Thursday, May 6, 2010

Traveling With Pets, Part One

In order to post photos from some of my earlier international travels, I need to first locate the photos I took and then scan them. Yes, up until four or five years ago I used a 35mm SLR camera that required film. Remember film? Remember not knowing till the prints were developed whether any of them were good, too late to go back and reshoot?

Anyway, till I can find and scan photos from other trips, I thought I'd discuss something I've done for years within the United States: traveling with my pets. I travel by car, and these days take only cats and dogs. However, my first traveling pet was an unusual road trip companion, to say the least.

That first traveling pet was, believe it or not, a parakeet (budgerigar, to be specific). His name was Six, because I purchased him when The Prisoner was running on TV, and Six certainly thought he was a prisoner whenever the door was closed on his very large cage. At the time I had just gotten my first university teaching job and was still living in "No Pets" apartments.

But the rules allowed fish or birds. I had had my fill of short-lived goldfish, and I had a birdcage left from rescuing a wild bird fallen out of the nest, so I decided to get a parakeet. In those days birds were sold at Woolworth's, and our local store had a batch of healthy young birds. I studied them, and picked the one that climbed the bars to nibble at my finger instead of rushing away when I touched the cage. That boded well for the first rule of traveling with pets: make sure your animal companion is bonded with you and trusts you. It helps if he's not afraid of strangers, but the most important thing is that he trust the person taking him into unfamiliar situations.

Along with the little green bird, birdseed, seed and water cups, grit, etc., I bought a book on how to care for parakeets. It told me to put him in his cage, talk to him, give him food and water, but not open the cage for two weeks until he got used to me. Then, it said, take the cage into the smallest room in the house, close the doors and windows, and let him out.

I waited the two weeks, took Six in his cage into the bathroom, and opened the door.

Six hopped onto my hand, walked up my arm to my shoulder, and chirred happily into my ear.

So much for taming him!

Of course after he had reassured me that he was definitely my bird he did fly around the cramped space of the bathroom, and bump into the mirror. Later he would bump into the window and mirror in the living room, but only once each. Six was a fast learner.

Six was a most unusual bird, not afraid of anything. He trusted me from day one, and proved extremely easy to train. I quickly discovered that the one thing he hated was to be grasped with my hand holding down his wings against his body, so that was how I trained him not to perch on people's heads. I trained him to land on hands and shoulders, where he would receive treats.

And over the next few years I taught him to talk.

The books will tell you that male parakeets make the best talkers, but that if you have a pair they will chatter to one another and be unlikely to copy human speech. Six bonded with me and imitated what I said. We started with the traditional "pretty bird," and when he had conquered that I taught him "My name is Six" and "I belong to Jean Lorrah." I figured that if he ever got out and got lost, he would probably go to a person--and most people would want to keep a little talking bird. But if he kept saying he belonged to someone else ....

I don't know if you can microchip a parakeet, but there were no microchips in those days. You certainly can't put a collar with ID tags on him! I didn't know of anywhere to get an ID band for his leg, so I did the best I could to build his ID into him!

Of course he traveled in his familiar cage with all his favorite toys inside and plenty of food and water. I strapped it securely into the back seat of the car and fastened a towel around it with clothespins to protect Six from drafts.

He loved to travel! Three or four times a year I would drive down I-75 to visit my family in Florida, and then back again. Six chattered and talked and sang all the way. Singing and chattering indicate that a parakeet is happy.

So, with a rather unusual traveling pet, I figured out the basics of traveling with animals: keep your pet secure and safe, provide as much as you can of his familiar surroundings, and take along his regular food, treats, and toys. With a bird it's surprisingly easy, because he lives in a cage. But on the other hand, if you have a timid, easily frightened bird who is afraid of strangers, it's probably best to leave him at home with a friend looking in on him.

Next week: traveling with a dog.

How to Care for Your Pet Bird

Worldwide Pet Sitting Directory

Click here for Seven Reasons to Visit India.

My posts on Travel and Cancer Survival begin here.

The series of posts on my trip to Japan begins here.

The journal of my trip to India and Nepal begins here.

The series of posts on my trip to Italy begins here.

Geezer-Chick's guest blog on York, England is here.

Geezer-Chick's guest blog about a fabulous carousel is here.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, now I remember Woolworths but the one that was in downtown Tamnpa never sold pets. Interesting. Could you believe that I still have a very nice 35mm camera in my closet somwhere? Since I retired it i've purchased at least three digital cameras. I kinda miss the 35mm film. There was just something about it. Your parakeet, Six, is handome there in the window. Lately i've been talking about acquiring one but my wife says that she doesn't like the noise. Granted, we have five kids and three dogs(including a pair of yapping Chihuahuas). I never thought of myself as a bird person but I guess subconciously I am.