Larz’s Mission: Don’t Buy Pets as Easter Gifts this Spring

Hi folks,

Spring has begun. The flowers will soon be blooming and warmer temperatures are on their way. Some of you might also be planning to celebrate Easter. Here at Urban Hermits, we are celebrating our own special holiday: Larz’s 1st Hatchday! Along with this holiday, however, is an important story.

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Larz was found by a staff member at the Bronx Zoo last April. He was left at an office doorstep in a dog carrying crate. The staff member suspects that he was an Easter gift, likely for a child, but that the owner’s family lost interest or did not know how to care for him.

Unfortunately, this is a common issue during the spring. Spring chicks and bunnies are beloved but inappropriate Easter gifts. Zlati Meyer of the Detroit Free Press recently penned an article about the challenges of giving chicks as gifts. While the article particularly focuses on the spread of salmonella, it brings up issues associated with giving birds as gifts. Caretakers need to be committed to a long-term relationship (chickens can naturally live more than 10 years) and should understand a birds’s dietary, behavioral, and habitat needs. Immediately, it becomes evident that this is above the head of young children. The same goes for bunnies. Often, families decide that these obligations are too much and they decide to either put the animal up for adoption or sadly, release them into the wild to fend for themselves. A few friends of mine recently adopted a bunny they found wandering in their back yard around Easter time, he is one the lucky ones.

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From left to right: Tél, Sufi, Larz, and Django

Thanks to my friend at the Bronx Zoo, we were able to adopt Larz to our flock. Today he is doing great. He is very anxious and hyper but loves spending time with Tél, Sufi, and Django. His favorite food is carrots, which he loves to mash up, turning his face orange. We enjoy our time with Larz, but in the back of my mind I remember that he was once a scared, abandoned bird. This is Larz’s mission: bringing attention to taking responsibility for animals dependent on us and brining attention to spring/Easter pets.

Love,

Larz, Urban Hermits, and the rest of the flock!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What We Learned from a Pigeon

Portrait of Franco, the homing pigeon

The way I met Franco was not very glorious. My roommate and I were on the couch near our front apartment window when she noticed something white hopping around the parking lot. It appeared to be a dove of some sort. We ran down the stairs to get a closer look. My roommate, Stassia, grabbed a shoebox before going down, knowing that the animal was injured. She got down before I did, and when I opened the door to the lot, there was no sign of the dove or my roommate. I began shouting her name. The two were in a stairwell behind a building, my roommate holding the shoebox closed. She had caught the dove.

I peeked in the box to see the bird and its potential injuries. The all white and very large pigeon was streaked in black as if it had hit a power line. It held its left wing limp at its side and beat it uselessly when trying to take off in the lot. I once worked at a wild-bird rescue center and thought we may be able to take the pigeon there to heal. Unfortunately, the center was closed for the season. Stassia and I decided it would be best to take the bird to an emergency vet to be examined.

When we arrived at the vet, the receptionist asked for a name for the bird. The box it was being held in was for “Franco Sarto” shoes. I announced that the bird’s name was “Franco.” In the patient room, Franco attempted to flap around. She looked starved and ragged. The vet inspected and observed her overnight to check for signs of west-nile virus. The vet called the next morning for us to pick up Franco. Thankfully, there were no signs of west-nile (as they would euthanize the animal). We took her home and kept her in a large rubbermaid box in our bathroom. We lined the box with towels and gave her water and parakeet seed. She ate. It was a great sign. She slowly recovered, loosing the black marks on her body and revealing pure white feathers. Franco had more visits with a vet who explained that she was a domesticated pigeon and couldn’t be released in the wild because she wouldn’t know how to survive. The fact that the bird was bred white also made her a beacon to predators, especially birds of prey. We kept her and built her a large cage. Stassia bought her “pants” to wear around the apartment so she could exercise while collecting her droppings. We loved watching her become more comfortable. For a while we thought that a) Franco was a King Pigeon and b) that she was a boy. Later, after a lot of research and talking with pigeon experts, we were informed that Franco was a homing pigeon, and built more like a hen (although still not 100% clear if she is a girl).

Homing pigeons are bred for ceremonies, such as funerals or weddings. These “release doves” are trained to return to the roost after being let out at the ceremony location. Ideally, the birds return back to the roost. However, due to the lack of camouflage and survival skills that these captive birds have, many do not come back. White doves symbolize peace in many religions and cultures. Breeders will isolate the gene for white feathers in the homing pigeons to embody the visual of the white dove. It seems to be that Franco was a bird like this. (King pigeons are white and bred for squab with the potential to escape from backyard breeders. The same issues apply.)

It never crossed my mind about what happened to the “doves” after releasing them. My great grandmother’s funeral released a pigeon and it seemingly went off to freedom. I was frustrated that I had not realized these birds were being used as props. Freedom was not there for an animal that relied heavily on humans for survival. Releasing it with the likelihood that they may not go home seemed cruel to me, as if they were disposable. The amount of research that Franco caused both Stassia and I to partake in really opened our eyes.

Franco also taught us that all animals have personalities. Her stubborn and stoic behavior became comical when her lack of gracefulness was seen. Companion animals are sometimes disrespected unless a price tag is attached; she is not a $500 parrot that people covet for its “exoticism” (don’t misunderstand me here, nothing against a parrot, just people’s mentality). She is seen by some as a “sky rat.” She was used and forgotten by someone. She was found. She has taught me to appreciate all life even more.

Illustration by: Lauren Korany, Urban Hermits

A Lesson From Jack the Fox

Jack the Fox and his human companion can show us new perspective on animals, especially those regarded as pests.

The clip surely brings a few questions to mind regarding the idea of pets. At what point is human – animal bonding beneficial to a non-human animal? Detrimental? Do they enjoy human company? What differentiates keeping a dog as a pet vs. a fox? Obviously, these are not black and white answers and neither is the complexity of human – non-human relationship dynamics and understanding.

The biggest point to drive home from the video is that observation and interaction with non-human animals will teach us to see these animals differently, to admire them. How many times have you heard someone say they hate opossums. Why? Because they are ugly, scary, vicious, a nuisance. If you were to observe their behaviors and how closely these relate to human compassion, it would be clear that these claims are a stereotype passed down through decades of insecurity (with the nocturnal) and human dominance. So next time you see a fox, or better yet a common squirrel, take some time to admire how its behavior compares to yours.

Video: LPSCreativeMedia 7 May 2010;

On Pets – Our Flock!

You may remember seeing various posts of three wonderful parakeets on our blog. Here is a bio breakdown of our flock members just for some fun!

The Zen Master – Tél

Personality: is BIG, will stand up to anyone and anything often dancing after he triumphs. However, he is very patient. Seems to be judging you and often gives the “stank-eye”.
Named after: the Hungarian word for winter.
Known as the: tolerant one.
Has a thing for: unpainted fingernails.
Favorite things are: green seeds and fingernails.
Reaches: nirvana through twirling his seeds in his beak and closing his eyes.
Has a tendency: to play tricks on people admiring him.
Lived: with only humans for 2 years until Sufi joined him.
Time in family: 3 years – adopted.

The Hyperactive Goon – Sufi

Personality: Adorable, bubbly, innocent, and hyper – the opposite of the quiet bird that we first met!
Named after: the folk artist, Sufjan Stevens.
Known as the: little psychopath.
Has a thing for: wet hair, landing on Tél’s back.
Hates: flies.
Favorite things are: his two boyfriends, Tél and Django.
Has a tendency: to squawk repeatedly and dance when someone is recounting a long story.
Lived: in an overcrowded pet store tank where he had been bleeding from his wing.
Time in family: 2 years – bought / rescued.

The Mystery Man – Django

Personality: Grounded, alert, a little drummer. Still learning about him everyday!
Named after: Django by Rancid
Known as the: weatherman.
Has a thing for: Sufi.
Hates: thumbs.
Has a tendency: to make scratchy sounds under his breath when talking.
Favorite things are: drumming on his hanging mirror.
Lived: in an inattentive home before he was up for adoption.
Time in family: 3 months – adopted.

Updates on the Budgies!

I just wanted to post some updates on the budgie crew from the past couple weeks. I have bought my first smart phone and consequently have been going a little instagram crazy. Django, Mark’s recently adopted budgie has been staying in my apartment. He had another flare up of thrush and is once again happy to be off of his medicine. My two boys, Sufi and Tél, with the addition of Django have stirred up interesting bouts of drama and jealousy. Django has decided that Sufi is his love, and the two get quiet and stare Tél down anytime he comes over to be part of the commotion. So, Tél has been hanging with Mark and I. See below!

Meet my New Companion: Django!

Hi everyone!

I thought I would share with you the newest addition to my circle: Django! He is a green and yellow budgie, the same type of bird that Lauren, my fellow UrbanHermit, wrote about in a post about her birds, Sufi and Tel. I have spent some time looking for a little bird friend to keep me company while I am in grad school in Pennsylvania. After searching online for birds available for adoption, I came across this little guy about an hour away from my home. I went up to a farm to meet him and right away felt he was perfect. Today was only his third day with me, but he has been doing great! He already has flown out of his cage to explore my apartment and will even sit on my hand! He loves commotion and was very excited by a thunderstorm. I have been using some techinques to get him used to me, like feeding him from my hand and reading him a few poems before bed, but I am fortunate that he has adjusted so well and so quickly. Django did not have a name when I adopted him , but I chose it based on one of my favorite songs by the punk rock band Rancid (my favorite band), which is based off the 1966 Italian film, Django, as opposed to the more recent Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained, which is significantly different from the original. Below are a few pics:

Django preening himself

Again

Getting aclimated to his new best friend

Eating out of my hand!

Meet little Django!

Django on my hand!

Django on my hand! (Sorry about the quality-phone shot!)