UPDATE: Lazy Author Offers Free Book RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW

Last October I offered up my book The Wolf Pack Guide to Dog Training for freeif you read the preview and clicked a link. Then an email would come to me, and I would send you the free pdf of the book. BUT… I decided to just skip the step of having to answer emails all day long. So, here. Take it! Below find my dog training book on how to have an awesome canine companion! Just click on the link below and either download or read it online, it is that simple! Enjoy! Share with a friend with a badly behaved dog, they need this free eBook!

–Cat, the Lazy Author

The Wolf Pack Guide To Dog Training by Cat Spydell  <<<<<<Here is your free pdf!

Cat Spydell is an Author and Animal Communicator living near the ocean outside of Los Angeles. 

Wolf Pack 5.5x8.5_ft_cover_FRONT_1b

Advertisements

What it is REALLY Like to Travel with a Peacock: Don’t Try this at Home

Tags

, , ,

Recently the internet was ablaze with a story about a woman trying to fly United Airlines with her pet peacock, a supposed emotional support bird. The (single) dark video shows her walking (alone, no other passengers anywhere near her) into the airport with an apparent peacock on her back as she strides confidently up to the terminal to present her…and the bird’s…ticket to fly.

Watching this video, it reminded me of the lions in The Greatest Showman. Entertaining, beautiful, but not realistic.

Numerous people tagged me in that video and article, since I happen to actually travel with an adult male peacock named Radagast. Rad came to my animal rescue as an egg-sized baby. I traveled (by car) to work hundreds of miles from home for weeks at a time, and to keep him alive, I brought Rad with me. Due to a babyhood illness, Rad was never healthy enough to return to the wild, so he became a permanent part of our human-animal pack. And my life changed in many dramatic ways, as I am Rad’s only handler. No one else, not even my partner who helped raise him (“Rad’s Dad”) can carry him or hold him, because peacocks are volatile and particular birds. I have to be home at sunset every evening to put Rad to bed, or bring him with me if that is not a possibility. I have to move him twice a day, from his evening perch in the garage to his daytime aviary and back again, morning and evening. When Rad is not beside me in the front seat of my vehicle, he spends his days in a large enclosure where he can run around, flap his wings, roll in the dirt, sun himself, and mostly, sit on the perch outside my bedroom window where I work. He hangs out with me and our pack’s feral kitten, Athena, who also travels with us, along with a big white polar bear of a dog named Drinian (Rad’s guardian dog). We are a family, even though we may be an odd family at that.

When I saw the explosion of videos and articles I was tagged in, I quickly checked it out. And was rather disgusted. First off, I have noticed an ongoing perpetuating ‘performance art’ using a peacock in NYC over the past couple of years. There was the peacock on a leash photo (I call bullsh**t, you would harm a peacock walking it on a leash, the collar would not stay on but slip over the bird’s head, and they do not tend to walk alongside people, and it is the most dangerous thing I can imagine…for both bird and other humans, to even attempt such a crazy stunt. So if you REALLY were walking your “pet peacock” on a leash, you would have to be an extremely careless person). I didn’t believe that photo for a second. I do believe someone would create a fantasy photo using a live pet peacock. Either way, it is a bad idea to put a peacock on a leash.

Another photo came at the end of last year: Guy on a subway with a peacock. I just assumed it was a stuffed peacock. If it was the infamous NYC Art Stunt peacock, how dare those owners subject that poor bird to that confusion just to get a photo.

Most of these ‘events’ have one photo associated with them, which to me means that it is a staged event in order to get a controversial or provocative photograph, probably in an attempt to go viral online.

So to be kind, instead of bullsh**t, let’s just call it: Performance Art.

Same holds with this recent story …the vague story came from some little known blog. As the wind hit the sails, more information about the owner and the bird began to leak out. But I can say with authority, there is no way that woman was serious about flying with her bird. The whole thing had to be an artistic stunt. While there may be some artists in NYC who enjoy creating performance art at the expense of the safety of their pets and the public, this is why I discount this entire scenario as a hoax. Because here is what it would REALLY be like to travel with a peacock on a plane…

What would it entail (no pun intended!) to get Rad on a plane in a public place?  First off, Rad is well traveled, in a car. He started in a sedan, moved up to an SUV and large classic Cadillac, and now most of the year needs a schoolbus RV (“skoolie”) to get around, because he is over 8 feet long during the peak of his annual growth spurt. Rad has traveled thousands of miles and been in 5 states, and he always rides shot gun and gets a birds’ eye view of wherever our road trip takes us. As an education bird, he has met thousands of people, mostly children in classrooms at schools or Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, libraries, etc. He also has attended a surprising number of music festivals, and knows quite a few musicians personally. People should know, it is a major undertaking getting Rad to a ‘public appearance.’ We have had to invent various travel accoutrements to assist in getting Rad out in the world. We have the “Rad Mobile”, a Radio Flyer (actually it says “Rad Flyer”) red wagon that we built a portable aviary on top of with a perch inside for Rad to ride on. He looks like a king as he is transported from car to Rad Mobile, and then we use that vehicle to bring him to the classroom. We usually have one or two school assistants spotting us to keep curious kid hands off his tail. Getting Rad from Point A (vehicle) to Point B (portable aviary) is always a challenge. I carry Rad like a bird of prey on my arm. He has very sharp talons, so I wear a welder’s glove and sleeve. The few instances when he has latched on to my arm or back have caused skin tears and bleeding. Peacocks are rather dangerous, and strong. I need to hold on tight to him, get him settled into position, and carefully relocate him. The idea of bringing him into a crowded airport full of strange noises and people without him being safely enclosed in his portable aviary is ludicrous. It gives those of us who do travel with their peacock a bad name!

 

arts alive dapplegray 17 with Rad

          Rad the Peacock in his travel aviary, the Rad Mobile, for public events

        Photo: Mary Jo Hazard

We also utilize the Rad Tent, an easy pop up screened tent that we put a folding-stool-turned-perch in for Rad to stretch out. We use this as his daytime aviary when we park the bus for more than a few hours, or when we are visiting family or friends. You can’t just put a bird that size in the front seat of a car and hope for the best…peacocks’ feet get sore if they perch in one place too long, and they need to lie down periodically. It is a delicate balance to travel long distances with a peacock in full plume. Trust me. I was NOT a skoolie owner when we first adopted Rad. That bus purchase was a decision made as we tried unsuccessfully to squish him into normal-sized cars. You should have seen us try and stay in hotels before we got the skoolie though. Rad is a major bed hog.

36908284514_ec78ab466d_o

                 Bedhog Rad and Drinian the big white dog in a hotel room

Here is what would happen if Rad were to fly with me, in one seat, on an airplane. Once seated, he would begin by making his “what?” noise, a crooning sound that we identify as his asking, ‘what?” He does this when on edge but curious. The “what noise” is associated with his neck stretching up, and he looks around, eyes wide. Think of peacocks as dinosaurs, like ancient pterodactyls in the modern world. Having that eye stare you down is intimidating at best. I would have to give Rad the window seat, facing forward, or else he would glare mockingly at the person behind us. If Rad had an aisle seat, then he would harass the person across the aisle from us and nip at the plane employees as they tried to walk past. Forget it if there were a third person in a row with us. Rad is as tame as an adult male peacock can be, but he would probably snap at the person to see what they taste like. If someone near us had jewelry or sparkly or blue nail polish on, that would be bad. That is just peacock bait. He would want that person’s bling, and persist in trying to steal said jewelry. While it would be complicated, Rad’s tail could be fitted between the wall and plane seat, but would land in the lap of the person behind us. We would have to politely ask them to not touch it for the duration of the trip. His tail is too long for him to sit on the seat facing backward, it would touch the floor in front of the seat, and in that position, he might try and fan his tail, which would be an airplane aisle disaster in the making.

rad full tail 2. 17

Things would maybe be okay if we could get him situated properly, that is, until the engine started. Then things would get weird. Peacocks respond to loud noise with loud noise…their own shrieking caw. It is an ear buster, especially in a confined space like a bus or car or…plane.  Rad’s Dad can get Rad to ‘sing’ with him on road trips, and I can be sitting across from Rad in the back and still have to cover my ears. Inside a plane, forget it…it is a horrible noise that hurts your ears and brain for minutes afterward. But Rad would probably answer the engine’s rumble. I’m sure the other passengers would notice. Once we took off though, I could probably settle him down again.

But when Rad gets nervous, he poops. Stinky poops. Not every poop is super stinky, but the nervous ones, are. And I mean, I keep diaper wipes at my side like a gun in a holster in the wild west. You have to quickly wipe it up, bag it, and twist that stench into oblivion, then spray air freshener. Except, air freshening spray isn’t allowed on commercial flights. So seriously, everyone within a ten foot radius of me would have a nose full of hate going on. Then, after the poop incident, once we reached altitude, Rad would try and pop his ears. He literally looks like he is dying when this happens. He ‘gags’, opening and closing his mouth soundlessly, as his ears readjust to altitude. I know this from our first Grapevine trip. I looked over at him on the I-5’s steep Grapevine in California, and thought he was dying, and pulled off the road and waited for his demise. But no…he just stared at me with pterodactyl eyes, still gagging on NOTHING. Then he stopped and was fine. It wasn’t until the same thing happened on the way home that I realized what was happening. Altitude ear popping, not death throes. Check.

Finally, if the flight had any beverage or food, especially peanuts, I would be hosed. Rad gets a bit uppity when food comes. Drive-throughs are a risk. We have to hide the food until we are a parked and then, we have to cool Rad’s food (he likes French fries and tomatoes…and peanuts). We put his portion in the furthest corner of the vehicle away from all other occupants, then we can eat, but we still don’t eat right in front of him, but keep the food hidden in the bag and sneak bites, because if he wants a taste of yours, he lets you know by biting the nearest occupant in the arm. And that is very unpleasant and often calls for bandaids, because his beak is hella sharp. To sum it up, the nuance of traveling with Rad is not as easy as I may make it seem on social media pages (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter…cuz he likes to ‘tweet’). It is a constant challenge going anywhere with a huge sharply-taloned-and-beaked creature that wants what you are eating, and gets grumpy with vampire-like timing at sunset each night.

For the above reasons, I would never attempt to fly Rad on a commercial flight. Because of that perhaps, Rad is a road tripping peacock. He is currently up for the Guinness World Record for most traveled peacock by vehicle. He has been stunning people with his appearance in a car at rest stops and on the freeway since he was so young, people couldn’t identify what type of bird he was. He has been stopped twice at the Arizona border, where I have to present his ‘portfolio’ proving I have owned him previously to entering Arizona, that he is an education bird, and that he comes from California. We are so careful with Rad and still have ‘escape incidents’ nonetheless. So what bothers me most is that someone irresponsible would bring their own peacock into harm’s way by putting them on their back with no tether or constraint in a public place. Peacocks are violent. They will pull a can of whupass on you as much as let you pet them gently under the chin (and most peacocks won’t allow even that!) They are all talons, spurs, and sharp beak and do a mean Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fight scene impersonation if you mess with them. Traveling with Rad is like bringing a bird of prey into a public place…most owners of such beasts understand the logistics, the dangers, and put their animal first and never would allow so many risks by acting so foolishly. So while I tend to think that this event must have been performance art, a.k.a., an internet hoax, or just some ridiculous ploy to go viral on the internet, all it really did is cause problems for those of us who legitimately have found ourselves having to travel with rare exotics, not because we need an ‘emotional support’ animal, but because we are trying to save an animal’s life, and the only way it can happen is to include the animal in our daily existence with our existing human and critter family. So, I can safely say to my NYC peacock-toting brethren, flying on a plane with a peacock is a horrible ill-advised idea, you nutjob. Sorry, just speaking from experience here. I am usually a “what can go wrong” kind of person, but I know what can go wrong, so I am suggesting to all who see this: DO NOT GET A PEACOCK FOR A PET. Really. Bad. Idea. If you disregard this suggestion, at least never try to put yours on a commercial flight. And if you disregard this sage advice and you do try to fly United with an adult male peacock: at least remember to bring a ton of diaper wipes.

_________________________________

 

Cat Spydell is an author and animal communicator living in Los Angeles, CA.

For more information about Rad the Peacock, check out #radthepeacock on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Feyllan_5.5x8.5_Ft Cover_FINAL Bluer

TTA Cover

Confessions of Skoolie Girl

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

skoolie photo moonshine the bus                                 Drinian the Big White Dog with Moonshine the Bus                                  

I admit it. I like ’em big, strong as steel, rugged and trustworthy, and ready to take off on an adventure at any time. No, I am not talking about men! I mean my cars. Somehow over the years, I have owned over 30 vehicles. I often say “I am a car guy in a chick’s body.” Most of the cars, trucks, trailers, and now, school buses that I have either owned or been responsible for fixing up and maintaining have all been gifted or just somehow ended up in my care. I like to say “driving is my super power.” Any given week, I drive up to 4 different cars, not all of them mine, because I often drive friends’ cars when we go out for the evening, or have a spare car or two belonging to someone else in my care. I have only made three vehicle purchases in my entire life: 2 old station wagons and 1 tent trailer way back in the day when my now-grown children were babies. The rest of my vehicles were ‘donated’ by thoughtful individuals to my car-passionate cause, probably because most people who know me recognize that I have stupid optimism, a great mechanic, I understand how to care for cars to keep them running for a freakishly long time, and even though I am not overly fastidious about maintenance, my cars have always sort of ‘magically’ kept on going year after year, against all odds. I am known as the woman who keeps other people’s beloved older cars from going into the dump or from permanently leaving the family.

caddy phoenix

 The car I drive daily, The Phoenix: 1976 Eldorado Cadillac convertible.                                                     I call her The Phoenix because she will rise again!

Take my love of cars, especially school buses, and pair it with the fact that I  have always loved small spaces and road trips, and you have a ‘skoolie girl.’ My small space obsession has been lifelong. Years ago I commandeered my kids’ petite playhouse that their dad built for them as tots as my home office (once they outgrew it). It measures only 8 feet by 5 feet. At first, I used it as my gardening shed, and then I realized if I could wire it for Internet and electricity, it would be the perfect work area and writing studio. Once the unit was wired, I wrote my fantasy novel The Fairies of Feyllan in that small quaint space. Taking it a step further, I have envisioned my office as a potential outdoor living quarters. I can just see it decked out with a bed, a side table, and hanging storage. Though it is way too drafty and buggy, someday, who knows? It is portable, built on blocks, and all of the problems that prevent it from being a living space instead of  an office are easy to fix.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My teeny tiny home office

I have always enjoyed an outdoorsy lifestyle, and have stayed close to nature living in a cabin the redwoods, in a tent on an island, and by traveling in cars, tent trailers, and school bus RVs. When I was a kid, my friends and I used to carve out spaces under the shrubby trees overlooking the backyard horse corral. We would arrange rocks to create a path to a leafy doorway we created by cutting and breaking off limbs. We pretended to live in an earthy commune as we would make fake berry stew and have parties and invite other neighborhood kids over to our leafy fort. In a way, our childhood hangout was my first experience at tiny home living.

As an environmentally conscious adult, these humble beginnings are re-emerging as a pattern in my life. I have come to believe that tiny home living, whether it is in a traveling vehicle like a converted van, RV, or school bus, or any tiny home such as a treehouse or storage container conversion, is the answer to many of our world’s woes. Small, affordable housing, less ownership of stuff, having no mortgage, and gaining more freedom to live life to the fullest as opposed to being bogged down by huge monthly overhead expenses for rent or a mortgage, are excellent reasons to embrace the tiny home movement.

School buses are my newest fascination, especially tiny home school bus conversions, or ‘skoolies’. It makes sense, if you add the car chick scenario to the fact that I also have a passion for tiny spaces. I may be one of the few skoolies who has an actual specific need for a school bus. As an animal handler, my rescue peacock, Rad, is my biggest (literally) reason for embracing the skoolie lifestyle. I love to travel. Rad loves to travel. Rad, aka ‘Radagast the Peacock Ambassador of Palos Verdes,’ is an education bird who goes to schools, Boys an Girls’ Clubs, libraries, and other venues to meet kids and adults alike. Rad grows to be about 9 feet long for several months of the year, until molting season, when he loses his tail, but it starts growing in again right away. Rad is only 3 years old. He could live to be 30. Every year, his tail will grow a bit longer. I need an XL rugged vehicle that can withstand our unusual circumstance of traveling with a peacock.  Rad has critter siblings too. Also on board is Rad’s 135 pound polar-bear-looking ‘dog brother’ Drinian, and Rad’s ‘kitten sister’ Athena. We have skoolie pets in close quarters when we travel. School buses are industrial, easy to clean, reliable, can handle all kinds of abuse that regular RVs cannot, and are the perfect solution to my out-of-the-ordinary frequent travel complications due to my other species travel companions.

dog peacock rad drin pile up on bus

Dog/peacock pile up on the bus couch

athena on moonshine pdr

Skoolie pet Athena the Kitten on Moonshine the Bus 

                        #radthepeacock #drinianthebigwhitedog #athenathekitten

~

In the past year and a half, I have embraced and come to love the skoolie experience. My partner and I have cared for two skoolies, Sunshine the Bus and Moonshine the Bus.

                                           #sunshinethebus #moonshinethebus

Sunshine the Bus was a tiny home in the redwoods, and converting her to a reliable vehicle proved challenging, as she was not too happy about being moved from what many believed was her final resting place. We unearthed Sunshine, a graffiti-covered but comfortable tiny home nestled under the redwoods in Mendocino County, though many repairs were needed to get her running smoothly. We persevered and turned her into a community painting and restoration project with the help of some friends that left her as a cute, functioning tiny home RV.  Once all the mechanical issues were worked out, she was a gem of a bus that took us on many adventures, and her final week’s adventure involved taking a pygmy goat to Dodger stadium to break the Cubs’s Curse (more on that in another blog someday!). Unfortunately, Sunshine was totaled by a semi truck crash when she was struck from behind in October 2016. It was a sad day for us all…my partner permanently injured his back in that crash (he was driving alone and was lucky to survive). All of our hard work on Sunshine was destroyed, and our ability to travel with the Pixie Dust Ranch animals vanished in an instant.

sunshine 4 pic collage of paint job

Sunshine the Bus from June to October 2016

It took awhile to find our next replacement schoolbus that we referred to as “Moonshine” during our skoolie hunt. In the meantime, we traveled in our 4 Runner and The Phoenix, the classic red 1976 Cadillac, both tight-fitting travel cars. In May, we finally met her: The Next School Bus. Moonshine! Known by her previous owners as ‘Arty Bus’, this 1987 Blue Bird had been to Burning Man the previous year as an art project representing the Filipino Eagle. It was love at first glimpse of the Craigslist ad, and when we went to  pick her up, I knew that Moonshine the Bus was going to find a special place in my heart. Her psychedelic arty paint job was obviously created by a group of people who loved her;  the charming couple who sold her to us and their friends, and after a few tweaks of her innards, Moonshine was in sound running condition. We bought her, with plans to register her in both of our names. I finally had a skoolie! I couldn’t be more excited.

 

the many faces of moonshine

Because of her ‘loud’ paint job and my uptight neighbors, within hours of bringing Moonshine home, we rattle-can sprayed her back to black, with plans for a more professional paint job later. Moonshine has taken us on several amazing trips since we picked her up in May 2017, and we just returned from our most recent travel adventure to a music festival in the Mammoth, CA area. But we have discovered there is a glitch in our plan. In July and August, my partner ended up taking a job in New Mexico and was gone in Moonshine for several weeks. I had no way of traveling with Rad: though he was losing his tail feathers for his first molt, he was still was too big for a long distance trip in our other vehicles. I realized with a heavy heart that Moonshine was not meant to be my bus, because when you own a 9-foot bird full time, you can’t own the travel vehicle for said bird part-time.  I came to the conclusion that I am going to need my own vehicle. My partner and I have always had a long-distance relationship, and when two people travel to different destinations for lengthy periods of time, it is impossible to share one tiny home. Moonshine has proven herself to be his vehicle, not mine. Though I am disappointed, I know my very own skoolie is out there, somewhere. I just have to find her. Or she has to find me!

I am not deterred, but I am realizing, now I have experience. I can do this. I may have even been closer to my goal of owning my own travel home than I thought. After Sunshine’s crash and before we found Moonshine, my partner picked up a retired ambulance as a potential substitute for Sunshine, but that vehicle, that we named The BAMbulance, was too short and too small to accommodate our needs. For awhile, its fate hung in the balance…my partner would either quickly sell it (at a financial loss) since it has been sitting in storage for months, or if he couldn’t find a buyer, he offered to give it to me as a personal project. He promised to make sure it would be in good mechanical shape. Me? I would then turn it into a van conversion gypsy-inspired RV I would name “Lady Bug” (short for “Lady Bug Out Vehicle”). Because I am tall, I would not keep Lady Bug, but flip her to buy myself, yes, yet another schoolbus. A shorter one than Moonshine, and one that I could decorate and maintain however I want. (I am sure there will be pink or purple and glitter paint involved!)  As it turned out, I for the first time in my entire life turned down a ‘free’ vehicle, and he sold the BAMbulance. I watched as my  potential “Lady Bug” drove off, wondering if I had made a mistake. I decided I didn’t. I will wait for the right schoolbus. I trust that this new skoolie is on my horizon, one I have already named in my mind  “Soulshine the Bus.” Then Rad the Peacock will have a travel vehicle so we can keep on roadtripping no matter what, as you now know peacocks love to do.

moonshine the ambulance

The  BAMbulance

Since I decided that I would save myself for Soulshine the Bus, I have no regrets. I am still on the hunt, and now that Rad’s tail is short and he is compact enough to fit in our smaller cars, at least for now, I am still traveling and enjoying the process of looking at different buses. I know Soulshine is out there. I go online every day and learn about potential skoolies for sale. I am studying about ‘boondocking’ (RV camping in free areas), and learning a myriad of hints and tips on the RV/skoolie/van lifestyle. I am a true student of the nomadic gurus that share this wealth of information online. I am not there yet, but I am gearing up for this next great phase of hitting the open road, sometimes–gulp–alone, with three trusty critter companions. It is an unusual life option, but no great quest has ever occurred without a battle to get there. I’m ready for whatever comes my way until I have my “Lady Bug”…my skoolie ‘Lady Bug Out Vehicle’, aka Soulshine the Bus, whatever she will end up looking like. Only time will tell.

You can follow my adventurous quest for my very own ‘lady bug skoolie’ on Instagram:

 https://www.instagram.com/soulshinebus/

Other links of interest:

https://www.instagram.com/radthepeacock/

https://www.facebook.com/RadthePeacock/

https://www.facebook.com/pixiedust.ranch/

https://www.facebook.com/catspydellcommunicator/

Find Rad the Peacock on Twitter, too! (Cuz he likes to tweet!)

 

 

FREE EBOOK: The Wolf Pack Guide to Dog Training

Tags

, , , , ,

As an author, I was disappointed in July when my newest book The Wolf Pack Guide to Dog Training did not get published as expected. The reason? I could not find a publishing platform that would allow it to be free for an extended amount of time to whoever needed the information. Finally I decided I could create a PDF and offer it for free on my social media sites, so that is what I did. The book had to be reformatted, redesigned, and set up for ease of reading, but here it is, finally available: The Wolf Pack Guide to Dog Training eBook.

I know Word Press can handle pdf docs. For a larger document, it seems email is best, so I am offering the entire book via email for free. Just email me at AuthorCatSpydell@gmail.com and leave me an email address where you want your pdf eBook sent, and you will receive the eBook of The Wolf Pack Guide to Dog Training for free!

AuthorCatSpydell@gmail.com

In the meantime, you can look over The Wolf Pack Guide to Dog Training in the preview link below, and find various weblinks included to follow Pixie Dust Ranch and my other online sites.

Check out the link  below if you want a sneak peek!  Enjoy!

~Cat Spydell

The Wolf Pack Guide to Dog Training preview

Update: Downsizing and the 100-Item Challenge

Tags

Link to the original article about downsizing: https://catspydell.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/downsizing-accepting-the-100-item-challenge/

Today is the day I have been waiting for. As mentioned previously in my blog post about my downsizing movement over the next couple of years, I have been collecting ‘crap’ I don’t want or need in an effort to get rid of it. Continue reading

Reinventing Yourself: The New Frontier

Tags

For years, all I wanted was a few things: A small office in my backyard overlooking my mini-ranch of rescue animals, to write novels, to get them published, and to be happy working from home so I could be available as a single parent to raise my two children. My one-minded goal was to ‘go out the back door to work’ every day.

I achieved all of that! I turned my kids’ playhouse into my writing studio (photo above), wrote non-stop, got two of my fantasy novels published, and even fixed up the old falling-down corral and moved the goats, pig, and pony in from their rented stable. I named the animal rescue at my home Pixie Dust Ranch and wrote about fairies. I lived the author lifestyle of writing in my backyard office, going to weekly writing groups, then, once I was published, I booked speaking engagements and spoke at writer’s conferences, libraries, book stores, fantasy conventions…my dreams all came true! I even arranged to edit and publish other people’s books for a steady paycheck, all the while going out the back patio door to traverse through the garden to work every day.

Unfortunately, I never calculated how difficult it is to sell and market books, how writing is the fun part, but creating a valid marketing plan and selling one’s novel is an entire other job. So while I accomplished my goals, in an often round-about way, I did not garner the paycheck I expected to go with it when sales plummeted. Luckily the kids were grown and in college around the same time the steady money stopped coming in, and while the corral residents still demanded my daily attention, traipsing daily to my cute little office to work as an author just didn’t seem to fit any longer.

There are a few things that coincidentally coincided with the demise of my monthly paycheck and author status abandonment. Three major changes came into my life. A baby peacock we named Rad arrived at my privately owned animal rescue, a big classic red 1976 Cadillac Eldorado serendipitously became my new ride, and I met my long-distance boyfriend who opened my horizons by getting me (and the peacock!) out of the house and into the world. I reclaimed my rusty carpentry skills and went to work with my boyfriend (whose online moniker is ‘Rad’s Dad’) at his roving handyman job to make ends meet.  We traveled to far away job sites with the peacock and our dogs, towing our trailer, like gypsies on the fly. The word ‘author’ rarely crossed my lips anymore. I stopped going to the writing group I had attended for over a decade, because I decided to stop myself from writing another book until I could effectively market the two books that were already published. I lived in a sea of possibility, with no anchor.

 
Fast Forward 4 years since my last published book:

While I was never able to pop my book sales enough to make a living as a writer again (even though I worked at it endlessly), I was able to stay solvent by doing odd jobs: construction work, pet-sitting, dog training, freelance editing, and the like. Meanwhile, Rad the Peacock, as he came to be known, continued to grow and flourish, against all odds. Around his first birthday was the test: peacocks usually become violent and are  untouchable in the wild and on bird ranches, but Rad had to continue to travel with us for his own survival. We were able to work through his aggression period, and after he hit the year and a half mark, all was well with our moody exotic road-tripping bird.  We realized we were traveling with a growing male peacock that would cap at about 9 feet long. We needed more room as our Cadillac seemed to grow smaller as Rad grew longer. We began to search for a schoolbus to turn into an RV, because meanwhile, Rad was becoming popular. We started taking him to schools, botanic gardens, Boys and Girls’ Clubs, and libraries to enlighten kids and adults alike about these majestic but noisy fancy pheasants. Soon Los Angeles Magazine, local newspapers, and even a video production team at the local college wrote about him and filmed this unusually tame pterodactyl-like creature that strangers could walk up to and actually pet. As far as we know, Rad is the only adult male peacock that can be safely approached. Rad even joined our ventures into the local music scene, and is known by several rock bands because he frequents, with us of course, a few music festivals each year year. Rad loves the attention, expects people to fawn over him, and even earned a title as ‘Peacock Ambassador of Palos Verdes.’ When I wasn’t paying attention, my life was pulled into the Rad Vortex, because I am Rad’s only handler. There was no one else who could take over.

Rad the peacock

Mr. Curious, a.k.a Radagast the Peacock

While the home rescue Pixie Dust Ranch always had its own Facebook page, soon Rad was such a mini-celeb he needed his own Facebook page, and Instagram, and Twitter (because he likes to tweet)!  He even has his own hashtag, #radthepeacock. His life is charmed in a way that is difficult to describe, but as a result, I have somehow become Rad’s secretary and driver. Each month I get a few calls (even though my contact info is unlisted) about Rad’s ‘availability’ to attend events near and far. I check his calendar, book the event, and get him there (an arduous task until the schoolbus RV arrived). We were so grateful when the schoolbus we were hoping for materialized (#moonshinethebus). Rad takes up four seats on the sleek built-in-ex-party-bus couch, but he is more than happy to spend time in the schoolbus and hit the road. We even started a ‘Where’s Rad’ campaign, documenting his travels through online memes.

In the true sense of adventure in reinventing oneself, I didn’t fight it, any of it. If Rad gets a call and his calendar is clear, we book the event. Even though we don’t usually get paid  for Rad’s appearances, Rad enjoys the traveling, the attention, and meeting new people, so why not? As word of Rad the tame ambassador peacock got around, I started getting interviewed more: about him, Pixie Dust Ranch, and even the local coyote problem. I was now becoming known for what was real and prevalent in my life: Animals. Even as a young child, I was called on as an animal whisperer of sorts, as I was the only one who could approach my neighbor’s stallion that got loose way more than it should have. The owner would call me and I would go catch the horse by talking quietly to him, throw a halter on him, and lead him home. Working with animals is my truest calling. But while I am both a writer and an animal handler, few who know me as Rad’s mom realize I am a published author, too.

Recently Rad was booked in another state, this time to a Washington retreat center to join me for my speaking engagement in a workshop I created called ‘Transcendent Animal Relationships.’ We packed up the bus, loaded up the polar bear white dog (#drinianthebigwhitedog), and the feral but traveling kitten (#athenathekitten), and we hit the road in our Party Bus-turned-RV for a 3,500 mile, 4 state, 20 day road trip, following a peacock’s lead. And it was perfect.

rad on bus

                                            Rad being a couch hog on #moonshinethebus

Recognizing that we would be meeting a lot of new people on our journey, I wrote a dog training book called The Wolf Pack Guide to Dog Training that had been in the back burner of my mind and promoted it as a free download while I was on my road trip to Washington. Now I was officially creating my platform as an animal handler. While I may not get hired by movie sets to wrangle beasts or anything like that,  I do wrestle a french-fry loving 12 pound 8 foot long peacock from the bus to his tent to his portable aviary cart (The RadMobile) to a classroom, so if that doesn’t qualify as ‘animal handler’, I don’t know what does.

Rad the Peacock per se is not earning me a steady income, but I am starting to be paid for the events he attends, and he is gaining online followers.  He certainly is bringing me to new places, allowing us to travel as a weird little human and critter pack on our ex-party-bus-now-RV schoolbus. Because of Rad’s unusual schedule of having to be put into a safe garage aviary at night due to coyote threats, I do still work from my home so I can be nearby at sunset each day. In fact, I work in my bedroom office nook, with the feral kitten at my side so I can watch Rad relaxing on his perch outside my window all day long. And even though I can see the sweet little office I once wrote my fantasy novels in just past Rad’s aviary, I don’t really miss it, because being Rad’s mom has its own rewards. Reinventing myself as Rad’s handler has been a fun and often unpredictable ride. But who knows, maybe there is yet another book brewing inside me, a crazy non-fiction one about a young peacock named Rad who eats In N Out french fries, has traveled to five states, goes to schools on a schoolbus, and enjoys listening to the Grateful Dead.

rad perch playhouse

Rad perched in his day time aviary in front of the writing office

 

Addendum photos: For ‘Car Guys’ (and ladies who enjoy automotive delights)

caddy phoenix

The Phoenix: Rad’s ride until he outgrew her!

moonshine in desert.jpg

Moonshine the Bus, a much-beloved work in progress and Rad’s bigger ride

__________________________________________________________________________

Cat Spydell is the author of The Fairies of Feyllan, The Time Traveler’s Apprentice                             at Hollywood High, and The Wolf Pack Guide to Dog Training

Available on Amazon.com!

The Wolf Pack Guide to Dog Training can be read on this blog for FREE!

Check back after August 1, 2017

Thoughts About Thanksgiving: The Good, the Bad, the Beautiful

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate it! May you find time to be with and appreciate those you love today, and take time to be thankful for all the good things you have in your life!

I have to admit, I am not a fan of Thanksgiving. As a conscientious vegetarian, I cringe at the word “Turkey Day” and sort of despise the fact that when Americans are the fattest people on the planet, that we celebrate food and overstuffing ourselves as a national tradition. But, I do love seeing family, connecting with people, and remembering “Thanksgivings Past” at the dinner table, so I usually keep my personal Thanksgiving politics to myself. I know that this has been a very challenging year for many, with diverse issues from politics to civil protest, to personal issues. I have been challenged by an ongoing phone and computer hacking situation that may or may not be associated with some recent personal attacks on my property, namely my vehicles, starting with huge crowbar-induced scratches on my classic car, to smashed car windows and everything being stolen from another vehicle,  someone messing with my tires and letting the air out, leaving me stranded at night while waiting for a tow truck, to our schoolbus RV being totaled when it was rammed from behind by a rented semi-truck. Whether it is all one thing or a few coincidences spread in between ‘mean people actions’, I don’t know.  But it has brought new challenges into my life as I deal with a mountain of paperwork, a sense of anger I can’t do anything about, and a realization that humans can really suck sometimes.

That being said, this year has been full of amazing moments. The schoolbus painting party was a highlight: what a fun cooperative effort to transform the scraggly graffiti-covered Sunshine the Schoolbus into a lovely RV, complete with her peacock mural of Rad the Peacock, her big painted sun on the front, and her special “Jerry” Garcia panel, the only art we were able to save off of her before she goes to the scrap yard. I am so grateful for the people who have come into my life who make it better, whether to create music and art, to share words of wisdom and support… and all who participated in the Sunshine the Bus transformation certainly did that!  I am also incredibly grateful for those who chipped in on our “Go Fund Me” Sunshine the Schoobus campaign. Because of the financial help, we were able to make five trips to see Sunshine in the tow yard a couple hours away and rescue our belongings, that were buried deep in the interior wreckage. The Sunshine campaign saved us thousands in  having to replace everything. An example of how people can be stellar and generous!

I also have ongoing gratitude for the amazing animals that have come into my life. Rad the Peacock just got his new ‘real’ adult peacock feathers. He is like walking performance art, and watching him preen and show them off gives me such a feeling of thankfulness. Rad nearly died on more than one occasion while he was growing into the adult bird he has become in the past 2 ½ years. I am happy to have such an unusual animal companion in my life, and am grateful that he has an easy going enough personality to go on road trips and bounce around with our wacky critter/human family. I adore each animal at our animal rescue, Pixie Dust Ranch, and feel eternally blessed for the time on this planet that I have with them all.

I love that our ranch’s pygmy goat, Buttercup, was involved with the antic high above Dodger stadium during a Cub’s game to break the Cub’s Curse. That was some major epicness right there, involving a group of rabid hippie Cub’s fans, a DeLorean, and… Buttercup. Fun times! These are the kinds of wacky moments that make up a life that while challenged in some areas, can be described as “magical” also. I am a firm believer in discovering the beauty in all things, in seeing the silver lining, in allowing Spirit to intervene and create magic. Sometimes, if we step out of our own way, we can just ALLOW and that is when life slips from mundane to amazing.

This Thanksgiving I feel blessed to spend the holiday with my immediate family: My mom, my kids, my brother and his lovely family, including his wonderful wife and two children whom I love like my own. Last night I drove my boyfriend downtown so he could take a bus to visit his family in Arizona. He just discovered on his way there that his nephew, his sister’s son, passed away yesterday morning, at the home we stay in when we visit Phoenix. His nephew was 21. This is the kind of devastation that life can just inflict on a person, sight unseen, no warning. I know of another family dear to me who lost their son in a similar fashion this year, as well as a couple of others in the past few years who I hold a constant lit candle for in my heart. Life can be so cruel.

But it can also be beautiful. That is why I feel that even though Thanksgiving has its downside, including a fakey-history lesson about the way it all began in America, there is much to be gleaned from an annual event that makes you stop the daily grind, hop on a plane or bus, traverse the holiday crowds, and fight to be with those you love. THAT is where the magic happens. THAT is what life is about. So today, as you gather with family and friends, take a moment. Appreciate your life and all that is in it. Remember, it does not matter if the turkey is a bit dry, your gluten free diet is being tested, your sister said something snide, or that your aunt is late (yet again). That is not what this day is about. It is about gratitude, a sense of being a part of a world that many are taken from too soon, and about love. Ultimately, love is the common denominator for us all, the way we connect and feel in this crazy existence called life. So live it. Be present. Hug someone you love tightly. You never know when these opportunities can end because someone will die or move on from your life. Today, at the dinner table, tell someone you care about how you feel. Express love. That is the way to celebrate a holiday, regardless of how you feel about the day itself. Truly, love is the answer. Be grateful to have someone to love, and let love permeate your senses today as our nation celebrates in unity, the idea of gratitude for what we have.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Fairies of Feyllan novel available for .99 cents for a limited time!

My novel The Fairies of Feyllan is only .99 cents for a limited time!

fairyfantasies

Supermoon Special: For a limited time only, my book The Fairies of Feyllan is available as a Kindle purchase for only .99 cents! That’s a $7 savings…get it quick before the price goes back up!

This is an unprecedented price break!  Link below: 

http://www.amazon.com/Fairies-Feyllan-Cat-Spydell-ebook/dp/B00G4TSW3I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1410225012&sr=8-1&keywords=the+fairies+of+feyllan

View original post