Some scenes from our wonderful new relationship with the Animazonia Wildlife Foundation  
Listen while you read to “Sunday Afternoon”, the closing track on TPO’s “10 Strings” album:

Well, it’s been a very long time since I did a blog entry for a variety of reasons, and perhaps doing one now is a measure of my desperation to avoid a bunch of crappy household chores and administrative tasks I don’t want to do on this beautiful rainy Sunday afternoon, which ruined my plans for taking the Panache Garden to the next level.  I’ll get around to doing a post about that one of these days.

Anyhoo, in early February, Chi and I performed at an extraordinarily wonderful event: a wine and chocolate fund raiser for the Animazonia Wildlife Foundation , an organization dedicated to rescuing and providing ongoing lifetime care of captive bred large cats and educating the public about these magnificent animals.

The sanctuary operated by Animazonia also provides housing for quite a few other critters, such as Princess, an exceptionally beautiful and friendly Burmese python, who we got to meet and take a photo with (Chi is terrified of snakes and nearly fainted!):

After the fund raiser, we were invited to visit the sanctuary in early March for an event in which a few raptors (birds of prey) would be released back into the wild after being rehabilitated at the Orange County Bird of Prey Center.  The birds end up at the center usually because they get injured vy the things humans build that confuse them and disrupt their migratory patterns.

Like most Saturdays, we got off to a bit of a rough start since the sanctuary is located at least an hour away from where we live and started quite early for us (10:30 am – ouch!), and to top it off, I’d received a call late Friday afternoon to arrange a video audition for Chi for a commercial, and that was to happen at 0900h Saturday morning (double-OUCH!), but at least the videographer would come to our house, so we didn’t have to jump through any additional logistical hoops.  (Fast-forward to the present: Chi got the job, and the commercial shoots this Tuesday 🙂

Well, the video guy was a little late, the audition took a little longer than expected (and ended up having to be redone the next day since the camera got messed up or something like that, which was actually good because it gave Chi a “dress rehearsal”!), and then we made the amazing discovery that we were quite low on gas after driving back from a show in Arizona the previous weekend, but we finally got on our way and after navigating through a pretty bad 4-vehicle pileup on one of the freeways on the way there and taking a wrong turn somewheres about Corona or Diamond Bar – one of those inland places we’re not familiar with, we still made it almost on time, at least by L.A. standards, and they were kind enough to hold up the release until The Panache Orchestra got there!

So this is Hank, a young red tailed hawk, being readied for his job as an educator by Dr. Scott Weldy, Director of the OC Bird of Prey Center.  Hank was imprinted on humans when he was a baby, so he cannot be released, but has an exciting full-time job and a happy, comfortable life that is enviable by human standards!  The birds are transported in cat carriers

Here’s a close-up of the wild bird of prey handling gear:

Dr. Weldy and Hank gave us and a group of pre-vet students from Pierce College a lot of interesting and useful information and funny anecdotes

A sharp-shinned hawk giving us some information specific to her before she gets released

Serena, who runs Animazonia, giving the sharp-shinned hawk her send-off:

up, up and away!!

A feisty adult female red tailed hawk impatient for her release

A chiropractic adjustment first, and then Dr. Weldy sent her off to go kick some ass, since that’s what she seemed intent on doing….

A smaller and more mellow red tail being released by Ty

A photo opp with Gus, a young screech owl who is also human-imprinted and can’t be released, so he’s also enjoying a life as an educator like Hank.

Isn’t he the absolute cutest lil’ birdie ever?!  I fell hard for Gus, and wanted to volunteer to take the next rehabbed human-imprinted baby screech owl home to be the newest Panache pet, but upon researching the matter learned that that would not be a good idea at all since despite being little and cute, a screech owl would become the top predator/carnivore in Panache House, and we all would be generally not amused, so I must content myself to meet Gus at future bird events.

Chi having a go at playing an ocarina that was in the house at the sanctuary.

Chi introducing himself to B, a Tosa-ken

That was quite a special thing for Chi, as Tosa dogs are a rare but well-known breed of Japanese dog, and in fact, Chi would often call Laxmi “Tosa-ken” because of the way she sat on the floor by his chair at the dinner table – like a bulldog with forelegs splayed and a stern look on her face instead of like the other Panache cats.
Feeding a cookie to Coco, another grand champion Tosa who lives at the sanctuary.
Coco got to have a little walk outside at cookie time.
After lunch, we got a tour of the sanctuary and got to see the two of the cats.  Not that it is at all clear from this photo, but inside that enclosure is Sheba, a young lioness, carving a pumpkin.
Stopping by the pond at the sanctuary
Lunchtime for the koi
Serena is giving some love to Magic, a beautiful Asian black leopard.
Look at that face!
Feeding her a few blades of grass – a kitty digestive aid
Magic demonstrating her clicker training skills.  She was clicker-trained to get in and out of her carrier on her own without having to be drugged.
Good kitty!  Treat time!
Mmmmmm….raw meatball on a stick
Magic gets a pumpkin to carve up too.  These cats get fed pre-killed raw meat, so they need to keep up their killing skills.
Last but not least, one of the adorable ferrets who also live at the sanctuary getting some love from the vet students.
It was a wonderful day, and we look forward to more!  We strongly recommend visiting Animazonia for a tour and supporting this wonderful organization.