squido has been harassing me to adopt a guinea pig (gpig, piggie, cavy) for months now. last night during one of her routine perusals of the various shelter web pages, she ran across a very cute and mangled gpig. Named Snickers, she had been at the Boulder Humane Society for several months and was four years old. in the world of gpigs, four years is more than half their life span (6 - 8 years tops depending on who you ask). people simply don't adopt old animals, be it a cat, dog or rodent. while most of the shelters don't euthanise as a general practice, some animals are eventually put down (the Boulder Human Society has an 85% or more adoption rate, they really do a great job). long story short, the odds of Snickers being adopted were slim to none.
squido mailed Cavy Care Inc., a Denver based guinea pig rescue pleading that they take Snickers in if we adopted her and brought her to the rescue. they mailed and called early this morning saying that despite being full and 'not taking in new gpigs', they would make an exception and take Snickers. we were extremely happy given the circumstances and both of us will be making donations to Cavy Care this year for sure.
this morning, we decided to adopt her even though neither of us really have the habitat, nor the time we'd love to spend given our current assortment of animals and the fact we had already found a new home for her (meaning, she will get a lot of time and attention, especially more than the shelter or more new homes would give). we figured that one of our households was a far better option than a life at the shelter or possibly being put down, and it's always rough adding to the burden of animal rescues. fortunately, squido had done a world of research on gpigs to help me get one at some point. with two cats, one a perpetual kitten, having any type of rodent here is probably not the best plan. i had figured it would be years before i could possibly adopt one.
we headed out toward Boulder this morning, stopping for gas and then lunch at Chic-fil-A at the Westminster mall. while there we stopped at the pet store to see what was on display. they had four chinchillas that were surprisingly well cared for (except the food), but in a cage too small for that many. they were all active and several were likely from a local breeder given the colors and probable pedigree. one employee took note of the food information squido passed on which was a nice change from the normal routine. we also stopped several times by the front display with a dozen rabbits and three gpigs because a young kid was there physically abusing the animals. he kept trying to pick the rabbits up by the end of the ears, kept hitting one of the gpigs to make him run away, etc. a couple scornful comments to the kid (in front of his dad, who didn't care what his crotchfruit was doing) and a not-so-veiled threat of physical retaliation didn't make him stop (as Daniel Tosh says, I will choke you if you are younger, smaller and preferably white). we got the attention of an employee, told him what the kid had been doing for the last half hour and watched as the employee immediately told him to leave the store w/o another word. it is truly nice to see a mall pet store hire several responsible and caring people.
we headed to Boulder to go adopt Snickers. once we arrived, we visited the gpig and immediately noticed that the adoption picture didn't clearly show the true extent of the hair loss. Snickers was skittish to say the least and wouldn't let us near. due to the hair loss and questionable background, we were a bit nervous to adopt her because neither of us were in a position to take care of a gpig that needed intensive care or special treatment. we took a lot of time going over her medical history with the shelter to see if they had any idea why she had no fur. all we really knew is that after four years; her original guardian relinquished her to the shelter, the original owner admitted she had never had vegetables and couldn't continue to keep her, the shelter vet could not identify any health problems but continued to say she "looked unhealthy" and that everyone's best guess is that she did not have proper nutrition for a long time. as a result, it is very unlikely she will ever regrow the missing hair.
when we said yes, we were adopting her, half of the staff in the front area instantly rejoiced. one called out loudly "snickers is going home!" and the lady from the small store ran out smiling, in complete disbelief. it was obvious that the staff was pretty sure no one would take the poor thing. during the next half hour we found out that the lady from the small store loved the various rodents, especially guinea pigs and had been personally taking care of Snickers while at the shelter. she also rescued any of the rodents that she could that were ever to the point of being put to sleep and was overjoyed that relatively sane people were interested in taking home an old gpig with a spotty history.
it is very rough taking in an animal that is sick or old. you do so knowing their life span is cut short and you do so knowing you may have to deal with their passing sooner than later. it is emotionally trying, but the world needs more people to do it since every shelter has their share of older animals who may never get adopted w/o some mercy and understanding.
once back to my place, she got her new cage setup and took up residence. even though the plan was to have her live at squido's where she would have her own space, i insisted that she stay at my place for the first week since i work from home and could monitor her. when i go back on the road in a few weeks she will definitely move to squido's where both she and gatzby can look after her. in reality, i'm emotionally four years old and a sap when it comes to animals. i do want a guinea pig, but my place isn't the best environment with an over-zealous and playful cat here.
Snickers now has high quality pine bedding, high quality food, a plastic igloo (popular for rodents, called a 'pigloo' by gpig owners), a chube (chewable cardboard tube), a hard plastic forked tube, bowl with hay, water bottle, towel and food dish. she seems to like everything and i think the cage is busy enough for her to keep her happy. we locked the cats in the bedroom and hit the grocery store to buy an assortment of gpig approved vegetables (some are great for gpigs, some are incredibly poisonous) and began to feed her a little of each. she loves cucumbers and romain lettuce so far, but turned her nose at the radish. as we slowly introduce her to more vegetables and begin to establish the proper diet, we'll learn what other vegies she digs.
at the end of the night, we each took a turn picking her up and cradling her to get her used to us and let Badger figure out what she was. he had been insanely curious and staring through the cage for a while, putting his paws in slowly and trying to figure out what kind of beast it was. while in my lap she made her first noises which seemed to be happy/social noises! during this, Badger sniffed her nose to nose at one point and then flopped over on his back, totally submitting to her.
she will sleep alone in the spare room with the door closed tonight, hopefully a long restful night after a traumatic day and what sounds like a more traumatic life. she can look forward to a life of care and free flowing vegetables, that is for sure.