Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Emma Comes Home

First twenty-four hours post-op and all is well. I feel like someone has punched me in the belly and I an very tired (took a couple of naps today), but no nausea, Yeah, I think the operation was a success. I am very impressed at the overall lack of pain. Of course after a complete hysterectomy and total knee replacement, I feel that I am an expert in pain. Both of those surgeries were so painful that my mind has blocked the memory…a good thing, otherwise I would never have surgery of any type again-LOL.

Shirley, my BFF, brought over Miss Emma, the baby Bourke’s parakeet, she is giving us in exchange for Lenny (formerly Roxie…that’s another story). We have Emma’s aunt, Jinxie, at the clinic now, so they will be able to keep each other company. I will use my recovery time to try and tame Emma a bit before taking her to the clinic. She was raised by her parents and is basically wild.

Bourke’s are wonderful little birds. They are beautiful and lovely fliers. They don’t talk, but make the most adorable chirps and cheeps. They are easily tamed and make wonderful companions. On Shirley’s website, you can find everything you ever wanted to know about Bourke’s. But be forewarned! They’re just like potato chips: you can’t stop at just one-LOL!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Well, it’s over, my gall bladder is out and I'm back home. It was definitely outpatient surgery; I can’t believe how fast everything went. Of course, I WAS asleep most for most of the morning ;>) Dave took me down to St. Vincent’s Hospital; we arrived at 5:30.

I really didn’t have time to be nervous until last night. NOW I’m nervous. My prep nurse is very nice and when my surgeon steps in to say hi, I relax a bit. But when the anesthesiologist comes in to discuss what he will be doing, I ask him what drugs he will use. He goes into defensive doctor-speak when he finds out I'm an animal doc, so that revs me up a bit. But all goes well and the next thing I know, I am in recovery and getting ready to vomit..anesthesia usually has that effect on me. An anti-nausea injection and I'm good.

A short while later, I am wheeled back to my little cubicle (no formal rooms for outpatient surgeries), and Ray comes strolling in-he has taken over from Dave. After a couple of hours, a Sprite and some crackers, I am dressed and being wheeled to the door. Back home, into my own bed by 2:00. My nurses were even amazed at how well I did! No surprise to me. I knew I had all those prayer warriors at work and the good Lord is always very good to me. Why should today be any different ;>)

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Last Hurrah

I have just went through the worst gall bladder attack yet. It started at about 4:00 this morning and the pain went on and on and on….not slacking off until about 9:00 a.m. I don’t know how people suffer through these attacks daily, and some do! They leave me weak and nauseaous for a day or two.

I have to fast after midnight for surgery tomorrow. That won’t be a problem-I’m not hungry for hours after my gall baldder flares up. I wish I was going under the knife right now. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired ;>)

As if that is not enough, I had to go to the dentist this afternoon. Evidently my tooth problem is a gigantic cavity. My dentist filled it and is confident it will be OK. I’m not so sure. My teeth rebel against me: they chip and break with the least provocation, crowns fall off, my partials get loose and whatever other dental misfortunes can happen, do. I have the dentist’s phone number on speed dial, although it’s unnecessary, as I have it memorized. His receptionist recognizes my voice and we are all on a first-name basis. When I go into his office, it’s like a family reunion. How long does one hang onto their teeth? I keep thinking that it would be much easier, less painful and much less expensive just to get the few teeth I have left yanked and then get dentures.

I just hope the anesthesiologist doesn’t knock out my new filling tomorrow!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Now What?

I am trying to get everything in order before surgery Tuesday. We had our Rite of Invitation at the 8:00 Mass this morning for the children who will receive First Holy Communion next Sunday. I think I have it all in order. I ran into a small snafu when I couldn’t get any volunteers to host the reception after the liturgy next weekend. I waited too long before asking, but some of these details escape me. Fortunately, I was able to prevail upon one of my staff, Sara (also a parishioner) and her family to help. I can always count on Sara when I need someone to do a last-minute job ;>)

I am gonna have to see the dentist tomorrow. I noticed that one of my upper molars has felt a little “funny”, a little rough, for several weeks now. This evening while eating supper, it really started to ache and the tooth beside it was tender when I pushed on it. After I finished eating, I got a mirror and a penlight and did a little dental self-exam. Yikes! There is a HUGE crater in that tooth! What now? Did a filling fall out? Did I crack it and break off a piece of the tooth?! Oh no, that thing is so enormous, it looks like the tooth needs crowned, which means a probable root canal. This is just what I need right before surgery-NOT!!! Think positive, Doc, maybe it won’t be that bad…

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Saturday for Strays

“No good deed goes unpunished” I told the lady standing at the door of the clinic today. The clinic is closed on the weekends; I had stopped in Saturday afternoon to get some forms printed out for church. As I sat in my office, at the computer, I thought I heard a muted “tap, tap, tap”. I listened, there it was again. I was alone, it was late afternoon and I had no one to help me. Due to my physical disability, I was hesitant to answer the door, yet the noise persisted.

I decided to go see who was tap, tap, tapping at my door. As I rounded the corner, I saw a lady walking down the front steps. I looked down and there was a box, covered with a towel, on the stoop! I knew that meant something dead or alive. So I unlocked the door, just as the lady was driving away. Angry that another person had just dumped an animal at the clinic (not an unusual incident), I hollered “Hey, come back here!” I was surprised when she did.

I peeked under the towel as she got out of her car. There were three newborn kittens; two dead and stiff and one, nearly dead, barely moving. I listened to her long story of a stray cat who disappeared after having these kittens under the neighbor's porch. I then explained to the lady the various options available to us. Everything I suggested was met with “I can’t do that because…” And of course, there was no money to pay for anything. The lady kept saying “I was only trying to do the right thing” when I answered her with the above statement.

Frustrated and tired, I looked into the box and knew I had to take care of this poor creature, so I told her I would put him to sleep and pay for the cremation myself. I realized that the above statement about good deeds applied to myself. My husband had just given me the “no more charity, the clinic has to make money” lecture last week, one of his favorites. Oh, well, what can a poor animal doc do?

Friday, April 25, 2008

First Communion Practice

Last night was the first practice for the second-grade in our parish religious education program (PRE) here at Sacred Heart. This is the first class that I have not personally taught. I had to downsize myself last year…too many projects, not enough Doc ;>)

I wondered how well this group would do since I didn’t know them well. In the past seven years that I have taught, I always knew who was shy, who was rowdy, who liked to read, who spoke in a nearly silent whisper, so I usually had a good idea of how to set the children up for the various roles in the First Communion liturgy. This time, I was a bit perplexed: how do I figure this one out?

And, of course, I had forgotten. I am not the one running the show! When I remembered that, I prayed to the Holy Spirit and everything fell into place. This always gives me a sense of relief and freedom. Although I still run around trying to remember all the details, I ask our Lord to help me do those things that really need to be done and leave the rest ;>)

The children were wonderful; a bit giggly and awkward, but nothing unusual. I was amazed at how well our practice went…although I don’t know why I was surprised. Everything God does turns to His Good, alleluia!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Titillating Thursday

The fun just never ends. Ray called me from work last night about 10:00 and asked me if I found the insurance letter. What insurance letter? We get all our mail at the clinic and I never saw a letter from the insurance company. Evidently they sent it to the home address and it was delivered to Mom and Dave next door. Dave had given it to Ray earlier in the day and Ray had laid it on the computer desk.

I went to get the letter and about fainted when I read it. Our home-owner’s policy was canceled, effective May 5, because we lived too far from the fire department. What kind of craziness was this? Was this a reaction to the fire claim we had ten years ago? Surely not!?! And, of course, I couldn’t reach anyone at that time of night, so I left a message. I got on the phone as soon as I was free this morning and got it all straightened out. Our agent was rewriting the policy to get us a lower premium and she had been working on this problem for the past couple of weeks. So everything is under control..sort of…I think… better be!

A word of advice on insurance: ALWAYS get replacement cost coverage. Because our insurance agent was a friend, I trusted him completely when he wrote the policy and told me he would take care of us. And he did, we did have replacement cost coverage. When we had the fire, it destroyed almost everything in the bedroom, where the fire started, and the smoke damage was unbelievable throughout the rest of the house. Most of what had to be replaced was old and worth little. Without proper insurance, we never would have been able to replace everything. Of course, we did lose some things that money can’t buy and it was a very traumatic experience for all of us.

Never leave a burning candle unattended, even if you are only in the next room. That’s what started the fire and I have not burned a candle since! My brother Dave affectionately nick-named me Her Royal Majesty, the Fire Queen, commonly referred to as HRM, FQ. Close friends still call me “Queenie”.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wacky Wednesday

Here we go again....just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water. I got a call at work today from my surgeon's office that they forgot to do blood work in the pre-op testing that I underwent on Monday. So I need to go to the hospital after work to get blood drawn. No problem, right?

The lab closes at 6:00, so I knew it would be a close call when I left at 5:15. I got to the hospital at 5:30 and had to wait fifteen minutes to register. As the clerk rolled her eyes at me when I told her why I was there, I felt my blood pressure start to rise. I took a deep breath and asked her to call down to the lab to alert them I was coming, and she did. I got to the lab as fast as I could and the phlebotomist had me in the chair, blood drawn, and out the door before you could say “Venipuncture”. I never even got to make my standard quips: “You won’t have to shave the hair to find my vein” or “I won’t bite or scratch” or “if I can get blood out of a two pound kitten or a 90 gram cockatiel, you shouldn’t have any problem”. The last one I save for the techs I know; I don’t want to antagonize anyone poking a needle in my arm! One more thing crossed-off the list before S-Day next Tuesday. Only a zillion more to go....

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Outta Control Tuesday

Another day, another dollar. Another dollar owed, that is. It wasn't bad enough that I had to dip into Merlin's college fund to pay Uncle Sam last week. I open my cell phone bill today and nearly had a stroke when I saw it was almost $400! Wow, what happened there?

My basic plan is kinda salty anyway, but nothing close to that much. I did just add my husband to the plan, but he forgets to carry his cell, let alone talk on it (he's the strong, silent type). He also has a wireless data card that's on the account. And my brother is on the same plan, but he pretty much uses night/weekend minutes.

I simply did not have time to scrutinize the bill, so I asked my Number Two, Jill, the cellie authority, to translate it for me. You need a degree in accounting to figure these things out, but Jill quickly got to the root of the problem. There were two primary contributing factors:

1. About 700 of my rollover minutes expired.

2. I used over 1000 minutes myself. Yikes! I didn't realize I was such a jabber-jaws! All this time I thought it was all these people calling me that wouldn't shut up ;>))

Jill also pointed out that the 700 minutes plan I had was NOT enough for three people. We called AT&T to see what we could do. I signed up for an additional 700 minutes monthly, and they graciously made it retroactive, which took $150 off this bill. Yeah!!

The only problem is that I only have 250 minutes left to use until May 11. So if you don't hear from me, just wait till the weekends!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Monday, Monday

The day dawned gloriously in a gray haze of overcast clouds and fog. As I hurriedly dressed and did my morning chores, I kept one eye on the clock. I had a 10:00 appointment with the surgeon and a forty-minute drive to his office. Dogs barking to go out, cats running between my legs, meowing for breakfast, Merlin calling "Pretty Bird" and Shelby yelling "Trevor" (translated, that means "come here, NOW!"), it was all a typical morning at the zoo.

I managed to feed them all, get dogs out and in, birds settled and myself dressed and on the way at 9:05. I tried to open the door to the van-oops! Locked the keys inside. I shook my head and reached into my purse, pulling out the spare key, put it in the lock, nothing. Now my blood pressure started to rise! I ran back inside, got my husband, who looked at the spare key I had and told me it was the wrong one. He got his spare key and opened the door to the van for me. Whew, 9:15, now I am on my way, but I still have plenty of time.

I'm driving along, talking to the clinic and giving them instructions for the day, when traffic comes to a screeching halt. Oh, no! Road construction! Ten minutes later, I'm on my way again. Surprisingly enough, I am only a few minutes late for my appointment.

Now I get the good news. This gallstone thing is more serious than I thought, the surgeon wants to remove my gallbladder sooner, rather than later, and, after the last month, so do I. I am tired of the pain and nausea that seems to be getting worse. So I am scheduled for gall bladder removal on April 29! Wheeee.

I get all my pre-op testing and pre-certification finished. By this time it is 1:00, the time I had scheduled to have my hair done. I get out of the hospital a little after 1:00 and call my hairdresser. She tells me to come ahead, she will work me in. On the way there, I start making the phone calls needed to rearrange my schedule for surgery next week. I finally get to my hairdresser's, and she does my hair as we discuss and resolve our life problems. She begins drying my hair and I fall asleep, still talking.

Done with hair, I return home, to begin the cycle of menagerie management all over again. All in the day of an animal repairwoman.....

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Tribute to Lexie

Lexie Mervar died last night. Lexie was an eleven year old Siberian Husky who belonged to my cousin, Michelle, and her husband, Bob. Lexie was a truly beautiful dog, a loving companion, with an indomitable spirit and a joy for life that inspired all who had the privilege to know her.

Twelve years ago, Michelle and Bob lost their only child, Sean, in a tragic car accident. They are devout and faithful Christians;their faith never wavered. They knew God's grace carried them, even in this terrible tragedy. Never having had children, I cannot begin to imagine the awful, unbearable grief of losing a child. Bob and Michelle never complained, living bravely on in their devastation.

I only knew later what I had suspected, that they suffered terribly. Michelle told me, more than once, how Lexie had saved her life after Sean died. I met Lexie as an exuberant puppy, a bouncing ball of fur and joy and life. What had Bob and Michelle gotten themselves into? I wondered how my cousin, always immaculate and precise in appearance,housekeeping and her life, was going to cope with this puppy who would chew, soil and shed all over, all the while running rings around her people. But Lexie was exactly what was needed: God sent Lexie to Bob and Michelle to help them begin healing and He sent them to Lexie to take care of her, for Lexie proved to be a special needs dog.

Lexie grew and thrived; I saw the smile return to my cousin's eyes. I saw Michelle more frequently since she made that hour drive to bring Lexie to my clinic for puppy vaccinations. However, when Lexie was just a couple of years old, she injured her knee and had to undergo surgery for repair. The hair that was shaved for surgery never regrew and after several months, Lexie began losing more hair. We did skin tests, blood tests, cultures and biopsies. I consulted veterinary dermatologists. Michelle took Lexie to a veterinarian who tried homeopathic remedies. Hair continued to fall out.

The hair never regrew, except in odd tufts and fuzzballs. Lexie sure didn't care, she bounced into the clinic, with that gleam in her eye, barking joyously, announcing her presence. Michelle loved Lexie just as much, maybe even more, in spite of her appearance, although I know she would have dearly wanted to see Lexie again with that gorgeous full coat she had as a youngster.

Last fall, Lexie became suddenly ill as a result of an autoimmune disease which destroyed her red blood cells. We thought we would lose her, but she rallied, and began to recover. She had to take massive amounts of cortisone to counteract the disease. A few months later her blood sugar levels began to climb and, in spite of dietary intervention, Lexie developed full-blown diabetes. We started Lexie on insulin a couple of months ago and, once again, she responded well. Bob and Michelle, always the ideal clients, followed instructions meticulously and when I last saw Lexie ten days ago, she had that gleam back in her eye and barked enthusiastically for her treats at the clinic. I spoke with Michelle just a couple of days ago to review Lexie's care, and everything seemed to be going very well.

Until I received the call last night. Michelle crying on the phone, Lexie yelping in the background, so I knew it was bad. Lexie was having seizures. What to do? I knew that Bob and Michelle would not want to leave Lexie at an emergency center and I wasn't sure how much they would be able to help. We had talked previously about how much we would put Lexie through in another crisis. But they were so far away from me! We thought it was probably time to make that final decision. I told them to load her in the car and bring her up.

Michelle called about forty-five minutes later and told me she thought Lexie was gone, she couldn't find a pulse and she couldn't see her breathe, but they wanted me to check, just to be sure. I met them at the clinic and when they laid her on the table, I knew that it was all over. There was nothing in those once-bright eyes and, although the body was still warm, the life had gone. Lexie's spirit had left and all we had were the memories of her love and joy in life.

Do dogs go to heaven? I don't know, that is not for me to know. What I do know is this: God is love, and he who abides in love, abides in God. Lexie was God's creation, just like you and me, and Lexie was all about love. So I know that she is with God and that is where we all hope to be someday.

Good-bye, good and faithful dog! Till we meet again.....

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Can You Hear God?

God speaks to me. God speaks to all of us. Can you hear Him? Elijah heard Him; not in the loud, rushing wind, not in the crashing thunder, but in the still, small whisper. It is the same for us.

We are so busy, there is so much noise and distraction that we don't hear God speaking to us. How can we hear that still, small voice when the cell phones ring, the car horns honk, the radio is plays, the TV blares, the kids scream, the animals bark and squawk? Can we ever stop talking ourselves? Can we possibly bear the silence long enough to listen?

I see God. I see Him in the eyes of the old dog I just euthanized. I see God in the birds, flying and singing outside and in my parrots' joyful noise as they engage in their rowdy antics. I spotted God today in the beautiful daffodils blooming in the yard. I see Him in the sun and the rain and the snow. Do we look for God? Or are we so focused on ourselves and what we need to do and where we need to go, that we never open our eyes?

I love God. I love Him In His Son, dying for my salvation. I love Him in my employees nagging me to answer a question. I love Him in my aged mother, telling me the same thing for the third time in the past thirty minutes. I love God in animals and children and all creation. Do we love things more than the One who created them? Do we look for God in ourselves and each other and love Him there?

God bless each one of you today!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Where Did the Time Go?

There just are not enough hours in the day! And just when I finish one project, put my feet up and breathe a sigh of relief, I remember the next one is just around the corner. I sign on for something else when someone from church calls and then I get an e-mail asking for my help. I hate to turn anyone down, but I simply cannot figure out when there is time for anything else!

I used to really stress about deadlines and every little detail, but not anymore. Sure, I'm concerned that I might forget something important, but, you know what? Most mistakes and forgotten details don't kill anyone and I am always surprised at how many people don't even realize things were not quite right.

How do I do this? You may not believe me, but every morning when I wake up, I ask God to help me get those things done that really need done that day. And you know what? God ALWAYS comes through! When I start thinking that it is all MY work and that I am doing everything by myself, then things go wrong. But when I "let go and let God", the work gets done. And I still have time at the end of the day to cuddle the birds. God has truly blessed me; "my cup overflows"!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI is visiting the United States this week. We are so very blessed to have such a faithful and spiritual leader and it is deeply moving to see him in our country. It is difficult to believe such a vibrant and active man as the Pope is 81 years old! I would love to meet him, of course, but since that is not possible, I am delighted to simply watch the television, read the papers and surf the net. The coverage of Pope Benedict's visit has been superb; here is a good site:

Catholic Radio Indy

As a "cradle" Catholic, born, raised and renewed in my faith, I have a profound love and respect for my spiritual fathers. Including my pastor, my bishop,and my pope, I may not agree or like everything they say and do, but I believe they have dedicated their lives to guide me to my salvation. They direct me to the Father through their prayer, teaching and example. I know God has blessed me greatly by putting such holy men in my life.

Pope Benedict truly embraces his responsibility as shepherd, not only of Catholics, but of all God's people. Whether you are Catholic or don't even believe in God, believe in the sincere efforts of this holy man to bring God's love and peace to the world.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Up and Down

Today was one of those days. I started with a bang at work, seeing some rechecks on behavior consults. My patients are gradually improving and their caregivers are learning some new ways of dealing with their birds. Yeah! I am so happy to see birds responding well to some intervention strategies. As I have previously promoted, positive reinforcement is the ONLY way to work with animals, children and each other. It is so much more fun and the benefits are compounded with each positive interaction that occurs. I cannot think of one single time I would NOT want to use positive reinforcement! We can change circumstances, environment and interactions to set our birds up for success. We can substitute desired behaviors for undesirable ones. We develop our bond of trust and respect with each other. Positive reinforcement is always a win/win situation,

So my day was going great until my last appointment. Again, one of my favorite clients and patients was in to see me. I knew it was going to be bad when I walked into the exam room and my client was crying. Her dog was in bad shape. Max had a hard life; he had a myriad of health problems that his mom faithfully treated. However, his body was failing more and more. Max was extremely shy and still would not look at me, even after all the years I had taken care of him. In the past year, he had finally gotten so that he would let me lightly stroke his head as he passed by; his mom called that "doing a drive-by".

Max had lost weight and had a suspicious swelling in his abdomen-was it cancer? I don't know, but I do know that, even if it wasn't cancer, it was something bad. We discussed our options and finally came to the conclusion that it would be best for Max to euthanize him ;>(

It is always hard to do, but it IS the final way I can help my patients. After 33 years, it doesn't get any easier, though. I will miss seeing Max and trying to sneak a pet as he did his "drive-by".

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why Pay Taxes

Death and taxes, the two things none of us can escape. I had some very unpleasant news today: we owed the government a huge amount. Wow, what a surprise! I thought we would at least break even or owe a little, but never expected anything like this. When my tax person called to deliver the news, I was dismayed. We went over the entire return, looking at items, line by line, but no relief. Yep, we had to write a BIG check to the IRS.

I really don't mind paying taxes, but I wish more of each dollar went to education and helping those in need. I know people do take advantage, but we are our brother's keeper and most of us have lots more than we will ever need. Just look at all the stores and malls, our constant need to shop, spend and acquire more, more, more. So much that sometimes we have to rent space to keep it all. How much stuff does one person need?

God has given us everything and we not only have the responsibility to care for it, but we also have the duty to share it. This site is an excellent reference for charities; it gives you all the information and details about charitable organizations, how the donated money is spent, if they actually do what they say. Check out your favorite charity and make a donation if they are reputable. If we all donate whatever we can afford, a little or a lot, to one charity, we would all take one step closer to our loving Creator.

Monday, April 14, 2008


I am trying to catch up from the weekend. I was hardly home to see Ray and the menagerie since I was at the seminar. I have to take a break and recoup my physical energy, so I stayed home most of the day.

I don't know what happens in middle age, but I seemed to get my second wind. I am doing more in the past ten years than my entire previous life. Although my physical body is getting weaker and failing, it seems my mental and psychological capacities are stimulating me to continue growing and learning. And what fun I am having!

I am much happier and more content with life. Daily crises seldom last past the day, if that. Life is too short, I now realize, to worry about mundane setbacks, upheavals, disappointments and disagreements. Sure, things and people still get to me, but, now, I let go a lot more easily. I am still a control freak and know that I know best. However, I also know it is not the end of the world if I don't get my way. And I have learned that, much to my chagrin, I don't know everything and that is OK, too!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Merlin the Star

If yesterday was fantastic, today was indescribable. I spoke about the avian wellness exam; I brought Merlin to be my "patient" as I demonstrated the exam. Knowing Merlin as I do, I felt a bit of anxiety. Merlin is definitely a bird with a mind of his own and that is what I love about him. However, this does make him a bit unpredictable at times and I wasn't looking forward to some unexpected craziness in front of an audience.

Well, I reckoned without the professionalism of a true star. Merlin was the most perfectly behaved Moluccan cockatoo I have ever seen. I could hardly keep my jaw from dropping! Merlin did get a tad loud initially, so I kept him in his carrier, except for potty breaks every thirty minutes. We were the last to present and Merlin was as quiet as a mouse in his carrier for over two hours.

When I did get him out, Merlin sat quietly on the back of a chair, not making a peep. When I asked him for his patented "Be a Cockatoo", Merlin deafened us with his screams. What a performer! I demonstrated putting a harness on Merlin and it took me several tries to get it right-even though we had practiced at home. Merlin sat patiently through it all and tolerated all my fumbling and ignorance; he was a poster child for the bond of trust that develops in a relationship built on positive reinforcement.

You can find pictures of the seminar here:
An Avian Adventure in Indy

to my buddy, the best cockatoo in the world!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bird Seminar

What a fantastic day! The presentations today at our Beyond Birdie Basics seminar were very interesting and educational, with all the latest information about parrot welfare, husbandry, nutrition and behavior. We had about 25 people, a great turnout for this event, the first of its kind here in central Indiana.

The folks at The Gabriel Foundation do a phenomenal job with education. They travel all over the country and present these seminars to companion parrot caregivers. I wish more people would take advantage of these opportunities; it would make my job a lot easier and, more importantly, it would make parrots' lives happier and healthier!

I have long understood that the problems with dog and cat overpopulation stem from ignorance and apathy. There are too many dogs and cats and not enough homes; that is why animal shelters all over the country are full. Ten years ago, when I first became involved with parrots, I immediately recognized the same circumstances: too many parrots, not enough homes. With one huge difference: dogs and cats live 10-15 years and many parrots live 20, 30, even 60 or more years. How can we possibly care for all these wonderful birds for that long?

The Gabriel Foundation is addressing that problem. They keep their heads down and keep battling that uphill fight. Please contribute to their efforts!

Friday, April 11, 2008


This weekend is the "Avian Adventure" seminar, sponsored by The Gabriel Foundation. I have a lot of respect for TGF's rescue work with parrots , their dedication to the welfare of parrots and education of parrot caregivers.

I will be giving a small presentation on Sunday. I have been putting the finishing touches on it this morning, so I can practice later. It will be a small group, so we will have fun with questions and discussion.

Merlin gets to go and help me out, so he has to get ready, too. He is going to the clinic a little later for a "soap bath". I put a couple of drops of Ivory or Dawn dish soap into a sixteen ounce cup of water, then use that dilute solution to bathe Merlin. I do this no more often than every one-two months. Merlin gets plain water baths once or twice a week. A little soap is occasionally necessary because he is handled and petted so much. The oil from our hands soils Merlin's feathers and that oil needs to be removed to keep his feathers healthy.

Merlin isn't crazy about his bath, but he tolerates it well. We put him in the stainless steel tub we use for bathing pets at the clinic; then we proceed to hose him down ;>) Merlin flaps and runs from one end of the tub to the other as we spray him. Afterwards is OUR favorite part of bath-time, as Merlin snuggles into his towel and cuddles with us. Ah, there is nothing like a clean cockatoo!

Thursday, April 10, 2008


I have been called weak, gullible, naive and a "Pollyanna" The good Lord has blessed me with an optimistic nature. Failures and obstacles, sadness and tragedy, illness and pain, sorrow and loss, are all temporary events in the joy that I find in daily life.

That doesn't mean that I am unchanged by these things or that I refuse to face the reality of life. It simply means that I am blessed to be able to accept the grace that God gives me to find the Good in every day.

I also try to look for the Good in others and give them the benefit of the doubt,rather than think they are bad or evil. Despite their actions, maybe their motives are pure, maybe they are just being self-centered and thoughtless, maybe their day is filled with trouble. And sometimes, people are just plain mean-spirited and do evil things. But I do not have to respond in kind, which is very difficult for ME to do. When Jesus told us to turn the other cheek, he knew how hard it would be. But He also said that He would be with us always. So while I know I am unable to remain charitable on my own, I also know I can rely on God to lift me up so that His will may be done.

It DOES sound a bit Pollyana-ish,but it is how I live and who I am,thanks be to God!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


I am still reeling from the Tweeeze experience yesterday! My face is broken out in red bumps and I can barely keep from scratching. The itching is intense and relentless. I just hope it clears up before this weekend. I feel like a teenager with a big zit on her nose the day before the prom!

My buddy, Wiley the cockatoo, was in for a recheck today and is feeling much better. His skin is healing and the infection is resolving. Best of all, Wiley is talking again ;>) When I heard his sweet little voice saying "Cookie, cookie, cookie", my spirits lifted and I grinned from ear to ear. His mom says Wiley says "cookie" to call his dad and (we both think) he uses it to call me. When I walked into the exam room, Wiley's beautiful orange crest went up, and he came running across the table, stepped onto my arm and laid his head against my chest.

Such a demonstration of trust touched me deeply, because I know I am not worthy of that trust. I have unintentionally hurt Wiley in the past; it is just that some things we do are uncomfortable, even painful, especially these last few weeks since he has been so sick. Most cockatoos desire our contact so much that they tolerate more obnoxious behavior from us than other parrots.

I hate inflicting pain on my patients, even when I know that it is in their best interests. Animals simply cannot understand why I hurt them, so I try to use every opportunity to associate something positive (food treats, petting, praise,etc.)in my interactions with my patients. I begin an exam with petting and treats, continue this during the exam, and be sure to finish with a long, relaxing session of positive reinforcement before they leave. It doesn't always help, but it never hurts to try to do this with my patients.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Facial Hair

Let's talk about women's facial hair. We all have it, to a greater or lesser degree. And we all wish we did NOT have it, so we are always in search of easy, painless ways of hair removal. I have shaved, waxed, Naired, but have not found that Holy Grail of hair removal systems. But today I had the unique pleasure of experiencing the delightful action of "The Tweeze" (pronounced "tweezey"). If ever there was a torture device it is this diabolical instrument.

My technician, Erin, has been telling me about the wonderful Tweeze for the last couple of weeks: how it didn't hurt any more than waxing (a bald-faced lie), how easy it was to use, how I really needed to get rid of my facial hair before the big meeting next weekend, etc. etc. Against my better judgment, I told her if she brought the Tweeze to work with her, I would try it.

Well, Erin brought her Tweeze in yesterday and mauled my face with it. She began in the "sideburn" area. It felt as if there was a tiny electric shock to my face every time this sadistic tool yanked out a hair by the roots. I kept crying "stop, stop",we would take a break for a few minutes and then have at it again. It took over 15 minutes to "de-hair" my cheeks! I get my chin, lip and eyebrows waxed weekly and I thought that unpleasant. That was "B.T." = before Tweeze! Never again will I complain when my beautician rips off that wax with a flourish. I will GLADLY accept anything else, just not the Tweeze!

And if pain was not enough, my delicate skin has been itching madly and on fire since being violated by the infamous Tweeze. My face is broken out in an itching mess, bumps all over my cheeks. Watch out for the infamous Tweeze, ladies. It is NOT all it promises to be!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Food Hounds

Jessie is our seven year old Rottweiler. She was a stray that one of my friends found in her yard. She called me to tell me that this killer dog had her cornered in her yard and could I come and help. It was a slow day at the clinic, so I and my tech decided to run over to my friend's house. When we got there, we found a frightened four month old Rottie pup in the back yard, that would fearfully snarl when we approached her. However, we had our wits about us when at the clinic, and had remebered to bring food..a little canned cat food is irresistible, especially to a hungry pup. I held Jessie on my lap while we took her back to the clinic. My husband, Ray, had always wanted a Rottie, so I took her home. Ray loved Jess, but she loved me: she is my shadow at home. I can leave a room where she is soundly sleeping and the next thing I know , she is underfoot.

A few years after Jess joined our happy family, Timmy came along. Timmy is a long-haired Chihuahua, who was an injured stray. He had a badly fractured pelvis and viciously bit anyone who tried to handle him. I plied him with doughnuts and, within 24 hours, Timmy was mine. He allowed me to pet him and even carry him. I kept him at the clinic and tried to find a home for Timmy. None of my clients who had had Chihuahuas in the past wanted him. It started when I took Timmy home for a few hours one weekend because I didn't want him to be alone. That developed into "Timmy can't stay at the clinic alone at night". The next thing I knew was that Timmy was living with us.

Timmy and Jessie are best of friends; Timmy is the boss, of course. Timmy is MY dog, no question. He does not like anyone to get within three feet of me (including Ray!). Timmy barks and runs at anyone approaching me and when they turn around to leave, he runs after them, jumps up, and bites their rear end. It's not funny-those little Chihuahua teeth can hurt!

Ray works second shift and I never worry with my two protectors in the house.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sunday Bath

I just put the two big birds to bed and am sitting here, drying off. Miss Shelby, our Bare-eyed cockatoo decided she was ready for a bath right before bedtime and we both got soaked ;>)

I have learned to always give my birds a choice; this empowers them to control their environment (something we all strive to do) and is a fantastic trust-building tool for all concerned. When I open the bird's cage, I ask them to step up and if they don't want to do so (extraordinarily rare occurence for my guys), they don't have to. If the house was burning down and I HAD to get them out, I would get them out and it would not affect our relationship of trust since we have such a strong foundation.

Well, bathing has never been on my birds' list of favorite things to do, so I have had to get creative to make bathing a positive experience and something they would choose to do. I have noticed that for about the last year, Shelby likes to drink water out of my cup. Of course, I let her; this has led to her occasioanlly dunking her head in the cup and getting her crest wet. Shelby responds well to drama, so I praise her enthusiastucally to reinforce this behavior. Her head dunking has become more frequent and more pronounced, now accompanied by wing flapping and bowing to the water. Shelby has progressed to the point where she will dunk her head into any container of water I am carrying.

Tonight I wanted to see how far she would go, so I got a medium sized mixing bowl, filled it with lukewarm water and went to get my Shelby-girl. I was holding the bowl against my chest and Shelby was on my shoulder. She was a but hesitant at first, then, with some encouragement from me, she began dunking. This time, Shelbs went all out! She was flinging water all over herself and me and the kithcen, then running up to my shoulder and flapping her wings over my head. I am laughing like a fool and she is saying "Peek-a-boo" and "Hi baby" while dunking, flipping and flapping. You haven't lived until you've taken a bath with a Bare-eyed!

We both had a great time and it was good, clean fun ;>)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Birdie Springtime

It finally feels like spring today. Although still a bit chilly this morning, the sun is shining brightly, the grass is greening, the birds are singing and the crocus and daffodils are blooming. Warm weather is almost here. Typically, spring in Indiana goes like this: one week we are in the 30's with the occasional sleet or snow shower and the next week, we are in the 80's, trying to get the AC to work after a long winter;>)

The inside birds are becoming a bit flighty with all the nesting behavior going on outside. We don't breed our birds, nor do we intend to-there are more than enough unwanted, abused and neglected cockatoos in the world! When hormones rise as daylight hours increase, undesirable behaviors (screaming, biting and destructiveness) escalate. What I call undesirable behavior is often a very natural behavior for the birds. Screaming to call to a mate, chewing wood to make a nest cavity in a tree are understandably wonderful attributes in a wild parrot. Most parrots do not bite in the wild-they can fly away from something thye dislike or fear and they pay much closer attention to body language than we do. Parrots signal others with body posture, eye and feather shape and position, etc. We teach our parrots to bite when we do not observe their body language that says "I don't want to, go away, don't touch me ", etc.

This is where positive reinforcement comes into play. When we teach our parrots a desirable behavior (waving their foot, for example), we can achieve two major goals:

#1 We learn to observe our bird more closely while teaching, so we can reward the desired behavior. Behavior that is rewarded is repeated. We learn our bird's body language.

#2 We teach an acceptable behavior that we can ask of our parrots when they are exhibiting undesirable behavior. In other words, if Merlin, my cockatoo, is engaged in repetitive screaming, I will ask him to wave. This refocuses his attention to getting a treat and he stops screaming.

Too good to be true? Nope, positive reinforcment REALLY works. Check out my DVD at:

Companion Parrot Media

Friday, April 4, 2008

Birdie Day

This afternoon I saw three different parrots. The first one was a green-cheeked conure for a behavioral consultation. Then I saw a Congo African Grey parrot and a black lory for wellness exams. I have been working hard this past year to build up the bird side of my practice and I am finally beginning to see some results.

I enjoy working with these little "aliens" so much. The principles of medicine are the same for avian and mammalian patients, but those species differences sometimes throw me for a loop. The anatomy and physiology necessary for flight make for some amazing challenges. I don't know if it is the thrill of learning something new or the wonder of handling something as wild and free as a bird. I absolutely love to learn-the more I learn the more I find I don't know! And parrots have been only one generation in captivity; dogs and cats have been domesticated for centuries. I am learning more patience and calm to handle these "flighty" creatures ;>)

The attraction of flight and the freedom it signifies is something that attracts many of us to birds. The beautiful coloration and intelligence of parrots make them particularly intriguing companions. I love to work with birds and watch their interaction with me and with their people and I enjoy teaching my clients how to better care for their birds.

I associate birds with the spiritual. The only animal representation we have for God is that of the white dove as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Jesus sent His Spirit to strengthen and uplift us during our time on earth. As I get older, I find I pray and rely upon the Holy Spirit to help me keep the faith and to grow in my love for God. Maybe the Spirit gave me this love for birds so that I will always have a visual confirmation of His everlasting Presence within me...

Thursday, April 3, 2008


It has been a relaxing day off-only one meeting and a couple of calls from the clinic, a good visit with my BFF, Shirley and another with Mom and my brother, Dave. Then I got to spend the rest of the day communing with cockatoos at home.

The birds have been jazzed up this week; my husband, Ray, is on vacation and is staying home catching up with his "honey-do" list. Merlin and Shelby, the 'toos, are "Daddy" birds and want to be with Ray 24/7. They would love to be surgically implanted on his body: the very definition of a "cockatoma" I heard a speaker describe at a an avian medicine conference several years ago. So the birds are in cockatoo heaven with "Daddy" spending more time at home.

This afternoon, Ray left to run a couple of errands and so we had some "Mommy" time. There is nothing more calming than cuddling with a cockatoo! They can be sooooo sweet and whisper little endearments to you when you snuggle with them ;>) Merlin, the Moluccan, sits on my right arm and lays his head against my chest, whistling softly, and saying "Pretty bird, pretty bird" in a sweet little voice. Shelby, the Bare-eyed, sits on my right shoulder and rubs her cheek against mine, making little kissy noises. Aaaahhhhh, my blood pressure drops, I close my eyes, a smile on my face, now, I'm in heaven.......thank you, Lord, for cockatoos!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Cuteness Day

We had the cutest dogs come in all day at the clinic, but I think the prize goes to Archie, a young French bulldog, who is just the cutest dog ever. Don't you agree?

Archie is just as sweet as he is cute. French bulldogs are similar to Boston bulldogs, but larger and sturdier. Great personalities, friendly, eager to please and active dogs, they make wonderful companions. We don't see many of them, but I like every one I have met ;>)

I had some wonderful news today. Monday I saw one of my very favorite cockatoos, Wiley. Wiley is a ten year old Moluccan cockatoo (like Merlin) with a history of feather destructive behavior (FDB). He has been worse this past month and I have been treating him. Monday Wiley came to see me because he began mutilating. This is something that is truly horrifying. These magnificent, intelligent beings began ripping chunks of flesh from their bodies, many hemorrhaging fatally or succumbing to overwhelming bacterial infections. There are as many causes of FDB as there are cases of it, but I believe that a significant factor is that we take the chicks away from their parents too early. I think this causes some serious impairment to the bird's psychological and mental health.

Wiley was in the second category a couple of days ago. He was so ill that he couldn't even lift his head. His parents were worried and afraid. I was sick, I was afraid my little buddy was dying. We pulled out all the stops, put him on two different antibiotics, prozac, pain meds, topical antibiotics. Wiley came in for a recheck today and is doing better; more active at home, eating well, seems a bit more comfortable. I walked in the exam room, picked him up and cuddled him; he looked at me and, in a weak little voice, said "Hi Wiley". The first words he has said in a couple of days! I kissed him and my heart lifted. As I told Wiley's mom, he is not out of the woods yet, but we ARE making progress.

You have been in my prayers, little man, feel better, Wiley!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Long Day

Here I sit at 7:00 p.m. typing in medical records...ahhh, the glorious life of a veterinarian ;>) I know that everyone thinks I play with the cute puppies and kitties and birdies all day, and I do! But at least a third of my day is spent in paperwork.

Keeping a written record of my patients is vital to their well-being. We have become close to paperless here at CVC in the last two years and I love it. No more searching for lost files or trying to decipher illegible doctor's handwriting. It is all in the computer and is easy to find and read. And I find that we are keeping more thorough records, too. All lab reports are in the electronic record and at our fingertips when we need them. We have computers in our exam rooms and one in my office and lab area so we can access any patient record quickly. But all that data DOES need inputed and a great amount of it is typed in by yours truly. At least my typing skills have greatly improved ;>)

After the records are done, then I need to pay bills, do taxes, go through the mail before my desk is buried in it and assorted other odd jobs. Sometimes I try to multi-task, but that just gets confusing. My husband, Ray, works second shift so I am used to being on my own in the evenings. However, he is on vacation this week and is at home. He just called, so I am on my way out...tomorrow is another busy day at CVC and I've got chores at home waiting. I love being busy-it keeps me out of trouble ;>))