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Monday, November 18, 2013

Things do not change. We change.

"To improve is to change. To be perfect is to change often"

Winston Churchill

Monday, November 4, 2013

Blast from the past

I found this on google. Emma and Critter. One of my fav photos ever.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Four things Friday with random Photobuckets

I decided a random assortment of old photos from my photobucket account would be a good way to pop the cherry on my first FTF blog entry. There might be blood. 

Heck its me, there will be gross stuff.

First up is my first acrylic painting ever.

While I do consider myself an above average artist. Better than most, not as good as the people who do it professionally.  My art is certainly not "above average" in this category. I've tried to paint numerous times and I always get discouraged and never finish. Watercolours I fair a bit better, and ink and pencils being my medium of choice. (For my real, albiet old, shiz, click here)
 This painting of Adjour was the first I actually forced myself to finish. I hadn't created any art in almost a decade when I painted this to boot.  As is pretty obvious, I can grasp sky, water and creatures pretty well, but rocks have always baffled me.  I can remember being in elementary school and having to draw rocks for this or that and always knowing I sucked at it. Basically I can draw anything you want, but my rocks are the equivalent of stick figures. 

I will add that the entire thing was free handed and was not sketched out of planned in any way, including Adjour, who came out pretty dang proportionally correct considering theres no erasing paint. So maybe I'm not so hopeless after all. Damn rocks.

A nerd and her tree.

This tree in San Diego is a Ficus  (or fig for my non nerd readers) but I can't remember which one to save my life and the top is chopped off in the photo. I know I saw a huge Ficus Macrophylla that day, but don't have a photo of it. This tree is too tall to be Macrophylla in my opinion. 

The best part about this photo is when I uploaded it I named it "anerdandhertree.jpg" which, years later, reminds me that being funny is so ingrained I do it even when its not meant to be remembered.

Chili's DNA results from Wisdom Panel. I find it hilarious to look at because all the chihuahua images are identical and Chili doesn't resemble them at all. It contaminated my brain so whenever I try to think about what Chili's parents looked like, tiny limbed, brown and white long hair chihuahuas facing left always creep into my mind. I imagine them all barking in unison. Its adorable. Finding the thought of a bunch of chihuahuas barking adorable is a clear sign that you're a small dog lover.

Zipper Dog

 I chose this pic because I thought it had been lost and was pretty excited that it still existed. Critter went in for two mammary tumors and my wonderful vet ended up removing four total. If I remember correctly it was just over FIFTY staples.  This is what can happen if you don't spay your dog people. Spay your damn dogs.

Gross stuff. See I told you.

Friday, October 4, 2013


its whats for dinner!

Seriously though, tonight I wanted to talk about Prosopagnosia aka "face blindness".

Face blindness is essentially the inability to recognize people from just their face. There are different nuances to the condition that I wont get into, but I will start off by stating it effects people differently. Some people can't even recognize their own family, at all. Without a contextual cue. For example a man can come home and know the woman in the house is likely his wife, and act accordingly. Yet if she surprised him in the grocery store he'd have no clue who she was unless he recognized her outfit. This is because theres no context to cue him as to who she is. Without context she could be his mail lady for all he knows.

I'm no where near that severe. However there is a noticeable deficit now that I deal with reasonable amounts of people on a daily basis. I really can't think of any instance of this happening in childhood or even early adulthood, but I don't doubt it existed. I've never had large circles of people around me and my contexts were pretty limited, so there really weren't any situations to bring it to my attention. No proverbial wife to surprise me at the grocery store.

Today I had a client in class. This is one of my regulars and I noticed she didn't bring her husband like she normally does. When he arrived later during class, he hung back for a while watching. I always like to play the game in my head of "who does the guy belong to" and see if I can correctly guess who's husband had showed up. To my startle (or rather not) he belonged to my regular client.

This wouldn't be profound except I've met the guy probably about 15 times now. I've had conversations with this couple. At length. But without him being next to her for context, I would have sworn I'd never laid eyes on him.

This is just one of countless examples I could bring up. Sometimes people arrive and I recognize the dog and not the owner. AT ALL. These are people I've spent time with. One time I had two owners reversed in my mind. Like they had swapped dogs. I'd even fudged the dog context. Instead their body type PLUS the dog was the context and when two people with the same body types showed up at the same time, my brain found them interchangeable.

I have a theory however.

Face blindness is pretty much considered either Brain damage or hereditary. I know I was never dropped and I already know there's some odd genes present in me so we'll run with that a bit. The thought with it being hereditary is there is an actual physiological difference causing the impairment.

I hate the word impairment. Firstly.

here's the slippery slope. I CAN remember faces if I want to. If you asked me to remember a persons face I CAN do it. More and more I am reminding myself to do so, for careers sake. This would suggest the ability is in fact intact but my brain is just not running the program automatically.

Also I remember some people automatically and others my brain simply skips over. Its picking and chosing  which faces are important to attend to, and thus, who it can remember at a later date. I can pass all the celebrity face blindness tests I should add.

So I took this one. Without famous faces.

Overall I scored decent. 85% was my lowest score, and on one of the tests I got 100%. So what the heck gives?

I got bored.

During the test I had to force myself to focus on the faces. Focusing on a task is what I do best. I am the exact opposite of ADD. Alot of aspies talk about overstimulation, I tend to be understimulated. This comes more from the giftedness and less from the aspergers, from my research into it. I can handle and process a very large (non social) information load. In fact I'd say I can handle pretty large social loads as well as long as its not direct interaction (for example, noisy crowds don't bother me) I also pick up on details others do not. Pretty much I'm an info junky in every sense of the word and if the enviroment isn't stimulating enough I get very bored. ( aka most of my childhood) In this case I found my eyes kept leaving the screen and my mind would wander in the middle of it. It was so unlike me that I was pretty startled. I am the test taker, the task doer, the finish things quick and now. I'm not the kind of person to wander off mentally in the middle of something.

Yet, as I suspected, this is what my mind does when confronted with human faces. It wanted nothing to do with the task at hand. I could feel my mind saying "c'mon theres gotta be other stimuli here thats way more important". And when I ignored its whining, it tried to leave the room anyway.

 I remembered the asymmetrical eyes and the odd teeth easily and struggled with the rest. Pretty much my brain is an information junky and unless I find something entertaining, odd, or distinctly memorable, my mind decides its uniportant and that the texture of the carpet is more interesting. Basically, my brain decides that recognizing and remembering faces is not important and instead attends to the other cues as to who the person is.

This makes me wonder how much of the typical aspy eye contact issues are less about being uncomfortable and more about our brains saying its an unimportant behavior . Then as you age, society demands it and you feel awkward about it because it wasn't ingrained as a child. Your brain sees it as an "expensive"  behavior and not worth the calories it burns. After all, people aren't the most interesting thing in the room, most of the time.

 I will also note that while I have no issues with giving or recieving eye contact, I find if I'm tired or lazy that day, or don't find that person important (like som'one bothering me), I'll fall into not looking at people, like a habit. I'm not uncomfortable with it, its just too much effort for no real benefit to me as far as information gathering if I'm conserving energy. When taxed I'll spend my calories on other things that will reap more benefits. You aren't thinking about digestion when your running from a lion.

So pretty much my physiology is saying; Social interactions are not important unless its someone you find interesting. This seems to match up with my behavior in other, more tangible realms.

Fascinating, but nonetheless, it basically means that if I recognize you at the grocery store, your in a good place in my mind :)

Monday, September 30, 2013

Chicken Hickeys

“ An inefficient virus kills its host. A clever virus stays with it. ”   James Lovelock

My Chicken Hickey has returned.

For the third time in my life now, I've had a shingles outbreak. For those who don't know what that means, basically when you get chicken pox as a kid your immune system defeats it in most places. Occasionally, they miss a spot or two and the virus goes dormant. These dormant places are next to nerves.

When you are stressed, the virus (known as zoster) sees your immune system is taxed and it wakes back up, angering the nerve and causing stripey lesions on your skin, oddly on only one side of the body. Its the same virus as chicken pox, from your initial infection as a child, but it behaves very differently and takes weeks to go away again. Unlike chicken pox, which resolves in under a week.

Some people are lucky enough to get it on their chest or even their arms. The really fucked people get it on their face and around their eyes.  Mine appears on my neck in true moderately fucked fashion. Not the best place, but at least I can still see.

It fools you by acting like its a zit. You try to pop it, nothing comes out. You think, wow thats odd.  It then gets angry and red. You think, wow I must have pissed that zit off by trying to pop it too soon. My bad Mr. Zit, I'll let to your brew a little longer, no need to get so angry. When the redness doesn't go down, you think wow my neck skin sure is sensitive. You put neosporin on it and go to bed thinking it will be gone in the morning. Wake up, its still there but theres obviously nothing in it. Shit. Ok more neosporin and vow not to touch it or pick at it that day. Wake up on day three. Its bigger. You put some make up over it and think what. the. hell It's a good thing I'm not dating.  Day four rolls by and its now long and red and really raised. Its brought a friend with it today. The friend is a red flag. You finally remember, oh yeah I'm carrying Zoster. Wee fucking wee. I can stop saying wow now.

Then the bastard starts to itch. If  you are really lucky, it will give you horrendous nerve pain in your jaw and teeth like it did the second time I had it. You can't scratch it, cause well, its your fucking neck and the skin there is like rice paper and we aren't trying to make the spot bigger by raking our flesh off.

The best you can do is stand in the shower with your neck up to the nozzle and let 130deg water hit it for an hour to kill the itch. How do kids do this chicken pox shit?? I can't imagine my whole body feeling like that. I can however, remember my mother screaming at me frantically to stop scratching while my sister and I sat in the bathtub. Hey sis,  you know how you say you're too young to remember all the fun stuff we did together as kids? Well thats the kind of things you missed.

Far worse things are to come however. See, the first few days the thing looks like a zit. Hell it even fools me at first as I just illustrated. The subsequent days it looks like a bad evil zit to the general public. The kind people will notice and feel sorry for you, but not say anything about. Or maybe they think you picked at it like some meth addict. Who knows. The point is they try to ignore it.  After all acne is sad, and you are to be pitied at this point..

Thing is when we hit about 7 days in, it will look like a hickey. I'll know when I've arrived at that point because the comments will start. Generally they are people I know or kinda know and they get a free science lession about the life cycle of chicken pox. But the bad comments always come from people I don't know...

 The first time I had shingles. I was a cashier at Petsmart. I helped hundreds of people a day and the looks I was getting were quite spectacular. I was about 20 years old, pretty, and in a menial job so it was plausible that I'd come to work like that. This guy made a joke about my hickey and what a fun night I must have had. (which is ironic because I'm pretty certain the volatile relationship with my then boyfriend is what triggered it) Har har. I told him it wasn't a hickey it was just acne from hell. (I didn't know at the time what shingles was and still had bad skin back then). He laughed and basically called me a liar. I insisted. He laughed harder. I insisted again. He laughed.

There's no real moral to that story except that some guys are jerks who will laugh at you.

The second time I had shingles, It was just after my split from Kev and my stress levels from moving repeatedly and dealing with a freaked out diarhea dog and a screaming-destroy-the-carpet-lost-your-deposit-cat were sky high.  Thus It got much larger and eventually looked like a bonafide "rash" and only one person commented on it, and not to my face. This time I was preemptive however and told everyone that I had a thing. It was going to grow. It wasn't contagious, and no I didn't make out with an overzealous teenager.  He was able to explain on my behalf to the commenter.

This time remains to be seen. I take peace in the fact that its really uncommon to have this more than three times tops. But then again it was uncommon for me to have it as a young adult anyway, so perhaps I'm just a freak of nature.

 Either way, I like talking about my odd bits, chronic dormant viruses and all.

But if I have to defend myself as "not having a hickey" at 31 years old. I may have to smack a' bitch. Or at least rub my neck on them.

That is all.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


"Some times I feel like a motherless child"

I had never heard of this song until today. Turns out its an old "negro spiritual" as wikipedia so puts it. I felt an instant feeling when I heard it. It was a gentle pointing and a "that's it!, That's how I feel". A eureka moment.

I've struggled to explain my relationship (or lack thereof) with my mother, both to others and in my own head. I've long tried to find a simple statement to sum up my experience, that neither exaggerates or downplays it. Because the truth is, no one wants to sit through a bunch of stories with me coming off as trying to make my case as the heroine and she the villain. I'm not trying to do that.

The hardest part is, for me at least. Is my sister seems to both have had a very different experience than I did, and the parts we share, she doesn't seem as sensitive to. I've had her say "so?" when I describe something my mother did that stabbed me to the core. I truly believe she perceives things differently, and I do not fault her or feel she is insensitive. Perhaps I'm over sensitive and that's the root of the whole damn issue. At the same time I wish for once she could understand why I'm so traumatized.

Very few people witnessed the things that occurred (or didn't to be more exact). My sister, whos perceptions don't match mine. My Father, who, when he did catch glimpses of the crap that was going on, reacted quite strongly to the situation. And lastly, my Best friend growing up, Andrea and to a lesser extent, her mother. Whom, while mostly dealt with the situation second hand, made it very clear to me that she understood something abnormal was going on.

Andrea was great for witnessing my experiences and confirming their deviance from norm. I think part of my issue as an adult is not having her anymore to validate what happened. Its basically my word against my mothers.

 For a long time I actually made peace with what had happened. I understood she was a product of a messed up upbringing and she was mentally ill. Its not her fault.  But something still nagged at me. The fact of the matter is that she would hide her real behavior from every person who was around.  This is the main reason I am so upset, even as an adult. To me, you only do this sort of thing if you know that you are doing something you shouldn't be.

Whether that's just another manifestation of her mental illness, or just crappy judgement, or demons from the past, or shitty upbringing, or trauma I don't know. No matter what its from, its sad on so many levels. I think though, what makes me sad about it, is the inability she has to own it. Which also can be a delusion caused by mental illness.

According to her, she was a stellar parent, anything I remember is fabricated.

Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows I hate hate hate liars. I'm certainly not one of them. I am honest to a fault, the blunt kind of honest that makes people hate you in droves. Its part of the aspergers. Honesty takes on a clinical diagnosic feel for me. It's defining.  As I type this I can't help but wonder if my mother is the reason why I am so deeply affected when I meet a new liar. It could be baggage from childhood I suppose....

 Her delusions, nonsensical "logic", and lack of patterns pretty much make her function like an unintentional liar. She was random and unpredictable, and I as an aspy thrive on routine and logic. No matter how much I tried to placate her, nothing seemed to work. She'd change the rules constantly and be mad when you didn't read her mind. It felt like I was being fucked with. If you want privilage A you have to do chore B. Then next week that no longer applied and when you asked for an explanation none was given. I was punished constantly for things that didn't make any sense. It wasn't the punishment, but the delusional reasoning behind things. I would be told I couldn't go somewhere because a car was going to veer off the road and kill me. Then an hour later she told me I could go anyway (wtf???).  You were told you couldn't do this or that because god or a spirit had told her something bad was going to happen if you did. I remember being confused by this logic as I didn't feel she loved me. Thus why do you care if something bad happens to me? It felt more like a way to control and micromanage me, and in all honesty, It might have been.

Nothing was ever without a criticism and encouragement was non existent. When she wasn't being negative, nonsensical, or critical she ignored me as much as possible. I remember asking her on several distinct occasions, as a young child why she had children if she didn't want them. Take a second and let that sink in. A young child voicing that they feel unwanted and the following reaction...

Her reply would always be "I did want kids"  matter of factly. As if she was answering a math question. She'd answer without breaking eye contact with the Tv.  At which point she'd wave me away and continue watching television. When I would be even more direct, asking why she didn't want to talk to us or play with us, her reply would be "I do that all the time" with another tv induced wave away. The answer always baffled me because It would take weeks or months of being ignored to get up the courage to ask the question to begin with. As an adult I don't see how the child asking that to begin with wasn't heartbreaking and a ginormous red flag that something was wrong. Let alone something that could be blown off so you don't miss Oprah.

The disinterest began about 7 years old and was pretty sudden. I was like a discarded toy that had lost its novelty. It only grew as time went on. As did the paranoia and negativity. I have zero memories of being comforted when I was upset, and was either ignored or told to knock off the crying. I cried alot as a child, I had so many things to be upset about and no anchor to ground me. The emotional absence left everything cold.

I'll only indulge in one story, but I think Its worth sharing. We were at my Aunts house and my mother was telling my aunt about something her sister had done or not done to/for her. I forget what it was exactly but I remember thinking she was being awful nasty about it considering what the  transgression was. At some point my mother burst into tears (something I had never seen before) and began sobbing something along the lines of "I just want my sister to love me".  My aunt, also probably shocked at seeing whats normally a stone cold statue cry, just sat there. I felt compelled to do something to make her feel better, even though I couldn't really empathize with what she was experiencing. I went over and stood next to her. She ignored me. I put my hand on her arm. She ignored me. I tried to hug her (which I must have learned on tv) and I realized a few seconds in that It was indeed, like hugging a statue. There was no reciprocation. Then suddenly... She then threw me off her roughly and  loudly screamed "get off me!". I stood there for a moment, watching her continue to sob, doing the child version of shaking my head in disbelief, and then I went back to my toys in the living room. The look on my aunts face was total shock.

That story pretty much sums up my relationship with my mother. Negative and easily pissed off over trivial things and rejecting anything resembling closeness or love from their child. All peppered with lots and lots of ignoring and disinterest. The only thing that makes that story different than the norm was she showed her behavior in front of another adult. Which rarely occurred. Part of me is angry that these adults didn't do anything, but at the same time, as an outsider I probably wouldn't have felt one incident was intervention worthy either

I suppose it teaches us all to pay better attention, and to question things when we see them.

Its late, and thats all I can transcribe for now. Goodnight.

Monday, August 19, 2013

"In case of squirrel, break glass"

 "Whoever says that dependable compliance from this or that dog is not possible to achieve without punishment, isn't saying anything in particular about the dog, but rather is ascribing this to his own level of competence."

I never really had strong feelings about pinch collars until recently.

Well, If you are referring them to "in theory"  I hated them. In the online world I'd condemn them, generally because they were used to train everything including simple behaviors, with punishment. Which I found amateur and lazy.. I was pretty nasty to trainers who promoted them, admittedly. Now I simply know they aren't bad people, they just don't understand a better way to train. One thing meeting trainers has taught me, is that there are a TON of unskilled people taking peoples money, and kinda just winging it. All the while thinking they are masters of their craft. Its kinda scary, to be honest.

  But anyway....In real life with real people and real dogs they didn't seem too evil, benign even. I'd generally ask if they have to correct the dog on it, and if they'd say no, I'd move on and leave it alone. The dogs were still smiley and happy to see you. If an owner is happy with their dog they aren't going to change the tool. Since the owners I would meet using them were not correcting/ yanking their dogs with them, I didn't really see much harm. They were more of a "power steering" tool for small handlers with big/strong dogs. They were a "in case of squirrel, break glass" sort of tool.

Then my secondary opinion of them began edge toward my original, gut feeling about them.

I began to see reactive dogs in private settings more often. In classes, you don't have much time to dive into deep discussion about all the little details like you get do in a private session. In a class you're worried about keeping the reactive dog functional and making the other owners feel safe. Not interview them at length.  The facility doesn't allow "training collars" so unless you directly ask the owner, you wont know if they even own one. Private lessons are different however.

 I'd say 75% of the reactive dogs that come see me in a private setting are being walked on pinch collars. Private setting means either they were kicked out of group class, or where deemed too reactive to even attempt being in one.

 About 20% are being handled on flat collars and the last 5% on head collars or harnesses (the head collars usually means they've seen another trainer who was over their head and used it as a band aid. I find clients don't really find that tool on their own)  If the reactivity is described as "appearing suddenly" that percentage using pinch collars hovers in the 95% range. With the issues generally appearing shortly after the collar is introduced. In fact, while discussing it, I've had numerous owners admit they wondered if the two were connected.

I'm not saying that a high percentage of dogs on pinch collars will develop reactivity. Though I admit I wouldn't be surprised if the number was substantial. What I'm saying is in my experience most of the created/learned reactivity in adult dogs (vs present from a young age/inborn) seems to be associated with the use pinch collars and just neck collars in general.

First thing I do before any training is put the dog in a harness. I use harnesses over head collars because they are lock and load. You can just put them on and use them, no countercondtioning necessary.  If the dog is stronger than the owner, we use a no pull type harness. If the owner is still uncomfortable, we discuss and occasionally use a head collar.

  The point being that  I have witnessed large numbers of dogs calm down substantially and pretty much instantly just by being put in a piece of equipment that's not on their neck.

So simple, yet so different.

Sadly, the training to go with it is neither intuitive or fast. Its a shame so many people unintentionally ruin their dogs view of the world, so early on in the dogs life.

Well, I guess that's what I'm here for. :)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Mid Baja Babies

I was lucky enough last night to witness a Mid Baja Rosy Boa giving birth. Most boas give birth in the middle of the night, and quickly so its very easy to miss. I've been lucky this year to see a couple mamas in actual snakey labor. 
 She had 9 total, which is a big litter for a Rosy, esp when you consider the last litter a few days ago from another female only had 4 total. Nine babies and two slugs (infertile ova) makes for a big litter.
They aren't born in any obvious sac like red tail boas are, so the mess is pretty much non existent. Some came out head first, some tail first. However the great majority came out folded in half with a loop emerging first.
I crawlz outz
Baby being born "loop first".
 They'd hit the ground and then take 1-3 huge breaths, something the red tails also did not do. On top of that, they immediately began cruising around the cage. RTB babies sit there, very still, not even bothering to leave their sacs most of the time. These little dudes were booking it around their cage. Some of them making laps like little race cars.
The entire litter
The colors varied tremendously. Mom and dad are blue and red yet a few hypo looking, bright orange guys were in the litter. We'll have to grow them up and see if its just variation or a bonafide hypo gene.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Rosies are here!

First litter of the year

Pants on fire

"i have one major problem with the internet. Its full of liars"

As usual, my rants usually consist of contempt for liars and this is no exception.

I always say what I think, with little sugar on it, if any. I don't speak about things I don't know about. Thus even if I can't remember my exact words. I can guess them quite acurately.

I may be blunt. Rude even. But at least I'm true to one thing. The truth.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Too bad they taste like tomatoes

I have a love/hate with tomatoes

Love the grow em' hate to eat em. Wont eat them to be exact. I think raw tomatoes taste horrible and I have consumed absolutely ZERO of the hundreds of lbs I've grown over the years. Yes I know its wierd, but I am ok with that. I like to grow shit.

Living off the land is a long held hippie-like dream of mine but being raised on red meat and potatoes seems to have wired my brain in antithesis of that ideal...

I've pulled literally hundreds of tomatoes off this plant. Thats alot of happy rats and torti

Heres one harvest and my female betta watching from her spacious 5 gallons of "fish prison"..

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Katie did it.

One of the most interesting things about starting a new garden in a new area is seeing all the new wildlife that arrives. I don't mean birds and squirrels, but the insects. I enjoy new species of plants and bugs the same as I would seeing a new species of bird or mammal. Some may find this odd, but in my opinion, it makes my life more interesting, because I can enjoy all of nature, not just the cute and fluffy things.

When you first start a new garden, its pretty sterile. Nothing really visits it, especially if your neighborhood is bland as far as biodiversity. Most people keep ornamental plants that are over bred, and then spray them with chemicals, because god forbid they have to look at a spider once in a while.

After the "sterile" period, the "pest" period begins. This is when the news gets out that you have opened the salad bar, and they appear in droves in the tenor of Homestyle Buffet. Typically the aphids appear first, and they did in fact, but I hadn't planted anything weak and sissified (aka roses and hibiscus)  so they came and went very fast and didn't do any damage. The locusts have also come and gone for the most part. Those that stick around are great Chili toys, being both fast and tasty. Or so he lets on.

July has been the month of the katydid, with more than I've ever seen in my entire life, including this big guy. Who was stuck to the window screen by a leg, necessitating I rescue him. He thanked me by pausing to clean his antennae while he sat on my hand, and allowing me to watch him do so.

The real interesting ones were these awesome green horned caterpillars that appeared in decent numbers on my red Guara plant. There were four big ones today but one was not very gentlemanly and didn't want to be picked up. So he kept vomiting his dinner on me to make me go away.  Like any bad romance his tactic eventually worked so I had only these three guys to hang out with:

The Three (non vomit-y) Caballeros

I liked the variation in pattern. They were hard to photograph because they wouldn't sit still. A little googling tells me they are the larva of the Spinx moth, likely Hyles lineata the white lined sphinx moth. It's a huge moth that can hover like a hummingbird. I've seen them a couple times, and their size is a bit intimidating. I'd like to see one again, and they pollinate some uber rare native California plant, so I'll be letting these green dudes live.

They seem tame and docile until you get them too close to each other. When personal space disapears, they do like any civilized society would naturally do and try to beat each other up, using their heads like hammers and biting the invader on the back.

I kick your ass yo.

 So all in all, a nice, bug boxing filled evening.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wordless Wednesday. Sir Smallness

How much is that monitor in the bathtub?

How much is go-ing on upstairs?

I know my blog has been a bit reptile-centric lately, but bare with me. Reptiles are a huge part of my life in the summer months, mainly due to babies being born en masse. In winter and spring I can breed them and still have other hobbies and a life in general. Once babies are born, its like having a human child, everything else gets put on hiatus til things get settled.

I've been thinking more and more about intelligence in Varanus Salvator the Asian Water Monitor and pretty much monitors in general. Humans generally view intelligence in animals in the form of modified behavior. Aka what can it do for me? Thus regular people confuse trainability with intelligence, and trainers can occasionally mistake trainability for intelligence. Regular people think the trained dog is smarter than the untrained dog, when really nothing has changed as far as intelligence. Trainers teach a chicken a few behaviors and suddenly have to question if we are eating little Einsteins.

I personally think the truth, as usual, is in the middle.

Teaching behaviors and modifying behavior gives you a window into intelligence.  The interaction becomes two way and you can communicate with the animal vs simply observing it. It's in this communication that you get to see whats going on upstairs, or not.

Little Fran is about 16 months old now and my initial goal was simply taming the animal (my hand is not food, and don't run away from me are basic "taming"). My other goal was to have a monitor who is comfortable being groped, carried and lifted (desensitization).  I didn't do this with Sammi and now that shes 20lbs, its not really feasible or worth doing. Especially since her cage is on the floor, theres no real need. When  I interact with Sammi physically I get the vibe of being tolerated, and I didn't want this with Fran.

 I put some time into it and now Fran is very comfortable with being manipulated and carried, and took to it in very few sessions. He moves around a bit more than I'd like, but that's just teenage spunk and normal IME. Theres no fear of being dropped or that vibe of " I'm just tolerating this" that I so disliked.  Its hard to say until I rear another monitor from birth if this is a personality difference (genes), a born in captivity difference (cortisol levels), or early experience difference (socialization)

We have a bathtub we use for cleaning and sanitizing big items in the rear of the store. Its a bit scratched up and well used. Historically Big Fran was given baths in this tub and the practice disappeared when Tim left and  Big Fran was sold. I decided to try it out on both Sammi and Lil Fran to see their reactions.

Sammi, perhaps stressed from being lifted and carried to the tub, seemed pretty disinterested and quickly grew bored and tried to leave the tub. Sammi likes water, as is normal for this species, but didn't like the tub experience. She ignored me for the most part, acting like the traditional animal automaton. All instinct and no mind.
Sammi, uninterested, trying to leave.

Fran on the other hand was full of notable behaviors.

Firstly, he did not try and leave the tub as I had anticipated. This being a new experience I expected an initial response of fear resulting in him spooking. As would be normal for his age when exposed to a novel enviroment.

 I was quite surprised when this did not occur. He did sit there for a minute or so, unsure what to do with himself. He made eye contact with me during this, as if looking for guidance. I told him it was "OK" and began to point at the water. I had already taught that "OK" is a safe word and a release and had introduced pointing* previously. (*Monitors learn what pointing is so quickly it would be easy to mistake it as innate if you aren't paying attention) Immediately he began to explore the tub in the spots I pointed to.

Then the first face dip under the water, seemingly on "accident" or instinct.  Followed with what is known in mammals as an "approval glance". The animals way of saying "is this OK  with you for me to do?" by hesitating and making eye contact. He did several of these to each I nodded and said it was "OK" to do. He quite enjoyed face dipping after that.

He wasn't understanding he could swim in that depth of water so I grasped him and pushed him around a bit like a toy, all while giving verbal approval. He did not object and seemed to like it.  He then began to experiment with swimming, each motion was punctuated by another approval glance (three, just like for face dipping) and thus he decided it was ok with me, and began to swim.

The really interesting thing happened when I got bored and tried to walk away after 15 mins of this. When I did this he immediately stopped what he was doing and stood tall to see where I went. I stood out of sight and watched him for a minute or so. He sat there and waited for me until I walked back to the tub and then he relaxed and began to play again.

Fran seeking approval with eye contact.

If I hadn't told you this was a monitor, it would be easy to write the same story about a dog playing in a pool for the first time. Unsure, until the human encouraged them and upset when they were left alone. The amount of eye contact would rival a domesticated animal, as would the response to my voice. Fascinating stuff, in my mind. I have not done any formal action/reward training with food yet. I did this with Dino and he was an incredibly quick learner, but like Sammi did not seem to care about me at all. It will be interesting to see what an animal that is "bonded" to a person will learn when I start clicker training him. I could put social and verbal feedback into the loop on top of primary reinforcers (or lack thereof). I'll have to see, but I have a feeling that the trainability of such and animal and intelligence (aka problem solving) meets or exceeds the abilities of a dog.

If so the moral implications of keeping such animals in cages, or at least small boring ones,  will have to be explored.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Skateboarding Mexican

I attempted to teach Chili the skateboard about 6 months ago but his fear of it outweighed anything I could offer him.

He learned what I wanted but was too frightened to stick with it. So I put it away for half a year and brought it back out on friday.

I think he just gave fear the middle finger...

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Turned Fabuland Gazebo

Frodo would be proud. Maybe

Monday, June 17, 2013

I found this on my pants

Far from its home. Now I see how settlers spread pests...

Inch along. Little friend. Far and wide, on my thigh.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Taming Monitors and Iguanas.

When people ask me how I tamed a big lizard, the explanation I reach for is simple. Trust.

A wild animal that trusts you will not be afraid of you. If its not afraid of you, its aggression will vanish. Aside from injuries, and over the top feeding responses its pretty safe to attribute all reptile aggression to fear. This article does not address animals with aggressive feeding responses but rather aggression that isn't food related.

Sadly, the common thought and even advice that people have received is to tame a monitor or iguana you should take it out of its cage and HANDLE IT. Handle it handle it handle it. Not only should you handle it, you should handle it TONS, the more the better.

I won't say this doesn't work for some animals and in certain circumstances, the second I say that, people will be shouting the opposite. But what is safe to say is handling backfires and flat out doesn't work on most of the  highstrung animals people purchase. I know this because I've been there when people give up the animals they had high hopes for because it wont tame down or even becomes more aggressive than before. There are also a number of animals that start tame and become aggressive due to interaction with the handler.

There are two main reasons "handling" will not tame your aggressive lizard.

Firstly, most people are going to become increasingly frightened or wary of their pet as this goes on. This will unconciously affect your body language, how you grip the animal, how you hold it etc..Generally the turning moment were you will not "win" and theres a downward spiral is when the animal bites you. People who get bitten immediately drop the animal, put it away, or otherwise disengage it. The lizard has learned that you will ignore all his other warnings and that he must bite you to make you go away. Once the animal learns that biting works he will resort to it faster each time you handle him. In fact he may abandon all his other warnings and just nail you right away on the very next try. Monitors in particular are very intelligent for a lizard and I've personally witnessed two trial learning occur on multiple occasions. Its important to prevent bites but extra important to try to not react much when it bites you. You don't want it to learn that biting "works". At the same time you should recognize that its time to put the animal away, just don't drop it like its hot so to speak. You want a few moments to pass before you set it down if possible.

 The bitten owner will no doubt ably be nervous during the next handling session (lizard bites are extremely painful), OR completely give up, often giving the animal away.

The second reason "handling" will not tame your aggressive lizard

An animal that is struggling, running away, defecating on you, biting you, tail whipping, etc etc is very very frightened. When you interact with him and he does these things, he builds the association that you are SCARY.  You are not to be trusted, you will do scary, uncomfortable things to him. Each time he sees you there is already that bad history there.

You wouldn't tame a feral cat by picking it up and hugging it everyday would you? How about a tiger? Its the same concept. The animal is terrified and is likely not going to submit to you. He's wild and undomesticated, hes not thinking, hes just going on instinct, and instinct says that big animals (you) that grab him and restrain him are going to eat him.

Another commonly overlooked portion of the handling paradigm is that the animal is removed from the cage for the "taming".  The lizard goes from small, comforting, familiar surroundings and sure footing to a huge room with moving floor (your hands) often 4ft off the ground if the person is standing. Reptiles find small spaces comforting, and big spaces scary. Baby animals get eaten if they blow their cover. Baby monitors hide, brave juveniles and ADULTS walk around. They know they aren't food.

I am of the opinion that an Iguana or Monitor should NEVER be forcibly removed (aka, picked up) from their enclosure while they are gaining your trust unless its absolutely necessary. Their cage is to become their Home base or safe spot and they will climb out on their own or even better, onto you, when they trust you.

Front opening cages are best for taming lizards. The top openings of aquariums require you to hover over the animal which is threatening for them. When you slide open a screen top, to their eyes, the whole sky just moved and a monster appeared. Its better to have glass doors in the FRONT that you can open as little or as much as possible.

 Desensitization, hand feeding and BAT.

Firstly, its important to let your lizard simply acclimate and have a strong desire to eat before attempting any training. New homes are stress full to any lizard and many monitors and iguanas are wild harvested. They need to settle in first and for most.

BAT (behavior adjustment training) was developed with dogs and horses but work very well on reptiles in my experience. You just have to tweak it a bit. Instead of the lizard walking away from the scary thing, you are going to walk away from the lizard.

BAT is part about pressure and part about rewarding appropriate responses. This is the first step I use when working with an aggressive animal. Followed by hand feeding and eventually lifting.

You are going to place your hand in the cage with the animal (putting pressure on). First as a fist, and eventually as an open hand. The fist is very important in the early stages so no fingers get bitten. I prefer to show the animal the back of my hand if they are to the side of me or the top of my hand if they are directly in front. We want it to look like too big of an object to bite if it comes to that accidentally.

In this exercise the removal of your hand is the reward for good behavior.(taking pressure off)

Place your hand just barely inside the cage. The animal needs to see you do this. If it doesn't react, remove your hand from the cage. After a few seconds repeat. Hand needs to completely disappear between repetitions. Do 5-10 of these exercises then end the session.

If the animal reacts slightly to your hand being in the cage (puff up are the most common) just rest it there for a few seconds to see if the animal will settle. The moment they calm down, remove your hand.

If your lizard panics you will have to start slower and have your hand near the glass but not actually in the cage. If your lizard completely looses it, abort the session and try again the following day with more distance.

For VERY aggressive animals you will have to walk towards the cage and then away when they don't react. You leaving is the reward for being calm. Wait for moments of loose body language, coming towards you in curiosity, eye pinning or even licking your hand. These are all things you should reward.

As the animal progresses you should begin to talk to it to accustom it to human noises. This is a trigger for some lizards so it should be worked on.

As you progress you should vary the locations of your hand, adding different heights, motions, duration etc. All these things need to be added slowly. If your animal panics or gets aggressive, you've moved too fast and should go back a step. They will learn faster if you go slower. Every time you frighten them you are straining the trust you just gained. GO SLOW. You will have this animal for ten years or more if its young. There is no hurry.

"Hand" feeding is the quickest way to get your lizard to interact with you if its not otherwise aggressive or as the next step after you have done BAT.  If you are taming a monitor, I recommend teaching a bowl as a hot spot. Think of it as a vending machine. The monitor learns that food appears only in the bowl, which makes it a valuable training tool. The monitor will associate food with the bowl and not with your hand. Contrary to popular belief its ok to have the monitor associate you with food. You simply must add the extra structure to it to prevent being bitten. I do not like tongs or tweezer for this because they mirror the motions of our hands and that may confuse the animal in the early stages. I do believe tweezers are a valuable tool but not for this instance.

Start by feeding in the bowl for a few days to build the association. The bowl needs to be small or medium sizes and easy to manipulate. If the monitor will come up to the bowl with you present place one insect (or mouse) in the bowl and then place in the cage in front of the lizard. If using pinkies be sure to keep your fingers as tucked in as possible to prevent a feeding mistake.

Let the Monitor eat their morsel and remove the bowl completely from site. Then immediately repeat. Do this as many times as the animal will let you for several feedings. Be sure to place the bowl in different spots to make it clear that the bowl produces the food, not the "left side of the cage" or "on this one branch" etc. The goal here is to create a bowl hot spot so the animal will not be looking for food in other places. This is also desensitization because you are repeatedly putting your hands in the cage and then removing them.

For iguanas, if the animal has shown to be a bitter in the past, use the bowl method as described above, for all others feeding from the fingers is OK. I find that many fearful iguanas will refuse to hand feed on their normal food. They certainly have a hierarchy of favorite foods. Flowers (hibiscus, nasturtium etc) and fruit will generally convince the iguana to feed from your fingers when normal greens fail. Experiment with different foods to find your "high value" treat for training.

When you are hand feeding your iguana, its important that the animal has to take at least one step to get to the offered food. Iguanas have a tendancy to "glue" themselves to a spot once they calm down and you want to prevent this. If you place the food in its face, it will likely panic, as you have come into its space too closely or it will simply learn to "glue" down and not come to you. Having to take a step towards you and then feed reinforces that walking towards you is the right thing to do. As this progresses, you will want to have the animal walk further and further to get its reward, culminating in feeding on the edge of the cage.

This is where the first actual lifting should begin. Place your finger or hand on the animals chest for just moment. Do this a few times. If they object, go back a step. If they don't mind, start using pressure (as if to lift but don't actually lift) for just a second or two at a time. You will likely have to distract with food during this first session. Don't push it, end the session while your ahead.

Superman! Time to fly

This is where counterconditioning comes in. You are going to begin to "levitate" or float your pet for brief moments about an inch off the ground, then immediately feed/reward them. I introduce a clicker at this point because of the obvious delay between being lifted, set back down and then fed. Monitors and iguanas learn what a clicker is in two trials, so there is no need to load the clicker, just use it. I lift, click, then set the animal back down and present the reward (the hotspot bowl). Lather rinse repeat. You will need to work on height and duration SEPARATELY. If you add height, decrease duration and visa versa. If they begin to get frightened, end the session, TBH though, by this point I've never had an animal spook out. They do not leave the cage at all during this part of the training. The safety of the cage is working with you still. 

 Time to come explore!

When its time for the animal to start exploring outside their cage its important that they know how to get back to home base. As the animal trusts you more and more it will begin to ask to come out of its cage. Its important that the lizard is conditioned to being lifted and "levitated" for brief distances by this point because its your job to put them back in before they panic. Your lizard will have a pattern at this point;

Walk up to cage door and ask to come out.

Walk out of cage onto you or a surface

See something scary, be it a thing or another person OR they realize they are to far from home base for comfort.

Become overwhelmed and panic. Running at random, if your lucky they'll run back to their cage.

Its your job to put the lizard back BEFORE it spooks and freaks out. If you put the lizard back before it panics it will generally immediately try to climb back out again. This is good. Let it come out again, about the same distance, then put them back again. You'll find you can't get rid of them, they just come right back at you. This repeated in and out will desensitize the animal to the room at large. Its getting exposed to the same thing, over and over at low levels and learning that nothing bad is going to happen. Its also learning that it'd rather be with you than in that boring ol' cage.

Your Monitor or Iguana is going to be TOO BRAVE and then quickly turn into TERRIFIED during its first trips out of the cage. Its your job to curb their enthusiasm so no one gets hurt. If you think they can handle 6 inches, let them come out 2inches three or four times then end the session. This is also good practice for being carried and riding on you. They are like little kids that just can't help themselves. Be the parent.

You can introduce food at this point if you so choose, to reward brave (but not too brave!) behavior outside the cage. Make sure to use your bowl hot spot if you are feeding a monitor.

As time goes on you can add more and more freedom. If you want to carry your lizard, wait until they are acclimated to the room and then practice walking around in the room for several days at minimum before moving on to other parts of the house. A harness is a good idea for going outside.

In my experience, if people follow the above protocol you can have an aggressive iguana or monitor tame in aprox  30 days. There will be variation of course, but don't expect an overnight magic wand . Trust takes time! Be slow and methodical and you wont regret it. You will have a better pet, and your lizard a better life!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Screw elves...

The mythical forest should be populated by a race of bearded dragons in flower hats. At least thats my take on it.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


I havent posted plants for a while, shame on me. I find it odd that my most intense obsession goes the longest between posts.

I scattered wildflower seed this year to fill in gaps between the immature perenials. This was one of the most robust. I *think* its a coreopsis but I'm not 100%. Ive only grown the yellow ones before and they are a different species. Either way, nice plant.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"How do you spot an aspie?

He's the only one working."

Love it.

Wordless Wednesday. Sir Mopeness


Customer brought by this very tiny ball python that he hatched. Eats, moves, sheds all normal. Just at 1/3 the size. All the siblings were normal size.

Kinda cute...for a

Friday, June 7, 2013

Hold still biatch!

So I can make sweet snakey lovins to you.

I've finally done it.

I've purchased my first domain name.

Its an easy thing to do, and inexpensive, but I had held off on it for a few years now to make sure I was intent on this blogging thing. Having your own domain seems like a commitment in many ways. I didn't want to commit to som'thing that I didn't have my heart in. I think the blog is the perfect outlet for me, I need both a place to put troubling thoughts and a place to store memories, as I basically can't remember shit. I also need the control of have say in things. Veto power if you will.

There is a saying to describe Leos;

"Makes a great Chief, but a lousy Indian".

This is me to a T. Perhaps its more of an aspie trait than a made up lion trait, but I digress. ;) I actually prefer to be slightly on the backburner, but have my ideas respected and listened to. The top boss has the boring paperwork job, I need to get my hands dirty. Can't do that planning payroll.

 Nothing kills me more than an incompetant boss who doesn't listen to what I have to say ( coughpetsmartcough) esp when live animals are involved. You can make sales and not kill animals you know, its doable.

Big box stores need to learn this or stop selling them. I loved raising Parrots at the big box, but hell to the yeah was I excited when PETA made them stop. It was fun, but it wasn't right morally, by any stretch. I did the best I could while I was there, but ignored tumors, sales to morons, stolen birds, aspirated birds and all the other nonsence that went on the second I left needed to stop.

Anyway, back to my point. I'm in it for the animals, their well being, and my sanity. I'm at that point in real life, and now I can be at that point on the web without anyones money making greed holding back the truth.

Because thats what its all about to me. Truth.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Complaint I filed to Ripoff Report

With the typos fixed. Of course. ;)

Once upon a time I had to deal with a Bizarre Woman when I saved a dog.... I removed her name to keep her from trying something insane. Shes already been sued for stealing a dog after pissing someone off.

" I adopted a dog from this "rescue". This dog was a medical case that no rescue wanted. He was also elderly.

Money was raised to pay for the dogs many surgeries, to be given either directly to the adoptor or paid the the vet doing the surgery. This amount was about $250. Donated by random kind people who could not take the dog on themselves

I took possession of the dog who required a dental, huge tumor removal and three hernia repairs. My vet was generous and only charged me $2,000. This was cheap for what was done. The dog also has hip dysplasia and two luxating patella, that due to his age The vet elected to leave alone. He was extremely overwieght when I obtained him. Basically the most unadoptable dog ever.

"K" never sent me the dogs paperwork, microchip info or the $250. When I contacted her she told me I wasnt on file and she didnt know anything about the money raised.

I figured out very fast that the money was a lost cause and so I insisted on the dogs vet records/ vacine records. At this point she turned into an irate delusional person and the wierdest convo ensued. She spoke in word salad rivaling the mentally ill. I stayed calm and she yelled into the phone. Claiming I stole the dog from her and she was going to have me arrested. When this didnt work she then asked me to call her attorney.

I called K.K's "attorney" and left a message. He never called me back. I googled his name and phone number. He was a regular person, NOT an attorney and simply another rich dog "rescuer".

I finally convinced her to send me paperwork. I had to sit through her life story and other wierd nonsensical ramblings and be very patient. Her excuse for being crazy to me was a worker was pulling dogs, selling them and buying drugs with the money. She said she "knows" that I am in a conspiracy with the drug user and the dog I adopted didnt really exist.

I have screen shots of her talking to this "drug user" on facebook even after she claimed she reported her the the police. Instructing her to pull more dogs.

Sadly this sealed the deal in my mind that rescues are not for me. I always had pulled my own dogs from shelters and after this, I"ll never use a rescue again."

Having to type this out years after the fact just makes me shake my head and wonder how the world even functions. I'm glad to have it written down so I can put it behind me and stop thinking about it. Sadly this woman is still in business.

Monday, June 3, 2013


Hatched a pair of gargoyle geckos today. Had to rearange things to make space for them.

My big group of 9 or so crestie hatchlings had to give up their crib. Sorry guys. Its ok though because I hooked them up with a better pad. It was time anyway...