Sunday, November 9, 2008

Laidback Cockie

There are these that my little Shalom obsesses about. And these little Shalom trinkets can and will occupy a normally problematic ADD cockatoo for hours on end.

None of them include tantalizing, colourful, intricate, wood-licious, wallet-draining bird toys that would make any parrot tingle with thrill and anticipation. Unless one considers her cage - the only bird-related object of fancy - which she delights in taking apart, screw by screw.

All of these obsessive possessions happen to belong to me. Or my husband. Including this head band.

You could surprise her with a $50 wood-plastic-rope-leather rotating, jingling, hanging collection of eye-pining, beak-grinding, tail-wagging assemblage and she would totally ignore it for a good chew off my prized spider plant or an old, retired sock, or a phone book.

So to this, I will belt out the first line of this song, "The best things in life are free. But you can give it to the birds and bees ... "

A Shepherdess and her Dog

Herding with Janka in Escondido

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Having Fun While Working

(photo credit: T. Spiker)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Extended Family

This here is Klaus and Sabrina of the Vogel family. And two of Janka's most favourite playmates.

Nothing gives her more joy than to visit these dogs and spend an afternoon of tumbling, chasing, snapping, barking, rolling and wrestling with wild puppy abandon. She recognizes the landmarks as we approach the Vogels' residence, and begins a pathetic incessant whine that starts about 10 minutes away from our destination. The moment each pup sees each other, it is instant pandemonium. They jump right into play without hesitation, like a pair of twins continuing a conversation that ended the last time they talked. No polite "Hello, how do you do?" between Janka and Klaus, they go right to business.

Klaus is Janka's littermate. We met him and his owner the day we picked up Janka. Since then, the two families have become good friends. While I am unsure whether Janka realizes that Klaus is her brother, both German Shepherds have developed a deep bond.

Despite sharing a strong genetic denomination, both puppies are as different as night and day, from coloration to personality. It is fun to compare the differences, and yet mutually agree that one individual complements the other perfectly. They are my little Ying and Yang.

I enjoy watching their interactions, and am eager to observe these two beautiful German Shepherds mature alongside each other. It will be a beautiful adventure, and I am thrilled to be able to share it with her brother.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Outdoor Adventurer

Three's a charm! I figure I would post photos of all three kids today. Here is Janka @ 12 months old on a hike today. She looks so grown up!

The Proctologist

Yes, I have a very talented cat.

He is a special boy, this shy little creature whom we found languishing at the animal shelter with quiet dignity. I am glad that nobody took the time and patience to find out what a remarkable little scamp Kennedy is, so we are able to discover this tarnished diamond in the rough.

But it does reflect how generic America is, that desperate need for instant gratification, acceptance and love. It takes time and effort to acquire the best treasures, which are intangible and elusive. However, the current mode in America is to be lazy and egotistical.

So let Kennedy stand for what is admired for and lost here. And if you have no idea what that means, I recommend that you strip your person bare and look within yourself to seek the truth.

Softly Candid

Bryan and Shalom spend some quality time together on a quiet evening. I love the mutual affection and friendship they have for each other, the poignancy of non-verbal displays breaking through the inter-species and language barrier.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

California Living

Janka and her littermate, Klaus, romping at Coronado Beach in San Diego.
(photo credit: E. Vogel)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Monday, September 8, 2008

Kissed By The Sun

Citron-crested cockatoos have to be one of the most stunning animals in the natural world. Mother Nature created Citrons so she could enjoy simple beauty and pure joy on Her days off.

I love the splashes of rich creamsicle complementing her pure whiteness. I admire the subtle butter yellow on her belly, under her wings and tail. I find myself melting, looking into those expressive amber eyes.

Shalom is my Sun baby, her coloration mirroring that of our life-giving star. Her personality as warm and sunny as the cheerful shade of her crest and cheek patches. There is not one mean bone in her body, everything about her exudes joyful love and happiness.

I am incredibly blessed with her companionship, deeply fulfilled by our relationship.

It is not about giving in to my desires as an animal lover, and ticking off every creature I have ever wanted on my list. Sure, I would love to enrich my life with animals. However I realize that there is always the right time, and the right time may not be the present. I also know that my current companions come first, and they should never have to suffer on the account of my selfish wants.

Is it possible to expand my flock now? Sure. But it would not be fair. Unfair to whom? To my current animals, to the new animal, to my husband, and last but not least, to me. I will not accept such a heavy responsibility unless I know I can give each and every companion nothing less than 100%.

So I channel that passion into my one little parrot for now; creating a surrogate flock with her, to raise her to be a wonderful, stable, secure companion. To ensure her happiness, to ensure her pet potential if she outlives me.

Because in the end, that is the most important gift of all we could ever bestow to our animals ...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Mother's Tenderness

I will watch over you,
My little one,
And be your imperfect Guardian Angel.
Your joys will be my celebration,
Your sorrow will burden my heart.
Through it all,
I will watch over you
With the unconditional tenderness and love
Of a Mother.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Still The Baby In The Family

Janka @ 10 months old
For now.

For the last few years, I have been seriously considering another parrot when we are ready. A Red-fronted macaw or the Blue-throated macaw. At one time, the stipulation set by my husband was "either a macaw or a German Shepherd, you choose." And I decided on a German Shepherd.

Recently I began the serious process of searching for breeders and interviewing them in hopes of expanding my flock next autumn. I had not been impressed with the local parrot stores in San Diego, and decided to look further. I eventually decided on Avalon Aviary in Colorado.

They breed both species of macaws, and after a series of correspondence, have requested to be placed on a waiting list for both. They have surpassed my stringent list of questions from maintaining their breeder birds to bio-security, right down to prepping the fledglings for air travel. In turn, they carefully screen all potential buyers which is a crucial factor for me when buying a live animal.

It is time-consuming and anxious. It took me months to settle upon Shalom's breeder, and I screened several German Shepherd kennels in California and Arizona before deciding upon Janka's breeder.

The effort and pain-staking patience reward me with healthy, socialized companions for years to come, and the inner peace of knowing I voted ethically with my money.

And in a society where breeding animals is treated as profitable, expendable money-makers and the offspring are viewed as commodities, I am glad for personal choice and doing my part in supporting ethical breeders for the betterment of our fellow creatures.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Breaking Sonic Boom

My sweet angelic little Citron hen. Haven't you heard? Looks can be deceiving.

Lately, she has been quite determined to break the sound barrier. And let me say she is quite close to achieving that goal. I admire her ambition, detest her determination. And it is not just a blast of ear-drum piercing shriek. She carries on long, obnoxious monologues where no interruption can faze her. All at the same decibel level, without any pause for breath or thought.

If we didn't have skulls, the sound waves would have caused a massive cerebral explosion. It is so loud, I can only describe it as blinding. And just how far does it travel? I have heard her yodeling away while walking Janka in the park. The park! It is down the path from our apartment, and across the road. Above the traffic din, serenading birds, human chatter and the bubbling pond, there it is ... the pervasive melody of an irate, nagging parrot scolding nobody in particular.

In suicidal hopelessness, Bryan asked what was the best course of action. My succinct reply? "Ear plugs, buddy." A set of earplugs for us, as well as the neighbours.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Momentary Lull In A Stand-off

It is so funny how Kennedy and Janka would both give me the "Who? Me?" look when I tell them to, "Kids! Stop it. NOW!"

Thursday, August 28, 2008


It still amazes me to look at her.
A deep love wells deep within my heart,
Overflows with warmth, tenderness, fierce protection.
To realize I have such a special creature,
Wild and rare and beautiful in my home.
Sharing my life, offering me her love.

You are Nature's perfection.
A Citron-crested Cockatoo.
A Cacatua sulphurea citrinocristata.
To me,
You are Shalom.
My beloved companion and friend.
I will love you and continue to love you through the ages.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Friday, August 1, 2008

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

German Nobility

Janka @ 9 months, 1 week old

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Keeping Me Out

Do not see it as a cage to contain, but more of a sanctuary to escape.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Dressed To The Nines

He has only been gone for 6 hours, and I already miss my little cat. His quiet presence, occasionally interrupted by the festive tinkling of his bell. His sprints accompanied by his "baruump baruump" grunts. His insatiable, infuriating curiosity. The delicate feline grace by which he moves, ever so deliberate and proud.

While I appreciate cats, I wouldn't consider myself an avid cat lover. He is a Christmas gift for us from my husband.

But Kennedy is special in many ways. While most of his behaviour is based around genetics and instincts, I see in his clear green eyes, that there is indeed a deeper soul that lies within him that is wild and mystical which we mortals could never touch nor comprehend.

I look forward to see you soon, wee Kennedy!

ps: This photo was taken in San Diego, 2007.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Kennedy looks like he is tripping out on LSD. He has the funniest facial expressions I have ever seen on any animal. Half the time they are variations of a startled expression, like I just stuck a cold thermometer up his twinker hole.

Tonight is the last night he is spending in our apartment. Have no fear. It is only temporary. He is going off to Kitty Kamp for 3 weeks while my relatives are visiting from Switzerland. Although Janka will not be around to torment him, he will have 2 three month old kittens to keep him occupied.

I think it will be a nice change of pace for him. And me.

Janka will certainly miss her little Kennedy though.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Poor little Kennedy. From the moment Janka came home, his peace and quiet flew straight out the window. Never to return.

It is hard to imagine that she was once his size, tumbling joyfully after him with the clumsiness and not-so-gentle curiosity of a toddler, totally unfazed by his attempts at driving her off with hisses, growls, spanks & slaps.

She still plows him over despite his vehement protests, even though Kennedy has upgraded his defense strategy, employing his claws and teeth to drive his point home. Janka means him no intentional harm and adores her feline brother. But she certainly is increasing his chances of developing ulcers with her rough play! The problem is, she plays with him like she would with a littermate. It was all well and good when they were matched in size, with Kennedy being nimble and quick while Janka had determination and pluck. But as Janka grows exponentially the past few months, little Kennedy's growth chart remains stagnant. And - much to Kennedy's chagrin and my fascination - she is learning to predict his movements, foreseeing his escape routes and herding him off like he is a lamb straying from its flock.

Yet it is becoming clear that my little girl will eventually calm down enough to stop pestering him in the game of one-sided chase all the time.

Right when this photo was taken, Kennedy was probably silently saying, " 'Scuse me, bitch, but I need mah space."

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Journey Through Time

9 weeks old

9 months old

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My Little Love

Back when Janka was just 6 weeks old.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

To Market, To Market

Because Janka is in heat, I had to leave her at home when I left for the Farmers' Market this evening. In her stead, I brought Shalom with me.

She was absolutely giddy with delight, chattering excitedly from her crate. Cockatese mixed with English. She eagerly co-operated with me when I slipped on her harness in the car, and charmed everyone's socks off at the market. Lommers was calm and relaxed despite the crowd, graciously accepting whatever attention that came her way. She kept sticking her head down my bag of chicken empanada, daintily pulling the paper edges aside and tilting her head, making sure it was still there for her enjoyment later.

I miss our outdoor excursions. I am sure she misses them too.

It has been a while since I brought Shalom along with me on a trip. If possible, Janka always accompanies me. Since the 60 lbs youngster can be a handful at times, I have to leave Shalom behind - oh, sanity! - unless Bryan is around. Or else, I can just imagine the chaos that will ensue if I have both rascals with me at the same time. Alone.

I tried walking a dog and a parrot once. The operative word being 'once'.

Sparky was an 100 lbs Husky-Shepherd mix, and delightfully polite. Shalom, being a 400 gm bird, while can't be relied on to be a saint, couldn't possibly cause much trouble damage to a human.

With that in mind, I decided to kill two birds with one stone, and leash both animals up for a nice stroll around the neighbourhood.

The only nice part about it was finally making it back home in one piece!

It started with a man walking his obnoxious dog on the other side of the street. Without warning, Sparky started to pull on his leash, panting and straining in an attempt to cross the road. It didn't help that the doggie hoodlum was trash-talking from the other side. Bracing with my feet, I ordered Sparky to sit while grasping the leash with two hands. Shalom, quietly perching on my shoulder, decided then to adjust my Oakleys.

So now I was struggling to control an excitable dog who weighed more than me, while wrestling my expensive glasses from the Beak of Doom. My lovely stroll deteriorated to me battling with a screaming bird, who by then was pulling beakfuls of hair out of my ponytail, while being dragged down the pavement by a 4-legged panting, drooling tractor.

And since then, I do not allow myself to be in a situation that will lead to sabotage ever again.

So, children, what is the morale of the story?

Never underestimate any animal's ability and cunning to take advantage of any situation, especially when it comes to human weakness.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Interesting Perspective

If the world gets you down, and you wear a perpetual frown,
Unburden your worries and strife,
By taking on a different view on Life.
Then you will see, that all that needs to be
Is for you to step outside
And allow for trivial worries to subside.
Take it from me, far from my jungle of trees
To face the challenges that brew
From the eyes of a little cockatoo.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Monday, June 23, 2008

Absolut Citron

Shalom is doing well.

The family dynamics has changed drastically since Janka came home last year. It requires a lot of time training and exercising her, which would make for a difficult adjustment period for Shalom.

But despite being forced to share her time with Janka, and not being able to have full reign of the household anymore, Shalom has handled the new addition and the attention split very well. We were dreading a period of reactionary objection from the stimulus of welcoming home a permanent family member.

In the past, Shalom wasted no time in letting us know her opinion when I dogsat Sparky and Soul. I was under attack by a barrage of cockatoo yodels and willful rebellion day-in and day-out. But before either of us cracked under that pressure, the invaders would suddenly leave as they had come, and Shalom settled down to normalcy.

She was most displeased when Kennedy came home and immediately knew she had the upper wing as far as he was concerned. If Kennedy even glanced at Shalom cross-eyed or twitched a ear while they being supervised together, I would roar my displeasure and send timid Kennedy scurrying. Shalom caught on. I am sure the neighbours were wondering if we were butchering monkeys for a month straight.

But when puppy Janka stepped through our door in my arms, Shalom immediately accepted her into the flock. And she took to the little tottering ball of fluff without fuss, feeding Janka through the cage bars and greeting her every time she trotted by the cage.

While I encourage this heartwarming inter-species friendship, I do not trust instincts. Not even with an extremely well-behaved dog. Because hard-wired genetics and the innate reactions of Nature triumphs Man's capability to control.

I am looking forward to watch this sibling relationship develop and grow, and I hope to capture more of these wonderful moments together.

Monday, June 16, 2008

I Haz A Fren

Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Till I'm gonna need
For somebody to lean on ...

- Bill Withers; Lean on Me

Friday, June 13, 2008


Janka and her friends were having a blast on their usual hike on the hump of this week when we encountered a pair of coyotes as we were heading home, not 1/3 of a mile from the main road.

There is a long slope leading down to a drainage ditch before facing a steep
climb again that eventually ends at a concrete pavement. We were contentedly tired from our walk as we turned from the trail and headed towards the field that leads to the valley.

Apparently the coyotes spotted us long before we realized they were there, blending in beautifully with the golden hills. We still would not have noticed them if Levi had not suddenly taken off in hot pursuit of one of them as we started our journey downhill.

We were so focused on recalling Levi while keeping an eye on the girls that it took us a moment to realize there was another directly behind us, barking and yodeling.

Although no altercation took place between wild and domestic dogs, it was still a harrowing experience. While Levi - normally the most obedient of the trio - threw all lessons to the wind, we were fortunate that the girls decided to behave and stayed close after a curt command from us. When Levi finally returned, we gathered our dogs and headed toward the road, slipping on loose soil and rocks as we hurried down the slope.

The coyote behind us was extremely bold, trotting directly behind us with decisiveness. It was not put off when I stood my ground and yelled at him
, waving my arms high in the air. It paused long enough for me to take a picture, howling and yipping intermittently, his beautiful amber eyes locked on mine. He was so close, I could pick out the plush tawny-gray fur, highlighted with russet in the setting sun.

As I fumbled for another picture with an impatient 8 month old pup tangling my legs with her leash and my friend (who had already crossed the ditch and scrambling uphill) yelling at me, the noise & motions broke the tensed suspension momentarily shared between human and animal. It started picking up the pace again.

It started to slow down as I put effort into trying to catch up with my friend her dogs. By the time Janka and I crossed over the drain, it was no longer following us. But both coyotes kept up their eerie love duet as dogs and humans headed for civilization and its relative safety.

I was in utter awe, coming face-to-face with a natural predator for the first time in my life. Wild and free, on its land. They were truly the Alphas, and we were the trespassers. There was a mystical wild beauty in this experience, mixed with fear and an unsought-for courage from within which humbled me while leaving a richness in my soul that I will never forget.

For these beautiful burnished hills of gold are rightly theirs, and we are after all, the uninvited (welcomed perhaps, by a hungry pair?) guests who happened upon their wide-ranging dinner table.