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A LIFE WITH ANIMAL COMPANIONS
When I was a kid, we didn't have that many pets because we moved so often because my father was in the Air Force. My family was the proverbial dysfunctional family with an alcoholic father, a 'queen of denial' mother, and a brother who was not diagnosed but most likely had Asperger's. He was always a terrible disappointment to my father who was often verbally and sometimes physically abusive. I spent a lot of time playing by myself and the pets that we did have were my very best friends. My animal companions have always been an extremely important part of my life.  People have often asked me which animal has been my favorite and for the most part, the answer is usually "whoever is with me at the moment." Each bird, cat, and dog that has lived with me has added a great deal to my life!

Sally's Animal Friends
  A LIFE WITH CATS & DOGS

  (Starting with the most recent way back to when I was a kid)
SKUGGA
The last addition to my family is a kitten who arrived a year or so ago. I named her Skugga (This is Swedish for shadow). I got her as a young kitten from the same friends that Tchotchke came from. Their daughter found a feral pregnant cat and Skugga is one of two kittens. She is apparently an American Bobtail cat? Skugga is all black and is still very petite. She gets along with everyone in the family although every now and then when Tchotchske play too hard, it turns into a fight.  She often tries to sleep cuddled up with my big cat, Diablito but he will only tolerate it for so long. Some nights I have to shut her out of the bedroom because she thinks that this is the time to play and get all of the other animals riled up by careening off all the furniture. I can't say I understand her, since she can be very friendly and then suddenly doesn' want any attention at all.

TCHOTCHSKE
 
There is a sort of verbal pun in this photo -
A Shih Tzu on a Zoo Sheet
 After Tiwi had lived with me for a year or so, a friend of my friend's daughter came into the possession of a young stray Shih Tzu. My guess is that he jumped the fence where he lived and got lost but he looked horrible with extremely matted hair. The girl's mother told her daughter to take it down to my friend's house and if they didn't want it to just let it go in someone's front yard. My friend's family couldn't keep it because they had a Jack Russell who didn't appreciate another male dog in their house. The Shih Tzu came to  live with me. Since I can never spell Shih Tzu without looking it up and I had always referred to many of my collectible treasures my tchotchskies, I decided to name him Tchotchke ... another word no one can spell without looking it up! It took us a little while to become good friends but now we adore each other.

THREE DOG NIGHT
TIWI

Tiwi the WerePuppy changing  during a full moon.

After my beloved big dog, Dewey died, I was at my dentist's office and it turned out that her receptionist was trying to find a new home for her 8 month old Terrier puppy so Tiwi came to live with me. The woman had never had a dog, let alone a very enthusiastic. Terrier puppy. I love terriers but they can be a challenge. This was right at the time I lost my shop and had to move out of the building. Tiwi was a great "help" with the packing paper when I had to be packing in the other room.

DIABLITO
Diablito's name became Lito, which means little and certainly doesn't suit him. He became a very long, large cat with that neutered male cat paunch. He seems to have a very dog-like personality and one of my favorite aspects about him is that he talks to me constantly. I call the photo to the left: Lito, the Shipping Clerk
When I moved to Loveland, a couple helped me and they had a kitten - a  Tuxedo Manx. Since they couldn't find someone to watch him, he came along on the move. He was very cute but I didn't pay a lot of attention because he belonged to someone else. They stayed for a couple of weeks to help my mother and I get settled. The couple fought with each other frequently. When they left, they decided to take a train home and couldn't take the kitten. The man said he would come back and get him but I knew that I had a new addition to my animal family. It didn't take me long to fall in love with him but he was a handful so I named him Diablito. He was quite an explorer and one day I found him up on top of a high cabinet with two penguin collectibles. It looked as if they had a baby penguin! 

GONE ... BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN
BUFFY
When I adopted Toc, they told me that he had come in with another cat. I had noticed her but she seemed very shy and with a dog like Dewey, I didn't think that she would work out in my home. A few days later, I began to get a little guilty thinking that I had separated the two cats and that they probably really missed each other so I went back to the animal shelter and brought her home with me. It didn't take me long to realize that they really hadn't missed each other. In fact, I think they didn't like each other at all. Buffy was what I call a "shadow cat" for the first couple of years. Then one day, she decided to be a social butterfly and liked to be where the action was. She and Toc got along, but most of all, like several of my other animals, she decided that my mother's lap was her favorite place to be. She was about 8 when she came to live with me and lived about another 8 years. She died shortly before Toc did.

TOC
When my cat Louie died, I decided to go to the Alameda Animal Shelter and adopt another cat because it was obvious that Nimbus liked having another cat around. There was a great poofy-faced cat who was about 8 years old and I decided to bring him home. I named him Toc (for The Other Cat - not that clever but it worked).  Within a couple of weeks their was a strange accident. My mother had a chair lift that she rode to go upstairs. One afternoon, she was going up the stairs and Toc's tail got caught in the mechanism. He yowled like nothing I have ever heard before. It took several vet visits and a small fortune but we saved Toc's tail. You can see the satellite dish and the vet wrap on his tail. Toc was very dog like in the sense that he always like to try and con my mother out of her food!. Toc lived with me for another 8 years.

DEWEY
The same friend who had called me about Kea called me one day and said that she had a puppy that I might want. She thought het might be part Border Collie and didn't think the dog would end up bing that big. When she brought him to visit me, I adored him right away.  He was very handsome and I said to him, "We don't know what kind of a dog you are, do we?" So I decided to call him Dewey. It take long to realize that he was not going to be the size of a border collie. He kept growing and growing and eventually topped out at just over 95 lbs of solid dog. The photo below of him with my brother shows just how big he was.  I hadn't wanted another big dog because of my bad back but I wouldn't have missed having this dog for anything! Don't let any of my other dogs know, but he has been my absolute favorite dog.  The combinations of very handsome, incredibly sweet and exceptionally goofy just got to me. He loved to keep me company and always wanted to hold 'hands.'  About 3 years after he came to live with me, I took him to another  veterinarian and the receptionist took one look at him and exclaimed, "Wow, you have a Hovawart!" Being a closet comedian, my response was to touch my face and say, "I thought I had that removed." I looked Hovawart up and found out that they were an expensive and rare dog from Northern Europe. I don't know how he ended up in a rescue situation but it may have been because he had hip displasia. When he was ten, his back legs became paralyzed and I had to put him down. It happened at the same time that I lost my gallery in Loveland and it broke my heart. He was one wonderful dog and whenever I walked him, I had many comments from people who thought he was exceptionally handsome.

KEA
I had a friend who worked for a veterinarian. One day a couple brought in a Toy Fox Terrier who had a serious leg injury. The people who had her had taken the puppy camping and she ran off. When they found her, she had a serious rip in her leg. They bandaged it but didn't take her to a vet. By the time they did, the leg had become gangrenous and had to be amputated. The couple told the vet to just put her down.(ARGGGH!) My friend said no way and paid to have the leg amputated. She knew I would be happy to adopt the puppy so the dog came to live with me. She never acted like she was missing her front left leg. She also became my mother's best friend once my mother came to live with me. After several years when my mother became very ill and even though she was comatose, she was still petting the dogs who always kept her company on the bed.  Kea lived to be sixteen but the arthritis in her remaining leg had really crippled her and she was obviously in pain so I decided to have her euthanized. I always loved her spirit and the fact that she never acted as if she had any handicap at all.

LOUIE
My grandmother rescued Louie when he was hit by a car in front of her house. She took him to a vet and as a result of the accident he had a broken leg and became blind in one eye. She didn't know how old he was but the vet said he was an older cat. He came to live with me after she could no longer care for him and went to live in a rest home. Louie and Nimbus became good friends and he lived with me for another 6 years. I had to put him down after he had what is called a saddle-thrombus and he became paralyzed. He was a great cat and my grandmother was very happy that he came to live with me. 

KD or KATIE
Some people I knew had too many pets and their landlord insisted that they 'get rid of' (hate that term!)  a few of them. I took their 3 year old Silky terrier in. She was very shy and if you even looked directly at her, she would roll over on her back and pee on herself. It took awhile but after a few months, she became a confident and adorable little dog. I named her KD but my mother always called her Katie. My mother didn't live with me at the time but when I visited her in southern California or she came up to see me, KD became her favorite friend and the dog was always in her lap. One time, half way from southern California to northern California, I stopped to get some take-out and then got out of the car to stretch a bit. KD was jumping around and ended up locking me out of my SUV. The back end was absolutely full but the back gate was unlocked. I had to unpack the car in the parking lot and crawl in to unlock the car and get going again..
As they aged, I often wondered who would die first, Katie or my mother as both of them were failing. My mother did and Katie lived a few years longer. Even though she had become blind, she was a happy little dog. My decision with all of my animals has been that as long as they aren't in pain or uncomfortable and seem happy, I won't put them down. As long as Katie was still wagging her tail when I greeted her, I knew she was still a happy dog.  She lived to be 21 and I believe it was that I always fed her homemade dog food instead of feeding her manufactured dog foods full of questionable ingredients that I didn't want my dogs eating. 

NIMBUS
Within a few weeks after my move back to California, I told a friend I wanted to get a cat. I was thinking of getting a Russian Blue because I liked their color and had a friend who had a delightful Russian Blue. The next day I heard a commotion at my front door. My Airdeale was all wiggly about something and I realized that an older kitten was stuck halfway through a hole in the screen door. I helped the kitty through and for at least a couple of weeks I tried to find out where he lived but he ended up living with me until he was 23 years old. Nimbus was a wonderful cat in spite of the fact that within a week of living with me he had knocked over one of my most elaborate and expensive bird sculptures and it was beyond repair. I named him Nimbus because there is, indeed, a dark cloud in every silver lining! For many years, he worked as a paperweight/office assistance at the Pet Bird Report/Companion Parrot Quarterly. 

TIGGER
A couple of years before I moved back to California, I adopted an older Airedale puppy. I was told he was a 'ranch' Airedale which meant he was quite a bit bigger than most Airedales. He was about 8 months old. He eventually weighed about 85 lbs but was solid. When I planned my move from Kansas too the SF Bay area, I knew I would be moving to a much smaller house and thought it would be best to find him a new home. The first home changed his diet immediately and he had an accident on the white carpet.They returned him to me. In the second home, the kid loved him and he loved the kids but because of his background, he had separation anxiety and crashed through the back door to get to them. They asked me to come and get him. The third home was with a farmer who told me that the guy who lived next door had shot his last dog because it went into his yard. I told Tigger to get back in the car. He was a gorgeous dog but after 3 tries, I decided Tigger would move to California with me. I never regretted that decision. More than anything else, he LOVED to go to the beach and I took him as often as I could. Although I have always loved my smaller dogs, he made me realize how wonderful big dogs could be! He lived to be 15 and I have really missed him. I rarely see one of the really big majestic Airedales like Tigger. It seems that all the ones that I see are not much bigger than a Welsh terrier now. I think that is sad.

KIWI
My Scottie, Kiwi, was a delightful, high-energy dog who was often in trouble for getting into everything. He got out every chance he got and I had to chase him down the street more than once. A few weeks before I moved back to California, a friend opened the front door and Kiwi shot out into the street. I was right after him and as an __hole in a pickup truck sped down the street, I stood in front of the truck so he would stop. He hit Kiwi and killed him right in front of me and didn't even stop. Kiwi was only 2 years old. The man was a drunk who lived down the street. Without my knowledge, a neighbor friend did something to sabotage the man's truck. I never knew what it he did but I never felt guilty about it.

After I left my husband, I moved back to Wichita with Chester. I had friends who had a Scottie who had puppies, so Kiwi came to live with Chester and I. At first Chester was deeply offended by his presence but eventually got along with him. Kiwi was a high energy dog whose main goal was to dig under the fence and go for a run.
KC
When I lived about 60 miles east of Kansas City, my husband and I built a house in a new development in the woods. One day in wandering through a house that was being built down the street, I found a sick cat who had just had kittens in the basement. Her kittens had died and I put food in a carrier and captured her. I took her to a veterinarian and spent a good deal of money getting her healthy. She turned out to be a beautiful cat. I called her KC. She didn't live a long life because it turned out that she had feline leukemia.

WOOFROW
I went through a period of time when I named all my animals after presidents. My poodle was Chester A Arfer and by Budgie was Herbird Hoover. After my parents' dog Tuppy died, I bought a Cairn Terrier that I named Woofrow Wilson. I kept him for a few months and then gave him to my parents because during the short time I had him, their elderly poodle Tuppy had died. He was typical terrier and totally full of mischief. He was one of those terriers that would run if he got out if you chased him. One day when he got out, my father chased him down the street in his underwear. Luckily a good Samaritan grabbed the dog and gave my father a ride home. I could never figure out whether his antics kept my parents younger or aged them before their time? When he was a puppy still living with me, (ala Godfather) he brought me the half of a freshly killed mouse and placed it on the pillow next to mine. This totally freaked me out!

CHESTER
When we moved to Wichita Kansas, our house on the Air Force base backed  up to a field where there were cows and horses. Chester thought he was a "cowboy" and when he went out in the yard, the first thing that he would do was to bark to get the cows to come over so he could give them a piece of his mind! Chester was a wonderful, delightful loving dog and he will always live in my heart.  





I really missed Tuppy when I no longer lived at home and when my husband and I moved to Tucson, the people across the street had a poodle who had puppies. So Chester came to live with us.
Neither Tuppy or Chester  had the high energy reputation that so many poodles had. They were both pretty laid back. I used to say that Chester was half throw pillow and half poodle.

When I lived in Los Angeles to finish college, I found an all black-kitten in the gutter near where I lived in east L,A. (not a nice neighborhood). She was really sick but I had a college friend whose husband was a vet and we nursed the all black kitten back to health. I had a horrible roommate and had asked her if it was OK if the kitten came to live with us. She agreed and the cat box went into the bathroom. Yet my roommate would lock the kitten in my bedroom. I decided I needed to find her a good home because it just wasn't working with the roommate who continually made it obvious she couldn't stand a cat in her life. I found her a great home with a stockbroker in a fancy house in Pasadena. Hers was a real rags to riches story going from a gutter in East Los Angeles to a fancy house in Pasadena!

Tuppy lived to be 17 and was a very healthy dog. I think that was true because my mother never fed him commercial dog food. She always made a mix of hamburger or leftover meat, chicken, or turkey, with some grains, cottage cheese and chopped veggies.

             
   
TUPPENCE HA'PENNY
When we lived in London, my mother always talked about getting a dog as soon as we got back to the states. She wasn't sure what kind of dog she wanted. A neighbor in our building in London had a Welsh Corgi that we all loved but my mom was thinking about a Yorkshire Terrier. When we moved from England to a house on Long Island the choice became easy. The family across the street had a wonderful Poodle who had puppies and Tuppence, who was always called Tuppy came to live with us. We all loved him but for some reason, my father became his favorite person.
 
LITTLE JOE THE MIGHTY WRANGLER
After our Budgie, Micki Finn died, we got another parakeet from a local bird shop and named him Mr. Peepers. He was sick so we took him back  to the store. Then an Air Force general that my father worked for gave us a Siamese kitten who was named Little Joe the Mighty Wrangler. JoJo quickly became my best friend. We set up a clothesline from one tree to another and attached a very long leash from it to his halter. I played outside a lot and had a 'town' under a huge poplar tree. He usually kept me company outside when I played. We had him for a few years when my father, who was in the Air Force, was reassigned to England. We couldn't take JoJo with us so he went to live with my grandmother in Iowa. I really missed him but luckily our flat neighbor in London had a Welsh corgi that I loved and took for walks in Hyde Park. Three years later, we returned and I wanted him to come and live with us again but he was so much a part of my grandmother's life that my father decided he would stay there. This is why it was so important to me  that our poodle Tuppy came to live with us! 
BOOTS
When we lived in Berekeley, CA when I was 4 or 5 we got our first pet, a cat we named Boots. He was mostly my brothers cat and I guess I preferred my doll who I named Sally Jr. I got my first experience with how cruel people could be when a neighbor poisoned Boots.
 
MY MOTHER'S CAT
This cat whose name I don't remember was still alive when I was a baby. I don't remember the cat but my mother used to talk about her and the fact that she used to snuggle in my crib with me and that I loved to play with her when I was a toddler. I guess she liked me but didn't like it when I pulled her tail.
 Sally's Parrot Friends
A LIFE WITH PARROTS
(Arranged with the most recent to way back to when I was a kid)
Over the years, I have had many birds come in and out of my life. Some were permanent as my avian companions, and others were birds that I rescued or were given to me to try and find them another home. I worked with these birds and got them to eat a better diet and then they went on to live with someone else. I did everything I could to make sure that they got the best home that I could find. Sometimes I only had one of them for a couple of months but with others, they lived with me for over a year. Besides the parrot-family companions shown below, these birds included a Blue-crowned conure, Patagonian conure, Chattering Lory, Blue-fronted Amazon, Red-lored Amazon, Moluccan cockatoo, a Hispaniolan Amazon, a Jamaican yellow-billed Amazon, lesser sulfur-crested cockatoo, two African greys, and a Red-fronted macaw. Over the years, I have had some birds for a very long time, while others that I rescued died because of the early dietary ignorance of their previous owners and/or serious health problems.
 
ROXI-ANNE
I found Roxi-anne in the same quality bird shop that I bought Twiggy. She was about 21 years old and an incredibly delightful bird. I had fallen in love with another Bare-eyed cockatoo a few years before, so I decided to bring Roxie-anne home with me. I had to work to get her on a better diet because she had been on a seed-only diet since she was a baby. Sometimes it just takes some perseverance and patience. Before long Roxi-anne was eating just about everything that my other parrots eat. About a year after she came to live with me, I heard a horrible shriek in the middle of the night. She was hanging off of the cage bars and her foot was backwards. I couldn't find a vet in the SF Bay Area who would treat her immediately so I drove her up to U.C Davis which has a premier veterinarian school and clinic. I had spoken there a couple of times so I knew a couple of vets there. They saw her immediately and determined that she didn't have a broken leg but had skewed the tendons, ligaments, and muscles in her leg. They did surgery to straighten the leg and put a pin in the bone. Because of the seed-only diet, the bone shattered and her leg had to be amputated. I had her for over ten years, and one morning I found her dead in the bottom of her cage. She had a heart attack. My belief is that the early seed-only diet and the severe malnutrition that it caused was ultimately the cause of her death. Despite the fact that I had converted her to a nutritious diet of fresh foods, it didn't make up for the nutritionally abusive seed-only diet that she had eaten for over two decades.

TWIGGY
A dozen or more years ago, I went into a bird shop in the East Bay and was talking to the owner. I happened to mention that years before, I had met a pair of Slender-billed conures that were a hoot. She said that there was one that was about 7 months old in the store but she had decided not to sell it because people just didn't understand its beak. The employees even called the bird "Icepick" which was not a good selling point. She said that she would sell the bird to me if I was interested. I had always been fascinated with these unusual birds so she came home with me. What a sweetheart with lots of energy and playfulness ... not a biter in anyway at all. Last year, I noticed that she was acting a little funky one morning so I took her to the vet. It was the day he did surgery so he would check in on her between surgeries. About 5 pm, he called me and said that she seemed better and I could bring her home and watch her carefully. I drove to his clinic. When he came into the room, he looked shocked and told me that Twiggy had just died. I was stunned. It turned out that she had aspirated. Over the years I have heard of this happening to several birds. It is always a shock because the birds were usually quite healthy when it happened. There is rarely any way to prevent this problem or to anticipate it happening. I adored Twiggy and her sudden death has been difficult to deal with. 

PASCAL
Pascal, who is now about 22, is the daughter of Paco and Rascal. In 1990 when my father was very ill, my two Amazons and my two Yellow-collared Macaws (see below) went to stay with a 'friend.' I had to spend a lot of time in southern California because my father was dying and I had to move my parents to a quality retirement village. Without my permission, she put a nest box in my Paco and Rascal, who had the same parents. They had one chick, who went to live with a family with 3 boys. When she was about 12 years old and the boys had left home, the parents wanted to travel and Pascal came back to live with me. Her favorite expression is "Nahoma Josann (sp?)" which is Chinese for 'Good morning, how are you?" Pascal is somewhat handicapped because she has spinal scoliosis but she has never let it change her behavior. She is a really sweet parrot.


WHOODEE
A year of so after Bongo Marie died, I adopted an African grey from a rescue organization. I was told that he was 3 years old and had already lived in 5 different places because of his aggression. When he came to me, his favorite expression, which was said with great enthusiasm, was "Whoodee Do!" Because of this I named him Whoodee. When he first arrived, I let him out of the carrier into his cage that was completely set up. I sat next to the cage, lowered my energy, and hummed quietly without making eye contact with him. After about an hour, I placed my hand gently against his belly. I still didn't make direct eye contact. He reached down and clamped down on my finger with his beak. It was not a bite and I left my hand there. I could see his energy change and he stepped up on my hand. From that point on, he has not been aggressive with me. The only time he has bitten me in over 10 years was when I was in a hurry and made the mistake of putting Spike in his cage. I immediately realized my mistake but he had to let me know how unhappy he was to have the "brat boy" in his home. Whoodee is not a good talker but loves to make household sounds that keep me confused. He is also a very sweet bird who has never lived up to his reputation of being 'aggressive.'

SPIKEY LE BEC
Spike is probably the most famous Caique in the world. He came to live with me when he was about 10 months old way back in 1989. He was my side-kick who traveled all over the country with me and shared my podium at seminars and conventions. He has his own page with lots more information
PETEY
Shortly after I moved back to California, a woman called me and told me that she needed to find a new home for her grey-cheeked parrot immediately because her husband had threatened to kill the bird. He came to live with me the next day. He was a lot of fun to have around but his vocalizations were pretty loud. I didn't intend on keeping him but over a period of more than two years I found him three new homes. I clearly explained to each person that he was loud and I also told them that if he didn't work out, I would take him back. He came back each time but finally the fourth time, I found him a home where the noise didn't matter and they adored him. I had again told them that if they couldn't keep him, they could give him back to me. They put his photo on the Christmas card I received for several years. Yeah! He had been with me long enough that I really missed him.

GYPSY
Some time in the late 1970s, I walked into a local bird shop that rarely did the research they needed to do to take proper care of their more unusual birds. There were two wild-caught Lories on a sunflower seed diet with occasional honey mixed with milk. Even I knew back then that this was a death diet. One of the birds was a Chattering Lory that I was not able to tame (more information in the Parrot Species Profiles) and I found a breeder who was interested in setting up Lory pairs. The other was a Red (or Moluccan Lory) that I named Gypsy. It didn't take very long to get her on a good diet and tame her down. She was a really fun bird to have. Click here for a great story about Gypsy. We had a favorite game. I would take a bowl of poker chips and put it on the floor and then Gypsy and I would throw them all over the living room. Then I told her to put them back and she would hop all over the floor and put them back in the bowl by color. When I moved back to California, I was going to live in a much smaller house so I found homes for a couple of birds that I knew were going to great homes. A friend of mine adored Gypsy and she went to live with him. 

BOJO AND JOBO
One day in about 1980, I went into the local bird shop for some seed and walked out with a wild-caught Yellow-collared macaw. I named her Bojo and she tamed down in very short time. She was one of the sweetest birds I have ever met and learned to say several words in the cutest voice imaginable. One afternoon, I appeared on live television with Bojo hanging off of my blouse. It was only as I looked at the monitor that I realize that she was in the process of undoing all of the buttons on my blouse. The camera person realized this and immediately switched to a head shot. I had a friend who fell in love with Bojo and bought another Yellow-color in the same bird shop and named him Jobo. She thought she would immediately have another macaw just as sweet as Bojo but it wasn't happening. She ended up giving Jobo to me and I was able to tame him but he was never as sweet as Bojo. About five years after I moved back to California, my father became very ill and I had to spend a lot of time in southern California. The two yellow-collars went to stay with a 'friend' because I was gone so much. She was setting up birds to breed and made the serious mistake of putting a newly purchased Wagler's conure in the same room with my birds. The conure was a Pacheco's carrier and my two macaws died a horrible death because of the ignorance of this woman. I will never forgive the vet she took them to for telling her that one of my macaws probably broke with the disease because of stress as if it could not possibly have anything to do with the "elephant in the room" - the imported conure that was clearly a Pacheco's carrier. The two macaws had lived with me for over a decade and were very healthy, well-cared for and well-loved birds. I have never understood why these wonderful birds were not more popular.

RASCAL
Paco and Rascal lived together for many years but remained tame to me. However, before I moved from California to Colorado, they weren't getting along that well and I began to worry about their mutual aggression. About that time, my friend Shari Beaudoin's son Troy lost his companion Pionus. Shari was visiting and we decided to let her take Rascal home and see if he would be happy as Troy's new best buddy. The answer was yes. In fact with the one on one attention from Troy, Rascal has 'blossomed' in his new home even though he is a few years older than Troy! I was glad to find him a really good home with a dedicated bird lover a lot younger than I am.

TUFFY
Some people have told me that I overdo warnings about supervising parrots if they are out of their cage. There is a reason for this. When my wonderful little Tuffy was about 2 1/2 hears old, she was out with me in the kitchen. I got a call and ran into the other room to get some information for the caller. While I was gone for what seemed like a heartbeat, Tuffy grabbed a chalk pencil I used to write on a small blackboard. It was an artist's pencil that had cadmium in the color. I rushed her to a man who called himself a bird vet. He didn't even know to flush her crop and she died because of the toxicity in the pencil. Parrots are so curious and this type of thing can happen so fast. Over thirty years later I still blame myself.

BONGO MARIE
I could write a book about this remarkable African grey and my life with her. In fact I did: Grey Matter: The World According to Bongo Marie. She came to live with me in 1976 as very sick, terrified bird with an unknown history. She was so sick she was not expected to live but live she did. It took patience and time to win her trust but when I did, she became the most exceptional companion parrot I have ever had or have ever known. Her vocabulary and cognition was incredible. There are many references to her throughout the website and I have written about her often. The most famous story about her was actually printed in Time Magazine. Bongo Marie was one funky little bird who kept me entertained for close to 25 years and I am honored to have had her in my life for that long. She was the "light of my life". 

PACO, TUFFY AND RASCAL
The year after Paco came to live with me, her parents (Charo and Chongo) had another baby and Tuffy came to live with me. She was also a delight and I got her at a younger age and hand-fed her. She said her first word (Hello) when she was under 2 months and she kept learning to talk.  It was so much fun having two Amazons that the next year when Charo and Chongo had another clutch, Rascal came to live with me. I also hand-fed him. It was an incredible experience to have these three Amazon youngsters in my life. We played silly games together and danced with each other. I would line the three birds up on the bed and they would race across the bed to get treats from me.

PACO
I met Bill and Wilma Fisher in Wichita because he was a fellow wood carver. They were setting up Amazons to breed and in 1976, their first baby was hatched and the baby came to live with me when she was almost 5 months old. They believed in quality early socialization and gradual weaning to a nutritious varied diet. Paco was and still is a delightful Double yellow-headed Amazon who has lived with me for all of these years.
The only problem the two of us have is that she is a morning person and I am a night person so I have to cover her cage. She loved it when I had the Laughing Parrot Gallery (named because she loves to laugh) and she could socialize with all of the people who came in to visit. She loved to talk to all the people and to laugh at everyone's stories and jokes. She really misses that!
ERIC
By the time Eric, the wild-caught parrotlet, came to live with me in the late 1970s, I had tamed a half a dozen or so wild-caught Amazon Parrots. I thought this adorable little guy would be easy to tame. He was one tough little bird and although I did get him to sit on my hand, he was always a pugnacious little snot who didn't particularly like being with me. He eventually went to a friend who was trying to set parrotlets up for breeding. They were not easy to find where I lived but we did have one bird shop that specialized in the parrot-family birds that were more difficult to find. Eric was named after a young friend of mine who loved to visit with my parrots.
CHIQUITIN
My wild-caught Lilac-crowned Amazson, Chiqui, also came from my friends because he was an extra bird and they couldn't find him a mate. I was able to tame him down so he was an absolutely delightful bird. When I moved back to California, I knew I had too many birds for the small  house I would be moving to. I had friends who really loved Chiqui, so he went to live with them ... a decision I always have regretted because he had a spunky personality and I missed him a lot. For part of the time I had Chiqui, Payaso lived with me and they had no trouble hanging out together.

PAYASO
Payaso was my first large parrot. Friends of mine who were setting up Amazons for breeding decided he was an extra male and sold him to me in 1976. He was a wild-caught bird and I did train him to step on my hand and sit with me on my arm but he never really seemed happy to me. One day, "he" laid an egg in my lap. I knew that my friends were still looking for hens, so I called them and asked them if they wanted the bird back. They said they didn't need anymore males and I asked them, "How about a male who lays eggs?" She went back to them as a down payment for their first baby, Paco.
 
CHARLEY
My little Peach-faced lovebird was a sad lesson learned way too late. I had an adorable baby lovebird that I called Charley. He loved to hang out in my blouse while I watched television. This was way back in the mid 1970s and we didn't know anything about how horrible the Mexican cages were as far as lead content was concerned. Charley got sick and there were no real bird veterinarians in my area. He died and it took me several years to realize that it was because lead toxicity in the metal in his decorative cage. 
 
 CRAYOLA,
PEARLIE & ROSIE

Rosie was my talented talking cockatiel. The best story about him is The Ladies Man. He also loved to whistle dance to the William Tell Overture. Pearlie was given to me and I eventually found her a new home. Another difficult lesson was learned when Rosie and Crayola died suddenly. This was before we understood how burning something in a Teflon pan could be toxic enough to kill beloved birds.We know a lot more about birds now than we knew then. Sometimes we had to learn the hard way...

HERBIE
After I had been married for a few years, I really wanted to get another bird. I wanted a parrot but my husband made it pretty clear that was not going to happen, so we got a little blue Budgie. I named him Herbie; this was during the time I named several pets after presidents so he was Herbird Hoover. This was a difficult time in my life and when I left my husband, he wanted Herbie to stay with him and my poodle, Chester came with me.
TIPPY & MY FATHER
We finally got another Budgie when I was in college. I was still living at home and Tippy (we had him at the same time we had Tuppy, the poodle) helped me with my homework by trying to eat my words off of the page just as Mickey had done years before. I also taught him to talk and he had a decent vocabulary. One day we heard the words, "pretty bird" coming down the living room chimney. Tippy had taught out local Mockingbird to say, "Pretty bird."  When I left for college, Tippy stayed with my parents who had him for several more years.

POPPY & MY GRANDMOTHER
After my grandmother met Mickey Finn, she went home and got a Budgie she named Poppy, then another and another ... She lived in a small upstairs apartment in a building my aunt and uncle owned. There was a ledge about 6" wide about a foot from the ceiling. She had no cages and that was where her Budgies lived. I think most of the family thought she was a little off for having all these birds flying around her apartment but I loved to visit with the colorful bird buzzing all around my head!

MICKEY FINN
When I was in the 4th grade, my father decided that we could get a pet and he brought home an adorable young yellow Budgie. He named him Mickey Finn. The bird became my best friend. He helped me with my homework by trying to eat the words as I wrote them down in my notebook. I taught him to talk and he became quite a little conversationalist. One day when my grandmother was visiting, she walked out the door with him on her shoulder. Instead of flying away, he exclaimed, "Shut the door stupid, the bird's out!" He had heard my father say that dozens of times to my brother and I. Mickey only lived a few years because we knew nothing about how to care for him and my father shared his evening cocktails with the little guy.  It broke my heart when my little buddy died. For more information about Mickey, click here. I loved outdoor birds too and my father painted the above portrait of me with Mickey. I don't have a photo of me with Micky but I found one of him with my brother Roger. My brother was jealous because Mickey learned about everything I taught him and didn't learn anything my brother tried to teach him. 
 
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