Polly Wants More Than A Cracker

I had initially started this post with completely different intention. Yet as I did research on the topic of birds and their ability for speech and song, I came across a daunting reality. It became so amazingly clear to me that we, as a world and as a society, have a serious dilemma in front of us that is going seemingly ignored. Of all the birds that are vocal, Parrots are the ones which exhibit the greatest ability. It is for this reason that many of the wild Parrot species are being threatened, as they are taken captive to be sold as house pets.

I grew up in the 90’s and during that time, there was a public campaign to “Save the Rainforest.” Activists and wildlife experts then were trying to raise awareness for the need to stop the destruction of harvesting the rainforest for private companies. Thousands of trees and habitat were being cut down and ravaged through, without a single tree or bush being replanted in its place. All of the jungle wildlife were being threatened and guess what- It’s STILL happening! I’m in my 30’s now and lo and behold, very little is being done; and what is being done, simply isn’t enough. The population of jungle birds are dwindling as a result of this, and yet, this isn’t the only factor contributing to this decline. What birds that ARE left in the wild, are being taken into captivity for the pet trade.

red blue animals colourful
 “Hey we’re Macaws! Check out our Facebook status; Endangered! You can also follow us on Twitter!”                             Photo by Matthias Zomer on Pexels.com

Common household exotic birds include: the African Grey, Amazon Parrots (various breed types,) Caiques, Cockatiels, Cockatoos, Conures, and Macaws. All of the birds I just named above are listed as an endangered species- aside from the Cockatiels and a few Macaw breeds. Don’t believe me? Click here!

Is it possible that these birds are being sought after in the private sector as a means of ensuring conservation? Maybe. And if so; that’s great! But why is that the first measure of conservation and not the last? Preservation of their natural habitat should be the focus; not harboring as many as you can until their apocalypses. The average cost of an African Grey is between $1,000 to $1,500. What I am suggesting is that, if you truly do care about these exotic birds, take that $1500 and donate it to the IUCN, or the Rainforest Foundation.  There is still time to save what is left.

 

The Pony People

close up of horse

 

Although the title of this blog sounds a bit on the creepy side and may lead you to believe that I’m going to talk about inbred rednecks that go on pony killing sprees; I’m actually not going to talk about any of that. No, The Pony People are the ones that I call die-hard pony owners. When talking with Pony People, I’ve noticed their dedication in their words. In mostly humble ways, they talk of their ponies and their greatness. It is a love you would see in dog and horse owners however there is more of a personal connection happening that I see with Pony People. So I’m going to talk a bit about ponies and try to find out why people are so committed and honored to be Pony People.

There is little information available on the number of ponies that are owned throughout the world. Although there is claim that in Scotland the pony population exceeds the number of human population.

One breed of pony, the Exmoor, according to the BBC,has been around since the time of Sabre-Toothed Tigers and Wolly Mammoths but now faces extinction. These ponies were traditionally used for plowing fields, delivering goods, and for bringing children to school in the snow. Their population today is a shy 2,700 due to the second World War. During that time, these ponies were used as target practice for soldiers and were stolen by thieves and eaten for meat. This surge brought the Exmoor population down to around 50. Breeding efforts are still underway, in hopes of taking this breed off of the endangered species list. If you would like to help, contact the Exmoor Pony Society to find out more.

Ponies are an excellent choice for blossoming child riders. Their smaller stature and gentle temperament makes them less dangerous for an unpolished young one to be around than its larger cousin the horse.

Ponies have been used for a wide number of things including: coal mining, farming, riding, transporting goods, jumping, and pulling carriages. Some ponies are exhibited in breed shows.

agriculture animals care cavalry
Photo by Tatiana on Pexels.com

Ponies are easier to care for than a horse. They require similar, if not exact, methods of care however, they require less amount of thatcare. For example, although both horse and pony need hay, a pony  will consume less.

It’s no wonder Pony People have such an affinity for these animals. They’re kind and gentle temperament, small size, low maintenance, and all around versatility make them the type of pet that any person would feel comfortable around.

To find out more about ponies or to make a difference in a pony’s life, click here,

United States Pony Club

UK Pony Club

Exmoor Pony Society

Thanks for reading!

 

What NOT to Look for When Getting a Dog

white and brown shih tzu mix puppy with minion toy on green grass
So you have decided to get a dog. Congratulations! You are on your way to experiencing a world of love, joy and dedication. There are so many dogs out there that it gives you a headache trying to pick just one. Maybe you’ve found yourself in the middle of a litter of puppies and they are ALL so cute! How to choose!? You’re beside yourself with excitement, emotions and puppy breath. It is for this reason that I have been asked to discuss what NOT to look for when buying a dog.
What are your needs in a dog?

Assuming that you have not in fact made it to the comfortable spot on the floor yet, surrounded by tumbling puppies; the first stage in finding a four legged match requires 100% honesty on your part. It is important to find a dog that matches your lifestyle. Are you an avid hiker and outdoorsman? Consider a spaniel or retriever. Are you more of a homebody? A less active dog would be appropriate. Are you looking for a running/jogging partner? Matching your needs alongside a dog is probably the most important aspect to consider. If you work a lot and are away from home for most of the day, a high energy dog should not be considered. If you are allergic to pet dander, check out some of the hypoallergenic breeds like Poodles and Irish Terrier. If you plan on doing a lot of travelling with your pet, be considerate of your pets size and needs. Although funny, it would not be humane to have to stuff your Great Dane into your 2 door coupe with his head protruding out of the sunroof. Maybe you want an elegant Maltese to help show your sophisticated side, that you can fit into a handy carrier without issue. Furthermore, male canines have some differing behaviors from females as well, so do a bit of research or talk to a veterinarian or trainer for more information. Identifying your needs in a dog will prove to be the most worthwhile effort in the long run. If you consider nothing else, consider at least this one factor.
What are you able/ willing to commit to a dog?

Identify how much time and resources you have. Do you have people that can watch your dog for you if you need? Do you have the right amount of income for the breed that you are considering? Certain breeds like Great Danes, Newfoundlands, and St. Bernards have considerably higher vet and food bills; due to their large size. Also some breeds are more prone to health issues. If you cannot wrap yourself around the idea of having to train a puppy and dedicate all of your time to correcting behaviors and mopping up pee spots, you should consider adopting an older dog. Maybe you want a dog for simple companionship; one that is well adjusted. Consider adopting a senior dog. Senior dogs have ran the gamut of exposure and experiences in their lives and often have more confidence, patience and acceptance. Are you going to be able to train the dog or will you be considering a professional trainer? Should a behavioral problem arise, what courses of action would you be willing and realistically able to take? Having an idea of the bigger picture, will help narrow down much of the daunting list of available canines out there.
Consider Breed….

Pretend for a moment that I am Mexican and you are Irish. My parents are from Tijuana; yours from Dublin. Although we are both human, I may have a tendency to be less tolerant of cold weather due to my genetics. Being Irish, you may occasionally find yourself wanting corn beef hash and cabbage. You don’t know why, but you just cannot stop searching restaurant menus online to see who has some really good corned beef hash and cabbage! This is the same with dogs. There are certain “tendencies” that each breed develops based on their genetic history that differ from other breeds. A St. Bernard would be okay in cold climates with his thick coat. A Coonhound can’t help but watch every little squirrel and critter that goes running by. All dogs use their nose and sense of smell but a Bloodhound may have a tendency to use that before any other sense. So consider the tendencies a breed may have. Identify whether any of those traits will be an issue for you. If you do not like a lot of barking and baying, do not consider a beagle or hound, for example, because these dogs have a genetic tendency to use these vocalizations. If you are unsure, contact a dog trainer or behaviorist, who can help you understand breeds better or visit a shelter and meet them firsthand. Do some research, because in the long run this will help avoid a lot of difficult situations for you and your potential dog.
…..But don’t consider breed

Although I have just spoke in depth about the importance of considering breed, it is also just as important to NOT consider the breed. Don’t let the breed type be the -end all be all- in your decision making. Using the same analogy of a Mexican and an Irish person, you cannot negate the fact that both are still human beings at the end of the day. Both will need food, love, and shelter. Both see the doctor when they are sick, both laugh and have friendships, etc. Many people buy from a breeder because they want a true blooded bird dog, for example, or a quick legged Greyhound.

However, not all dogs are what you read in books (if that’s even a thing anymore) or hear about. To make my point I will share with you a story that is not for the faint of heart. It is a true story that exemplifies to the letter, of why it is so important to NOT look solely at breed. There was a very sweet, young, intelligent, loving Husky/Malamute mix purchased for mushing (dog sledding.) He was trained (albeit poorly) in the art of mushing and lived the lifestyle of a sled dog. Whenever his harness was put on him, he would lay down in refusal. He did not want to pull a sled, and he would be abused as punishment for his refusal. He had scars on the sides of his body, and on his face from whipping. Thankfully, the owner surrendered the animal after 2 years, and the animal is now in a loving home where he is treated with utmost value, love and respect. The moral of the story is, just because the dog is a husky, doesn’t necessarily mean he will pull a sled. Just because the dog is a Brittany Spaniel, doesn’t mean he will flush and find birds. So remember that a dog, regardless of the breed, will have the same needs as any other dog, and remember as well the importance of not selecting a breed as an end all be all way of choosing a pup.
“The Dog Picked Me” Syndrome

This is a theory that makes me uncomfortable. Imagine you are out in a club with your friends and you see someone that peaks your interest. You move towards them and begin to engage them in conversation. Think honestly for a second, and tell me what trait you were feeling at the moment you approached. Confident? Maybe you go to this club all the time and have never recognized this person before. Are you feeling somewhat territorial? Is it out of aggression that you’ve approached? What made you so comfortable that you were drawn like a magnet to this person? All of these words described above, when used to describe a dog, is summed up by the word “dominant.” Dominant, in terms of a dog or animal, has become in our world today to be a very, very negative label.

Many professionals feel that when choosing a dog, to in fact not chose the dog that directly approaches you or “chooses you” first; since this act shows the trait of dominance.  The reason that this ideology makes me uncomfortable is because with proper instruction, dominance can be corrected. In fact, there is no better time for it to be corrected than in those young, and influential puppy stages. However, not everyone is able to be a responsive dog owner. Not everyone is able to take the time to correct each dominant behavior and some may not even be able to recognize what is dominant behavior and what is not. Therefore, professionals keep it simple by stating to in fact pick a different pup than the one whom approaches you first. You would look for a dog that acknowledges you but also is comfortable resuming play or other activities that may take their attention.

Adopting from a shelter or rescue group can help your decision making process simpler because of the fact that they have had exposure to the animal and are able to tell you certain traits or behaviors that may or may not be ideal for your life.

And Finally,

It happens, more often than people think, that someone you know, finds themselves in a desperate situation and can no longer care for their dog. Suddenly someone is unemployed, or they are being evicted. In the instance where you find yourself with a dog being thrown your way, or if you find that your new dog is not jiving with you or your life, consult an appropriate dog trainer. If you find that you honestly have no want or need to care for a dog, (as some people do) then take a trip to your local animal shelter or call your local animal control officer and forfeit the animal. Not only would you be doing the right thing, but you would be doing what is best for you and for the dog.

Thanks for reading. I hope this information helps in some way. And a huge high five to you for educating yourself before making such a big decision. That’s already being a great dog owner!

Music and Your Pet

printed musical note page
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Do you leave the radio or t.v. on for your pet while you’re away from home? If you do, don’t worry- you are not alone. I would often leave Classical music streaming at home while I was at work. My once anxious Great Dane, Vito, would slowly relax on his bed while Mozart and Beethoven played. After a month or so this response seemed to lessen and have a weaker effect. So I began to stream Elvis while I was away, and I would watch as he once again slipped off into a state of peace and serenity. His energy changing once again from tense, anxious, “Where are you going Mom!? Take me!” to ” Okay, I’m going to lay right here on my bed, wake me when you get back.” Although this process may seem to a human being to be an awkward behavior or a strange concept, there’s actually real science behind it.

According to research done by the Scottish ASPCA, dogs in particular were more relaxed while being played classical music in their kennels. The sounds were able to lower heart rates, reduce the amount of barking, and lessen the tell-tale “stress” sign of standing around aimlessly. Male canines especially were more responsive than females. Although these findings brought drastic behavioral changes, the effects did not last long (24 hours to be exact.)  However, classical music may not be the only genre your pet will respond to.

There are many audio tracks available on You Tube, for example, that help your bird to learn songs. Although interaction with your bird is ultimately the best way to encourage verbal retention, these audio clips which loop repetitively provide a good level of mental stimulus for most birds. Birds are able to recognize beat, tempo and frequency ranges and in turn try to mimic or translate those sounds into their own birdsong. The ability to perceive beat is not easy to find in any species other than the avian. If doubt exists of this uniqueness, you will find proof in the “dancing” and head bobbing that ensues with a boogeying Budgie, a two-stepping Cockatoo, or any bird for that matter!

To appeal to your pets musical tastes, you must first acknowledge how each species communicates. As birds are more keen on picking up tempos and frequencies of other birds in their vocal range; the same can be said for cats. Psychologists at the University of Wisconsin developed feline friendly songs to help decode the mystery behind cats and music. Working along the same theory of communication, they were able to create music that cats were noticeably interested in and in particular, the oldest and youngest of the tested group. Examples of the “cat music” can be found here.

Music appreciation goes beyond the realm of household pets however; as the Wild Dolphin Foundation explains. It is the percussive sounds of the 90’s rock band Radiohead that sweeps their dolphins off their feet! (Or should I say fins.)

Regardless of your species of pet; consider giving them the treat of music. You will be surprised at the results.