I grew up looking after and interacting with a wide range of animals (cats, dogs, horses, calves, pigs, a guinea pig, stick insects and more), and often roaming the moors, swamps and woods behind our house (“Brunssumerheide“) for hours.
I rode horses for a while in my teens. First, next-door as the neighbours and their relatives a few houses away along the same road had horses. Next, at Stal Heihof van Abdissenbosch, run by Chris and Jeannette Haazen at the time. (You can see Chris and Jeannette in the three videos below. Ever seen a horse dance? If not, then you really gotta watch the first video.)
In Britain, this is something for the elite, but not in my home country. I used to save up for lessons so that I could have more lessons during school holidays. I rode my bike to the stables, one hour each way. One lesson cost what was about the equivalent of 3 pounds in those days.
My favourite was called “Devil”. Does not quite have the same ring in Dutch, but yes, he was a stubborn little rascal. I think he even pulled me into the water once, on an outdoor ride. There was also one called Duebe. That was an armchair ride. Quite nice every once in a while. Joel also was a character. Tested you. Would unexpectedly come to a halt in a corner, refuse to budge and then wait to see how you responded to that. The one that always bucked was Lyndon, which meant you had to take the end of the line if you rode Lyndon.
I got to the point of jumping, but then I graduated from secondary school and moved away.
(In this third video, you see the same horse – Nartan – as in the wonderful first video of these three. It shows you a bit of the relationship between Jeannette and Nartan.)
Dogs tend to like me. Sometimes, dogs (strangers!) come running when they see me, tail wagging. For a quick hello. It’s even happened, on Castle Field in Southsea, that a dog spontaneously came running, threw itself at my feet and rolled onto its back. Particularly larger dogs seem to trust me and consider me reliable. I generally prefer somewhat larger dogs, and they undoubtedly know that.
I like animals so I also enjoy looking after other people’s pets (and homes). While I was living in Florida, I did that for various people and animals. And a few years ago, I had the pleasure of looking after a sensitive older rescue Staffie in my home for about a month.
I’ve also gone fox-watching a few times. (Britain has many urban foxes. Also an increasing urban deer population, but not here where I live.)
My learning about birds began in Florida. Up to that point, I knew next to nothing about birds. I got into sea bird rehabilitation with the wonderful and globally well-respected bird champion and oil spill contingency planner Lee Fox.
Freshly arrived from Amsterdam, I decided that volunteering might be a great way to grow roots in the local community so I started calling around for volunteering opportunities. Lee’s facility PSRC was the first to call me back.
Since then, I have had two feral (wild) quaker parrots (Myiopsitta monachus) and emigrated with them twice.
For a while, I had a spunky half-tame cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus) who I liked very much, but turned out to be much happier in a large aviary with lots of other cockatiels than in my home.
On YouTube, I often see bird owners stroke their birds as if the bird were a cat or dog, but it is my understanding that stroking the back of a bird tends to have a sexual meaning for the bird. If you want to be friends with a bird who knows you well, stroke the bird under one of the wings. Gently insert your finger from the front, but observe how the bird responds. Don’t force it.
Gently stroking a bird’s bill tends to be calming to a bird. Soothing. Nice. Sweet.
Birds have similar reserves about being touched in certain places as humans, by the way.
In recent years, I have rehabbed a few pigeons (Columba livia). Pigeons are highly intelligent and gentle creatures that I had essentially ignored for decades, embarrassingly.
One stayed with me for six months and taught me a lot. She had an infection, and it had lodged itself in her sinuses, from where she became reinfected, so it was important to treat her. I am very grateful for the experience. Unfortunately,
my stalker anonymous people around me got into my flat at some point and hurt her, to spite me. She was not hurt too badly (and it was perfectly okay with Portsmouth Police anyway, as usual) so there was nothing I could do about it other than continue to let her heal.
I have also on occasion grabbed a highly inquisitive pigeon who had ventured into a store, in Portsmouth and in Amsterdam.
I clean and disinfect with F10, a high-end veterinary product.
My third rehab pigeon had been attacked. I suspect that
one of my stalkers was anonymous people around me are behind it as he someone also killed her previous mate, letting me know “you needed a kick, a really big kick”. The “decapitated pigeon” theme began in 2009. (Portsmouth Police know this too.) There has also been a big bird drawing on the wall at my house for a long time (recently cleaned up) – bird and cat are British slang for female – and they also do some kind of signalling thing with bottles in this town(rape invitations/suggestions?).
She was in pain, in shock/stunned, and in need of healing, but still fully functional. Below, you see her “good” side. The other side looked considerably less good and needed to heal. I had seen a drone above the house one or two days earlier – other people saw it too and stood staring at it for a while, which is how I became aware of it – hence I suspect that a drone may have been used to attack her. I can’t be sure, of course. (My hacker – lightbulb moment; it’s simply the regular local hate machinery – did not want me to share that image online and that made me suspicious.)
I have also had three rescue cats who emigrated with me three times (twice with my first two cats and once with my third cat).
My cats’ vet in Amsterdam was Dr Geerling. I still haven’t gotten over the fact that he passed away a while back.