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Pet Night

Friday, December 23, 2005

A fun evening on Indigo Hill (we named it for the abundant indigo buntings whose song rings out everywhere in late summer). The kids, dog and I walked the Loop, and met up with Bill as the sun was sinking. It was warmish--50 or so--and still, and you could almost imagine that the woodcock might start calling as the sun sank. Oh, spring's not all that far away. The days are getting longer, and I heard a white-breasted nuthatch sing its spring song--werwerwerwerwer--two days ago. God bless its heart.
Finally, though, it was time to go inside, where Charlie was ready for some attention and a couple of sips of Bill's beer. He'll be 20 next August, and yes, he looks a bit tatty. He's been plucking his belly and axillary feathers since he was four months old. His breeder told me he needed a really good home, since he was kind of emotional (at first I typed demotional, which is more appropriate). I love him just as he is, and I'm thankful he leaves some; lots of parrots pluck everything they can reach, leaving themselves just feathered heads. Even the fabled African grey Alex, who probably knows more stupid human tricks than any other parrot alive, plucks himself! It's something some captive parrots just do. I always sigh and often cry when I see wild parrots and macaws; they're so much more beautiful than captive birds, every feather perfectly in place. I don't kid myself that parrots make good pets, or that we can provide everything they need to live perfectly happy lives. I got Charlie the first time my biological clock went off, when I was young and dumb and in my 20's. We're in it for the long run, through thick and thin. I owe him that. He loves to join us for dinner, adding his raucous comments and laughter to the conversation. To our relief and joy, Charlie and Chet get along just fine. Neither one has it out for the other, and many's the time I've had Chet on my lap and Charles on my shoulder without a concern. I wouldn't leave them unsupervised by any means, but they seem relaxed in each other's presence and peace reigns. I'm pretty sure Charlie got a good nip in on Chet's nose early in Chet's puppyhood, and that's all it takes for a smart Boston.

We cleared the table and I left the kitchen for a bit. When I came back, here's what I found on the table. Chet thinks it's probably OK for him to scrounge for crumbs as long as nobody sees him up there. Of course he knows that walking on the kitchen table is not cool; you can see it on his face. But I can also see him thinking that the darn parrot does it all the time, so why not Mr. Baker? It's hard to be mad at Chet. Bill marvels that there's virtually nothing Chet does that makes me mad, and I'm sure he wishes I were as tolerant of everybody else.

He calls me the Dog Lady of Whipple. I really don't think that's fair. Dog ladies have like five or seven dogs. Big dogs. Dogs everywhere. Big scratches on the doors, hair everywhere. I really don't think I qualify. I admit that I am coo-coo, ga-ga about this one clean unobtrusive polite little dog but I have a problem with being labeled. I did make him get down when I was done taking pictures.

You could call me the Tetra Lady of Whipple, though. That's a title I'd accept. Today I weeded and vacuumed my 38 gallon Amazon freshwater tank. My dear friend Lisa van Dusen, (fabulous horticulturist and wife of peerless bird painter Barry van Dusen) gave me a bunch of her beautiful aquatic plants about four years ago, and got me started in aquahorticulture. I use rainwater that I catch in a muck bucket under a drippy eave, add electrolytes to it, give the plants lots of light (for only 8 hours a day, though, or algae can be a problem) and stand back. I never clean the glass; I just vacuum the gravel very lightly once a month, and do a 25% water change. I had a female emperor tetra born in the tank not long after I started using live plants. I saw that she was getting old, and bought her a mate about eight months ago. He was courting her through the wall of the plastic bag he came home in! It was a match made in heaven. I now have at least 25 young emperor tetras crowding the tank. Clearly, it's time to find homes for them, much as I hate to think of them living anywhere else. Brothers are courting their sisters and we can't have that! The pet store in town will be happy to have them. That's where I take the armloads of plants that I weed out of the tank, too. I'm amassing credit upon credit. Someday I'll buy myself a nice new bowfront tank with the proceeds from this tiny fish farm in the living room. That's the goal, anyway. It'll take years, but I'm waiting anyway. I got this tank in the want ads about ten years ago, and its ugly faux walnut finish doesn't do much for the beauty within it.
It would be the height of hubris to say that I bred these fish; they bred themselves. All I did was leave them alone in a functioning ecosystem that obviously suits them. (Java moss is the nursery, by the way. It's a ferny, filmy beautiful groundcover that grows like mad. Close inspection of the tetra fry revealed that they were catching microorganisms that live in the Java moss for their first couple of weeks of life. Then they graduate to First Bites by Hikari).

Other successful breedings in this tank have included pristella tetras (o beautiful little fish!) and pearl gouramis. My pair of pearl gouramis coexists peacefully with their daughter, Fern. Her dad is beginning to show interest in her but I'm turning a blind eye and hoping they'll see the error of their ways. Fern is not going to a pet shop, no matter how naughty she is with Papaw. That's her, top center.
It's been fun sharing Pet Hour with you. I've got to get off this computer!! Yikes! Pet Lady of Whipple, how about? We hope you have a wonderful Christmas!


What a great family. Looks like Chet could you some etiquette lessons!

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