Monday, November 23, 2009

On a rare personal note...

Of all the nice things people have written to me, this is what my former husband sends along today in response to my last series of blogs. This is yet another reminder as to why I kicked him to the curb 20 years ago and why I deleted him from my subscriber's list today. I no longer suffer schmucks gladly.

Steve - "Someday you’ll find a way out of the non-stop depressing shit that goes on in your life."

My reply - "Losing birds that I’ve worked hard to recover will never be exactly uplifting, but I get the dig. Happy Holidays to you, too."

Not believing I snapped back, he rebounds by saying - "Wasn’t meant as a dig. I honestly would like to see you find happier times."

I said, - "Uh-huh…

Given that your current wife dedicated most of her life to helping people, you of all people should understand the role of caregiver. As with every other aspect of life, sometimes you’re the bug and sometimes you’re the windshield. If I’m with them during their crossing, I hold them while they die, grieve their lost life, put them in the freezer and move forward with my day. And rather than sitting with my head in a bottle of cheap vodka bemoaning another death, I have already been out chasing down a bird with a broken wing around the Canton Home Depot parking lot and dropped him off for evaluation over in Alpharetta. And in a truck that someone has so generously loaned to me while I get the next one worked out.

People have come up to me after a lecture and actually say they want to be me; how lucky I am to know so much and to be so privileged to live with animals that most people never get within a hundred feet of their entire lives. How many times have people walked up to you on the golf course and said that? See, my life isn’t so bad, after all.

You will notice that aside from Johnson the goose and the cats and my trip to the Highland Games, I don’t blog about my personal life, so you really haven’t a bloody, stinking clue as to my status, whether it’s happy or no. I would imagine however, you consider my life to be one of misery because I don’t have a lot of money in my checking account, but wealth does not necessarily a happy person make."

So there. Damn! THAT felt good.

Self portrait with Face

David's tired of flying...

"Come on Little Stevie, Liz is waiting across the Rainbow Bridge!"

I had the privilege of holding him during his transition...he only took four or five deep breaths and when I felt his wings and feet relax, I knew it was over. It was a smooth passing and only lasted a minute. I kissed his head and told him how sorry I was that this happend to him and I only wished I could have done more.

Thank you all for your well wishes.

I want to blog about something funny. This depressing $hit is killing me....m.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Barbed Wire HELL

Oh we go again...another Great Horned owl in serious trouble. I call this little male Steve, as in Steve and Sue who were kind enough to rescue this bird in Cartersville. They donated some Mouse Money, too, which I really appreciate. Most people don't think about the financial burden on rehabbers and you know how I hate to's so unbecoming.

I meant to have Don take pictures as I did the wire extraction and subsequent clean-up, but I forgot (besides, he was holding the head) and by the time I remembered, I didn't want to take him out again to recreate the situation, not to mention it is VERY graphic and I wouldn't want any of you fainting and falling off your chair. And yes, the wire was still embedded. Steve just cut the wire to get the bird down...

Raptors are very stoic, but you don't have to have three letters after your name to tell he is in a lot of pain. I gave him some pain meds, but his eyes remain closed and I'm having to force feed him. He will however, take water from a syringe. I also gave him some Ivermectin sub-q, which is supposed to kill fly larvae. I didn't see any yesterday, but that doesn't mean those mean little devil eggs aren't in there just waiting to hatch.

This is the kind of damage barbed wire does to birds...

Owls run on auditory signals, so they glide close to the ground listening for their supper. I don't think I've had a case yet where a bird was releasable that had collided with barbed wire. God, how I hate this stuff! It absolutely destroys muscle, ligaments and tendons and sometimes they hang there for days, struggling to stay alive before someone finds them and by then flies have usually blown the wounds. Flies are the kiss of death in this messy business.

It will be a miracle if this bird consents to keep living, much less be able to be released. He is responding to my touching his beak and he'll open his eyes a little when I hoo at him. I just want to let him know that if he lives, I will move heaven and earth to find him a home. I won't kill him after he's gone to the trouble to live.

Please keep Little Stevie in your prayers and thank you for taking the time to read my blog....m.

PS: Thank you all for your kind words regarding Liz. This is the life that chose me…I help, I hope, I grieve the ones that don’t make it. I have myself a GOOD cry and then I put one foot in front of the other because I know that someone is just around the corner that needs another chance, like Little Stevie.

Friday, November 20, 2009

David Escorts Liz Across the Rainbow Bridge

I fed Liz about 6 pm, then had to drive down to Buckhead last night (thank you Nancy, for loaning me your truck AGAIN) to pick up a Barred owl that was hitch hiking a ride from Juliet with a biologist who was giving a lecture at the Blue Heron Preserve on Roswell Rd. (Very cool place…the last little bit of peace along the insanity of Roswell Road…check it out). After the lecture, I met up with a great friend and supporter of HawkTalk, Bruce from Marietta, because he had rescued a juvenile Red-tailed hawk after a car crash in Smyrna earlier in the day.

I guess it was about 10:30p by the time I returned home. I didn’t do anything with the RTHA because he wasn’t dehydrated and he’s just about broken in two and I didn’t want to further stress him out. The Barred owl needed attention however, because I knew his car crash was three days ago and had received no food or water while the Good Samaritan desperately called around to get him some help. Thankfully, Jim Ozier, the biologist who gave him a lift, helped me give him fluids on the spot last night before his talk. (I need to take advantage of an extra pair of hands whenever possible and it’s a lot easier to give fluids with four hands than two). I thawed out some mice for our Barred friend and it only took him a hot second to figure out what’s what. So, he had a full tummy and settled in for the night.

I administered another tube feeding to Liz about 11:30, then staggered off to bed. For those of you who know me, I was 3+ hours PAST my bedtime at that point! I slept until about 4 and got up to discover that Liz had slipped away. I regret that I missed her passing as it is customary for me to hold them next to me during their transition; not so much for them, but for me, so that I might absorb a little of their spirit in their crossing. Sad as I am, at least I know that she died in a warm crate with a full tummy and with as much dignity as she had in life, wild but not willful and beholden to no one.

Thank you all so much for your good wishes and for those of you who dug down deep and helped us with some Mouse Money…m.

David says, “Come on Liz! I’ll show you across the Rainbow Bridge! You’ll like it here!”

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond's glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle Autumn's rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there. I did not die.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Liz update...17 hours out

Good morning,

Well…several tube feedings and fluids throughout the night and my dear Liz is still with me, weak but alive. She was resistant to the cannula this morning, so I took her out and wrapped her up so I can use both hands to insert the cannula correctly and (wo)man the plunger, as it is a very large syringe. There is this spot between my two work desks where I can wedge her into an upright position…oh, the improvising one must do when one has only two hands!

She is still VERY weak and so I don’t want to get my hopes up too high, but I’m delighted she lived through the night. When they are this low in weight and dehydrated, their kidneys will shut down and then you may as well pick out the organ music. She eliminated at some point earlier because I stuck my hand in the wet, sticky mess when I was putting her back in the crate. Oh well…that’s why God made soap.

I covered her up after this feeding and she doesn’t look very good…squatting, with her feathers all poofy and her eyes closed. There is a certain amount of stress associated with being handled and force-fed, so there is this fine line I walk in trying to do what is medically necessary and killing them with kindness. I gave her a good amount of food this time, so I will only annoy her with oral fluids every 30 minutes for the next few hours and will see how things go. If she scoots out from under the covers later, I will know she is warm enough.

There is this thing I do with them when they are low like this where I gently touch their beak and rictal bristles with my thumb and forefinger. They will close their eyes, move their heads back and forth and open their mouths like when they were young and reacting to their moms. Many of you have seen me do this with my almost 20 year old Great Horned owl, Sam. It’s a mommy thing. Back when they were little babies and daddy would bring food to the nest, he would pass it over to mom and she would tear it up and gently touch the beak of her babes, which is the signal that ‘supper’s here!”. My Sam LOVES it when I touch his beak, so I do this to the weak and dying so maybe they can go back to their start at life and remember how much their mama went through to raise them. Sam has proven to me over and over that they have recall, so I hope this makes them feel like mama cares for them, even if it’s to transition them to the other side.

Tactile stimulation is important regardless of what sort of animal you are….m.

Before wedging her into 'the crack'

Covered up after the feeding

Thank you for taking time....m.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Liz still hanging in there...

Well, she's made a little improvement since I went to bed at about 8pm, if you call sitting up an improvement. I woke up at 11:30 to peek in on her and she had wiggled out from under her covers and was sort of standing. (I'm being optomistic over here) actually propped up would be more accurate. At this point, I'll take anything. I had covered her up because the warmer you can keep them, the less calories they have to burn keeping their core temperature at 104...

At 4pm she looked like this

Her position at 11:30 and she even fought me a little when I put the cannula down her throat...

I'm wishing on a star...

The Saga of Richard and Liz

Hey Ya'll,

Richard, the Great Horned owl had been pelted with buckshot and his right ulna is broken. In birds, that's the big bone in the forearm. It's a good break, as breaks so, but the injury was over 2 weeks old because on the radiograph, you could see the calcification forming already. That means that he didn't hunt during all that time and whomever had him in captivity (I'm still convinced the perp kept him in a cage, then drove him to Duluth to dump him) either didn't feed him at all, or fed him very little. With the prominance of his keel and the pale mucous membranes, either way, he wasn't getting what he needed. We opted not to surgically intervene, esp since the fracture had started to calcify. He's out in the treehouse, so he can't raise too much sand and I have him covered on three sides so he can't see me walk by. His spirits are good and he's eating like a pig and we will just keep our fingers crossed that the break will heal well.

Now, on to Liz...ANOTHER Great Horned owl I just picked her up from a nice family very close to where I live. (Thanks, Nancy...for letting me keep your truck a few days!) The two front talons on the left foot are broken off and the edges are smooth, so the accident is not recent. She too, is VERY thin with pale mucous membranes. Unlike Richard, Liz is too 'down' to eat solid food. It takes a lot of energy to process meat, bones, fur, etc, so you have to mix up a gruel and tube feed them small, frequent amounts and keep them propped up so they won't aspirate if they regurgitate. I'm not sure this bird will live through the night. However, she happened to find herself in the back yard of a very caring lady that intervened and got her some help. We have done what we can do and now we wait; the rest is up to her. She is warm, dry and and has some food in her tummy and if she passes away, then at least it won't be in a ditch somewhere.

Thanks to Nancy (again) for loaning me her truck so I wouldn't have to rent something, we gave lectures at Russom Elementary and Woodward Academy last week. Russom was a small science club, so I took Nigel and all the students got to hold him and have their pictures taken. Woodward had too many students, so we had I think 10 class photo's with a student holding him. He is such a good boy...

Russom Science Club student

Woodward Academy

As usual...thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I'm going round and round with Paypal to add a link to this site to make it a little easier to donate some Mouse Money, but until such time, you can scoot over to and with a couple of clicks, we will magically have rats on the table!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Funeral for a friend...

Hey ya’ll,

Well, it’s been a few weeks and actually, I’ve been able to catch my breath as far as rehabbing goes.

It’s official; ‘Goliath’ the van has passed away. A big HawkTalk hug goes out to Chuck and Vicki for donating it last February after the Waffle House waitress with the Mickey Mouse insurance company totaled my 4Runner. The engine started smoking last week and that’s never a good sign, so I took him around the corner this morning to a local mechanic and it has leaks EVERYWHERE; looks like Swiss chess underneath and he said with 270k miles, it wouldn’t be worth it to repair. Both the oil, coolant AND transmission fluid are leaking on the exhaust and is posing a safety concern. If it were just me, I could pull over and leap out of the burning heap, but I can’t take that chance with the kids. I am working on getting another truck donated, but the timing isn’t quite right, so I will just have to sit tight for the next couple of weeks and trust. You know it’s a bad sign when Enterprise remembers how to get to your house… I have two gigs this week, so I’ll rent something, make a little less Mouse Money and call it George. It is what it is and sometimes, you just have to roll with the punches.

I cared for a lovely little creature recently, in the form of a Red-shouldered hawk and fortunately, her stay wasn’t long…just some reconditioning and BOOM, off she goes. It’s a good thing, too because as you can see from the pic, she’s about to launch herself at me. The shit I go through for those National Geographic shots! You know they’re feeling better when they want to tear your head off…

I didn’t keep her in this chamber very long because of the pea gravel. It will dull their talons over a period of time. I had stashed her in here so I could make ready the other chamber with a sand floor.

Her cere (that yellow part above the beak) is yellow because her aquatic vertebrate diet is rich in beta carotene. Cool, huh?

Johnson the goose is hale and hearty. He likes to chew on me and YES, those are pig socks, what of it???

This is ‘Richard’ my newest patient. A very skinny Great Horned owl with pale mucous membranes. He was delivered to my house this morning and I’m working on trying to get him a ride to the vet’s office either this afternoon or tomorrow. I skinned some mice and injected some Ivermectin in the food to start on the probably parasite load. That is the first thing I consider when they come in like this. This bird was picked up yesterday by a local service that provides transport for pets to area veterinarians. In the next photograph (and sorry about the mouse hanging out of his mouth) but you can see how the cere has been damaged. This rarely happens in the wild, so I would imagine whomever had been housing this bird before surrendering it was keeping it in a wire cage. Wire + raptors = Bad news. If this bird had had any more energy, his plumage would have been compromised, too.

He’s very polite, which tells me he ain’t feeling so hot, but what a beautiful boy… Check out the cere, just above the beak and you will see the damage… Again, sorry for the dangling food, but I want him to self feed, rather than me jamming it down his throat. much less stressful that way… “What’s for dinner? Rats-a-roni, darlings!”

Nancy and I attended the 1st annual Chicken Swap and Meet. A good time was had by all…

Boy, do I know how to have fun, or what? I crawled over a ditch for this shot.

The dress was ‘casual’.

I repeat…CASUAL.

Chickens make fine pets and if they misbehave, you can eat them.

What a cute little kid…they have the same hairdo.

There was some serious chicken bidness being discussed here…

The young man in the overalls connected us with a local man that we met yesterday and who is gathering me up some large hens. Ya’ll remember the problem I had with the roosters talking to Nigel all night long, so my next batch will be a all-girl group…

On the way to the swap Saturday, we passed by a yard sale and lo, and behold, I found just the couch I was looking for. Ya’ll remember Cargo furniture from the 80’s? It ain’t Broyhill, but it’s sturdy AND this one is a sleeper sofa. Thanks to Michael, Nancy and Kim for coming over to help me move it into the house. As you can see…it’s cat tested AND approved. That’s David’s daughter, Cristobel, on the left and her mom on the right. I can touch Cristobel’s tan fur and be closer to my David…

OK…that’s all for now. Ya’ll take care of yourselves and each other and thank you for taking the time to read my blog… Oh, if you know anyone who has a vehicle, even a little car that they would like to donate, we sure would appreciate it. Although the little car wouldn't hold my ed birds, it would help provide necessary transport for the injured ones to my vet's office....m.

Monteen McCord
POB 130
Holly Springs, GA 30142