weekends at the salon.  It also wouldn’t be so bad it she didn’t have aspirations to be a vet!  So, not only am I blowing my brains out studying, but my main competition has loaded the dice in her favor.  Beautiful.

Cordyceps is my ultimate torture.  She’s my raven knocking at the door, my heartbeat pounding under the floorboards and my cursed monkeys paw.  Every time I see her I feel my skin bristle and my heart rate pound.  And day by day I have to act civil and polite, and listen to her brag about how even though she loves her nail polish and make up and designer clothes, rest assured, she loves cutting up animals.  Not cute.

I bring up this rant because every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I get the pleasure of having Cordyceps as a class mate in not one, but two classes.   Woopiee!!  

Due to my highly competitive nature, should Cordyceps get an acceptance letter and I do not, I will most likely either throw myself off of one of Pittsburgh’s many bridges, or hire a hit man.  After, of course, I go and watch her stick her hand up a horse’s ass with all those manicured nails.

One of the Reasons I Love My Life

Me Hand Feeding a Baby Chinchilla

Everyone has days that make them want to crawl down a hole and hibernate like a turtle, and today I had one of those days.  I was peed on twice at work, had to endure four hours of listening to an unhappy person complain about their life, and more than one of the dogs that I had to restrain today smelled really bad, which meant I smelled like stinky old dog the whole day.  I came home tired, smelly, and with a headache.  

When I was little and used to tell my parents that I loved animals and wanted to work with them someday, they totally discouraged me.  ‘”If you make something your work, you will end up hating it,” they used to tell me.  “Pick something that your good at that you won’t mind doing and leave animals your hobby.”  I couldn’t imagine a life without loving animals, so up until just a few years ago I took their advice and searched fruitlessly for another option that I would wouldn’t mind doing that didn’t involve animals.  Truth be told, everything else in the world requires a lot of nice-y nice-y people skills and butt kissing and I couldn’t even dream of doing that for the rest of my life.

Maybe some days, like today, I don’t entirely enjoy my choice in career path.  And let’s face it, when you clean cages to earn your money, it makes it pretty difficult to want to come home and clean more cages.  But there are so many other days that I enjoy what I do that it makes it impossible to regret my decision.  Like this adorable chinchilla!  So what that I’m dressed in a grossly over-sized shirt with no make up on or my hair straightened?  He doesn’t care!  He just cares that I feed him at 2pm and 7pm and squeaks and peeps happily at me while I cuddle him.  Or the fact that as soon as my key is in the doorknob, all my birds go nuts to greet me when I walk through.  

I really feel blessed that everyday I see that I am making a difference, maybe not to so many people (although I feel like I do) but most defiantly in the lives of animals.  And they appreciate it so much more than the people. 

Basic Care and Behavior at PEAC

On Saturday, me and my friend Meg went to a PEAC lecture on pet parrot basic care and behavior.  I’ve been wanting to go to one of their lectures for a while now, but I was always just too lazy to go on my own.  It’s nice that I have a bird loving friend that takes it upon herself to motivate me to go to the things that I actually do want to do.

PEAC stands for Parrot Education and Adoption Center and Pittsburgh is lucky enough to be one of the cities that has this program!  They are more of an educational program, running solely off of volunteers dedicated to spreading awareness of proper care of parrots.  Something that is right up my ally!

The lecture was held at my favorite place, you guessed it, the National Aviary.  It was given by the manager of training and came complete with its own packet of notes and parrot friendly cook book!  It was very informative and I had a great time learning new ways to enhance my flocks life.  My favorite tip was the idea for making perches.  Apparently, all my money spent on concrete perches, wooden perches, natural wood, rope, and calcium has all been in vain.  They recommended going out into the woods and chopping off some bird safe branches and notching them for your cage!  I have thought of that in the past, but I always had some worry that I may poison my parrot by giving her fresh wood.  However, they assured me I could kill parasites by baking on a low temperature and they have been using this idea for quite some time and haven’t had any problems.  They also said that a life on dow rod type perches and concrete could really injure your birds feet.  After I thought about it, that’s kind of a ‘duh!’.  Birds are meant to be perching on tree branches, not slippery sleek wood.  That totally explains why Bella always sits on her natural wood or rope perches and just poops all over the dow rods.  I should have listened to that conure a long time ago!  Unfortunately, there were no suggestions for better perching for handicapped birds 😦  Sorry guys, the rest of you will have to make due with what I can create.

I, of course, became a member that day, so now I can say I am an official member of the Pittsburgh PEAC group.  Hehe, what a resume builder!  I am also a member of the hunting for fruit tree limbs club!


Bella Won Her First Contest!

The amazing Avian Fashions had a special halloween giveaway on their facebook page earlier this month.  Being the crazy bird owner I am, I entered my sassy little conure for a chance to win a halloween suit.  Amazing, we WON!  I was so excited I literally called all my roommates into the room to make sure I wasn’t misreading.  Here are some pictures of Bella in her new costume.  My mom and sister took them, so theyre not that great.  But, Bella doesn’t really like to behave for them.  I’ll be going home soon and take better pictures, but atleast you can get an idea of what she looks like in it.

Here she said ‘I had enough of this!’  My mom said she wasn’t really sure about the hat at first, but she’s being a little trooper about it.  She doesn’t seem to be afraid of it, but I guess she likes to try and take it off and chew it.  Sigh.  We’ll have to work on that when I get home.

Anyways, Avian Fashions is great.  I wrote a little blurb about them and how much we love them on the side panel, but I would definately recommend checking out some of their products at http://www.avianfashions.com/

They’re suppose to be coming out with feather hoodies for smaller birds sometime in November!  Guess whos paycheck is already gone?

For some reason, I find it so much cutier to dress birds up than dogs.  Maybe its because all the dog clothes is so tacky and hardly functional.  But, bird diapers are stylish and totally functional!  They make my life so much easier!!

The Statistics of My Life

As a blogger, I have the right to a captive audience.  Therefore, as a blogger, I have the right to whine.  Today, I feel completely overwhelmed by the amount of pressure I have on myself.  I’m also taking a stats class, so I started wondering about the probability of finding someone who is anything like me.  So, today I’m making an equation out of my life.  Its probably not going to be very accurate (math isn’t my strong point!) but it will be enlightening all the same.

So, as I’m sure you already know, I am a biology pre-veterinary major.  That right there throws an enormous amount of pressure on a person.  Everyday, every grade directly effects what happens for the rest of your life.  One wrong move and you have no future.  Sometimes, I think of myself and I just want to laugh.  There are plenty of people who would just be happy going to school, even a community college.  There are people who would just like to go to Duquesne.  There are people who would just be happy to get a college degree.  There are people who would be happy to just pass a class.  And there are people who would be happy to just pass a test.  And here I am exhausting myself over every little tiny detail, every point, and breaking down when I am not veritably perfect.

Its hard. 

Everyday I face the very real possibilty that I may never become a vet.  I also have everyone expecting veritable perfection out of me, so when I fail, I not only am screwing myself, but I am dissappointing everyone close to me.  And in all actuality, I am not at all “enjoying” the college experience.  I enjoy learning, and I enjoy growing and marking off things in my planner or off my to do list, but I essentially have no life.  I don’t go out, I don’t do anything, I take no time for myself, and I spend the majority of my college experience in a majorly stressed out state.

Anyways, for the statistics part:

  • Percentage of white americans that graduate from high school: 94.8% or .948
  • Percentage of high school graduates who attend college: 68.1% or .681
  • Percentage of first in family college students at Duquesne University: 47.0% or .470
  • Percentage of students who pay their own way through college: 42% or .42 (keep in mind, this includes community college figures.  I highly doubt there are this many Duquesne students doing this)

Right now, I can’t find the statistics for how many people want to go to vet school, how many people got into vet school, or what percent is now a practiciting vet.  But currently, my statistical number is .1277.  There is a 12% chance of finding someone as crazy as me with just those figures.  I’m sure factoring in vet school and starting a club and working multiple jobs and so on and so forth would drop that even lower.

But, I have to get back to my tortur. . I mean work.





Trap, Neuter, Release

As a pre-vet major, I really like to things lose their manhood’s. 

I’m sure you’re well aware, there’s just far too many unwanted animals in the world.  And although I am usually an avian type of person, I am first and foremost an animal person.  One of the biggest problems animal activists face is trying to diminish the amount of unwanted animals in the world without destroying the animals that are living.  I mean, try walking through a shelter and picking out the animals that have to die, just because there are too many of them.  Do you pick three brown ones, because there are two other brown ones in there already?  Or do you pick the older ones, just because they’re 4 and not 2?  Do you pick the ones that have been there the longest just because they don’t seem to go, or do you pick the ones that seem new and afraid, because they might never warm up?  So, the best solution to this issue without having to play eenie meanie miney moe is to stop breeding!  Spay and neuter!!!

One issue that has been on the rise in recent years is the feral cat colonies.  Heres what happens: some genius can’t get rid of the kittens he let his cat have, so he tosses them into the streets.  The kittens wander around until they find a nice porch to live under and someone feels bad for them and starts putting out food.  Now the kittens have a stable food source and grow into cats.   The person who feeds them doesn’t want to take responsibility for them.  After all, they never wanted a cat.  They were just being a good person and feeding a stray animal.  Now the cats begin to have kittens.  And the kittens grow into cats and have kittens.  The longer the cycle goes on, the wilder the animals become.  Feral cats are not pets anymore!  They’re wild animals!

These colonies can very quickly become overrun, and then the people don’t want them there anymore.  Feral cats peeing in their kids sandboxes, cats getting into their trash, ect ect.  They want them gone.  So, they either leave them go, or start shooting them.  Some system we have here.

Animal activists have created another system that amazing works more efficiently than the original genius’.  It’s called Trap, Neuter, Release.  Essentially, a team of volunteers traps the feral cats, knocks them out, spays or neuters them, and releases them back to their original colony location.  This way, they cannot produce anymore kittens, stay out of more fights, stop the spread of some diseases, and can live out their life as a wild animal that is no longer contributing to the growing population.  While the cats are under anesthesia, they also test for deadly diseases, vaccinate for rabies, apply flea and tick protection, worm the cats, remove any mats and brush them, check them for any immediate medical problems like rotten teeth or open wounds, and tip the cats left ear so they know if they catch them again that they were already spayed or neutered.  All the cats are given a dose of long-lasting antibiotic to prevent infections, .

I had the privilege of working with Dr. Morrow at a TNR event this past weekend.  They spayed and neutered over 70 cats in one day between two vets, which is huge.  They also removed teeth, provided wound care, and administered many doses of the rabies vaccine.  Of course, you can’t always save them all.  Feral cat colonies are known to be highly inbred and can easily become overrun with highly contagious diseases.  Two cats tested positive for fatal diseases like Feline leukemia and FLV and were euthanized to avoid further infecting their colony and to alleviate their inevitable long, drawn out death.  Another cat was so skinny due to severe mouth ulcers because he couldn’t eat and was euthanized as well.  They did it all while that cats were under anesthesia so they wouldn’t have to feel anything. 

It was such an inspiring day.  It was so great to be a part of something that had such a good cause and to see that all the cats would get to live out their lives without causing more of a problem.  If anyone is interested in helping with the feral cat population, I would highly recommend looking for your local animal welfare organizations and trying to get involved in a TNR event.  And remember, please spay and neuter!!!