Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Two's company, in guinea pigs.

The week after Ted died was a hard one. We kept finding little things we'd tried, we had to clean out the medicines she'd had. We kept asking was there anything else we could have done, any action we could have taken, anything at all that would have helped. The vet had said no, that these things happen, but it was amazing how the guilt grabbed us. We were busy that week with Christian Aid and work, so our evenings passed delivering envelopes and planning office moves (don't ask; the Saga of Virgin is for another day)

By the following Saturday we were slowing down. Sarah had a bad cold, Peter was out for the day and although I was supposed to take Sarah to badminton we cried off. We went for a coffee and to buy her material for a school project. I swear that was all. Just a Costa and a yard of material.

But we called into Pets at Home, just to look for hay or bedding or... well, any old excuse. And there was a little girl guinea pig there, alone, all alone. And such a pig! Nobody would ever choose her for her looks. May I introduce to the herd.....

Sherlock. That's her after a brushing and a tidy up. She has the maddest, baddest hair possible. Like Tina Turner in Beyond Thunderdome. Her neck is extendable like the Xenomorph in Alien, so occasionally she has the look of a dragon or a dinosaur, with her head sticking out of a ruff of wild, white hair. She is a character. And her and Lorelai are not the best of friends. because both of them want to be top pig.

Unfortunately, we'd only had Sherlock a day before it became obvious she had a runny nose. Ring up the store, complain and a trip to the vets later and I had another piggy on antibiotics. Seriously, are they never well? So this week I have been giving Sherlock anti inflammatories and antibiotics twice a day. She seems well enough,as you can see from the shot above of her heading off behind the computer. She loves to explore, and goes further in the room than either Lol (Lorelai) or Olgy.

We gave her to David. The death of Teddy hit him hard, because he had been coming home and taking care of her after lessons. He's in his A level year, so a distraction that sits and makes him smile is a good one. He named her as well (hence Sherlock) so that's good. And you should see a hulking 6 foot man take a little guinea pig out to the vets and talk to her about where we are. He'll make a lovely Dad one day, just lovely.

Alright, when are we? About Wednesday last week. And I was cuddling Olga, when I felt a rough patch in her fur. Cue Google, with a diagnosis of either mites or a fungal infection. And cue another visit to the vets and a bill. Don't ask. I have plans for a bigger cage, but the brutes keep me spending my savings.

Olga has a fungal infection; she's isolated for a week or so, until she looks a bit clearer, and I am administering an anti-fungal solution and Daktarin cream at regular intervals. We now have two cages set up next to each other, and little Olga keeps trying to bite through and get to her friends. Once we get the all clear, I might have to make the cages fit together permanently because they've got used to space.

We're not a good advert for buying guinea pigs from Pets At Home, are we? But, as I now realise, we should have adopted not bought. I'm a mad cavy woman who has plans for bigger and better cages, with fleecy cups and pee pads. I've loved looking what's available and (if I weren't bankrupted by the vets) I would have more to show you. I am loving looking at the guinea pig blogs and the forums around (and Good God, are they useful when you need advice!) and I love my little critters tremendously. Like my big critters, they aren't very photogenic. I need a faster camera, or to remember how to get the speed shots on my big camera. Unlike the big critters, they don't have a say, so my instagram has suddenly become packed with photos of cuteness and hairy creatures. I'm more relaxed about life, I haven't read a book in a month and my crochet has suffered because, between one and another, I haven't had the time. I cleaned the living room yesterday and realised it was the first time in a month. I will get back, I am taking time out from life this week to read blogs and post on them and to catch up with all my blogmates. Please forgive my absence, and drop me a welcome back below.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Say hello to my latest obsession....

Yes, I know, 6 weeks have flown past in the blink of an eye. I will have no other posts for May if I don't post this one. I do have a rather good reason. A story to tell. It has sadness, joy and a lot of cheekiness. Pour a cuppa, grab a box of tissues and let's go.

Many of you will know about this beautiful young lady, my Sarah (Princess)

She was 14 in February and asked for some pets. She's been on about getting a hamster or a mouse or a cat or a dog for years. Mr Angel Jem is..... not a pet lover, shall we say, and has until now always said no. No. Definitely NO.
But this year Sarah is 14. She's capable of cooking a meal for us, doing the washing, taking care of herself and the house when I'm too busy/tired/ill to do it. She has, in other words reached the Age of Responsibility.

So I looked into what pets were available.

Chinchilla. 2 for £200. Yeah, right, like that's ever going to happen.
Rats. They may be very clever but.... the reputation puts me off.
Hamsters. Balls of fluff that like to make a noise and come out to play.... at night time. No, that wouldn't do either.

Fortunately we had been to the Rabbit Farm at Llanystumdwy a few times over the years. With photos to prove it.

Would a rabbit be good? Well, we don't have a garden shed, and our garage is very dark. Sarah wanted an indoor pet, one we could handle and love inside and I know you can have rabbits inside, but they take a lot of space and have a habit of chewing wires and leads. No, not a rabbit.

But the rabbit farm also have guinea pigs to hold and cuddle. I looked into these beautiful little creatures and.... well, they have definite advantages over many animals as pets.

  • They are quite large as babies and as adults. Fully grown guineas are about 30cm long. That makes them easy to hold, and quite easy to catch in a cage as long as you corner them gently.
  • They aren't nocturnal. They sleep in naps of about 10 minutes a time and not for whole days. Less chance of having a daughter desperate to play while the pet lies curled up and asleep at a time that suits and them comes out and makes mad squeeking and rattling sounds when she wants to go to sleep.
  • They are social animals who live in herds in the wild. That meant that getting just one was not possible. That means there's always an animal to pick up and play with for somebody.
  • They need a cage/hutch and a play area, with time to run and explore. 
  • They don't bite unless they are really provoked. 
So one day towards the end of April I made sure everything was ready and we went looking for 2 small piggies.

We came back with three. Natch.

 Teddy. Soft, furry, ball of fluff. She was lovely, and a real live wire when we got her. Don't get attached.

 Lorelai to the left. She has the longest white hair, with a beautiful tan face. She is big, loud and loves to be held.
 Olga. The runt of the bunch. She is small, but clever and very very beautiful. Those eyes are hidden in the black fur, but they sparkle so.

And here is home. We had the cage set up like in all the books. Newspaper, wood shavings,a good layer of hay, hay in the hay holder thingy. And we loved them all. 

I had done a lot of research, but once I had the piggies I realised that the shavings/hay mix. although probably fine for an outside pig or a garage or shed pig, smelled. And it meant the girls were permanently wet or smelly if it didn't get changed every day. I looked into alternatives, and invested in fleece.

But by the time the fleece was ordered, Teddy was already ill. She had a UTI. Who knew guineas were so delicate? That they caught so many illnesses? And that even getting to the vets and getting antibiotics as soon as possible was no guarantee of recovery. Within the week, Ted was literally on her last legs.
 We bathed the piggies to make them clean after the cage fiasco. Have you ever seen a piggy swim? They are not happy; not happy at all. But it cleaned up their bits, and they smelled better for it.

 The best grass, the freshest dandelion leaves. We tried everything as a treat for Teddy. She spent a few nights sat on the arm of my chair alone, or with a friend while we tried to tempt her.

 And I have never had to cut and serve so much vegetables! Peppers, cucumbers, spring greens, I am still finding out what their favourites are.

Looking back now, we can see how she faded. How her weight never went on, despite hand feeding and finding the treats she loved. By Friday 13th (how ironic) there was nothing left to do except take her to the vets for the last time. She was in pain, and so were we. We held her, hugged her, kissed her and stroked her until the end. And then finally we said goodbye and brought her home to be buried. If you've ever seen how soon a pet becomes a part of the family, then you don't need to be told how we felt. We had a rough weekend, an Egyptian burial with hay and toys and an apple for the afterlife. And we held our two remaining guinea pigs closer still. Poor little things, they kept looking for Teddy, walking around the cage and wheeking. Olga was eating less, and for a day I was worried that we would lose her as well. 

We kept Olga out for a couple of nights and she would sit in a hay filled box between me and Mr AJ while we fed her vegetables and a little fruit to make sure she had the vitamin C she needed. Mr AJ may not like animals, but he wouldn't ever hurt one and he really seems to like the guinea pigs, probably because they are part of the family.

By the middle of the next week she was eating again, putting on weight and, although a quieter and more subservient character than Lorelai, was happy enough about life.

That's enough for today. I need to do something else. I'll be back tomorrow with Piggies Part 2; The Squeakquel.