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April 27, 2012

LAAS New Hope connection on block

A decision by the Los Angeles department of Animal Services to eliminate the New Hope Coordinators' position has led to quite a bark fest on the Echo Park Animal Alliance's lively list serv. In recent years, New Hope Coordinators have been responsible for facilitating as independent, nonprofit animal rescue organizations adopted animals from the city's shelters, many of these animals running out of time in the shelters. The former coordinators now will return to jobs as Animal Care Technicians, their previous duties reassigned or reclassified or forgotten.

LAAS General Manager Brenda Barnette told Chicken Corner yesterday that the decision to eliminate New Hope Coordinators, folding their duties into other jobs, is due mainly to budget constraints, with staff vacancies going unfilled, and what she says was a lack of need for the New Hope Coordinators.

Barnette explained:

The Supervisors met and said that they felt like the special assignments (Volunteer Liaison and New Hope Coordinators) were not an effective use of resources. There is not a steady stream of New Hope Partners or Volunteers needing assistance coming into the shelters which left the New Hope Liaisons and the Volunteer Liaisons idle at times and yet not in the schedule to do other work.

Several volunteers and animal activists on the Echo Park Animal Alliance's list serv begged to differ.

A woman named Jane Garcia posted that elimination of New Hope Coordinators would mean a return to the days when nonprofit volunteers could not get calls through to shelter staff:

Remember trying to get through to the shelter and constantly getting busy signals? No more calling the [New Hope] Coordinator's cell phone and getting right through to speak to her or leave a message on a dedicated voice mail line. How about getting through, then being put on immediate hold for 5, 10, 15 minutes just to ask to be put through to an ACT or kennel supervisor?
Then there was the 20 minute wait while someone was paged but didn't pick up. Either you waited and waited--not a good option if you are lucky enough to have a job and had to put everything else aside in the hope that someone actually responded to the page. ... Often you'd have to give up or even got cut off.

According to LAAS documents,

The purpose of the New Hope Program is to expand opportunities for Los Angeles Animal Services (LAAS)' dogs, cats, and rabbits to find permanent homes by partnering with qualified 501 (c) 3 organizations. The New Hope Program is the means by which LAAS acknowledges, cooperates with, and supports the efforts of partnering animal care, training, rescue, welfare and law enforcement organizations as we all try to find homes for the City's homeless dogs, cats, and rabbits.
A New Hope Coordinator is assigned to each Animal Care Center to serve the needs of our New Hope Partners. The role of the New Hope Coordinator is to expedite and facilitate the adoption of New Hope animals to New Hope Partners.

A very important program, in this age of cash-challenged government organizations working with nonprofits. Though Chicken Corner would like to see chickens added to the list of animals the New Hope program values.

Meanwhile, Barnette emailed Chicken Corner, saying,

I have offered to schedule a meeting next week and I'm waiting to see if more than one person is willing to sit and talk face to face.

April 24, 2012

More breaking news

If you can sit with the pun.

This once perfectly fine old chair went splat several months ago in the wind storm that we all remember as The Windstorm, in December 2011. Since then, we have been removing sawed bits of our fallen eucalyptus, one green bin at a time, getting the smaller pieces out, leaving the big ones as benches. Some trunk portions we may finally have to pay for help to get carted out. Cluck. Cluck.

Photo: Chicken Corner, 12:48 p.m., April 24, 2012.

Bear in tree

Or where the wild things are in Elysian Park. This little guy has been sitting in a eucalyptus -- what does he think he is, a koala? -- for some time now (usually, when I see him, I have neither phone nor camera). He's been there through rain, through wind, through sun and moon. Existing as part of the landscape, waiting with a patience that is not of this world. Unlike those TV bears in Scranton, PA, who made everyone miss the weather report Monday.

April 18, 2012

Polly want a better cage

Speaking of wild birds in cages, Bob Pool of the L.A. Times wrote a short piece a few days ago about a woman who is squawking -- and rightfully so! -- for parrot owners to increase the size of their birds' cages. The woman, whose name happens really to be Tweti, rhyming with tweety, argues that parrots are wild birds and really shouldn't be pets at all. But once they're in the prison system of petdom, they can't be released safely, and need cages bigger than most of them are allowed.

Who could argue?

April 13, 2012

Towhee in the henhouse

One of the many benefits of having backyard chickens has been getting to know the wild birds that spend so much time in our elderberry, loquat, eucalyptus, and walnut trees. First, there's the fact that I spend more time in the yard. That helps in getting to know the purple finches, wrens, scrub jays, mocking birds, and towhees. Then there's the fact that -- because I spend more time in the yard -- they get to know me.towhee.jpg I always assumed that wild birds are simply afraid of humans, that they don't distinguish between members of the household, and -- most fallaciously -- that their attitudes toward people are fixed. But it turns out they are watching, they are thinking, and sometimes they make mistakes.

A few months after we built the outer coop for our little hens -- an 8x6x6 cube of chicken wire and wood with a door and wire floor beneath the dirt -- I started noticing that I was seeing more wild birds in our back yard. At first, I thought their numbers were increasing, but then I realized that it was simply their boldness that was growing. They saw the way the chickens followed me around when they were out of the coop, even flying or running after me if I wandered out of view. (I've never felt like such a celebrity! If you want to feel important, spoil your hens.) The wild ones saw the way I fed the chickens yogurt from little plastic cups. They became less cautious.

The scrub jays in particular began to fly down close, hopping near me to get a bit of leftover plain organic yogurt (which they love, just as the hens do). They come the closest while I am doing yard work or just watching the hens. The mocking birds were imperious but also started flying closer. And the finches (white crowned sparrows and purple finches) moved in, too.

Another thing that started happening was not so delightful. They started venturing into the coop to eat the chickens' grain and other delectables. What a torment it must have been to see the daily buffet laid out for Sparkle, Rainbow, and Cutie Patootie, just under the wild birds' beaks but protected by chicken wire. Out of reach, except when the door was open.

So we'd get the occasional panicking bird who realized she was trapped and didn't know how to read chicken wire, didn't know that she could fly through the doorway. It's not that they are stupid or "bird brained" as the bird-brained saying goes, but that chicken wire is not something that occurs in nature. A wire net in the sky is not something they are programmed to understand. That's my guess.

Meanwhile, their mate would be hopping around in distress on the other side of the coop walls, and the other birds in the yard would have fled. We've had squirrels get themselves into the same bind, too. (But their mates don't come out to help.)

One time, we had a scrub jay trapped in the coop and my daughter wanted to keep him as a pet. But as with some of the others, we got the broom and guided him to freedom. Leaving them in the coop is not a good idea because, not only would their lives be ruined, but their poop might contain bacteria harmful to our hens. Out they must go.

A couple of days ago, we had a California towhee in the coop. Once again, it was the wild world colliding with the domestic, to the distress of the former, and the relative indifference of my hens.

California towhee photo: John W. Hall.

April 10, 2012

The Mario files*

mariogarcetti.jpgAt left, mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti seeks an important endorsement (Photo posted on Facebook yesterday by my friend Dominic Ehrler). Mario the Goose -- AKA Maria the Goose -- is expected to make his announcement in support of Garcetti any time now as the Councilman was active in helping the gander secure a safe home at the L.A. Zoo about 13 months ago.

Though he no longer lives at Echo Park Lake, where he once walked daily with Dominic, Mario remains securely bonded with his human best friend, who visits him at the zoo regularly.

*Update: Dominic says the Garcetti "endorsement" photograph was taken several months ago, at Mario's zoo "debut." Below are some more mario zoo pics, courtesy of Dominic. At bottom, Dominic and Mario.




42 keys and the truth


Nashville, TN: Chicken Corner had a little fun this past week visiting family and helping promote her husband's biography of James Brown. One delightful discovery came on Sunday as we strolled through the Country Music Hall of Fame's permanent exhibits on our way to a special show about the Bakersfield, Cali, scene. There, just a few feet from Elvis' diamond-dust Cadillac was Cindy Walker's typewriter (above) -- the one on which she typed the lyrics for "You Don't Know Me" (a longtime favorite of Chicken Corner), "Bubbles in My Beer," and "Miss Molly," among so many others. Her songs have been recorded by everyone except Guns n Roses.

A writer named Bill DeMain puts it nicely in describing Walker as belonging to the "three chords and the truth" school of songwriting. He writes about Walker in "Performing Songwriter," which I came across this morning.

Walker said:

The best tunes are songs with a face. You recognize them. You know them. It's like a person. They have a face that's outstanding. Other songs don't have a face. You just hear them, that's all. The really good ones are few and far between.

Chicken Corner can only wish she could have asked Walker (who died in 2006) about that typewriter. I love the idea of this particular typewriter as a musical instrument.

April 2, 2012

Off the wall at Chicken Corner


What didn't happen: Aaron Donovan did not paint more chickens at Chicken Corner (this hope having been fueled by an erroneous rumor).

What did happen: Under new ownership, Chango cafe got a chicken-less mural by a different artist, named Axis.

New wrong rumor: The intersection at Delta St.-Echo Park Avenue-Morton Ave. will now be called Coffee Goddess Corner. Make that: Red Haired Woman drinking Coffee Corner.

Interested parties

A short ramble through Elysian Park this morning, and Chicken Corner counted yellow rumped warblers, California bluebirds, an unidentified, tiny bird that was not the short tailed wren that's common around here, and towhees, not to mention the usual suspects: hawks, crows, mourning doves, mocking birds, and finches of several varieties. My dog, Chyla, and I sat in the shade on one of the short-cut trails, and watched as the birds danced around and tweeted -- a party in the sun. Some are year-rounders, others on their way north. They are all very interested in what happens at Dodger Stadium now that ownership is changing hands.

Doggy and I returned home to find that Scott Fajack had posted this very relevant photo on the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park's Facebook page. It shows a 1965 peck-it picket.


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