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!


Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty.

So, Lance and I randomly adopted a cat today!

Well, kind of.

The veterinarian that I work with at school started a cat sanctuary to house all the survivors of the Tiger Ranch and to provide affordable vet care and housing for abused and forgotten cats.  Today, the sanctuary hosted an open house for all the supporters.  Naturally, me and Lance toted my mother and sister out to see the sanctuary and to help support the cause.  

I’ve been to the sanctuary several times to visit and help out, as well as taken my club there to help paint and clean out the basement.  The sanctuary is unique in so many ways.  The biggest way is that its just a huge house, and the cats roam about where ever they please.  They have their own cat door to go out to a fenced in gazebo and get fresh air, they have shelving to climb on, and they have tons of wonderful people who love them and take care of them.  It’s really a great place.

Recently, Lance and I have been thinking about what we want to do when we move out, which can be anywhere from a few months to a few years from now.  I’ve been itching to get a cat or a dog to add to our family, and as much as I’d love to go out and rescue a few pit bulls, I know that I really need to think smaller for now, as I can’t know exactly where I’ll be  in a few years, and I won’t be rehoming my pet due to some stupid breed regulation or not having enough space.  So, we decided we better think on the scale of a cat or a small dog, because its usually fairly easy to find housing that allows you to keep one of those.  

Regardless of what it was, we both fell in love with her.  So, today as we were sitting around the open house being bombed by kitty love, I found one of my favorite cats, Bonnie.  Bonnie is a simple, black, fluffy cat, but there has always been something about her that I’ve liked.  Maybe its the fact that she’s a survivor, or that she has to wear a lion cut all the time because she doesn’t groom enough.  Or it could be the fact that her tail has no muscle movement what so ever.  Who am I kidding?  I’m sure its the fact that she strolled right up, sat right in between me and Lance, and batted anyone that came near her.  She took turns sitting on both of our laps, as if she knew we’d get hurt feelings if she chose one over the other, and she just sat there forever, taking in all the pets and the scratches and the loving.  

So, of course we asked if she was adoptable, as some of the cats are not due to medical problems that flare up from time to time.  And we were in luck because she was!  

Obviously, I can’t keep a cat in my dorm room.   So, Bonnie has to wait until we move out to come home with us.  In reality, it’s not that big of a deal.  The sanctuary was prepared to take care of her until the day she died.  She’s a special member of their family, so they’re not at all in a hurry to get rid of her.  In fact, she might have even still been there when I moved out.  But, they told me they’d hold on to her for me and wait we’ve moved out and can take her with us 🙂  We can go visit anytime we want until then as well.   This also means that should we find a place that has a ‘allows pets that you already have, but you cannot bring in new pets’ rule, we technically can get the paperwork to say we already have her and she can come stay with us.  

I’m totally pumped.  I know, you’re all saying ‘a cat?  But you have BIRDS!!’  which is totally true.  Fortunately, Bonnie has a pretty laid back personality.  She’s a few years old, so she’s settled down and isn’t crazy like a kitten.  And, this won’t be the first time I’ve mixed cats with birds.  My family has always had cats (except for now.  Our 20 year old cat recently passed away a few months ago) and we’ve kept birds alongside them.  I won’t say its always easy; no multi-pet household is easy.  However, it is possible.  We’ve always just used the separation method with our guys; when no one is home, everyone stays separate.  We even have a screen door in the middle of my parents house from the days of separating cats and birds.  Due to the deadly nature of a cat bite on a bird, the birds never came out of their cage unless the cats were securely locked on the other side of the door, and when no one was home, the cats also stayed on the other side of the door.  When someone was home and the birds were in their cages, the cats could come downstairs, but any engagement towards the bird cages was highly discouraged.  After awhile, the cats eventually stopped even paying attention to the caged birds, and we were very careful to not have accidents.  We’ve mixed two cats, and two dogs (predators) with four birds and a rat (prey animals), so I’m hoping five birds and one cat will be ok.  Most bird people I know also have cats, so it much be pretty possible.

I’ve never been more motivated to move out.  I’ve always wanted to get into a place of my own, reunited with all my feathered kids, but there’s something about Lance and I making a decision together that really makes me see that there is a whole future for us, not just vet school.  Sometimes I get so wrapped up with everything that is happening now and how I want to get to vet school so badly and I need to get in that I forget that there is a future that will happen regardless of if I get an acceptance letter or not.  Its a really nice peace of mind.  So, I’m totally ready to start stockpiling cat toys in preparation for when we finally get to take her home!  Until then, I’ll make due with visits and lots of pictures!

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 Horse Bug

Most people I meet don’t know anymore that before I was the crazy bird lady I was the crazy horse lady.  All my life before college I was the little girl who had gotten bit by the horse bug and was crazy for more.  A pony was the first thing on my Christmas list each year, I read every Saddle Club, Thoroughbred, and Phantom Stallion book I could get my hands on.  I had a massive collection of Grand Champion horse figurines, and if you would have asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I would have answered ‘Anything as long as I could have my horses’.  When I was 13 years old, my parents bought me my first horse, Sugar B.  He was the most gorgeous 6-year-old quarter horse gelding I had ever seen, and to this day I think he was the most handsome horse I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.  

Me and Sugar B

Lance and I riding!

Me and Sugar at a horse show

I’m pretty sure Sugar was the thing that kept me such a straight arrow for all those years.  If a dad wants to keep his little girl his little girl longer, there’s no better treatment than a horse.  He kept me busy so I had no time to get involved in less healthy things, he kept me focused on something other than friend drama and cattiness, and he was a strong boy deterrent.  Even when I started dating Lance, he knew that the horse ranked higher than him.    I got him right when I went into my awful teen angst years and he remained my companion all the way until I was accepted and leaving for college.  I wanted so badly to keep him while I was in college, but unfortunately my parents told me they were going to stop paying board on him and I was going to have to pay for school, pay for everything involving the horse, and pay for my other animals as well.  I’m not super woman here.  So, grudgingly, I sold him.  I regret the decision I made every day.  The people who I sold him to seemed to genuinely love him, so I lowered my price for them and allowed them to take my partner of 7 years away from me.  Less than two months later they had resold him and I have no clue where he is anymore.  I only hope he’s well taken care of.  

After I sold Sugar, I really didn’t want anything to do with horses.  I couldn’t own my own, I couldn’t ride whenever I wanted, and I felt so depressed.  I threw myself into my birds and my future career as a vet so that someday I can have horses again.  Sometimes I think that I am so obsessive over my homework because it is secretly my horse obsession manifesting itself in a different light.  However, after the initial sting started to soften, I started wanting to ride again.  And how lucky am I that one of my best friends has a horse?

Ella and I have been friends since high school and I was totally pumped when she transferred to Chatham from Seton Hill because it was right down the road from me!  She knew me before I had a horse, after I got a horse, and after I sold my horse, so we’ve been through a lot of horse-ness together.  And because riding is never fun a lone, every time she is planning on going riding, she invites me and I get to go get a little fill of horses.

I, being the shorter one, always ride Sassy, a cute little rocky mountain horse.  I adore Sassy.  She is so sweet and so good.  Shes always very willing and when we race, she always puts her heart into it and keeps up with the long-legged Ella and Belle.  

Me and Sassy

Sassy crossing a river. Me, smiling like I won the lottery.

This last time that we went to ride, it was drizzling a little.  So, being the creative college students we are, we just opted for no saddles and jumped on bareback and hit the trails.  Of course, a massive downpour started, but we didn’t really care.  Neither of us had seen a horse since October, so we were intending on getting our full fill.  I felt like a kid at Christmas, or one of those girls out of the Saddle Club.  We scaled hills, raced each other, and rode for at least two hours with no saddle.  We crossed some creeks and crossed some roads and barreled through some woods to make a new trail with no saddles.  However, after we both felt it, and I have a huge brush burn on my butt from the horses spine rubbing my wet jeans against my skin over and over again.  Ouch!

Ella and Belle

I think my favorite thing about Sassy is she is nothing like Sugar.  She’s short while he was tall.  She’s gaited while he wasn’t.  She’s a girl and he was a boy.  She is very relaxed after running while he would stay hot.  She’s more pushy in the field while he was very passive.  They don’t really have anything in common except that they were both horses.  I like that I don’t have to see him every time I am enjoying a ride on her.  It makes riding much easier.  

Me and Sassy

Someday, I’ll have horses again.  It might take a long time, but someday I will.  And I know if I ever have children, I won’t be selling their horses when they go away to college.