Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Pet Birds and Apple Pie

My mom had parakeets when I was a kid. If my memory isn’t playing tricks on me she had them trained to do amazing things. Well, maybe not amazing but I do know she could make a sound with her tongue and they’d fly across the room to land on her outstretched finger. Mom was a tee drinker and I have a couple of photos of her with a tea cup in her hand and a bird or two perched on the edge of the cup. It’s a wonder she didn’t get sick with salmonella bacteria drinking from a cup that bird feet had been walking around. Maybe she did and it got blamed on handling raw chicken.

Why am I trying so hard to remember Petie the Parakeet and his side-kick whatever her name was? Because it dawned on me that in my Post-Levi-the-Mighty-Schnauzer era I should explore other options for a pet besides dogs. Anything that is living, trainable and depends on me might be enough to make me feel needed, and if some other kind of animal has a shorter life span and a lower price tag than a puppy all the better. I allergic to cats, rabbits and horses so those are out of the running. I’m not fond of Guinea pigs, gerbils or ferrets. Pet rats or snakes would have me boarding up the windows and running away from home. I had tropical fish at one point in my life and all the water bubbling in the tank at my age would have me peeing too often.

Narrowing my search down I landed on Domestic Canaries and Zebra Finches and what it takes to keep them as pets. Both are said to wake you up by singing an ode to the sun and if that got too annoying I could just fry them up for dinner. JUST KIDDING! Canaries have been bred in captivity and caged since the 17th century so if there’s a protest group out there wanting to free all the breeders’ birds they should know that pet store birds are not the same as wild birds and probably couldn’t fend for themselves in the great outdoors. Or am I just buying into the bird breeders’ publicity campaigns? Either way, they have a lot of positives to recommend them for a senior companion. They supposedly are curious about what their humans are doing, smart, will sing back and forth to the birds outside your window, can be left alone for two days if you want a weekend get-away, and they can sit outside with you on your deck during nice weather. “Hi, neighbor! Whatcha got in the cage?” 

Another selling point---at least for me---is that the only vet in town who treats sick birds is located close by where I’ll be moving. Before Levi died I worried about moving so far away from the dog and cat ER here in town. And just to add another point on my list in favor of getting a canary is the fact that my grandfather was a coal miner during an era when they actually used them to test the quality of the air down there. I could give one of their descendants a better life than working in a coal mine. There's that screwball logic of mine again.

Another reason to consider a bird is the canaries only cost $25 to $200. Zebra Finches are $25 to $100. Cages aren’t a huge investment either, but when I looked at used cages on Facebook Market Place---not that I'd buy a used cage and maybe bring a bird virus home along with it---I was shocked at how many were listed. Does that mean I’m not the only one who gets excited by their birds-as-pets research then they lost interest down the road and have used that fry-them-up-for-dinner option? AGAIN, just kidding! Both these species of birds only live five to seven years, sometimes ten. Heck, by then I’d probably forget to feed whatever kind of pet I end up with which makes it too bad these birds can’t "sing" like a tomcat when its hungry or horny. A parrot could be taught to cry like a cat for its food but I’m grossed out every time I see someone walking around with a parrot on their shoulder and bird diarrhea running down the back of their shirt. I see them often in the summer which---come to think about it---makes me wonder if I’m really only seeing one person who happens to travel in the same radius as I do, whose face I couldn’t pick out in a lineup because I’m so focused on that poopy shoulder. And parrots are creepy if you look them in the eye!

Anyway, to wrap this up I invested a whole day studying pet bird care and training and I am/was still open to the idea until I googled how to clean a birdcage and found out the best way is to use bleach on them once a week. Bummer! I'm highly allergic to bleach. When I get my second Covid-19 vaccine, I'll be near a store that sells live birds so I'll stop by, ask a few questions, see if I can smell some of the commercial cage cleaning sprays. Over this past few days I've talked myself into a canary and depending on what I learn at the bird store I may have talk myself back out of the idea. Ya, if you're still reading this post and aren't fed up with my pet dilemma by now you can expect the topic might pop up again as I work through trying to fill the silence Levi's death left behind in the house.


New Topic: I baked my first apple pie since I helped my mom back before my teens. It wasn’t exactly a pie because I donated my pie tins to Goodwill thinking I’d never use them, but if I’m anything I’m good at research so I consulted Mr. Google to learn how to make a pie without a pan. Tip for the day: a cookie sheet and parchment paper. The only reason why I attempted this feat of Womanhood is because last fall a lady who lives down the block and around the corner walked to my house to give me a bag of fresh picked apples. I don’t like raw apples but it seemed rude to turn them down after she’d carried the heavy bag all that way to my house. I’m not replacing things in my pantry when I run out because of my upcoming move so in my pie I substituted almond flavoring for vanilla, and Truvia for real sugar. (I’ll be using that bag of Truvia for the rest of my life but it was the only "sugar" available back when the pandemic started.) My end product looked more like strudel, but it taste great and held together in slices better than a lot of pies at potlucks. I never want to have that many apples in the house again, though. It was too much pressure. I can't throw food away, the waste would make me feel too guilty. But they kept reminding me of how often I had to sit at the dinner table until bedtime when I didn't want to eat what my mom was serving---most notably, liver night once a week. One pie and a batch of apple sauce cured my apple problem. It's spring, they had to go! ©

 

 

 

Male American Singing Canaries are bred for their singing abilities and are happy to live as low maintenance bachelors. You can't put two males together or they fight and if you put a male and female together they make babies easily. Two females will sing but not make up long songs like the males.
According to what I've read this little guy is a great starter bird but I don't like the implication of the term 'starter bird.' I've heard of old ladies who keep adding cats to their households. Are there old ladies who keep adding birds to their home? Could I become the Bird Lady in Building One?

49 comments:

  1. Ha! Once upon a time, there was a cockatiel named Nikki who was part of my life. He was an absolute hoot. He loved feet. Take your shoes off, and he'd come over and talk to your toes. He'd whistle "Yankee Doodle," in tune, and when you took a shower, he'd come perch on the shower curtain rod and preen in the steam. Best of all? He'd spread out his wings and yell, "I'm an eagle! I'm an eagle!" Personality-wise, he was exactly that big and impressive!

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    1. Wow, someone spent a lot of time teaching him appropriate phrases. Love the eagle line.

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  2. Thanks for helping me think about the pet parakeet we had when I was a child. My grandfather caught him outside one summer as a pet who had gotten away. He was entertaining except for our dog as he would dive bomb the dog and peck his head. Otherwise the only pets I have had long term were mostly dogs with a few cats added to the mix.

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    1. For some reason I vaguely remember parakeets being quite popular for awhile when I was a kid. Ours were really my mom's pets. She spent a lot of time with them teaching them to do things. I guess canaries don't interact with humans quite the same way as parakeets. What you teach them are the practical stuff like going back in their cages after exercise flying is over.

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  3. Birds scare me. They flutter too much and have sharp beaks. I'll be fascinated to follow along IF you get a pet bird. Small but mighty they are.

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    1. I feel that way about hummingbirds and parrots. Parrots look like they'd want to puck your eyes out and I swear a hummingbird got so close once I thought it wanted to drink my ear wax.

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  4. Would you wait until you move? Will you have room for a cage? Just wondering how the bird will fit into your floor plan. You would get someone to talk to and care for and a new hobby to fill your time but you would have to buy all new equipment and they poop a lot. So it is a plus and minus situation!?
    You'll know after you talk to the woman at the bird shop. Good luck!

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    1. That's the big question right now...will a cage fit into the floor plan and I can't really answer that until I see where the heat ducts are in the room where I'd most likely keep a bird. Birds need to be out of their cage a half hour a day from what I've read so getting it back into its cage would be easiest in my little office/hobby room. Apparently canaries eat every half hour so you just have to move fast when they go inside to grab a seed.

      I would definitely wait until after I move to get one. Getting all new equipment is minor compared to what it costs to keep a dog. And you only have to change their cage liners every other day, give them bath water every other day and deep clean their cage once a week in the shower. I did read about some cage cleaners that claim not to have any odor.

      There is a place closer to where I'll be moving that is exclusive dedicated to selling birds and bird supplies but won't go there until I'm actually ready to pull the trigger, if I decide on a bird. The place I went yesterday that sells some birds was disappointing but it's in part the topic for my next blog. I'll just say the pluses out weigh the minuses at this point in time. Any pet is going to have minuses.

      As much as I'd like another dog, I've been reading adoption listings at Pet Finders and it breaks my heart the way those senior dogs are left without a home. I'm not sure I could do that to another puppy down the road, if I got one, and no one can guarantee which of us would die first. I won't take on a senior dog that needs a home. They'd be a money pit but a money pit without the bonding of years of living together to make it worth it.

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  5. A bird is a possibility and hope you are able to research it well, even better talk to someone who already owns one. Forget parrots besides the sinister looks, they live forever and must be left to a young relative in your will. Let us know how it goes.

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    1. Ya, I'm hoping someone who reads my blog has some firsthand knowledge to add to my research. I would never entertain the idea of getting a bird larger than a finch. Parrots live too long and I'm half afraid of them and who knows what words they'll pick up on TV or from your friends. Which just reminds me of something my mom's bird used to say, "Pretty Girl."

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  6. The Op Pack at The Chronicle of Woos have Dylan, a canary. You might ask them about their experience. I'm interested in what you end up getting because if something happens to Andy I will need a living creature for company. I agree, a dog might be too much to handle. We had parakeets for a while when I was a teen and have fond memories.

    https://thechronicleofwoos.blogspot.com/

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  7. I can't even imagine how many hours I spent sitting at the table because I didn't want to eat whatever was being served. One of my big dislikes as a child was steak, because the cheap cuts my parents could afford (and which we were supposed to understand as a treat) were so tough and hard to chew. Thank goodness we only had liver a few times a year. I remember one time when the cat jumped up on the kitchen table (strictly forbidden) and devoured the liver that was thawing there. My mother was so upset that my father decided we should all go out to eat (a very rare event in our lives!). I still have very fond memories of that cat.

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    1. LOL we had a dog who I fed under the table until my brother ratted me out. After that the dog went out outside on liver night. Our parents all thought the were doing the right thing to make us eat. The WWII draft found too many nutrition related diseases in young men and it became a national security issue with the war department to change that.

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  8. I went to a Catholic boarding high school. On the nights liver was served, all the nuns would be stationed strategically around the dining room to make sure that there was no illegal disposition of the liver.

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    1. Making sure you all got your iron. My mom would have made a good, watchful nun on liver night.

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  9. Over the years, we have owned a mynah bird, cockatoos, parrots in different sizes, a macaw, finches and lovebirds but never a canary. Birds are messy. I'll take the dog any day. Just my opinion.

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    1. Dog are definitely more lovable and my first choice if I was in a different stage of my life. It's a HARD decision to leave that part of my life behind. But I don't like not having another living soul in the house either.

      I've read that birds spread their seeds all over the place and you buy shield for around the bottom of their cages so I get that I'd have to get a mini vac to clean up around their cage. The pooping while doing their daily flying exercise definitely has me rethinking what I'd put in the dedicated room for that exercise. Can't share the same space as my painting easel because of the fumes and I'd want to cover up my computer if that and the birds shared the same space which I'm pretty sure will be the case. Canaries are small so I'm guessing their messes would be too.

      Thanks for the input!

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    2. I still think of Levi and my heart aches for you. Molly will be my last dog so I hope she lives for a long time yet. Friends have told me that there is no way that I can live without a constant furry companion but in order to get another dog, I would have to have a friend or family member step in if something should happen to me. I rent here and don't plan on owning my own home and that makes it harder when you have a dog and need to move on. Thanks for listening to my rambling.

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    3. I have the same song rambling in my head and heart. It's SO hard to knowledge that another dog is not a smart decision, and I had hoped not to make it until I was better established where I'm moving to. I picked that place because it's so dog friendly. I even picked the unit that was the most dog friendly.
      If you want to break your heart, start reading listings at Pet Finders of the senior dogs who have lost their elderly owners. Even if we do have a friend or family member who'd agree to step up to the plate if something happens there is no guarantee they would be a position to do so when the time came...I'm talking about if I got a puppy now.

      People have told me just to volunteer at a shelter to get my dog fix, but I'm so allergic to some breeds that won't work in my case.

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  10. When Rick and I first married, he worked in a mall shoe store (no jobs for carpenters in 1981, a time of economic downturn). The pet department of Woolworths often had birds escape, and we ended up with a pretty little white zebra finch, caught in a shoebox. She adored Rick, singing a particular song only for him whenever he came home from work. She even laid a few little eggs over time.

    Years later, after she was gone and we moved to a house, had our first son, and wanted a pet, we got a male zebra finch. He didn't have the personality of the female, and I was dismayed at the mess below his cage. I also found myself feeling sad about this bird being caged, observing so much wild bird activity in my back yard.

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    1. Thanks for sharing that! I read how finches and canaries will make up long songs for particular people but I thought it was part of the hype.

      That sadness at watching a caged bird is something to keep in mind. I've read in several places that canaries don't mind living alone but how do they really know that?

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  11. That apple pie looks delicious. Yum...

    My SIL was on a walking trail one day and had a bird (parrot?) land on the bench she was resting on. Long story short, they took it home because it seemed "lost", advertised around them for a while and ended up with this bird. Not my cup of tea, but she could never say no to any animal.

    I get that you are hesitant to get a puppy, and so are we. We considered fostering puppies for PAWS with a Cause, as they are always looking for foster parents. We decided we couldn't keep a dog for 18 months and then give it back, and of course, you've done the worst of the training and then have no dog to show for it. BUT, it is an amazing cause and people who do it say it's really gratifying to see these dogs get a forever owner who needs them. Your life would be all puppies all the time. And no calmed down, well trained dog. So we pretty much decided it was a better option for younger folks that usually have another dog at home anyway.

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    1. I know PAWS for a cause well and I agree with everything you're saying about them. One of my future neighbors has been fostering their puppies for years but will give that up once they move. Not really practical in an apartment like setting. When my husband died we asked for donations to PAWS. Levi was trained (by me)from the get-go to be a wheelchair friendly dog. Dogs have an amazing ability to know when they are needed by a human they bond with.

      I just saw a story either on Facebook or a rescue site about a finch getting lost and reunited with its owner. What are the odds of that! Sounds like that bird who found your SIL knew what he was doing, to get himself taken into a loving home.

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    2. Yes! PAWS is a great organization, but not a great match for either of us at this point, I have to admit. It does sound like you are a good dog trainer, though. ;-)

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    3. When we got Levi, my husband's stroke made me realize for the first time in my life I wasn't going to live forever and I wanted to make sure Levi was the best behaved dog out there so if something happened to me, that he'd be super desirable for an adoption. We even had a little dog dancing routine that I only would do for the amusement of my husband. If have been more physically fit I would have loved to train a dog for fly ball or agility. Levi would have failed agility, though, because I could not get him to go through the tunnel that came with an agility set I bought for our backyard. Not enough terrier blood in him to overcome his fear of tunnels, sweaters and blankets covering him. I so wish I could have another dog I don't foresee that being in the cards.

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  12. We had a parakeet when I was a kid. He was very friendly because he had six pairs of hands to play with him. I think if you have just one, it will bond better with you, rather than someone of it own species! Ralph and I also had a parakeet. He was very fun to watch and loved the sound of running water.

    Someone at Etsy must make tiny diapers!

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    1. Oh, my God, you made me laugh. Can you imagine the blogger fodder I could get from trying get a diaper on a canary? I just googled bird diapers and they do actually make them. They're called flight suits and parrot nappies and they even make a size small enough for a parakeet!!! I'm not shocked they make them for parrots---they make quite the mess---but I was shocked you can buy them for parakeets. I'd buy one and make my own from the pattern.

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  13. Gosh this post had me laughing! Reminded me of when we brought home a cockatiel a friend gave our daughter. Our girl was probably around 8 and she wanted that bird to be her friend in the worst way. Well, that bird took a shine to my husband, who really wasn't that fond of the bird. When loose, he'd find my husband and sit on his shoulder and sing to him. The bird never gave our daughter a second thought and she was so disappointed. Needless to say, we gave the bird back and that was our one and only bird experiment.

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    1. That's both funny and sad all at the same time. That will probably be my luck with a bird, that I'd get one that doesn't want to bond. That said, canaries are not supposed to be as people friendly as the other small breeds.

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  14. BTW that apple pie looks wonderful. My hat is off to anyone who can make pie!!

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  15. Gosh that pie looks great for a sheet pan pie. I am not certain I could do that. I am not a big fan of apples but do like apple pie! Birds, not so much.

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    1. I'm not good at remembering to photograph my food. I should have taken a photo before I was down to the last piece. It was really, easy, Margaret and I made several mistakes like not flouring the parchment paper before putting the crust down. Didn't make a bit of difference in the final results.

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  16. This might be a really good idea for you -- small, relatively easy to care for, pretty. I'll be curious to see what happens in the next chapter of your search!

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    1. Me too. My next chapter could be anything from a complete failure to thrive to a great way to live as I age.

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  17. Parakeets have small contained poops that can be easily picked up with a tissue - wet or dry. They're smart as can be, and the males will talk, albeit garbled. They're also noisy, and messy from flapping their wings, not so much from pooping, and many will bite if they feel like it. Wing flapping will propel anything in the cage not heavy enough to stay on the floor of the cage onto the floor of your house. The enclosures help some, but not 100%. Well cared for they live 15-20 years. Average trip to a bird vet is $100. Fortunately, most never need to see a vet.

    If you can have a dog where you're moving, I'm still thinking a dog is what you really, really want. I've had 3 dogs I adopted at 8 or 9 and each of them lived at least 5 years, and the 2 nine year olds lived 7 years. Another dog I adopted at 6 lived 12 years! I decided to adopt only dogs over 7 because nobody wants them and have loved each of them as much as a puppy. There's no feeling in the world like seeing the look of trust on a rescue dog's face. Sometimes that can take a few months, but it's amazing.
    Rescued dogs are grateful and they show it. A reputable rescue will be honest about a dog's flaws, and there's no dog (or human) without a few. I understand not wanting to adopt a 13 year old dog, but most small dogs live easily to 14 and many to 16, so there's lotsa years left in the 8 year olds. I made the decision not to get another dog about a year after I lost my 18 year old Chinese Crested because I have 2 parrots and they're enough to take care for. One is extremely affectionate and companionable, crazy smart, and is presently sitting on the edge of my laptop leaning on my hand.

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    1. Thanks for the first hand knowledge on birds. A lot to learn but I don't believe in impulse buying when it comes to something live. $100 for a vet bill is nothing compared to what Levi used to cost for yearly checks, shots and teeth cleaning.

      I would not be moving where I'm moving if it had not been so pet friends for Levi. It was the first thing on my Want List. This place totally fills the bill from walking trails around a lake and in the woods, poop bag stations and dog walkers for hire.

      I really, really do want another dog but I'm not sure it's a wise idea at my age to get a puppy and NONE of the rescue places around here seem to want to place small breeds with people who don't have fenced yards which I won't have after I move. They must have their reasons but they don't require them for large breed dogs which seems backward to me. Where I live you have to watch small dogs every minute they're outside to keep them from becoming prey for large birds. I've seen them pick up rabbits twice like it was nothing.

      Rescue groups also don't give you final ownership until their 6 months visitation and by then it would be obvious I'll be moving out. They could take the dog back when they learn I won't have that fenced yard anymore. I feel like I'm in a no-win zone where a rescue is considered.

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  18. Not all rescues have those requirements. I've worked with Col. Potter's Cairn Rescue for 15 years and the only time they ask for a fence is when the dog is an escape artist. Nor do they have a 6 month visitation rule. They always have a few dogs in Michigan, and I know them to be highly reputable. Take a look: https://www.cairnrescue.com/store/dogs/?F_ValueIds=334

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    1. Thanks. I checked out their website, but because of my allergies I can't get a breed that sheds. Even short haired dogs like dachshunds make me break out in hives if I touch them. Love the size of those cairns on their site and their cute factor would suck anyone in. If my ideal dog came along would be a 15 pounds or under poodle 3 to 6 years. But you've given me an idea about researching breed specific rescue groups. I've been doing Pet Finder and our local humane society and county animal shelter.

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  19. As I read this I have around a dozen Tainbow Somethihng my mind has gone blankonthe name bugga that eating bread outside my front door

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  20. Parrots would outlive you even if you were an Infant when you got one, my Brother has one and has to put him in his Will... Parrots and Turtles are a 100+ Year Commitment and unless you're an Immortal... the Canary would be a much better option. I agree, Birds don't live very long, and tho' I bonded with the Hamster Brothers more than I thought I would, Grieving every 2.5 Years is too much Grief. I think at our Season of Life Birds make sense. I had Parakeets once when our Kiddos were little, very messy Creatures but we did Love Blue and Beau for the short lifespan they had and yes, they were very smart and trainable. I'm still conflicted about a replacement Pet for Miss Priss, I just don't know yet... a part of me is liking not having the responsibility... and then I see a Cat and have the emotional wrestling match with myself all over again.

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    1. There is nothing on earth that could make me get a parrot. I half afraid of them and hummingbirds. Hummingbirds seem to want my ear wax and parrot seems to want my soul.

      Prince T is still young enough to need a pet to cuddle, but I bet she's not ready to replace Miss Priss. If one comes ago and adopts your family, I could see that happening.

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  21. I had budgies when I was first married. I always let them fly loose around the apartment though, because I hated seeing them caged up. Some people say rabbits make great pets. I’ve ran through a lot of different possibilities in my mind too, since I moved out here. But I think I will hold out for a dog once I have a better living situation. I read a story today about a man on the mainland who just surrendered his dogs to the local SPCA. He lived in a trailer and thought he had 20-30 small dogs. He actually had 119!!!! In a trailer!!!! Needless to say they need a lot of care and vet work before they can be adopted out.

    Deb

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    1. Animal hoarding is just such a sad situation for not only the animals but for the person they lived with and those who volunteers who try to rehab those animals. There was a story TV about a woman who had so many cats that when they died she couldn't bare to part with them so she had refrigerator full of dead cats.

      Waiting until you get a house to get a dog makes sense for you, you're younger and more physically fit to care for dog. He or she would be the luckiest dog in the world if it loved long walks as much as you do.

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    2. And if my dog loved kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding with me, all the better! Back at my old place I used to kayak along the river and often see a neighbour kayaking with his mini-Schnauzer happily sitting between his legs, just enjoying the ride. That would be my dream!

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  22. When my boys were young, we got two parakeets. They are the only pets I've ever "gifted" -- to a neighbor who was much more tolerant than I about what seemed like constant cage cleaning and seeds dropped all over the floor under the cage. Plus the boys lost interest in about two weeks, but we kept the birds for over a year. That said, you have me sold on the idea of canaries for you! The singing sounds delightful!

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    1. Canaries, from what I've read, don't need interaction with humans as much as parakeets or other birds which suits me just fine. I am worried that once the novelty wears off I'd lose interest as well. We'll see where I'm at come fall, after I settle in.

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