Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Parrots and PTSD

Exciting news (for me anyway.)
How to Speak Dolphin is an

Parrots and PTSD

I've lived with a Yellow-naped Amazon parrot for 35 years. I bought Hopi in a pet shop in Winter Park, Florida, in 1981. I'd been looking for a parrot for some time, but it had to be hand-raised, not captured in the wild for a number of reasons:  
  • the practice has decimated wild populations worldwide.
  • many are smuggled into the country and most die on the journey.
  • a wild caught bird rarely makes a good pet. 
When the pet shop owner called to say he thought he had what I was looking for, I flew up from Miami to meet her. She didn't hesitate and neither did I--in spite of the size of her beak. She walked up my arm and nestled down on my shoulder. We've been together ever since.

Hopi'd had another owner, a man who worked nights and slept during the day. Not a good mix. She knew how to say Hello, Bye-bye, T-Th-That's Nice, the Wee-Wee-Wee part of "this little piggy", and I love you, Bird. About a month after I got her, I left for a pre-planned two week vacation. Since then I've always had someone come visit and feed her every day, but I didn't have anyone back then, so I left her at my vet's office. He gave her a nice big cage which I filled with her toys, and left him a supply of pistachios, still her favorite.

Hopi is able to add inflections to her bye-byes. There have been times when I was sure, if she could, she would add, 'and don't let the door whack you in the ass on your way out.' That day, her repeated bye-bye had a devastatingly sad tone. I'm sure she thought she was being deserted once again. I was in tears as I walked to the door with her pitiful bye-byes echoing across the room. When I turned to tell her once again that I'd be back. She hooked her beak and feet around the bars of the cage, pulled herself against them, and called out loudly, "I love you, bird." 

I was a Pan Am flight attendant back then, so over the years, she got used to me leaving and reappearing once a week. She liked the young man in my apartment building whom I hired to come in every day to feed her. Her bye-byes, when she heard the zipper on my suitcase, were cheerful. She even learned to associate my rare use of the vacuum cleaner with an imminent departure, usually for a vacation. She'd see the vacuum come out and cheery bye-byes ensued. She was fond of my house-sitter, too.

A few days ago, a friend sent me this article from the NY Times. What Does a Parrot know about PTSD? It's long, but worth the read. I Googled Serenity Park, which is a home for unwanted and abandoned parrots, or parrots, whose owners have died. When I got Hopi (pronounced Hoppy) I knew parrots were long-lived--possibly as long as 85 years--but 35 years ago, I didn't give much thought to my own mortality.  I've since arranged for her to go to a close friend, who is considerably younger than I am. And now, there is this safety net in case that friend can't take her when the time comes.

My novel, The Outside of a Horse, is specifically about the therapeutic benefits of a relationship with horses, and honestly, our kinship with animals is the underlying theme of nearly all my books. It's odd, that it didn't occur to me that parrots count.

As for Hopi and me, other than screaming her head off when I'm on the phone, I think we  have a good relationship. Thank heavens she can't weigh in.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Man and his dog

You've probably seen this, since there have been nearly 10 million hits, but that still leaves about 7 billion of us to go. It's brilliant and worth the tears.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Recommended Daily Dosage: Take a moment with your morning coffee

Rough-skinned Newt
The stock market is tanking; Sarah Palin and the Donald insist the sky is falling; China's economy is circling the porcelain bowl; the oil companies are shaking in their rubber boots. How do we cope?

You might try what I do. Every morning, to put things in perceptive, I look for Ron LeValley's "Outside My Window" picture of the day. Starting with a reminder that we are surrounded by beauty puts me in the right frame of mind to deal with whatever the next 24 hours brings--good, bad, or the same old, same old.

I got permission from Ron to share a few of my favorites and invite you to join his list.

  To join Ron's List
Red-footed Boobies
Lupines Galore

Black-footed Albatross

 Ron's website
Forster's tern

Western Grebe

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Bob...and his "siblings"

An eccentric but tight-knit group that consists of one golden retriever, one hamster, and eight birds. Thirty-one year old Luiz Higa of São Paulo, Brazil, says Bob, his golden retriever, is a little less than two years old. In the beginning, he just had Bob, a cockatiel and a parakeet.
     “Since the beginning I put them together to see their behavior,” he tells us. “It was nice,so I decided to have them play together during my free time.”
      He then added more birds and a hamster to the group.
      Higa’s photos show the group posing, playing, exploring, and resting together.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Hurt Go Happy, 10th anniversary edition

I'm proud to announce that Tor Teen has issued a tenth anniversary edition of Hurt Go Happy, my novel based on the true story of Lucy Temerlin, a chimpanzee raised as if she were human. HGH is the story of a deaf child's unique friendship with a sign-language using chimpanzee.

For years, I believed the original story that Lucy, the real Sukari, was killed by poachers. I Googled her and found this article. As it turns out, the truth will never be known, but the story is no less sad.

This is 20 minutes and includes a story about another chimp. It also doesn't go into what happens after Lucy's sexual awakening. 


Lucy Temerlin, Lucy's pet cat

Friday, January 8, 2016

Girl Under Glass On hold

... failure with plants you found that perfect plant brought it home and
Girl Under Glass is being looked at by an editor at Penguin Random House. I'd like to say she wrote and asked to see it, but the opposite is true. Her only request was, that while she looks at it, I stop posting it on my blog.

This editor has rejected it before, so I'm not expecting a different outcome in spite of the fact I've rewritten it about 10 times since she last viewed it.

So here's the deal, and the only fair thing to do. If those of you who really enjoyed reading it so far will email me, I'll send the chapters to you weekly until I'm free to put it back online, or with a bit of luck, not. 

Email me at and use GUG in the subject line.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Y'all Qaeda in Oregon

The last time I visited Malheur National Wildlife refuge was October 2013. Some of you might remember. I was Schlepping Sully V,  the ring-billed gull I bird-napped from Holland Lake, MT. Malheur, one of my favorite places on the planet, was my first choice of where to release him. I spent the night in Burns with Sully in the bathtub.

As it turned out, the next day was cold, windy, and raining. I couldn't find a single bird much less a population of gulls to introduce him to, so I drove on.

Fotos de Frenchglen - Imágenes de Frenchglen, Oregón - TripAdvisorMy first visit to Malheur was long before I moved to California. I was still a student at University of Miami, finishing up a degree in Biology. I'd started writing by then and I was into photography and birds, birds, birds--thanks to Dr. Owre, a professor of ornithology. On that first trip, I "discovered" Frenchglen, a wonderful little B&B, and spent the next day or two driving round and round the refuge.

After that, I visited every chance I got. I took my friend, Janice, when we drove my husband's old SUV back to Miami from San Francisco, and broke down 5 times in 4 states. We learned to pee on the side of the road by sitting on the running board between two open doors.

When I moved to California, I drove hundreds of miles out of the way because I wanted to see it again. I'd bought an RV for the move and was hauling Hopi, my parrot, now 35 years old, Rosie, my albino red rat snake, Lovie, a tame white dove, and Nauvoo, the coal black kitten I acquired on the way. We stopped for lunch under a stand of cottonwoods in Malheur. The RV door was open and I was making a sandwich when a young deer stuck his or her head in. While I ate, sitting in the doorway, the yearling munched the apple I gave it and let me rub its neck, then broke my heart chasing after me as I drove away. 

My friend, Janice, sent this NYTimes story to me this morning. It's a reminder, Malheur NWR belongs to all of us. Anyone can visit. This B.S. about 'returning it to the people' is just that. It was never theirs. What they want is to take it from the many for the use of the few.