04 April, 2008

Smokey Update Update

I just phoned Forever Wild for a Smokey update. He had a visit with the veterinary ophthalmologist today, and will be starting some new anti-inflammatory drugs. It's not known yet whether he'll be able to get back to the wild, because they can't tell whether there's been damage to only one or both eyes (one was clearly injured, but the other might have been involved too).

If his other eye is OK, then it's likely they'll remove the bad one (eiiuw, but OK), and he'll be releasable. Apparently one-eyed owls do just fine in the wild, as they use their hearing for hunting, and they can adapt to monocular vision. Smokey's flying is fine, and he's eating and acting like he feels alright.

If his other eye is not OK, then Smokey'll be a wildlife ambassadowl for the sanctuary. Probably a few more weeks before they'll know the ultimate outcome. At least he's alive and eating and flying and being an owl, and that's a very good thing.

24 March, 2008

Smokey Update

I just spoke with the people at the Forever Wild Animal Rehabilitation Center, and it seems that Smokey is doing OK. They think that he hurt himself by flying into a window or something, and the injurty is to his right eye, not his shoulder as I had thought. He was groggy and shocky when they got him on Sunday morning, but apparently he's perking up and on the road (fingers crossed) to recovery.

They even said they'd call us when he's ready to be released, and he'll come back to where he was found. So, his little mate will (hopefully) soon have him back!

22 March, 2008

Smokey the Screech Owl

John and I decided to eat out tonight, and on our way home the most amazing thing happened. We were about to turn into our driveway when we saw something in the road that looked like a bunny (there're lots of desert cottontails out here), but it wasn't moving away from the car. We could see eyes reflecting the headlights, but it was an odd shape - so John stopped and I got out to investigate.

It was two little owls (on post-hoc analysis we believe them to have been Western Screech Owls like the one pictured above, but we originally hypothesized burrowing or elf owls, because they were so little). As I approached, I realized that one was standing in front of the other, between it and our car - and she was glaring at the headlights. I got close enough to touch her before she flew away, but she ultimately (begrudgingly) did. Her friend didn't move. I could see that this remaining owl was standing with his eyes closed, and he was kind of wavering from side to side a little bit. So, I knew something was wrong. I reached out to touch him, and he still didn't move - so I knew something was VERY wrong.

I went back to the car and got my coat, and wrapped him up in it and carried him out of the road and into the house. I could see he had a small wound on his shoulder - it was a little bloody, but not spectacular. And I suspected the worst - that he'd been hit by a car or something, and that he was not long for this world.

But he was breathing steadily, and very much alive in his little coat-bundle. His eyes were closed, and he occasionally made a little warble in his throat, but he didn't seem to be aware of his surroundings or anything. As I watched him, I couldn't keep myself from stroking his feathers - and he was so incredibly soft it was as if he was made of smoke. Hence his name, as John noted, must be Smokey.

John got a shoebox and towel so we could wrap him up and keep him in the dark to try to reduce his stress level, and then John got on the phone to, first, Pima Animal Control who sent us to a Wildlife Help Line that didn't pick up or return our call. Then we called our own emergency vet, who sent us to the Valley Animal Hospital. They apparently have an agreement with 'Forever Wild', a wildlife rehabilitation organization, so they told us to bring the owl to them and they would ensure that he got to the right people.

When we tried to move him from the coat to the towel/shoebox, we found that he was gripping my coat in his little (but actually pretty intimidating) talons. So we ended up kind of laying him in the open box, still wrapped in the coat, without a lid or anything. When we got into the car to go to the vet, I shifted the coat and to our great surprise Smokey flitted out of the box and flew across to grip the inside of the driver's side door. Now he was definitely aware of his surroundings, and he was frightened. John was able to wrap him in the towel again, though, and eventually he let go of the door handle - leaving little talon marks as a souvenir of our adventure.

We got him back into his box, with the towel around him to keep him calm, and drove him to the Animal Hospital, where they ushered him into an enclosure where he will spend the night before being picked up by the rehab people. That he was able to fly and grip so well makes us optimistic that he's going to be OK.

But we're very sad for his little friend. Apparently, Western Screech Owls mate for life, and we're guessing that the brave little bird who stood guard to prevent him from being hit by our car was his mate. And she must be very sad and frightened. We have no idea how he got injured, or whether they might have had babies nearby. There's a whole lot more going on out here in the desert than we humans ever see or know about, and I just hope that right now there's not a separate tragedy unfolding for Smokey's family.

A song for all those entrusted with pooper scoop duties...

This post is dedicated to everyone who's job it is to scoop up the dog poop for your furry friends. In our current situation, I am designated poop-scooper for Zero, Sally, Gator, Dash and Dot. But I think I can safely assume that all of us have had similar thoughts as the one that I had this afternoon, which gave rise to this post.

As you might imagine, five dogs produce a lot of poop. And each dog has his or her own pooping style, and favored surfaces on which to deposit his or her blessing. For some reason, our dogs do not like to poop on the surfaces in the yard that would be easy to scoop off of, using implements such as those pictured here. There are many such areas - just flat, broad expanses of dirt that would make an ideal scooping surface. But, no, they like to poop on things with texture, things with nooks and crannies that make it really hard to scoop poo out of them. For example, piles of rocks.

So, while I was trying to scoop yet more poop out of the crevices between the various small piles of river rocks in our yard, the Neil Diamond song, "Love on the Rocks" popped into my head, and the following new and improved lyrics gushed forth. Call it "Poop on the Rocks"...


Poop on the rocks, ain't no big surprise
Pour me a drink, and I'll show you some piles.
Kibble is gone, now all I've got's...on the rocks.

First they eat the kibble -
See how they love their kibble!
Suddenly they need to go out and
wander 'round the yard.
Looking for a poop place -
Not a smooth or empty poop space.
Nothing so mundane will do,
When you need a place to poo --
Then you see the rocks....

Poop on the rocks, ain't no big surprise.
Pour me a drink and I'll show you some piles.
Kibble is gone, but the poop lingers on ... the rocks.


31 January, 2008

Dash Decision?

We may have actually had that big step forward in Dash's case this morning - for the first time ever he allowed one of us (John) to walk behind him while he was eating, go up the stairs, and close the door. Amazing.

Let's see if this lasts...

30 January, 2008

Progress, January 2008

Since my last post, we've been continually working with Dash and Dot on our own schedule, without pushing them or doing any special tricks. Just trying to be sure that every interaction we have with them is positive, and as fun as possible for them (within the bounds of that they must come in the house and approach us properly in order to have fun).

Most of the 'fun' is really food. But some of it is the opportunity to play with the other dogs (especially Gator), in the house. And some of it is watching me make a fool of myself in order to see if I can trigger happy/confident/empowered behavior from them.

One strategy was suggested by my friend Dianne, who knows a thing or two about training animals. What would happen if instead of letting them act afraid of me, I pre-empt that by acting afraid of them? Like by wincing and hiding, and running away from them.

Doing this - esp. the part about moving away from them and trying to hide - definitely triggered something like curiosity in them. Especially Dot, but to some extent both of the dogs, wanted to follow, find me, and investigate. An excellent result!

But then I added sound (*whimper*) to my scaredy-act, and that was definitely a mistake. Dash was really startled by that, and it caused him to back off and watch me even more carefully, in case I was actually as crazy as it seemed. Dot didn't seem to respond to that one way or the other, so after one try, I stopped it.

And a few days later, Dottie seemed to make a decision. I went out in the yard one afternoon, and instead of her standard running-away-if-I-try-to-pet-her, she stood there and let me stroke her neck. And that evening she came in the house willingly, and was able to eat her food and let me and/or John walk around, including behind her and upstairs, and do whatever we wanted without it causing her to wig out. It was like she'd figured out that it was safe to be in the house, and while she's still going to be cautious about us approaching her, she's not going to let that get in the way of her getting lots of treats and kibble. What a good girl!

Dash has gone the other way, though. Now he's even more scared and jumpy than he was before the holidays. It's very odd, in that he's been more confident around us than Dottie pretty much the whole time. Now the tables seem to have turned.

We have determined that one problem in our 'come in the house and let us close the door behind you before you can have fun' strategy is that we have tended to leave one of us right at the door, so that the dogs have to walk right past us to get in the house. Now we realize that if the door-closer stays away from the doorway, but still upstairs, that both dogs are fairly willing now to come down into the living room. Once that happens, the door-closer can wander over and close the door behind them while inciting minimal trauma. It definitely takes two people - Dash will not let a person walk from in front of him to behind him if there's an escape route behind him. That still causes him to freak out. But if the person was already up there, and didn't seem to be paying much attention to the whole in-out of house thing, then it's apparently not scary.

While this has been going on, we've also fine-tuned the psychotropic meds so that each dog is on a combination of prozac and amitryptaline. Of which I'll bet I spelled amitryptaline wrong. I don't have any kind of strong feeling as to whether the meds are making any difference at all, either in a good way or in a bad way...but am trying to let them stabilize for a while while we (hopefully) continue to make *very* incremental progress. I think it may be with this kind of thing that even the regression part is progress - it's maybe the precursor to a big step forward?