When we moved to Guanaja we brought along our dog, Pepper, a mixed-breed Schnauzer and our 4, count ‘em, tropical birds. At the present time we have 4 dogs, 2 cats and 5 birds. So, with this blog I’ll introduce them to you.
In 1983, while shopping in the mall, I happened upon a pet store and saw a beautifully colored tropical bird. It was a Manday Conure who had a black head, a green body and white and red socks on his legs. I was enthralled. I had to have this bird. Went home and after much convincing my husband agreed to look at the bird. He fell in love and we purchased Rocky. Rocky is as his name implies; strong-willed and very macho. He is the extreme alpha male.
In April of 1994, Mike and I were at Busch Gardens and spotted a beautiful bird (aren’t they all?). It was an Eclectus and had the most brilliant red coloring accented with iridescent blue. We both agreed we had to find one of those. We found a breeder and purchased Sienna. She is a quiet bird but so affectionate. She has bonded with me and is happy to wander the porch frightening the dogs and nipping at the cats’ tails. She is the Queen of the roast and the porch is her territory. Eclectus are the only parrots in which one can tell the male from the female by the coloring. All other birds must be blood sexed to determine their sex no matter what anyone tells you. The female Eclectus has the coloring of Sienna; the male is a bright lime green with a cream colored beak.
In May of 1994 I saw a photo of a Sun Conure. Now, I had to have that bird as the colors were spectacular. I pursued the want ads in the paper and found a lovely little bird for a reasonable price. Ahh, bird number three! We named her Peek-a-Boo and she and Rocky get along just great. The problem with conures is that they are loud, screeching birds and are constantly sounding the alarm for buzzards overhead, strange animals in the yard (cows, pigs, horses) or just because something they did not like caught their eye.
In December of 1995 I decided that “Mike needed an African Grey”. Mike did not agree but I persisted. Reading about this wonderful bird and the fact that it is the most intelligent of all the parrots, I pursued this quest with a zest. I finally got Mike to go see a new baby African Grey and you guessed it, he fell in love. José Gasbar (named after the pirate who has a special holiday set aside for him in Tampa). Mike gives almost all the animals a "second" name and José's is Petey.
Now, up until this time, we have had no problems with any of the birds and were learning more and more with each addition. When we acquired José he was only a few weeks old and we had to hand feed him with a syringe - heck, he didn’t even have all his feathers yet and was a ball of fluff. Fortunately for Petey, Mike had quit his job to stay home and draw up the plans for our future house on Guanaja. I worked to keep us in groceries and Mike babysat Petey who became very dependent upon Mike.
One day Mike had to leave Tampa to attend the funeral of his Aunt and was gone all day. Now, African Greys are very high strung birds and after bonding with an individual they become very anxious with any change in schedule. We did not realize the impact this would have on our young bird, who now had all of his feathers, and when Mike returned that evening he came home to a very nervous bird. The next day Petey started plucking a t his feathers. We tried everything we could think of to get him to stop but nothing worked. We even contacted a bird psychiatrist in another state to see what more we could do. The long and short - nothing could be done and she finally advised us to let him pick and maybe he would get over it after the initial picking.
Well, we now have a permanent nudist bird in our home
In 1999, after Mitch, we also took on the ownership of a Yellow-Napped Amazon (indigenous to the island) by the name of Lupita. She is an active bird and very attached to Mike. She talks all the time and is a constant source of entertainment for us. I must say that Yellow-Napped parrots are the most adaptable of all the parrots I have seen. Lupita had been passed from one family to another before we got her and had very little problems adjusting to our "zoo".
The first month we were here, 1997) we acquired a little puppy left on our doorstep - Cocoa.
She turned into a beautiful, loving but very independent dog. Cocoa is the Alpha female and leads the others on various “walk abouts” now and then. They will be gone for hours at a time. Living in a remote part of the island, there is plenty of area for them to wander undisturbed.
Along the way we acquired 2 more dogs born on our property and 3 cats. We had a regular zoo. I had never had so many animals at one time! Alas, Pepper (the dog we brought with us) had to be put down when he was 15 due to illness.
In 1998, During the building of our house, a litter of pups was born and, ultimately, we acquired Winken, Blinken and Nod (Blinken eventually ran off). Winken is a sweet dog, very nervous for some reason, and Nod is the calmer of the two.
One cat, Midnight (who was the mother to Mr. Leonard pictured above ) was a big white, independent cat (aren’t they all?). Mike wanted to call her Blackie but we settled on Midnight! We had her for about 8 years and then she got cancer of the ear which spread to her nose and she, too, had to be put down. Her son, Mr. Leonard, has been with us about 7 years and, unfortunately, had the same cancer on his ears. His ears had to be “trimmed” back hopefully eliminating the spread of cancer. He is a great mouser and very affectionate.
The same year, Ivey (our female calico cat) showed up with our worker and his grandson one day and we adopted her after a bit. We mainly took her on as my worker’s grandson was rather rough with her and poked her in the eye with a stick and we thought she might go blind. Miraculously the eye healed and she is a very affectionate, calm cat.
After the death of Midnight we were put into a position of taking on our worker’s dog (Puppy). So in 2005 we adopted Puppy who divides his time between us and the worker. We are now a family of 5 birds, 4 dogs and 2 cats.
We love all our pets and are constantly entertained by their antics. Petey and Lupita are quite the talkers and we wonder if there is a competition to see who can learn the most words/phrases. We are the islands’ designated toenail and wing clippers for caged birds. We give out information on the care and feeding of birds. Unfortunately, Honduras is not up to speed on what birds should be fed nor the proper care of these lovely creatures. For the most part, the only food available are sunflower seeds - the worse thing you can give parrots. They are high in cholesterol and of course birds love them. Just like people, they like any junk food! We order all our food from the states for our birds and intersperse this with fresh fruit and vegetables.
I don’t recommend a “zoo” like we have for everyone, but I do advocate the integration of an animal into the family as an important part of life. With pets comes responsibility but also comes the love and companionship of a wonderful friend for life.