27 February 2011

Nellie the Dolphin's 58th Birthday and Bird Feet Love Tank Tops

Nellie turned 58 today over at Marineland; she is the oldest dolphin you'll see at any zoo or aquarium in the world. Her birthday is a celebration every year, and I was there with my camera. Nellie's birthday included a cake made for her by the trainers. This year it featured sushi snacks in addition to her normal fare of herring, capelin, and gelatin. The birds had to stay home for this one although Ms. Flock Advisor and I contemplated taking Kenobi attached to a string device. He ended up staying at home, though. It would have been difficult to explain that the harnessed animal at the end of my leash eating the gift shop inventory is my service animal, and so he must be allowed in to Nellie's big bash with me. Besides, I've seen what my turkey calls do to his ears, no telling how the trainer's whistles would affect him.

It was a nice day in the sun, especially after spending the last couple of beautiful weekends inside tapping away at this keyboard. Lennon has hardly been able to keep up with his mimic of the keyboard clicks. Nellie's birthday was an excellent reason to put the feverish textual productivity on hold (then again, here I am) for a day. Her age is known exactly because she was born at Marineland in 1953. Her longevity is of course a testament to her own hardiness, but also to the care that is taken of her by the staff that oversees the dolphins at Marineland. Marine mammal veterinary science is a very young discipline, so taking care of those animals can be particularly challenging. Like the parrots at the Feather Dorm, dolphins are intelligent and social, but still undomesticated animals. It takes a keen and educated eye to spot a health problem in time because their instinct is to mask illness. Morning assessments of the animals are something dolphin caretakers and bird keepers know very well. Seeing the animals at the start of the day must be more than a casual glance. Are they active, breathing normally, eating, social? Even on the most rushed mornings to get out the door and off to work, either myself or Ms. Flock Advisor takes a moment to check on the animals as they wake-up. A screaming Cher can instigate a migraine as we search for car keys and throw a lunch together, but it's a good sign that she is a healthy, if not happy at that moment, Cher.

After the party for Nellie, I was in the mood to enjoy some more of the sunny day. I stopped off at our local burrito shop for supplies and then cranked up the Sunday reggae show on the radio as soon as I walked in the door of the Feather Dorm. Cher came out on the porch with me, but missed out on the chips and salsa because I swallowed them up too fast for her. Ever notice how you sometimes eat really spicy foods a little too fast before realizing it? She did munch on a couple of Nutri-berries while perched on her tree-stand. Putting a beer in a coozie for the first time this year, I reflected on how great of a reggae Sunday this is: mexi-beach food, cold brew, a waterfront view speckled with exotic wildlife (okay, its a pond with an alligator in it), and a parrot to hang out with. How much more tropical can it get? The answer is none, none more tropical.

With summer around the corner I thought it was also time to send out this message on behalf of parrots everywhere. Bird feet can grip the material of a t-shirt very well. Bird feet do not do as well when trying to perch on a shirtless human. They slip and slide, usually ending up on the ground, and leave their human with didactyl rake marks on their shoulder. A tank top provides your parrot with adequate footing, and you with that feeling of sunshine on the shoulders. So rock your tank top this summer, for your bird's sake. Ignore those downward stares from the cool-guys, they just don't like Def Leppard or Spinal Tap.

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