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Time to Walk the Goat

Both Scott Carhart and Helen Flaster are undoubtedly animal people.

Their family pets number 26: seven dogs, seven cats, three horses, two goats, two tortoises, two turtles, two birds, a miniature horse, and a few tankfuls of fish.

Many of these animals are rescues, as Carhart works as a veterinarian and Flaster as a veterinary technician.

“Occupational hazard,” says Carhart, with a smile.

Their enclosed patio, adjacent to a spacious, brightly painted kitchen, is the center of the animal action. This is where the dogs and goats spend most of their time, playing in the grass strips that border the concrete floor. The dogs jump and whine for attention, which Carhart and Flaster administer lovingly.

Beyond the dogs are the goats, Gomez and Lurch, who have taken up residence under a round outdoor table. Gomez has managed to stuff himself under an overturned chair. His white nose sticks out, while Lurch stretches out by the table legs.

“Gomez is a Nigerian dwarf [goat], and he’s the one that I walk,” Flaster explains. “I also give him a bottle two times a day, just with water in it, but it’s something he really likes, like a child likes a blankie and pacifier. It’s calming for him. It’s very cute.”

Two kids on horseback pass by their backyard, most of which is dominated by a horse corral, and wave. In Poway, where Flaster and Carhart live, trails cut between ranch-style homes and wind behind backyards. It’s not uncommon to see people riding or walking horses past houses and down the sidewalk.

On the patio, Gomez emerges from under his chair. He’s an all-white goat, his flanks protruding like two pannier bags. His ears twitch and his tail bobs, but he’s quiet, watching as the dogs carry on around him.

Gomez and Lurch, like the dogs, spend their nights indoors. “They’ll lie right here,” says Flaster, pointing to a carpeted spot in front of the living room coffee table. “We’ll put a towel down and get diapers on them — thank goodness for Depends — and they’ll come in and they’ll lay very quietly while we watch TV.” Before going to bed themselves, Carhart and Flaster tuck the goats into oversized dog crates in the garage to sleep, for fear of coyote attacks.

In addition to walking Gomez, Carhart and Flaster also walk Buckaroo, their white-and-tan miniature horse. Considerably smaller than a pony, Buckaroo, as his title suggests, looks just like a horse, only about a third or so of the size. He is perfectly proportioned from head to hooves, with a classic, slightly buck-toothed, horsey grin.

Buckaroo walks with a harness, Gomez with a collar and leash.

“When I walk Gomez, more than when I walk the horse, people just kind of think he’s a dog,” says Flaster. “If they’re driving by, they just see an animal, and for all intents and purposes, he could be a dog. When he walks he just…toddles along.”

And he does, stepping carefully on the asphalt with his small hooves, slipping only once. In the distance, mountains rise, miles of scrub brush and ruddy dirt. The heat, which is considerable, beats down on the roofs of the two-story houses and pristine lawns on either side of the street.

Buckaroo walks along, all knees, just like a horse of a larger size. Carhart and Flaster walk side by side, Buckaroo to Carhart’s right and Gomez to Flaster’s left. Occasionally, the two animals will cross paths, Gomez skittering lopsidedly out of Buckaroo’s way.

“Oh, Buckaroo, leave Gomie alone,” admonishes Flaster.

Carhart tugs gently on the leash attached to Buckaroo’s harness, and Buckaroo shakes his head slightly in defiance.

All in all, both animals walk well, minding their respective handlers.

Few neighbors are out and about, but when they are, says Flaster, they are largely nonplussed by Gomez and Buckaroo.

“Some of them do [say hi],” says Flaster. “And if there are kids out, of course the kids like to come over. For the most part, because this area is an area where people do see other people riding horses and walking horses and what have you, it’s not…I mean, if it was in my father’s neighborhood, it would be different. He lives over by the university, and there are no animals like this.”

On the street, Gomez and Buckaroo shuffle positions, keeping an almost steady pace with one another, Gomez a few inches behind.

“They seem to walk really well,” says Flaster. “I mean, Buckaroo always wants to pull us over to eat everybody’s grass.”

“He’s a character,” adds Carhart.

Back at the house, Gomez returns to the patio and Buckaroo to his personal pen, adjacent to the corral.

Indoors, it’s spotlessly clean, the living room floors sparkling and the furniture immaculate.

“We work hard to keep it clean,” Flaster says. “I can’t stand smells. It’s just the way I was raised. My parents would just die if they saw all this. They’d love it, but it would be too much, for my mom especially.”

She laughs.

“She’d say, ‘Oh, my God! Goats in the house?’ She would think I’m crazy.”

Kiki and Melanie, Shannon and Spanky
In the beginning, Melanie Ariessohn could only admire Kiki the macaw from a safe distance.

“[At first] I could just pick her up with a stick,” says Ariessohn. “I tried to get my hand near her and she’d just lunge at me like she was going to bite me and she has a pretty big beak so…I got a few bites. Then one day she lifted her foot up, and Kiki’s owner Bonnie said, ‘That means she wants to step up on you.’ And I put my hand out, and she stepped up onto it.”

Kiki is an inquisitive bird, cocking her head as though in question. Almost entirely blue and green, she’s a magnificent 12-year-old macaw with brilliant blue and emerald-green feathers, her belly as yellow as a sunflower. She warbles off a string of nonsensical sounds with the distinct cadence of language.

Beside her sits Ariessohn, who speaks back conversationally. Kiki, in her nearly human voice, mumbles a few garbled syllables.

“She talks a lot of macaw,” Ariessohn explains.

Kiki, half great green and half blue and gold macaw, is a parrot-in-residence at the Parrot Education and Adoption Network, a nonprofit organization designed to rehome birds and educate the public about their care. Bonnie Kenk, at whose house Kiki resides, is the president of the organization, which has chapters in Alaska, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, and her home serves as its headquarters.

Ariessohn has been taking Kiki for walks for the past two of the three years she’s been coming to see her. For a few weeks after she was able to pick Kiki up, Ariessohn, who works as a medical-text editor, carried her around Kenk’s backyard until, quite suddenly, Kiki herself requested they venture farther out of doors.

“One day she said, ‘Go outside and take a little walk,’ ” Ariessohn says. “It’s something her previous owners taught her. And so we went.”

Two years later, they still walk together, traveling up the hill from Kenk’s house to a wooded park.

Bird-walking, according to both Ariessohn and Kenk, is not and should not be done for the “cool” factor; birds, like humans, need sunlight and a change of scenery.

“We give them tons of toys to play with and different places for them to be outside and inside, but, you know, if you sat in the same room all day, no matter how many toys you had, you’d get bored,” Ariessohn says, with a laugh.

“Walking them isn’t, as some people feel, for the humans’ benefit,” Kenk adds. “Walking them is for their benefit, to get them out, to get them stimulated with something besides the four walls they live in, to allow them to feel the sun on their heads and the wind in their feathers.”

The park Kiki and Ariessohn walk to is not far from Kenk’s, its entrance at the bottom of a small but steep hill. Ariessohn, with Kiki perched on her hand, ventures only a little ways in, to a large rock shaded by a low-lying pine.

Kiki scuttles along the rock’s surface.

Typically, they stay until Kiki gets restless, which, on this outing, doesn’t take long. She picks up her foot and extends and retracts her talons, a signal that she’s ready to go. Kiki in hand, Ariessohn gets off the rock, and the pair head back to Kenk’s house.

Aside from a quick “hello” from a neighbor, Ariessohn and Kiki walk without interruption. When Ariessohn used to walk her own bird, China, in her old neighborhood downtown, reactions were more frequent.

“Whenever I’d see a neighbor, I’d cringe because they’d come over and say, ‘Oh, you’re the one with the birds.’ And I’d say, ‘Oh, my God, I’m so sorry about the noise they’re making.’ And they’d say, ‘No, it’s great.’ I lived right in the airport’s flight path, it’s such an urban environment, and it is great to hear wild birds — it sounds like wild birds — it’s really refreshing.”

Her daughter Shannon, a senior in high school, also walks her own bird, a brightly colored white-bellied caique named Spanky, in her neighborhood in La Mesa. She, too, describes the attention she and Ariessohn would receive walking their birds downtown.

“We’d get stopped every ten feet, sometimes a little less,” Shannon says. “It’s not bad because you get to answer questions, and people are really interested in finding out what’s going on. They’re interested in learning about birds.”

Their La Mesa walks have been fairly quiet, but Spanky, a small and spirited parrot who imitates the beep of the microwave as well as various car noises, had fun at the Embarcadero when they lived downtown.

“He loved looking at the water,” Shannon says. “He liked [the Embarcadero] because there were so many new noises. He’d get all excited, and he’d always look up and look at the water, and he was so excited by everything going on there.”

She pauses, kissing Spanky’s beak.

“He loved it,” she says.

Raz and Carly
When Linda “Raz” Rasmussen purchased her African gray Carly, Carly couldn’t fly at all.

Now, Carly is a streak of gray body and bright red tail against the clouded blue sky at La Jolla Shores.

She flies straight and true, making the bloop sound of a cell phone notification, until she does a crazy dip to the left and lands, legs protruding, onto Rasmussen’s arm.

“She was very outgoing from the very start,” Rasmussen says of Carly, as Carly chirps happily into her ear. “What?” she’ll ask, imitating Rasmussen on the phone. “What?”

She takes off again, fluttering from Rasmussen’s shoulder. Following close behind is a trio of green, blue, and red macaws who light up the quasi-gray day with their rainbow of colors. They glide on their brilliant wings, circling and calling each other.

Along for the “fly” with Rasmussen are Hugh Choy, owner of the red-fronted macaws, and Hillary Hankey, who is flying her two cockatoos, a bare-eyed and a slender-billed. Choy has brought along a long-lensed camera to capture the birds, and clicks pictures while they soar over his head. The cockatoos perch on Hankey’s shoulders, one on either side; her T-shirt, which bears the words “Surf Wyoming,” is streaked with bird refuse. She doesn’t seem to mind.

“This is the largest concentration of amateur free-fliers in the world,” says Choy, speaking of the group.

In the air, Carly circles and, responding to Rasmussen’s call, lands squarely in her hair.

“Crazy,” Rasmussen says affectionately to Carly. She lifts Carly off her head and places her back on her shoulder.

Rasmussen purchased Carly almost three years ago from a local bird shop, Bird Crazy, and began teaching her to fly after her wing feathers, clipped when she was a baby, began to grow back in.

“I’d been taking her on walks on the beach all the time, and her wings started to grow out,” Rasmussen says. “I thought, ‘What am I going to do?’ Because I

didn’t really want her to be clipped, but I wasn’t sure how it would work to have her flighted.”

After reading up on the Internet — where she also met Choy and Hankey — Rasmussen began to train Carly not only to fly but to come when called, wondering just how good at it she’d become.

“We worked on the training, which is come and call, come and call, come and call,” Rasmussen says. “We’d do that every day [for] ten minutes, something like that. That’s what we usually did. And it just drills it into their head. I call, you come, you get a treat. And that’s how everyone’s done it. You just have to be very consistent and diligent about it.”

Carly excelled at the training, and soon Rasmussen was able to take her outside for flying sessions. Starting very small, she taught Carly to navigate new terrain and conditions, like wind, and to overcome obstacles, like coming down from trees; newly flighted birds often have trouble with this.

“You can’t just take them out and say ‘Go,’ ” Rasmussen stresses. “You take them outside, and you start them with two feet. That’s one of the main risks, just making sure the training is really good.”

The macaws and cockatoos take off again, Carly playing catch-up. They soar together then break off into their own groups, sometimes stopping to land on their owners or, on occasion, passersby. A few tourists stop to snap pictures, enthralled by the sight of Choy covered in the three giant macaws. The macaws are more than obliging; “High five!” says one in a cartoonish voice. Another meows. Enchanted, a little girl steps forward to touch the third macaw, which has landed on her mother’s head, before it hops back onto Choy’s arm.

Getting a running start, Choy calls, “One, two, three!” and the birds take off. Hankey launches her cockatoos at the same time. They meet midair and chase each other playfully.

“I never wanted to keep a bird in a cage,” says Rasmussen, who only puts Carly behind bars when she leaves the house without her. “Most people in the U.S. clip their birds, and to me it just felt wrong. I had two cats and a dog at that point, and the pigeon before her — and they all had complete mobility and complete choice in what they did and where they went, and it just seemed weird to have this one animal that was completely dependent on me to come over and move her from one place to another. It just seemed so unfair.”

Carly zooms overhead, making her favorite phone sound.

“In the wild,” Rasmussen says, watching Carly circle back, “they’re in flocks of thousands.”

Shermie and Rick
The days that Rick Nelson goes out to the beach in Carlsbad to walk his 11-year-old cockatoo Shermie, it is Shermie that does most of the walking.

Scuttling along the top of the seawall located just past Tamarack Avenue, she waddles at a good clip as Nelson follows a few feet behind. The waves crash just beyond the wall, a few yards of sand in between. Shermie ignores the water, keeps her gaze straight ahead as she moves.

“It’s the pigeon-toed 500!” exclaims Nelson, who keeps pace with her as Shermie rapidly changes direction.

“Shermie, Shermie, ko-ko-bop outside!” says Shermie in a strange, cartoonish monotone, beginning her funny running step. Blindingly white against the blue-green of the sea, she flicks her yellow crest, feathers ruffling in the oceanside wind.

Nelson originally took Shermie out on his shoulder but graduated her to the seawall when one day, on a whim, he placed her there and watched her walk confidently atop it.

“I used to go down to the beach all the time and walk her, and one day I put her on [the seawall] and she just took off,” he says. “From that time on, we’ve walked as long as four hours. And she always has the opportunity to get up. I’ll always put my hand down, but when she gets going, rarely does she want to stop.”

“Hi, baby,” says Shermie, making a kissing sound.

“Hi, baby,” Nelson says back.

Shermie mumbles something nearly incomprehensible; Nelson, accustomed to her voice, translates.

“Shermie’s a good girl?” he says to her, smiling. “I don’t think so.

“I used to live in San Diego, and she used to walk all the way from south Mission Bay to Crystal Pier on the seawall,” Nelson continues. “Now that I’m up here, this is kind of the best. It’s really neat to have her up [on the seawall] when she’s walking, so we avoid pedestrians, bicycles, pets, and things like that.”

In addition to walking with Nelson, Shermie also joins him at the table for dinner, eating “people” food instead of seed, which she has in the morning and afternoon. She eats a variety of things, Nelson explains, including chicken, steak, spaghetti, ice cream — one of her favorites — and coffee.

“I’ve had the people at the pet store say feed her just what they sell, [but] the vets say just don’t kill her with the stuff,” Nelson says. He moves Shermie from the wall to his shoulder. “Obviously, everything’s in moderation.”

Shermie, back on the wall, takes off again; she continues to talk to herself as she walks, warbling and whistling.

“You know what’s really strange about her?” Nelson picks her up for a moment. “If I start to say something and she’s starting too, she’ll stop. She will not finish a sentence, whatever she’s going to say. I swear that she listens just like a person.”

There is certainly something personlike about Shermie. Perhaps it’s her independence, the way in which she conducts herself. Nelson says he has received many positive comments on her behavior.

“People have commented, [people] that train birds, on how well she keeps herself and the way she carries herself,” Nelson says. “[She’s] really not afraid to mingle with people, and she looks like a happy bird most of the time.”

Shermie whistles, lifting a foot. Nelson smiles at her.

“But you want to be walking,” he says. “Don’t you?”

Sam and Nicky
Sam is over 20 pounds of cat. A white-and-gray tabby with a handsome, round face, he wears a black-and-white harness around his midsection, in addition to his collar. A matching leash clips to a buckle on his harness, located just between his shoulder blades. He stands at the intersection of Robinson and Tenth Avenue as Nicky Elliston, his owner, crouches at his side, petting him; he is not a fan of this particular intersection and looks a little peeved.

“Come on,” says Elliston in a tuneful voice, giving the leash a gentle pull. “Come on.”

Sam obeys, padding along beside her.

Elliston, who is currently a marketing coordinator, rescued Sam over two years ago from a shelter in Arizona, where she used to live, when he was just three months old.

Elliston soon found that the cat had been born with what appeared to be a chronic upper respiratory disorder.

“[The vet] actually told me to put him down,” Elliston says. “I had him for a week, and then he was in the emergency room with me. But when you get a cat from the rescue place, you don’t bring them back; you’re rescuing them. You’re not going to say, ‘Oh, this cat is faulty.’ ”

Sam pulled through, mostly due to Elliston’s insistence that the vets not give up.

“I made them fix him,” she says firmly. “I made them fix him that night. I said, ‘Give me a guarantee, or you’ll have to deal with a redhead all night.’ I get things done.”

Sam has been fine ever since, but Elliston, worried, began taking him with her wherever she went, just in case. As a kitten, this was relatively easy, but as Sam hit the 15-pound mark, Elliston found herself unable to carry him for long. It was then that she got the idea to leash-train him.

“I had to put the leash on and have him walk around the apartment for a couple of weeks with the harness on his body until he was comfortable,” she explains. “That’s kind of how it all started.”

On the street, Sam appears confident, though Elliston does need to keep him from turning down every drive and walkway. Like most cats, he is slightly obstinate but eventually responds, remaining at Elliston’s side or just a bit ahead of her.

A runner passes by, iPod blaring through the tiny speakers in her ears.

“A cat on a leash?” she asks, incredulous, before passing on.

Elliston shrugs.

“We get a lot of people snickering or stopping us,” she says matter-of-factly. “Pretty much everyone stares when they see us, and I kind of feel like a cat lady, but it’s good for his health and it’s good that he gets out and sees things.”

Elliston says she used to walk Sam to coffee shops but stopped because of all the fuss it caused.

“It’s just not worth it to me,” she says. “People look at me like I’m crazy. I’m like, ‘You have a dog on a leash. You trained your dog. I trained my cat.’ ”

They also sometimes used to walk to Balboa Park.

“He’ll just lay out on the grass and catch the bugs and look around, but it’s really never very…It’s really just the reactions we get from people. Like when we’re crossing the street, cars just stop. ‘Okay, you’re walking a cat.’ My friends make fun of me for it. I’m a joke. ‘Nicky’s coming and she’s bringing her cat.’ ”

In addition to walking on a leash, Sam also uses the toilet instead of a litter pan. After seeing a scene in Meet the Parents, Ben Stiller’s schlocky comedy, in which a Siamese perches delicately over the bowl to do its business, Elliston decided Sam would follow suit.

“I looked it up online, and as soon as I realized that it does happen and that there [are] a handful of cats in the world who use the toilet, I [thought], ‘Sam is going to be one of them if he’s smart enough.’ And sure enough,” she says proudly, “he picked it up. He picked it right up. He’s happy to do it.”

A howl comes from a nearby yard, and Sam stops, ears flattened against his head. The noise comes from a gray cat sitting on the house’s front steps; it hops down and approaches, slowly, as if stalking prey.

“Rrrow,” it says.

Sam opens his mouth to hiss.

Elliston steps in, standing between Sam and the gray cat, who has come too close for comfort; she stamps her foot at it, and it flattens its front to the ground, tail at full mast.

“Come on, Sam,” says Elliston, pulling the leash.

Sam continues to walk, growing more confident as he reaches home. Near their front door, Elliston unclips the leash, and Sam, proving himself well trained, trots right to it.

Elliston’s apartment, a one-bedroom in Hillcrest, shows little of the wear and tear often associated with a feline presence.

“People come over and they’re, like, ‘You have a cat? I can’t smell your cat.’ ” Elliston, who leaves the toilet seat up for Sam, laughs. “[It’s] because my cat doesn’t smell.”

She pauses.

“He doesn’t claw anything. He doesn’t scream for attention that way.”

Sam, who has stretched out on the glass-topped side table, blinks his green eyes, almost as if he knows he’s being discussed.

“He’s so independent,” Elliston says, with a smile. “It’s so nice.” — Rosa Jurjevics

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The dine-in ghost kitchens of Barrio Food Hub

Dozens of virtual brands operate in a single building, and it has a parklet

Both Scott Carhart and Helen Flaster are undoubtedly animal people.

Their family pets number 26: seven dogs, seven cats, three horses, two goats, two tortoises, two turtles, two birds, a miniature horse, and a few tankfuls of fish.

Many of these animals are rescues, as Carhart works as a veterinarian and Flaster as a veterinary technician.

“Occupational hazard,” says Carhart, with a smile.

Their enclosed patio, adjacent to a spacious, brightly painted kitchen, is the center of the animal action. This is where the dogs and goats spend most of their time, playing in the grass strips that border the concrete floor. The dogs jump and whine for attention, which Carhart and Flaster administer lovingly.

Beyond the dogs are the goats, Gomez and Lurch, who have taken up residence under a round outdoor table. Gomez has managed to stuff himself under an overturned chair. His white nose sticks out, while Lurch stretches out by the table legs.

“Gomez is a Nigerian dwarf [goat], and he’s the one that I walk,” Flaster explains. “I also give him a bottle two times a day, just with water in it, but it’s something he really likes, like a child likes a blankie and pacifier. It’s calming for him. It’s very cute.”

Two kids on horseback pass by their backyard, most of which is dominated by a horse corral, and wave. In Poway, where Flaster and Carhart live, trails cut between ranch-style homes and wind behind backyards. It’s not uncommon to see people riding or walking horses past houses and down the sidewalk.

On the patio, Gomez emerges from under his chair. He’s an all-white goat, his flanks protruding like two pannier bags. His ears twitch and his tail bobs, but he’s quiet, watching as the dogs carry on around him.

Gomez and Lurch, like the dogs, spend their nights indoors. “They’ll lie right here,” says Flaster, pointing to a carpeted spot in front of the living room coffee table. “We’ll put a towel down and get diapers on them — thank goodness for Depends — and they’ll come in and they’ll lay very quietly while we watch TV.” Before going to bed themselves, Carhart and Flaster tuck the goats into oversized dog crates in the garage to sleep, for fear of coyote attacks.

In addition to walking Gomez, Carhart and Flaster also walk Buckaroo, their white-and-tan miniature horse. Considerably smaller than a pony, Buckaroo, as his title suggests, looks just like a horse, only about a third or so of the size. He is perfectly proportioned from head to hooves, with a classic, slightly buck-toothed, horsey grin.

Buckaroo walks with a harness, Gomez with a collar and leash.

“When I walk Gomez, more than when I walk the horse, people just kind of think he’s a dog,” says Flaster. “If they’re driving by, they just see an animal, and for all intents and purposes, he could be a dog. When he walks he just…toddles along.”

And he does, stepping carefully on the asphalt with his small hooves, slipping only once. In the distance, mountains rise, miles of scrub brush and ruddy dirt. The heat, which is considerable, beats down on the roofs of the two-story houses and pristine lawns on either side of the street.

Buckaroo walks along, all knees, just like a horse of a larger size. Carhart and Flaster walk side by side, Buckaroo to Carhart’s right and Gomez to Flaster’s left. Occasionally, the two animals will cross paths, Gomez skittering lopsidedly out of Buckaroo’s way.

“Oh, Buckaroo, leave Gomie alone,” admonishes Flaster.

Carhart tugs gently on the leash attached to Buckaroo’s harness, and Buckaroo shakes his head slightly in defiance.

All in all, both animals walk well, minding their respective handlers.

Few neighbors are out and about, but when they are, says Flaster, they are largely nonplussed by Gomez and Buckaroo.

“Some of them do [say hi],” says Flaster. “And if there are kids out, of course the kids like to come over. For the most part, because this area is an area where people do see other people riding horses and walking horses and what have you, it’s not…I mean, if it was in my father’s neighborhood, it would be different. He lives over by the university, and there are no animals like this.”

On the street, Gomez and Buckaroo shuffle positions, keeping an almost steady pace with one another, Gomez a few inches behind.

“They seem to walk really well,” says Flaster. “I mean, Buckaroo always wants to pull us over to eat everybody’s grass.”

“He’s a character,” adds Carhart.

Back at the house, Gomez returns to the patio and Buckaroo to his personal pen, adjacent to the corral.

Indoors, it’s spotlessly clean, the living room floors sparkling and the furniture immaculate.

“We work hard to keep it clean,” Flaster says. “I can’t stand smells. It’s just the way I was raised. My parents would just die if they saw all this. They’d love it, but it would be too much, for my mom especially.”

She laughs.

“She’d say, ‘Oh, my God! Goats in the house?’ She would think I’m crazy.”

Kiki and Melanie, Shannon and Spanky
In the beginning, Melanie Ariessohn could only admire Kiki the macaw from a safe distance.

“[At first] I could just pick her up with a stick,” says Ariessohn. “I tried to get my hand near her and she’d just lunge at me like she was going to bite me and she has a pretty big beak so…I got a few bites. Then one day she lifted her foot up, and Kiki’s owner Bonnie said, ‘That means she wants to step up on you.’ And I put my hand out, and she stepped up onto it.”

Kiki is an inquisitive bird, cocking her head as though in question. Almost entirely blue and green, she’s a magnificent 12-year-old macaw with brilliant blue and emerald-green feathers, her belly as yellow as a sunflower. She warbles off a string of nonsensical sounds with the distinct cadence of language.

Beside her sits Ariessohn, who speaks back conversationally. Kiki, in her nearly human voice, mumbles a few garbled syllables.

“She talks a lot of macaw,” Ariessohn explains.

Kiki, half great green and half blue and gold macaw, is a parrot-in-residence at the Parrot Education and Adoption Network, a nonprofit organization designed to rehome birds and educate the public about their care. Bonnie Kenk, at whose house Kiki resides, is the president of the organization, which has chapters in Alaska, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, and her home serves as its headquarters.

Ariessohn has been taking Kiki for walks for the past two of the three years she’s been coming to see her. For a few weeks after she was able to pick Kiki up, Ariessohn, who works as a medical-text editor, carried her around Kenk’s backyard until, quite suddenly, Kiki herself requested they venture farther out of doors.

“One day she said, ‘Go outside and take a little walk,’ ” Ariessohn says. “It’s something her previous owners taught her. And so we went.”

Two years later, they still walk together, traveling up the hill from Kenk’s house to a wooded park.

Bird-walking, according to both Ariessohn and Kenk, is not and should not be done for the “cool” factor; birds, like humans, need sunlight and a change of scenery.

“We give them tons of toys to play with and different places for them to be outside and inside, but, you know, if you sat in the same room all day, no matter how many toys you had, you’d get bored,” Ariessohn says, with a laugh.

“Walking them isn’t, as some people feel, for the humans’ benefit,” Kenk adds. “Walking them is for their benefit, to get them out, to get them stimulated with something besides the four walls they live in, to allow them to feel the sun on their heads and the wind in their feathers.”

The park Kiki and Ariessohn walk to is not far from Kenk’s, its entrance at the bottom of a small but steep hill. Ariessohn, with Kiki perched on her hand, ventures only a little ways in, to a large rock shaded by a low-lying pine.

Kiki scuttles along the rock’s surface.

Typically, they stay until Kiki gets restless, which, on this outing, doesn’t take long. She picks up her foot and extends and retracts her talons, a signal that she’s ready to go. Kiki in hand, Ariessohn gets off the rock, and the pair head back to Kenk’s house.

Aside from a quick “hello” from a neighbor, Ariessohn and Kiki walk without interruption. When Ariessohn used to walk her own bird, China, in her old neighborhood downtown, reactions were more frequent.

“Whenever I’d see a neighbor, I’d cringe because they’d come over and say, ‘Oh, you’re the one with the birds.’ And I’d say, ‘Oh, my God, I’m so sorry about the noise they’re making.’ And they’d say, ‘No, it’s great.’ I lived right in the airport’s flight path, it’s such an urban environment, and it is great to hear wild birds — it sounds like wild birds — it’s really refreshing.”

Her daughter Shannon, a senior in high school, also walks her own bird, a brightly colored white-bellied caique named Spanky, in her neighborhood in La Mesa. She, too, describes the attention she and Ariessohn would receive walking their birds downtown.

“We’d get stopped every ten feet, sometimes a little less,” Shannon says. “It’s not bad because you get to answer questions, and people are really interested in finding out what’s going on. They’re interested in learning about birds.”

Their La Mesa walks have been fairly quiet, but Spanky, a small and spirited parrot who imitates the beep of the microwave as well as various car noises, had fun at the Embarcadero when they lived downtown.

“He loved looking at the water,” Shannon says. “He liked [the Embarcadero] because there were so many new noises. He’d get all excited, and he’d always look up and look at the water, and he was so excited by everything going on there.”

She pauses, kissing Spanky’s beak.

“He loved it,” she says.

Raz and Carly
When Linda “Raz” Rasmussen purchased her African gray Carly, Carly couldn’t fly at all.

Now, Carly is a streak of gray body and bright red tail against the clouded blue sky at La Jolla Shores.

She flies straight and true, making the bloop sound of a cell phone notification, until she does a crazy dip to the left and lands, legs protruding, onto Rasmussen’s arm.

“She was very outgoing from the very start,” Rasmussen says of Carly, as Carly chirps happily into her ear. “What?” she’ll ask, imitating Rasmussen on the phone. “What?”

She takes off again, fluttering from Rasmussen’s shoulder. Following close behind is a trio of green, blue, and red macaws who light up the quasi-gray day with their rainbow of colors. They glide on their brilliant wings, circling and calling each other.

Along for the “fly” with Rasmussen are Hugh Choy, owner of the red-fronted macaws, and Hillary Hankey, who is flying her two cockatoos, a bare-eyed and a slender-billed. Choy has brought along a long-lensed camera to capture the birds, and clicks pictures while they soar over his head. The cockatoos perch on Hankey’s shoulders, one on either side; her T-shirt, which bears the words “Surf Wyoming,” is streaked with bird refuse. She doesn’t seem to mind.

“This is the largest concentration of amateur free-fliers in the world,” says Choy, speaking of the group.

In the air, Carly circles and, responding to Rasmussen’s call, lands squarely in her hair.

“Crazy,” Rasmussen says affectionately to Carly. She lifts Carly off her head and places her back on her shoulder.

Rasmussen purchased Carly almost three years ago from a local bird shop, Bird Crazy, and began teaching her to fly after her wing feathers, clipped when she was a baby, began to grow back in.

“I’d been taking her on walks on the beach all the time, and her wings started to grow out,” Rasmussen says. “I thought, ‘What am I going to do?’ Because I

didn’t really want her to be clipped, but I wasn’t sure how it would work to have her flighted.”

After reading up on the Internet — where she also met Choy and Hankey — Rasmussen began to train Carly not only to fly but to come when called, wondering just how good at it she’d become.

“We worked on the training, which is come and call, come and call, come and call,” Rasmussen says. “We’d do that every day [for] ten minutes, something like that. That’s what we usually did. And it just drills it into their head. I call, you come, you get a treat. And that’s how everyone’s done it. You just have to be very consistent and diligent about it.”

Carly excelled at the training, and soon Rasmussen was able to take her outside for flying sessions. Starting very small, she taught Carly to navigate new terrain and conditions, like wind, and to overcome obstacles, like coming down from trees; newly flighted birds often have trouble with this.

“You can’t just take them out and say ‘Go,’ ” Rasmussen stresses. “You take them outside, and you start them with two feet. That’s one of the main risks, just making sure the training is really good.”

The macaws and cockatoos take off again, Carly playing catch-up. They soar together then break off into their own groups, sometimes stopping to land on their owners or, on occasion, passersby. A few tourists stop to snap pictures, enthralled by the sight of Choy covered in the three giant macaws. The macaws are more than obliging; “High five!” says one in a cartoonish voice. Another meows. Enchanted, a little girl steps forward to touch the third macaw, which has landed on her mother’s head, before it hops back onto Choy’s arm.

Getting a running start, Choy calls, “One, two, three!” and the birds take off. Hankey launches her cockatoos at the same time. They meet midair and chase each other playfully.

“I never wanted to keep a bird in a cage,” says Rasmussen, who only puts Carly behind bars when she leaves the house without her. “Most people in the U.S. clip their birds, and to me it just felt wrong. I had two cats and a dog at that point, and the pigeon before her — and they all had complete mobility and complete choice in what they did and where they went, and it just seemed weird to have this one animal that was completely dependent on me to come over and move her from one place to another. It just seemed so unfair.”

Carly zooms overhead, making her favorite phone sound.

“In the wild,” Rasmussen says, watching Carly circle back, “they’re in flocks of thousands.”

Shermie and Rick
The days that Rick Nelson goes out to the beach in Carlsbad to walk his 11-year-old cockatoo Shermie, it is Shermie that does most of the walking.

Scuttling along the top of the seawall located just past Tamarack Avenue, she waddles at a good clip as Nelson follows a few feet behind. The waves crash just beyond the wall, a few yards of sand in between. Shermie ignores the water, keeps her gaze straight ahead as she moves.

“It’s the pigeon-toed 500!” exclaims Nelson, who keeps pace with her as Shermie rapidly changes direction.

“Shermie, Shermie, ko-ko-bop outside!” says Shermie in a strange, cartoonish monotone, beginning her funny running step. Blindingly white against the blue-green of the sea, she flicks her yellow crest, feathers ruffling in the oceanside wind.

Nelson originally took Shermie out on his shoulder but graduated her to the seawall when one day, on a whim, he placed her there and watched her walk confidently atop it.

“I used to go down to the beach all the time and walk her, and one day I put her on [the seawall] and she just took off,” he says. “From that time on, we’ve walked as long as four hours. And she always has the opportunity to get up. I’ll always put my hand down, but when she gets going, rarely does she want to stop.”

“Hi, baby,” says Shermie, making a kissing sound.

“Hi, baby,” Nelson says back.

Shermie mumbles something nearly incomprehensible; Nelson, accustomed to her voice, translates.

“Shermie’s a good girl?” he says to her, smiling. “I don’t think so.

“I used to live in San Diego, and she used to walk all the way from south Mission Bay to Crystal Pier on the seawall,” Nelson continues. “Now that I’m up here, this is kind of the best. It’s really neat to have her up [on the seawall] when she’s walking, so we avoid pedestrians, bicycles, pets, and things like that.”

In addition to walking with Nelson, Shermie also joins him at the table for dinner, eating “people” food instead of seed, which she has in the morning and afternoon. She eats a variety of things, Nelson explains, including chicken, steak, spaghetti, ice cream — one of her favorites — and coffee.

“I’ve had the people at the pet store say feed her just what they sell, [but] the vets say just don’t kill her with the stuff,” Nelson says. He moves Shermie from the wall to his shoulder. “Obviously, everything’s in moderation.”

Shermie, back on the wall, takes off again; she continues to talk to herself as she walks, warbling and whistling.

“You know what’s really strange about her?” Nelson picks her up for a moment. “If I start to say something and she’s starting too, she’ll stop. She will not finish a sentence, whatever she’s going to say. I swear that she listens just like a person.”

There is certainly something personlike about Shermie. Perhaps it’s her independence, the way in which she conducts herself. Nelson says he has received many positive comments on her behavior.

“People have commented, [people] that train birds, on how well she keeps herself and the way she carries herself,” Nelson says. “[She’s] really not afraid to mingle with people, and she looks like a happy bird most of the time.”

Shermie whistles, lifting a foot. Nelson smiles at her.

“But you want to be walking,” he says. “Don’t you?”

Sam and Nicky
Sam is over 20 pounds of cat. A white-and-gray tabby with a handsome, round face, he wears a black-and-white harness around his midsection, in addition to his collar. A matching leash clips to a buckle on his harness, located just between his shoulder blades. He stands at the intersection of Robinson and Tenth Avenue as Nicky Elliston, his owner, crouches at his side, petting him; he is not a fan of this particular intersection and looks a little peeved.

“Come on,” says Elliston in a tuneful voice, giving the leash a gentle pull. “Come on.”

Sam obeys, padding along beside her.

Elliston, who is currently a marketing coordinator, rescued Sam over two years ago from a shelter in Arizona, where she used to live, when he was just three months old.

Elliston soon found that the cat had been born with what appeared to be a chronic upper respiratory disorder.

“[The vet] actually told me to put him down,” Elliston says. “I had him for a week, and then he was in the emergency room with me. But when you get a cat from the rescue place, you don’t bring them back; you’re rescuing them. You’re not going to say, ‘Oh, this cat is faulty.’ ”

Sam pulled through, mostly due to Elliston’s insistence that the vets not give up.

“I made them fix him,” she says firmly. “I made them fix him that night. I said, ‘Give me a guarantee, or you’ll have to deal with a redhead all night.’ I get things done.”

Sam has been fine ever since, but Elliston, worried, began taking him with her wherever she went, just in case. As a kitten, this was relatively easy, but as Sam hit the 15-pound mark, Elliston found herself unable to carry him for long. It was then that she got the idea to leash-train him.

“I had to put the leash on and have him walk around the apartment for a couple of weeks with the harness on his body until he was comfortable,” she explains. “That’s kind of how it all started.”

On the street, Sam appears confident, though Elliston does need to keep him from turning down every drive and walkway. Like most cats, he is slightly obstinate but eventually responds, remaining at Elliston’s side or just a bit ahead of her.

A runner passes by, iPod blaring through the tiny speakers in her ears.

“A cat on a leash?” she asks, incredulous, before passing on.

Elliston shrugs.

“We get a lot of people snickering or stopping us,” she says matter-of-factly. “Pretty much everyone stares when they see us, and I kind of feel like a cat lady, but it’s good for his health and it’s good that he gets out and sees things.”

Elliston says she used to walk Sam to coffee shops but stopped because of all the fuss it caused.

“It’s just not worth it to me,” she says. “People look at me like I’m crazy. I’m like, ‘You have a dog on a leash. You trained your dog. I trained my cat.’ ”

They also sometimes used to walk to Balboa Park.

“He’ll just lay out on the grass and catch the bugs and look around, but it’s really never very…It’s really just the reactions we get from people. Like when we’re crossing the street, cars just stop. ‘Okay, you’re walking a cat.’ My friends make fun of me for it. I’m a joke. ‘Nicky’s coming and she’s bringing her cat.’ ”

In addition to walking on a leash, Sam also uses the toilet instead of a litter pan. After seeing a scene in Meet the Parents, Ben Stiller’s schlocky comedy, in which a Siamese perches delicately over the bowl to do its business, Elliston decided Sam would follow suit.

“I looked it up online, and as soon as I realized that it does happen and that there [are] a handful of cats in the world who use the toilet, I [thought], ‘Sam is going to be one of them if he’s smart enough.’ And sure enough,” she says proudly, “he picked it up. He picked it right up. He’s happy to do it.”

A howl comes from a nearby yard, and Sam stops, ears flattened against his head. The noise comes from a gray cat sitting on the house’s front steps; it hops down and approaches, slowly, as if stalking prey.

“Rrrow,” it says.

Sam opens his mouth to hiss.

Elliston steps in, standing between Sam and the gray cat, who has come too close for comfort; she stamps her foot at it, and it flattens its front to the ground, tail at full mast.

“Come on, Sam,” says Elliston, pulling the leash.

Sam continues to walk, growing more confident as he reaches home. Near their front door, Elliston unclips the leash, and Sam, proving himself well trained, trots right to it.

Elliston’s apartment, a one-bedroom in Hillcrest, shows little of the wear and tear often associated with a feline presence.

“People come over and they’re, like, ‘You have a cat? I can’t smell your cat.’ ” Elliston, who leaves the toilet seat up for Sam, laughs. “[It’s] because my cat doesn’t smell.”

She pauses.

“He doesn’t claw anything. He doesn’t scream for attention that way.”

Sam, who has stretched out on the glass-topped side table, blinks his green eyes, almost as if he knows he’s being discussed.

“He’s so independent,” Elliston says, with a smile. “It’s so nice.” — Rosa Jurjevics

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