THE QUAKER NEWS 

JANUARY, 1998

 

FROM THE EDITOR

Patricia, one of our subscribers from New York State, brought up a topic that over the years has caused me endless concern. She states " Iíve heard that ethoxyguin , a preservative, is very bad for birds. Yet I see it listed on most bird foods."

In my "Bird Bible", Dr Harrisonís Avian Medicine, he identifies ethoxyquin as a food preservative that may have unreported toxic side effects. It was originally used as a herbicide - that is as a weed killer. This is not exactly what we want our birds to be consuming, no matter how small the amount.

Yet we read that more than 100 different mycotoxins are produced as by- products of molds. These possess varying degrees of toxicity ; some are carcinogenic. They are completely undetectable by sight, smell, or taste. Any product with any evidence of mold at all should not be fed due to the possibility of myotoxins having been formed and resultant serious kidney and liver damage.

Some form of protection against oxidation is clearly necessary. Here in Florida with high temperatures and high humidity most of the year the problem is especially pressing. For the owner of just one or a limited number of birds keeping the feed refrigerated ( or frozen if stored any length of time) is a practical solution. Buying in small amounts or keeping under refrigeration is not a viable option for those maintaining any but a small number of birds.

Chemical antioxidants ( such as ethoxyquins, BAT, or BHA) provide the longest period of protection . They are considered safer than the carcinogenic compounds that are known to be produced through oxidative rancidity.

If you have room in your refrigerator I suggest you look for foods with few or no preservatives. If storage is a problem, we can only trust the continuing efforts of our reliable manufacturers to provide the maximum of safety possible.

I want to send warm wishes for happiness and good health to all my friends and to all their charming little Quakers. Have happy holidays and a wonderful New Year.

 

FROM OUR READERS

 

Dear Linda;

After reading Dr Sam Vaughnís article in the October issue of the Quaker News where he says our birds kissing us pass along germs that can be disease producing I confess that I have not stopped my petís good night kisses. I do feel so guilty and concerned over making him sick. Do you really feel that this is dangerous? Mike from Colorado

I found what to me is a satisfactory compromise in Mattie Sue Athanís new book Guide To The Quaker Parrot. She says that a parrot must be allowed to kiss only a clean, closed mouth to protect it from hostile microbes in human saliva. Her book is really good - full of practical solutions to problems and beautiful photography.

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Dear Linda;

Our Quaker, Petrie, is one year old.For a few months now we have been working on potty training. If I watch him when he starts to back up ---- Iíll ask him if he wants to go potty. Iíll get paper and hold him over the paper saying "Go potty on the paper." He will repeat me. It goes like this - "Go potty on the paper.. Be a big boy!" We laugh so hard when he says it. He makes it sound like "Oh what a relief it is!". Sometime he will tell me "Go potty" and Iíll get the paper. Debbie from Texas

It seems that giving our Quakers the reaction of approval and laughter means that they will do just about anything we ask to please us.

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Dear Linda;

My Quaker, Truffles, is seven moths old. It is amazing how smart these birds are. When Truffles drops his toy he looks down at it and says "Oh Oh!" When he said "I love you" I would follow with "I love you too!" One day when I said just "I love you!" he looked at me and said "I love you too!" He got plenty of kisses for that one. Cindy in Illinois

If Truffles was a mature bird perhaps this would not be so remarkable , but for just a baby to use language so meaningfully shows great intelligence. The reports from our readers prove constantly that our Quakers are not just mimics but really know just what they are saying.

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Dear Linda;

My little green friend is now definitely saying "My name is Georgie. Whatís your name?" We are still in the process of trying to alter nature and have a specific place for her to relieve herself .The process, while slow, is going about as well as can be expected. While there are still occasional "oops poops" I often hear those little plop plops in her bucket.

I noticed that Georgie makes a strange almost "quack quack " sound. This seems to be used to express excitement or having fun. So I sat by her house and tried to match her Quack for Quack. (Iím so grateful no one saw this!) But we quaked and quacked for some time. Every once in awhile she would just stop and she seemed almost mesmerized, as she would get down low and really listen to what I must have been saying. She did have a look in her eyes like . . . .. "What the heck are you trying to say? Itís all Greek Bird to me! See, itís not so easy to copy speech, is it?" Even though I didnít have the slightest idea what we were saying, that was a special connection. Has anyone tried to translate those strange Quack sounds to our language? If so I would really like to know their conclusions on this phenomenon. David from Colorado

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Dear Linda,

 Baskin is my spoiled little Quaker with many people who pay attention to him and he holds several hearts in his little claws. He is only a few months old but has a large, yet garbled vocabulary. One of the first words he said clearly was "Brat!" followed by a loud "Ha Ha Ha". We laugh together a lot and he loves to be with me , whether I am showering or we are driving six hours to see my - oops, make that our - family. He is welcomed in my familyís home with more enthusiasm than I am. Baskin has even joined me at my job where I work with physically and mentally handicapped people. I honestly do not know who enjoys his visits more - me, Baskin, or all the people I work with. When we travel he loves to sit on my shoulder and admire the handsome bird in the rear view mirror. He is a natural flirt and loves to give many kisses to my female friends. He also seems to have a foot fetish. He chases my feet around the bed when I am resting and laughs. He also, loves "elevator rides" on my feet. Baskin is the love of my life. Robyn

 What a delightful story. Just do be aware of dangers - such as driving with Baskin on your shoulder. Keep the windows closed tight- keep his wings clipped - all those things. I want this happy relationship to go on and on for many years.

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Dear Linda,

 I got my Quaker Bird about a month ago. He was 11 weeks old when I bought him. I just love him He is learning to talk. It is going very slowly but he can say three or four words. They are not real plain. Will his words get plainer as he gets older. He also started biting me on the ears and neck when he sits on my shoulder. What should I do about it? Is he showing me his affection? Pam from Oklahoma

The bird behavior experts seem to all agree that letting your bird ride around on your shoulder is not a good idea. They feel that this is a position of dominance. He should only be allowed there by a special command - never let him walk up your arm at will. I strongly suggest that you quickly put a stop to his biting you on the ear. Remove him from the position where he can reach your ear firmly with a loud "No - donít bite." This is a bad habit that can become painful or even dangerous. He can show you his affection in other more acceptable ways. The diet you describe sounds ideal.

 

Dear Linda;

We were in Sarasota, Florida in August and saw a grove of pine trees near Sarasota jungle Gardens that had about ten separate Quaker nests. The birds were flying in and out and were quite vocal. It was fun seeing a Quaker like ours in the wild. Susan from N.C.

 

MAMMAíS HEART

By Bunkie Cothran - a 10 year old Quaker from Colorado

 

I know Iím inside it, while from perch to perch I dart.

I can feel how Iím in it, even when weíre apart. Itís held all her love,

right from the start.

This is a poem about Mommaís heart

It thinks I am handsome, worthy, and smart!

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Dear Linda;

Do you really think that a few little sips of my Cocoa Cola will be harmful for my Quaker? How can I enjoy it in front of him and not let him perch on the edge of my glass to share a little with me? Dana from Utah

The caffeine in the Coke is bad for your bird, but worse is the carbonation. The little fellow canít belch or burp - too much could actually kill him. And many pets have fallen into a glass of liquid and drowned. They can fly but canít swim. So drink you Coke in another room or learn to say No.

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PARROTS CAN MATCH WITS WITH CHIMPS, STUDY FINDS

Shared With Us by Ed Waltz from Ohio

 

Calling someone "bird brain" is not as insulting as you may think. New research suggests that parrots, like chimps and dolphins, are capable of mastering complex intellectual concepts that children under age five cannot handle. Pet experts, gathering in Chicago for an American Veterinary Association forum believe the parrotsí intelligence is why the bird has grown faster in popularity than any other pet over the past decade.

Irene Pepperberg, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona who studies the intelligence of parrots, has focused her studies on a bird she bought at a Chicago pet store in 1977. This parrot, Alex, can name 50 objects when shown them, knows colors and numbers up to eight, and even understands the concepts of same and different.

All of the tests we have done with dolphins and great apes to investigate their intelligence, weíve done with Alex, Ms Pepperberg said. " He scored as well as they did in many of them, better in some."

Liz Wilson, a parrot behavior consultant from Philadelphia , said she has heard of cases in which people come home feeling blue and their parrot asks "Is something wrong?"

 

 

NEWSPAPERS MAKE FOR SAFER BOTTOMS

Avi Reference Page - Bird Clubs of America

 

Aviculturists have a new headache to watch out for: organic bedding. New killers! Weíve been seeing birds die of (rock) grit impactions for years now, as we slowly (but hopefully surely) get the information out to the bird owning public.

Bedding material may be OK way out of reach of the birds, depending on their size and aggressiveness, and changed often ( to limit bacterial development). Let the manufacturer prove the safety of the product and you be aware of the potential danger.

Not just babies eat cage bottom or nest box materials. Adults can, and do, as well. And birds of all ages can die from that behavior. So, no walnut shell bedding, corn cob bedding, kitty liter. Plain old newspaper, paper towels, brown paper bags or paper on a roll, etc. , work just fine.

You can see and evaluate daily droppings, catching any changes before the problem is overwhelming. Color, size, consistency, and number of droppings are all very important. Sure, it is easier to keep clean if you only change bedding once a week or so, but who knows what is going on with the droppings if you cannot see them?

One of the case histories offered is that of a breederís new male Macaw that was found dead one morning. She had the bird for about a year. He had sired twelve fertile eggs during that year and had been observed feeding his mate the evening before his death. The breeder had a necropsy done. When the birdís body was opened there were signs of bleeding into the bowel. The gizzard and proventriculus were both distended with bloody food and small corn cob bedding. There was so much bob in there that there was very little room for food. Like (rock) grit, the corn cob bedding was inert and stayed in the gizzard. Unlike (rock) grit, the stuff swelled. And this bird had not had access to corn cob bedding for over a year.

Birds can reach through the grate and take things off the bottom.

Bacteria can form among the cubicles of bedding, as it does on paper.

Bedding looks pretty, a lot like food, and might smell good, but it can be lethal, like rock grit.

Most responsible Veterinarians will advise against any bedding that looks like nut pieces and might cause digestive problems if ingested.

Newspapers can be taken apart and placed in layers. The dirty layer can be removed. As far as looks are concerned, shortly after, the bird starts decorating the paper with cast off food, treats, shells, etc.

Newspaper inks: if he should chew some, they are not damaging to the bird in the amount used.

It is inexpensive to use newspapers and is a recyclable use.

 

TEN COMMANDMENTS OF PET OWNERSHIP

From a Petís Point of View

South Jersey Bird Club

 

1. My life may last 10 to 20 years (or even much more). Any separation from you will be painful for me. Remember that before you take me home.

2. Give me time to understand what you want of me.

3. I must be able to place my trust in you and you in me - itís crucial to my well being.

4. Donít be angry with me for long, and donít lock me up as punishment. You have your work, your entertainment, and your friends. I have only you.

5. Talk to me. Even if I donít understand your words, I do understand your tone of voice when you are talking to me.

6. Remember, if you think of hitting me, that I have teeth (or a beak) that could easily crush the bones of your hand, but I choose not to hurt you.

          7. Before you scold me for being uncooperative, ask yourself if                  something might be bothering me. Perhaps I am not getting  the right
 food or maybe I donít feel too well.

8. However you treat me - good or bad - Iíll never forget it.

9. Take care of me when I get old: you will get old too.

10. Go with me on my last journey. Never say "I canít bear to watch" or "let it happen in my absence". Dying will be easier for me if you are there. Remember, I love you.

 

GUIDO - a Quaker Wonder

by Tena M. Marangi

Itís 6:30 any Monday morning - a day like any other work day. Iím in the bathroom, drying my hair and putting on my makeup. From my bedroom I hear "Mommie?" I donít answer right away, I am rinsing toothpaste out of my mouth. Again, louder this time, "MOMMIE!" I answer "Yes, sweetie, what is it?" The response is "love you." I smile and say "I love you too."

I continue getting ready, but he is undeterred. "Mommie, what doin?" Again, I donít answer quite fast enough for him, only to hear the grammatically correct ( and much louder) version " Mommie - WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"

I tell him that I am getting ready for work. At the mention of "work" a loud scream bursts forth from the bedroom, causing me to cover my ears. At this, I walk into the bedroom and gently say "Please, no yelling." He stops. I thank him. It is clearly too early for that much noise.

As I turn to leave the room he says "Mommie, kiss?" I say "OK" and walk over to him. He showers me with kisses on the lips, complete with the "kissing" noise. If he does numerous small kissing sounds on my lips or cheeks, he tells me "little kisses." "Big kisses" are reserved for that single, huge SWAACCCKKK sound. He stops his little kisses just long enough to look me in the eye and say "No tongues.", then continues kissing and rubbing his head up and down my cheeks. While rubbing his head, heís going "Aaaahhhhhhhh"ľ .. When he really gets going, he starts to purr too. No doubt he picked that up from one of my cats - undoubtedly Bilbo who purrs constantly.

Curious yet? Want to hear more? ( Gee, how much time do you have?) Just who the heck is this little dynamo?

Well, his name is Guido and heís a young Quaker (or Monk) parakeet. He speaks well over a hundred words, phrases and sentences, and he understands exactly what he is saying. If he doesnít understand something that Iíve said, heíll say "Whatís that mean?" or "Whatíd you say?" He was only four months old when he combined his first sentence, taken from words he understood. Those memorable words were "Guido, be good boy, no bite Mommie." You must think that he is ancient to be able to speak so many words. No, and that is the scary part. He just turned one this summer. Guido is the smartest animal Iíve ever seen (and I have hadgazzillions of criters) His thirst for knowledge and language is unquenchable. He made me realize the phrase " to parrot" something is completely inappropriately coined. He does not just parrot words back at me. He talks at the level of a three to four year old child - so far. But I do not want to get too far ahead of my story, because my poor baby almost died earlier this year. I want to relate to you our experiences in the hope of preventing these traumas from happening to any of your babies. I will try to keep this short out of necessity, but understand, what we went through was any thing but brief in duration.

One evening when I came home from work and let Guido out of his cage. I noticed that he was straining to defecate. Straining so much , in fact, that he was almost in a sitting position on top of his cage. When heís out, he normally relieves himself on a paper towel that is placed in front of his cage. So, squatting on top was a very unusual thing for him to do.

I gave my "get on " command ( for "step up") and carried him into the bathroom to check things out. When I gently flipped him over in my hand, I saw what looked like angry, red hemorrhoids protruding from his anal area. I didnít know what this was, but felt that it was serious. I called the hospital and they turned me over to the emergency center. I was instructed to bring him right in.

After the examination I was told that he had a prolapsed cloaca and would have to be anesthetized for it to be repaired. The Vet said that his problem was serious and that anesthesia was always a dangerous undertaking. She told me to go home and to call back about 1:00 AM to check on Guido. I hated to leave him there all alone, but had little choice. Iím not sure which one of us was the most terrified. I returned to my car with tears streaming down my face.

After hours of pacing the floor I called for a progress report. He was out of surgery and seemed to be doing fine. However, he was not happy with the Elizabethan collar that had been placed around his neck. I was instructed to call in the morning before going to work.

Hereís where I will condense the next six weeks or so. The next day, he needed surgery again to remove one of the three internal stitches since he was unable to relieve himself. He was anesthetized again. The day after that (again under anesthesia) stitch number two came out because he still couldnít adequately relieve himself. With one remaining stitch Guido came home. Our fingers were crossed that it would be enough and that the cloaca would stay in place. He was put on several medications since the Vet believed a possible parasitic infection had cause the prolapse in the first place. That as never actually confirmed.

Clearly miserable, Guido sat on his cage spinning his makeshift (made out of X-ray film ) Elizabethan collar around and around. He occasionally stopped to eat and drink, but did little else. He did not play with his toys. He did not utter a single word. He looked terrible. We were both depressed and I was scared.

The next morning as a Sunday. I got out of bed early and went over to his cage ( which sits six feet from my bed) to check on him. There was blood everywhere - on the bars - the floor of his cage - even running down the walls. I quickly scooped him up in a panic to see where all that blood was coming from. I had assumed that it was from his cloaca . Wrong! His neck was sliced open 180 degrees from the mid point in the back all the way around to the front. The collar had cut him like a razor blade.

Back to the emergency room we went. I held him while the collar was cut off, all the while trying to soothe and comfort him. Again, Guido had to be anesthetized in order to get a good look at the damage and to clean him up. This time, a soft collar, made from plumbersí pipe insulation, was used around his neck. I wonít say that he liked it, because that would be taking the concept of "like" too far, but he tolerated this collar a bit better. He continued to pick, chew, and twirl it, but seemed to have more rest and eating time than he did with the X-ray material Elizabethan collar. He still wasnít talking or playing.

Since I didnít trust him to be alone Guido was my constant companion.. I bought a travel cage and took him with me everywhere I went for the next four months. He sat right next to me at work all day . I even stopped my daily outside run and used my treadmill most of the time for fear of leaving him alone too long. My rule was "I Guido canít go. I canít either."

At this point he looked like a plucked chicken, or maybe more appropriately , a turkey buzzard. He had no neck feathers whatsoever from front to back or on either side. But he did seem ti be healing. Eventually he started talking again and even picked up his "Kong" to play a bit. Each day I would check the wounds to see if the scabs were falling off, and, little by little, they were. The worst place was a area directly in the middle of his throat. It had the largest scab and clearly was taking the longest time to heal. However, it looked good and we were almost home free. Almost.

As was customary, I got out of bed at 6AM and went directly to his cage to check on Guido. I noticed that he had been pulling at his collar and it seemed to be a bit "stretched" near the closure. Again, I took him to the bathroom counter for a better look. What I saw made bile rise up into my throat and my heart skip a beat. He had indeed stretched the collar and had gotten his little beak down inside. There he had proceeded to eat out the entire front of his throat. It was an area big enough to put my index finger into. I could see his trachea, several arteries, and even the neck muscles working up and down. I desperately tried not to panic or fall apart. Within seconds I was dressed and we were heading for the emergency room.

You guessed it - He was anesthetized again. The wound was debrided to make sure all of the skin was fresh and viable, then the skin remaining on his little neck was stretched until it reached on all sides. He was then sewn together vertically. A new collar was put on and he was placed in Intensive Care for observation. Believe this or not, in less than five minutes he had the collar just about off and had pulled out most of the stitches. He was anesthetized one more time, the skin was re-debrided and he was re-stitched. This time several dozen teeny, tiny sutures from the base of his beak to the bottom of his throat were carefully stitched into Guidoís traumatized throat. A new soft collar, made tighter, then sewn together for extra strength was applied.

Finally, after months and months, he healed . We removed the stitches to see a wound that had ( to my complete amazement) grown together again. To be absolutely sure that he would not pick the area I kept the collar on for another three weeks. He was mad but he lived.

Guido even learned that when I gave him a certain look it meant that I was watching him to make sure he was leaving the area alone. Heíd say "No picking! No picking! Guido, leave it alone. Stop it! Donít do that!" Even funnier, to this day when I say to him "Let me see your neck." Heíll raise his head and say "Look up." To oblige me with a tilted back head so I can give him a quick examination. He is now fully feathered and back to normal. Finally, but I wouldnít want to go through any of that again. I believe in bonding with my pets, but that was ridiculous

With that entire ordeal behind us (knock on wood) let me tell you the fun things about this little chatterbox. First of all heís too smart for his own good. Guido is like a spy - always watching and listening. He misses nothing. He might not use what he hears right away, but sooner or later, he will surprise you with something that he picked up and use it in the most appropriate way. Okay, Okay - so you are just a bit skeptical. Give you an example, you say. No problem! I know I have asked you before, but how much time do you have?

It seems that the first words most talking birds learn are their name and "Hello". Guido was no different. When he was a 12 week old baby and came home with me, I began teaching him not to bite using "no bite." As a command when he did. He heard a lot of this in the beginning.

One day I came home to an angry little bird. I was late. I had played tennis for an hour after work. No big deal - or so I thought. I went up stairs and did the first thing I normally do when I arrive home in the evening - let Guido out. He rushed to the top of his big cage and , stamping his feet, screamed "BITE! BITE! BITE!". I thought " Gee, how unusual. He forgot the word "no" in front of "bite." So I did the second thing I do when I get home. I stuck my finger out for him to climb on. He bit me, hard! Even drew blood. After getting a crow bar to pry open that vice like little beak, I backed up to examine the situation.

Could he? Did he? Was he trying to tell me? The answer of course, was "yes." He knew exactly what he was saying. He told me he was going to bite, and he did. I scolded him. Told him he was a bad boy. He bobbed his head and continued pacing. He didnít care if he was bad - he was MAD. I left him alone to stew for awhile.

I returned thirty minutes later to see a submissive, sorry for his behavior little creature who was now bending forward and flapping his wings - the typical begging stance. I asked him if he was in a better mood. "Guido be good boy. No bite No bite !" We stared at each other - eyeball to eyeball. Was he telling me the truth? Could he have the ability to lie? I looked at my sore finger and decided to trust him. He got on. He didnít bite> He wanted kisses. Thank God, he wasnít mad any more. Itís been almost a year since then. To this day, he has never lied to me. An accomplishment that most parents of human children canít claim with certainty.

Guido clearly understands the difference between the words "good" and "bad." He doesnít just understand these words as they pertain to him either- its a much broader understanding. For example, he knows that good means to behave oneself as well as something that tastes delicious. If I give him something new to eat and wait for that Siskel and Ebert thumbs up or down from him, he rewards me by saying "Good! Good!" and continues eating if he likes the taste. If not he throws it on the floor, yelling "Wheeee! " as the food offering drops.

He also uses "good" if it pertains to something enjoyable. I tried a new form of bathing him recently and he loved it. I had him sit on one hand over the sink while I gently sprinkled lukewarm water over him, using my other hand to draw the water from the running faucet. He opened his wings, puffed himself up, and spread all his feathers wide while yelling "Good Good - shower shower "

As a further example of Guidoís ability to understand, we were dancing to the music on my stereo one day and I became a little over enthusiastic and started drumming on top of his cage. He stopped dancing, backed up and yelled at me "Be good! Bad Mommie. " He obviously didnít think much of my drumming talent. I am surprised he didnít say "Donít give up your day job!" Everyone is a critic these days/

Guido continued his dancing, urging me to join by saying "Mommie! Dance! Dance!" When I dance he says "We be dancing! Dancing fools!" He is always ready to dance if he hears music. His favorite artist is SEAL. At least he has good taste. As much as he loves to dance, he loves to imitate Stevie Wonder more. Heíll stand tall, head back, and sway back and forth. (If only those itsy bitsy glasses would stay on) If you stand in front of him and imitate Stevie Wonder by doing the same thing, heíll yell "STEVIE!" for as long as you continue swaying.

If you happen to hiccup, he quickly yells "Do the drunk! Hiccup!" and wobbles as though he has had a few too many. And heaven forbid should he hear someone with flatulence - heíll "Pffttt" right back at you. (Whatís a Mother to do?)

I learned a long time ago that "Whatíd you say? Huh? What are you doing? Huh?" are the phrases Guido uses if he really doesnít understand what Iíve just said. Of course, there was the one time when I told him "Stop picking, or Iíll put the collar back on." He promptly asked "What collar? " My answer was "You know darned well what collar Iím referring to .". He just laughed and laughed. Yeah, real funny.

I have the most unique punishment reserved for when Guido has been misbehaving. You all are familiar with the little wooly critters that most of your parrots play with. They come in a variety of colors and styles and have no eyes or other detachable parts to be dangerous. Of course, I bought one for Guido. His is a blue bear about seven inches tall. It is so soft and cute I was sure that he would love it as much as I did. NOT!

I am familiar with the concept of introducing you bird gradually to something new. Sit it somewhere in the room, far away first. Bring it a little closer daily until you put it on the cage. All I did was walk into the room with the critter and Guido took his first flight. He left the room, he did. Screaming Cursing Squawking bloody murder. I promptly removed the blue bear. That was last December. Things have never been any better between Guido and the bear.

I decided to use this to my advantage. I hid the bear on the far side of the night stand, near the bed, out of his range of vision. He picked up the wprds "the bear" as in "Iím gonna get" really fast. In all honesty the only time I threaten to get the bear is when he goes into one of those screaming moods - not talking, not chattering, not whistling - screaming that could wake the dead - in a cemetery - in the next state. You know the kind of screams. Go right through

you, donít they. Make your fillings ache! Anyway - all I have to do is to say ""Guido, stop that yelling or Iím gonna get the bear." And he ducks. He looks just like the Munchkins ducking when they think the wicked witch is coming. Okay - so maybe it isnít nice, but it sure does work. He doesnít even have to see the bear to get the message. Peace and quiet reign once again

More from Tena on Guiudoís antics in our next issue.

 

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