Welcome Douglas!

Posted in Day-to-day, Medical at 1:23 am by Jenn

Douglas is our newest guinea pig intake.  As has seemingly been par for this summer, Douglas made a mess!Douglas was abandoned at a children’s preschool camp in a filthy aquarium.  On his aquarium was a sign, “CHEWY – FREE TO GOOD HOME”.  I am always appalled when someone keeping an animal in filth and squalor has the nerve to advertise an animal as “free to good home”.  After all, they certainly weren’t providing a good home!

In addition to this substandard care and lack of concern for whoever would pick up this poor animal, they were ignoring a serious health concern for Douglas — he had a huge lump on his right side that had obviously been ignored for months, if not more than a year.

A good Samaritan took pity on Douglas (then Chewy) and took him home.  She bought him some basic supplies to get him through the night and then started contacting vets to help him out.  Unfortunately for her, the lump removal was going to be rather pricey.  She opted to contact ACR&S and seek our help in rehabilitating Douglas.

So our ever-intrepid Charlotte coordinator, Andrea, made the trip to pick up this poor piggie, and then transported him out to me to be de-lumped, neutered, and paired up with a buddy.  I guesstimate him to be 1-2 years of age, and he seems to have spent his entire life in that tiny hell.  When encountering a C&C cage for the first time, Andrea reports that he popcorned, ran, and frolicked as though he had known no greater joy.  (He probably hadn’t.)

Despite all this, he is an unusually friendly and nosy pig.  He likes to come over and see what we’re doing, complain to us about his lack of vegetables (he seems to feel like he should have all he wants instead of carefully measured portions), and tell us about what he’s doing.  He likes to popcorn and seems to be grateful for what he’s finally been given — the very basics.

Douglas, Post Surgery

Douglas went in for his surgery on September 12, 2008.  It was initially planned for him to have this enormous lump removed and to be neutered at the same time, but the lump was too massive, and removal took too long.  Dr. Munn was nervous of keeping him under any longer, especially given the enormous size of the surgical site, as seen to the right.

Doug has taken his surgery in good stride.  He begs for treats frequently, hams for visitors to our house, and tries to appear pitiful when medication time rolls around.  His staples will be coming out this Friday, and he will be on the lookout for his new home.

UPDATE: Due to the odd nature of the growth, our vet isn’t convinced that this is a one-time problem. Therefore, we think Douglas will have to stay in the Sanctuary. He may be able to be considered for adoption to experienced pig owners only, with the understanding that he will be special needs and may have life-long medical expenses.


Sullivan writes his own ending.

Posted in Adoptions at 6:00 am by Jenn

Sullivan, one of the two pigs abandoned in a parking lot in July of this year, got to write his happy ending this weekend.

Sullivan met his new partner, Spice, this weekend with the help of our Charlotte coordinator, Andrea.  Spice has an interesting story of his own — he is the son of Kismet!  His mom contacted us when she adopted Kismet’s son, asking us to please make room for her, and even helped transport her up to NC!  Spice recently lost his long time friend, Quilt, to a serious cancer, and he was lonely, and needed a friend.

Spice’s mom, Brenda, asked for my recommendations, and I thought that Sully would be a good match!  He too was lonely from the loss of Ferdinand, and was young enough that they could be friends together for a long time.

As you can see from the pictures, the introduction was a great success.  (And Spice was very tired.)

His new family says:

I know I’m repeating myself but Spice is the happiest I’ve ever seen him.  He’s so content.  If he’s not eating, he’s sprawled out right next to Sully.  He loves Sully and is so happy for his company. […]  Spice is once again making those happy little percolating noises they make as they travel around their cage.
I slept in the den last night, just to make sure all was well.  I heard rumbling every now and then and it was coming from both pigs.  Sometimes Sully starts it and sometimes Spice does.  They’re so funny.  Jeez, I’m easily entertained.
I am thrilled with this match, can’t you tell?  My daughter (who turned 14 yesterday) didn’t want to go to school today as she didn’t want to leave Sully.  She has said over and over again how much she loves him and how beautiful she thinks he is.  A pig can’t ask for much more than that!
And so Sullivan, the little pig who survived a deadly summer’s heat but lost his brother, got to write his very own happy ending.  Thanks to Brenda and her wonderful family, he’ll never be alone or forgotten again.


No rest for the wicked

Posted in Day-to-day, Humor at 4:58 am by ACR&S

Early in the month, we took a long-overdue vacation. My partner and I have literally not had a vacation away from the animals, of more one or two nights, since at least 2002. With the dwindling number of sanctuary residents, the day-to-day support of our three NC coordinators, and the fortuitous presence of our vet student friend to petsit, we set off for a seven day vacation in California, to revisit some of my favorite grad-school haunts.

We weren’t in Cali for 24 hours when we found ourselves back having to do some animal rescue.

We were meandering along a path lined with olive trees in Davis, when I felt compelled to take a picture of the olives. So we turned off of the path, and right in front of us was a common pigeon, curled at the base of a tree. I picked him up and felt that he was bone-thin; further examination showed that his lower beak was broken off. It was not a recent wound; the beak had mostly healed. He’d probably been having trouble eating for a while and was finally weakened nearly to death. So we paused our trip down memory lane and started calling around to find a wildlife rehabber.

We found one, about a half an hour away at the old McClellan Air Force Base. The rescue was actually housed in the base’s old radar station! They felt hopeful he could recuperate, given enough good, easy-to-eat food, although he may never be able to be released.

What are the odds of us going down into that part of town, right at that moment, and turning aside precicely at that place?

Pretty good, as far as the pigeon was concerned.


Goodbye, Brownie

Posted in Memorials at 12:21 am by ACR&S

We lost Brownie on Friday September 19.

Brownie was one of the earliest residents of the Sanctuary. He and his brother/cousin/daddy Greyly came to us in February 2003. We were told they were about three years old. They had been adopted from the Orange County Animal Shelter, but returned within a couple of weeks later because they didn’t get along with the adopter’s other pig. At that point OCAS had too many other small animals, and requested that we take them in.

Over the course of the next year, they didn’t garner much interest from adopters. I found this bizarre, since I considered them the most attractive pigs I’d ever seen. Then in 2004 Brownie developed a large number of lumpy growths over his body, which were diagnosed as benign faty cysts, not harmful, but pretty much guaranteeing he would be unadoptable. At the time, both boys were living together in a herd with three other neutered males, so when we finally found a wonderful adopter who was interested in Greyly, we let him go. Brownie was content to remain with his friends Odin, Loki, and Thor.

The last of these original partners, Thor, died in December 2007, and Brownie was alone for several months afterward. We tried numerous other pigs with him but he was fairly defensive and didn’t tolerate much aggression from his cagemates. In August 2008 he was successfully partnered with an older girl, Ms Piggy.

In March 2008, Brownie broke a tooth. It did not grow back correctly, and since then he has had recurrent malocclusions of both the molars and incisors, requiring monthly trimming to control. This is very similar to what we saw in Greyly, who suffered severe and recurrent tooth problems before his death in 2005. With Brownie, we hoped we could manage the malocclusions through monthly tooth trims. These require anesthesia and are fairly high-risk in an animal so old, but without them, his incisors cut into the roof of his mouth and his molars cut into his tongue and cheeks.

On Friday, we took Brownie in for a regular tooth trim. He had a routine pre-anesthetic blood panel that showed no changes in kidney or liver function, which would contraindicate anesthesia. However, he never woke up. About six hours after the surgery, he was still unresponsive, his breath became shallower and shallower. Finally he died in my arms. He was about eight and a half years old, if our original information was correct.

This has been one of the hardest deaths for me to deal with, in this year of so many losses.  He was one of the very first animals we rescues as a newly-incorporated rescue. He has been with me through so many changes, and he put up with all of my incompetence and experiments with such good natured patience. And this is one of the first deaths this year where I find myself second-guessing, wondering whether we could have done anything differently, for a different outcome.

I miss you, fuzz butt. Forgive me, and I hope you finally have peace.


Goodbye, Gonzo

Posted in Memorials at 12:47 am by ACR&S

On September 2, we lost Gonzo. Gonzo was one of the Jacksonville 48, a group of mostly young, male pigs who were dumped by a breeder in summer 2005. They came from horrendous conditions, and Gonzo was among the older animals in the group, meaning he had endured neglect and malnutrition longer than most.

Gonzo was one of those who never left the Sanctuary. He was briefly placed into foster care, but returned within a couple of weeks when he started showing aggression towards other pigs.

For most of his subsequent time with us, Gonzo lived alone (although always in a divided cage so that he had a friend or two to talk to). It wasn’t until Spring 2008 that we managed to conduct a successful introduction, with two other pigs. He turned out to be the most submissive and least aggressive of the bunch, and seemed very happy with his new friends Freddy and Aragorn.

Unfortunately, we had already noticed that Gonzo was starting to lose weight. Combined with the behavioral change (more mellow temper), this alerted us that something was wrong. Bloodwork showed that his kidneys were not functioning normally. He didn’t have stones and was still eating like a horse, but after a few months it was clear that his kidneys were failing.

Unfortunately, in guinea pigs, there is no good treatment for kidney failure. Mostly, you provide fluids and supportive feeding as long as possible. He didn’t need any help eating – if anything, his appetite was bigger than normal – but his body just wasn’t getting what it needed, no matter how much he ate. He continued to lose weight.

It was hard to see him transform from one of the biggest, fattest, bravest pigs into a frail, thin thing with no interest in his friends. His weekly weighing on September 1 showed that he had finally lost nearly half his peak body weight, and we decided it was time. We said goodbye to him the next day.

I’m sorry we couldn’t do more for you, brave little man. See you on the other side.


Outsmarted by Rabbits

Posted in Day-to-day, Humor at 1:41 am by Jenn

Wendy and BB came back to foster at my house this previous weekend.

I have to admit, I had been spoiled by fostering Sinatra. He was the best, most docile bunny in the world. He liked being snuggled, and tolerated being picked up when it was needful. He rarely chewed things, stayed in his bunny room, and seemed content to explore quietly and amuse himself.

Wendy and BB are much rambunctious than the sweetly reserved Sinatra.

The first thing they did during their very first floor time was work the perimeter of their enclosure until they found an opening and escape. They are avid extreme sportswomen. They like trying to climb onto things (especially things which they shouldn’t be on) and have a knack for teamwork which is a little frightening. (I saw both of them work together just last night to topple over a carefully stacked selection of periodicals)

But so far, their best trick has been with the water dish.

Their previous foster mom made it very clear that Wendy and BB were serious water drinkers. I did not pay close attention to this their first day, and I returned home to an upset, empty water dish that had been thrown up onto the second story of their cage, and two very disgruntled rabbits.

The spirit of ingenuity filled me, and that was when I made my fatal mistake. I tried to outsmart the rabbits.

It started well enough. I decided that I would give them an automatic waterer. That way, I reasoned, they would have at least a half gallon of water available to them throughout the day while I was at work, and I could then refill it when I got home, and there would be much rabbit rejoicing.

Luckily, as our cat has chronic renal failure, we have a plethora of water dishes, bowls, fountains, and dispensers. I selected the tried and true Petmate waterer.

I dutifully filled it, added it to the cage, and then watched the rabbits drink from it. I was successful, the rabbits were happy. I went to bed secure in the knowledge that I had been a good provider.

The next morning, I woke up slightly late, and so had to hurry to do my morning feed. (This usually takes around 30 minutes depending on the number of animals. Currently in residence are 11 guinea pigs, 2 rats, 2 rabbits, and 3 hamsters) I typically do the rabbits last as they are the most involved, and it gives them a bit of time to stomp around while I clean everything up.

I opened their door and immediately noticed two things:

  1. they were both on the second floor, which is unusual as they prefer the ground floor
  2. they both looked pretty smug

I reached in to pet them, and put my hand into the bottom of the cage for support myself, and my hand went into half an inch of standing water. At some time during the night, they had managed to drain the entire waterer. On top of that, they had also managed not to move it an inch. AND it still had the very small amount of water in the dispensing bowl.

I said several inappropriate words, grabbed a handful of towels, and was watched with amusement by a pair of rabbits as I tried to clean up half a gallon of water wearing my nice office clothes without getting hay and poop on myself.

I replaced the waterer with a bigger bowl, and we’ve been ok since.

Finally, this morning they were let out to roam around a bit and get some morning exercise. About 20 minutes in, I hear a series of especially angry sounding thumps and grunts. BB had managed to jump into the bathtub, but was having difficulty getting out. So, of course, she thumped for room service.

This was followed by Wendy wedging herself between a large full bucket of pellets and the wall while trying to eat the wallpaper. “Hey! What are you doing?” I asked. She shot backwards out of the hole, ran across the room, skidded 180 degrees, spun out, and then dove into the cage. We are calling this move “GTA: Bunny”.

Prior to fostering rabbits, I definitely knew they were intelligent, but living with them has only proved to me that they are insanely smart, and people are very lucky that they don’t have opposable thumbs.

This is excerpted from Susan describing to someone how to bunny proof a bathroom:

The bathroom *could* be a good option, but you’d still want to rabbit proof the following:

a. add a toilet seat latch so bunny doesn’t nose up the seat, get in, and drown.
b. add cabinet latches so bunny doesn’t nose open the cupboard and eat the Drano.
c. put grids all along the baseboard/cabinets/doors so bunny doesn’t eat them/start peeling off the wallpaper
d. move the shower curtains and towels out of reach so bunny can’t pull them down and eat ’em.
e. move the toilet paper out of reach because MY GOD WHAT A FUN TOY until you come home to bunny’s paper nest all over the floor
f. move all the toiletries off the counter, because sure as sunshine, the bunny will figure out how to get from the floor to the toilet to the counter and then he’ll decide to share your toothbrush

Initially, you sort of laugh, but then you have a rabbit in your house that’s motivated and you realize in about a day that all of those things are possible.


Happy Homecoming Sinatra!

Posted in Adoptions at 2:40 am by Jenn

Because of medical problems happening in the Raleigh pig commune, I have been grossly late in congratulating Sinatra on his new home, and his new parents, Diane and Mark.Chilling on the couch.

Sinatra found his forever home with extremely bunny savvy parents on August 9th. They were delighted to meet him, and he was thrilled with his new house and his special bunny room. He’s also got a new pal named Lester that they will be starting introductions with quite soon.

Already famous for his diva-power, Sinatra quickly had everyone wrapped around his little paws, by requiring “star treatment” in his placement of litterboxes. On the bright side, he is at least a friendly little diva bunny, and his mom says he loves getting groomed and petted, and just flops out anywhere for that to happen.

Despite his tiny size (only 2.5 lbs!) he has made fast friends with their kitties, and seems to enjoy making sure they know who’s boss.

He was a darling at our house, and much loved, so we were excited for such an doting family to fall in love with this snuggle bunny!

Sinatra’s story is one that should give every homeless animal hope. He was abandoned outside and found wandering by one of the vets that worked at the local shelter. There, he was so terrified of all the strange smells and noises that his shelter picture made him look ridiculously scary, with giant eyes, an oversized head, and an overall scary look. It was because of that that ACR&S took him. We felt like no one else would fall in love with such a bizarre looking rabbit.

Once he came into foster, he truly blossomed. Better pictures made him not as scary, and he proved himself to be such a cuddlebug and natural snuggler that he was irresistable. So he went from abandoned street bunny to pampered superstar with a family to call his own.

Thank you again Diane and Mark, we appreciate you opening your home and hearts to darling Sinatra!


Piglet’s SAGP month ends with over $200 in donations!

Posted in Sanctuary Spotlight at 2:43 am by ACR&S

I’ve announced a couple of times that Piglet was chosen as the August beneficiary of Sponsor A Guinea Pig. I’m happy to report that SAGP gathered well over $200 in donations! That means this month’s tooth trimming was completely covered!

Here are some updates and new pictures of our Piglet. As always, click the thumbnail for a larger image.

Piglet is always waiting for dinner in (or under) her cuddle cup when I get home. You can see she still has a smudge of breakfast on her nose!

SO HAPPY DINNER OM NOM NOM!! Finally eating alfalfa. I mix it with a little timothy/bluegrass to try to trick her but that usually just gets pushed to the back

Wait, is there more?

A very happy ending.

We cannot give enough thanks to SAGP and all of the people who donated through this innovative program. It makes a huge difference in Piglet’s life, as well as in the lives of the other animals we can help, now that the whole month’s budget isn’t already earmarked for Sanctuary vetcare.

Please visit SAGP in September to support a new piggy, BOOTS!

He is an absolutely adorable skinny pig who was rescued from a tragic hoarding situation. His lifetime care is guaranteed by private donations and the volunteers of CA rescue Orange County Cavy Haven. Boots has kidney disease, and is on daily medication. OCCH is 501(c)3 so donations to Boots are also tax deductable. You can also sign up for a recurring subscription donation, which lets you automatically donate to a new piggy each month!