Up in the air again — in a good way!

Posted by Raz on Nov 7th, 2008
Nov 7

During this dry spell of posting, Carly has been grounded for the last couple weeks or so.   She was flying much too far afield, exploring the neighborhood out of my sight range, and making friends “without supervision.”   I did not want a repeat of the Case of the Red-Headed Guy.   We’ve been very lucky that incidents like these have involved concerned and honest people.

We had many changes in the last couple months, including Hugh’s birds leaving and 3 new birds of mine arriving.   Her behavior didn’t change overnight, but after awhile it felt like she’d lost almost everything we’d worked for, in terms of having a good response and being able to fly outdoors in a way that is up to my safety standards.  I finally realized that if I looked objectively at her behavior, indoors and out, without knowing her history of freeflight, my training recommendation would be to work on indoor recall only, and get it into a very firm routine once again.  (When her recall was good, our flying routine had become walks/flies at the beach, not any kind of disciplined practice.   Bad idea.)   In other words, go almost back to square one.   As Cynthia pointed out, flying off down the beach was not setting her up for success; so we went back as far as necessary to ensure that sessions were both successful and fun.   It was surprisingly startling to come to this realization; I had to focus only on what she was presenting, not what I knew she could do.  (Hmm… does Sid or someone have a post on a similar subject somewhere?)

So we spent a few weeks doing re-training, while Piper has been learning the ropes.     I will write more details in subsequent posts, but today I just wanted to report that she is back in the air again!  A beach outing in which she stayed within a comfortable distance, juked and dove and hollered, but didn’t do any runners down the beach to check out the tourists.  Didn’t even gaze longingly. ;-) I seriously wondered if we could ever do that again.   It is really a shock to see things become “untrained.”

More details on what she, Piper, and especially I have been learning coming soon.

P.S. I am opening the blog up to comments, so feel free to post questions or remarks below. [UPDATE: and you can now do so without being subscribed and logged in.]


The Mystery of the Red-headed Man

Posted by Raz on Aug 3rd, 2008
Aug 3

In response to queries about our “lost” posting to Craigslist on Friday evening, here are the details of what happened. I will post more later about how we’re dealing with this incident from a training standpoint.

Carly went into full-force femalehood this spring and became obsessed with red-headed guys when we were out. She would want to sit on them (sometimes half an hour before I pulled her away) and literally gazed up into their eyes, nibbled on their ears, wanted head scratches. Then when we would walk away she would often fly right back relentlessly. I had to be careful to keep an eye out for them, and really watch her behavior carefully when she was out flying to see if she was getting into that “mood shift” because it was a hard pattern to break once it got started. I also kept her doing shorter flyabouts and treated frequently for just staying with me and doing little tricks. We also did lots of short A-B recalls with the RHGs that she found, so she could interact with them in a more healthy way. And it had subsided a lot over the last month…. until Friday.

While flying over the houses by La Jolla Shores, she apparently saw a RHG sitting by the pool at one of the condos, and went down to investigate. Strange because she’s been much better with that in the last month, but she found one on the beach earlier who adored her too, and once she gets it in her head…. Also, we were out flying with Wendy Craig and Samantha, who came out to deliver Piper (Carly’s new Grey friend, now 4 months old). Carly was a little perturbed about that at home, but seemed to be behaving just fine at the beach without him around.

Anyway, she disappeared from sight when she ducked behind the condo and I couldn’t find her anywhere. Searched for hours, up until dark, calling, putting up flyers, etc. Turns out that within probably half an hour of her disappearing, the condo manager had been contacted, she contacted a local bird store, they contacted a veterinarian couple who had a missing Grey, and someone drove Carly out to their house. 20 miles from where we live. We were reunited via Craigslist about 10pm last night. She was already settled in to bed, and the couple was coming this way in the morning, so she had a slumber party there with their other grey last night. So the whole 6 hours or so I was searching, she was in someone’s house in La Mesa eating grapes :-) Some of the condo people called this morning, and that’s when I found out, yes, it was a strawberry blond guy.

Now we have to do some more work on this red-headed guy issue. I’d been letting her have a lot of freedom to do very long flies lately since she’s been handling them well, but I’ll go back to keeping her a bit closer and doing some “remedial” recall drills as a refresher, then see how things progress with her little infatuations. And if she is ever is missing again I will not even waste my time thinking she might be sitting outside in a tree somewhere or off exploring! She seemed quite tired when she got home, and was also very cranky until late in the day (keeping to herself, stepping up but then biting, not eating much.) She was driven out to the vet’s house in a laundry basket; not too much to her liking. Ironically, it was these infatuations that orginally got me thinking it might be a good time for Carly to have a grey buddy. She was in better spirits by evening after some alone time and a nap.

As for Piper — not really pals yet, but things seem to be calming down quickly. He is adorable and very sweet, and confident enough to hold his own. I think they’ll work it out just fine. They are already sharing gyms without any trouble, and Carly has been showing a lot of interest in watching him, not just chasing him!

Many thanks to Dr. Cheryl Clark for taking Carly in (and best wishes for finding her lost grey). Cheryl just happens to know Barbara Heidenreich, Susan Friedman, Lee McGuire, and the Gabriel Foundation folks — so Carly was in great hands. Also to the people at the condo — especially the manager — for making the effort to track down an owner, and the staff at Birdland San Diego for their assistance, and several people who called with information after seeing our flyers. (Highly recommended: It was so nice having a big stack of pre-made flyers to put up right away.) All together only about a 6 and a half hour ordeal, but I feel 20 years older!

Pictures and posts on Piper soon!