Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving! My mom is, from what I can tell, the best cook on the planet, and everything we had was home-made from scratch, so mine was especially delicious.

Gizmo got a special Thanksgiving meal, too. We gave him the organ meat from the turkey that we don't eat (liver, etc.) along with his regular fare. He stuck his nose in the bowl, realized what we'd given him, and started to wolf it down, pausing every now and then to scream as loudly as his little lungs would allow him to and wag his whole body from side to side.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Waiter! This ISN'T What I Ordered!

Last night, I was out of Gizmo's noms, so I had to improvise real quick for his dinner. Instead of his usual home-made goodness, I gave him some tuna and a crumbled-up biscuit.

Gizmo wasn't pleased.

He stuck his nose in the foodbowl, then made his typical little high-pitched grumbling "I'm not happy" noises and stared at me.

"Sorry, kiddo. That's what you're getting."

He then pulled the bowl out of his holder and started to gently clang it against the front bars of his cage, growling. I walked over, kneeled down, opened the door, and went to take the bowl. He handed it over obligingly, his tail wagging.

I just clicked it back into the holder and shut the door again.

He heaved a HUGE sigh, and ate the food, still grumbling.

The funny thing is, most pet dogs or cats would give their left front paw for a tuna dinner; you know your pet is spoiled when fresh fish is "not as good as what I usually get."

Picture Taken On: October 7th, 2008

The Soapbox: Pets Are A Commitment!

Once again, I'm gonna get back on the Soapbox.

This post has little or nothing to do with Gizmo; it's me whining and ranting about something that bothers me. You might wanna just scroll to the next post. The little scrollbar is there on the right side of the screen. Go ahead and scroll away; you won't hurt my feelings.

Alrighty, on with the rant.

A few weeks ago, a little girl who lives in my neighborhood (I'd guess her to be somewhere between 12 and 14?) showed up at my door with some leopard geckos in a cardboard box. She was tired of them, and apparently someone in the neighborhood told her that I'd take them.

"Why do you need to find a new home for them?"

"I'm bored of them and my mom says I have to get rid of them before she'll buy me a new guinea pig."

". . . What were you planning on doing if I couldn't take them?"

"Oh, I'd just let them go outside."

I could've choked that mom. Way to teach a kid that pets are expendable! I called her mother and had her come over, just to verify what I'd been told and to make sure that she had honestly OKed her daughter abandoning the pets like that.

Yes, mom was in on it and 100% okay with it. Some people should not be allowed to purchase animals.

I asked them a few basic questions about guinea pigs, since that was apparently the next poor animal these people were bringing home. They answered most of the questions accurately enough, but one of the ones they had no idea on made me cringe. They didn't have the faintest idea how long guinea pigs lived!

Well, I explained to them that guinea pigs generally live from 5 to 12 years when properly cared for, but can also live considerably longer than that (I had a guinea pig named Sparkle that died at the ripe old age of 14). I also said that I would take the geckos because reptiles are notoriously hard to re-home, but that I would NOT be the dumping ground for unwanted pets; I would not take the guinea pig when she was "bored with it", so she better be SURE she was going to stay interested in it throughout it's lifespan.

Well, I got the geckos all set up in a new tank. The best I could manage on such short notice was a 10-gallon, which is on the small side for two full-grown geckos, so to give them a bit more "room" in it I added a burrow.

(Note: These aren't my geckos; but that is the same burrow I bought.)

Well, a few days later, the girl came over wanting to see Gizmo, and I reluctantly agreed. Then, as an afterthought, she wanted to know how the geckos were doing. When I took her over to their new terrarium, they were both asleep down in the burrow in a pile.

"Can you get them out?"

"No, they're asleep. Besides, I'd have to dismantle the whole thing to get the burrow out. You're just gonna have to look and not touch right now."

So she proceeds to start banging her knuckles on the glass to wake them up. Needless to say, I quickly escorted the brat out of my room.

First off: One of the most important questions when bringing a pet home is how long of a commitment is it going to be? I bought Gizmo knowing full well that I could still have him when I was 35. Do you really think that kid is still gonna want that guinea pig when she's 20?

The leopard geckos still have their baby stripes faintly visible. They can't be more than a year old, and she was already "bored of them".

Now, don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with wanting a short-term pet. If you want a pet, but you only want to deal with it for a year or two, buy a mouse or a hamster. I love tortoises, and I love conures. However, I don't want to deal with a pet that might live 30 years or more, so I don't have a tortoise or a conure!

Secondly, just letting them go outside? How awful, and for more reasons than one. There are a few different hypothetical ways that could end, all of them horrible. In this case: a terrible, unnecessary death. No desert reptile is going to survive a winter in Ohio.

But, say that they were a species that was capable of thriving here. Well, just "letting them go" is one of the ways that invasive species can get a foothold, causing untold damage to native flora and fauna. Never, EVER let a pet go into the wild.

Finally, it's a living creature. Show it some respect. All of my pets have a "don't mess with me" zone where I will not hassle them unless it's an emergency. And "letting the neighbor kid pet it" is NOT an emergency. I don't pull the geckos out of their burrow. I don't pull my snakes out of their hide-rocks. I don't hassle my cats when they're asleep in their beds. And I don't drag Gizmo out of the log-cabin in his play yard.

People need to teach their kids a basic respect for living things; the golden rule applies to animals too. If you wouldn't want someone to do it to you, don't do it to your pet! I don't like being teased, I don't like being suddenly awakened when I'm napping, and I don't enjoy having my hair pulled or ears pinched, so I don't do any of those things to my pets!

Monday, November 9, 2009

If I eat the foot, she can't trim the nails....

Today I noticed that Gizmo's nails were getting a bit long, so I went through the ordeal of trimming them.

He sat there and growled and grumbled and bitched while I did the first three feet; he was complaining and letting me know he didn't like it, but wasn't putting up too much of a fight (a great improvement over the usual hysterics that I get when I try to trim his nails).

So far, so good, only one foot left to go. Gizmo responded to me reaching for it by stuffing that hindpaw in his mouth, biting down on it so I couldn't pull it out, and refusing to let go. I figured I'd just out-wait him on it.

Half an hour later, he was still sitting there with his foot in his mouth, eyeing me.

I knew that if I let him win, I'd get the foot-in-the-mouth treatment every time I went to clip his nails, so I had to come up with something. Finally, it dawned on me, and I grabbed his precious Glow Ball.

Gizmo's Glow-Ball is currently one of his favorite toys. He starting making upset little high-pitched whines when I grabbed it, but kept his foot in his mouth. I started to toss it up and down very slowly. He watched, his whining going up in intensity.

It became too much for him when I put it in my coat pocket. I was going to steal it. He let out a high-pitched wail and threw himself into my lap, and started frantically digging at my pocket.

While he was busy with that, I grabbed the hindpaw, held it steady, and clipped the last few nails.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Gizmo in the Leaves

We recently taped Gizmo out playing in the leaves; too cute not to share.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Trick Files: Sit

The first (and arguably the easiest) trick to teach a fox or most any other four-legged creature is to sit. You can start teaching this one very early on. Gizmo had a good handle on it by the time he was ten weeks old. It makes for a great "trick preschool", as it's easy to learn and gets your fox used to the whole training routine with very little stress or confusion on their part.

Another good reason to start with "Sit" is that it's something of a gateway trick. A lot of the tricks I'll be teaching later on involve starting with a sitting fox; it's much easier and more effective to have them sit on command than to try and manhandle them into position.

Prerequisites: For this trick, I assume that your fox has already been conditioned to a training clicker. "Eyes On Me" is also useful, though not necessary.

For A Kit:

This is easiest if your kit is in a pretty mellow mood--don't try to teach sit right in the middle of playtime. You want him to be alert, but not bouncing off the walls. Get something your fox really likes (ham, little bits of hardboiled egg, and cat treats all work well.)

Sit on the floor with the kit standing in front of you. Hold the treat so that he can see it and smell it. If he noms on your fingers, do NOT release the treat, or you'll be rewarding him for biting at you, which is not the lesson you want to teach.

Slowly move the treat over his head, right between his eyes and back towards his ears, and say "Sit" (Only say it once). To continue watching the treat move, the kit will sit down to keep it in his field of vision. The second his rump hits the ground, click the clicker and give him his treat, praising lavishly.

Repeat this a few times a day, and he'll have caught on in no time.

Troubleshooting: If your kit turns around to watch the treat instead of sitting down, you're moving it too quickly.

For An Adult Fox:

Get something your fox really likes (ham, little bits of hardboiled egg, and cat treats all work well.) Let him see that you have the treat, then hold it up over his head, out of reach. Calmly say "Sit."

The fox will probably respond by jumping for the treat, and perhaps screaming hysterically. Don't give it to them. Continue holding the treat out of reach, and repeat the command "Sit" every now and then. Eventually, your fox will sit, if only to give you an exasperated look. The instant it's rump hits the ground, click your clicker and toss it the treat, enthusing "Good sit! Good fox!".

Repeat this process a few times in a row. I recommend 3-to-5 treats, 3-to-5 times a day. After a week or so, your fox should have definitely caught on that sitting down is what's getting them the treat. Once this happens, you can work on "polishing" the trick.

Polishing The Trick:

You can increase the amount of time that your fox has to stay sitting. Tell your fox to sit, and do a brief count in your head before clicking and rewarding. 1-2-treat. Later on, up it to 1-2-3-treat. So long as you increase the amount of time your fox has to stay sitting slowly enough, they should pick up on this in no time.

You can also tighten up their response time by making it so they have to respond faster to get the treat. Give the command, and mentally count to five slowly. If your fox doesn't sit within that count, don't give them the treat. (Note: If they never sit that quickly, you're starting with too short of a count. You might have to start with a seven or even a ten count, depending on your fox and how quickly you count)

Once your fox is consistantly sitting within the count you've specified, subtract a number from it--in this case, make it so the fox has to respond within the count of four instead of the count of five. As always, make sure these changes happen slowly and gradually, and your fox will be responding to you in the blink of an eye.

Oh, it's also best to focus on ONE area of polishing at a time. If one day you're working on making them sit longer, and the next you're trying to make them sit faster, your fox may become confused and frustrated, as they're not sure what you want. Focus on one or the other first, and once your fox has mastered either sitting for a while or sitting quickly, then move on to the other one and focus on it.

Happy training! If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments section.

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