Clementine finds her happy ending

Posted in Adoptions, Day-to-day at 10:36 am by Jenn

At ACR&S, we are in the business of trying to produce happy endings. I often think of it in context of a book that I read, where a group of fairy godmothers traveled around nudging events and people into place to make happy endings occur as they should (after all, what’s a hero who doesn’t have a quest to go on?). We spend a lot of time talking, educating, traveling, and emailing, all trying to nudge that happy ending into place.

It can be tremendously grating. The vast majority of our emails are people who want to surrender animals, or who want one of our animals, but have no interest in learning how to properly care for them. But, the payment for all of those people is an ending like this:

Clementine, the bald, seizing, screaming pig first mentioned here, went to her forever home this weekend.

When Clementine came into our house, feeling like a tiny burn victim, and so desperately ill, a request also came in from long time ACR&S friend Celia. One of her piggie pair (Jerry) had just passed, leaving his friend Ben alone. Ben and Jerry’s relationship had always been tumultuous, so she was having Ben neutered and looking for a girlfriend for him.

Ben and Clem

Living with Clementine and helping her every day, I promised her over and over again that if she would only get better, I would make sure she went to the best home ever. And so I responded to Celia, asking her to open her home and heart to this poor pig. She agreed, pending Ben’s approval (obviously), and so when she came into town to visit her daughter, we introduce Ben and a much healed Clementine.

I think the picture speaks for itself. Ben had been withdrawn since losing his buddy, who was his louder half. During the introduction, he squealed, wheeked, ran, and popcorned a bit.

And, even more amazingly, for the first time I’d ever heard her, Clementine sat and chuttered and chortled and popcorned, and seemed extremely happy. There was quite a bit of joyous and romantic chasing, but love was definitely in the air.

Clemmy’s new mom writes:

Yes, we made it home safely. The pigs rode in separate cages and everyone was very quiet. They made up for it when they finally entered their new ‘gated’ community. Clemmy inspected every spare inch, testing the walls and trying each pigloo to see which suited her best. She has made it clear that she likes the meals we serve! I put up the cage divider at bed time so everyone could get some rest and they settled down quickly, though Ben plastered himself against it so he could continue to breath in her beauty! This morning I came into a kitchen with the sound of two pigs wheeking- Clemmy for breakfast and Ben for Clemmy. They make beautiful piggie music together! It is so cute. He adores her and shrieks in protest when I remove her from the cage! She has been very good about medicine taking (except maybe for the final biting of the syringe!). She is keeping Ben fit, too. Honestly, he never used to run and now he runs everywhere! This is wonderful – every thing I had wished for and more! I can understand that you miss her because she is such a funny mix of assertive and cooperative at the same time. She has managed to set limits on Ben – sort of. He just can’t keep himself away from her! While she was checking out the second water bottle (she’d just drunk from the first, Ben approached for her attention. What else can I say but thank you, thank you, thank you!

Love, c., c. , & b.

It’s hard to believe, but with only a few short weeks of intensive care and love, Clementine went from a poor, ravaged looking creatures who didn’t seem like she should even be alive to a sweet and beautiful guinea pig who is funny and is not above giving a retaliatory nibble if she feels like you’re annoying her too much.

And so this is the gas the fuels the tank of rescue. This is what makes it worthwhile. It was one of those fuzzy moments that makes all the other anger, sadness, and horror worthwhile. So, to Clementine, congratulations on your new home, and your new husband. You deserve it.

If the wordless could speak, they would say, ” Bless you for caring enough to help us.”

Please quote me on that!

Thank you, as always, Celia, for your kind words. But ACR&S would be lost without our wonderful adopters, who make it possible for these little souls to live out their happy endings.


Medical update

Posted in Day-to-day, Medical at 1:29 pm by ACR&S

Piglet, the little incisor-less piggy we took in at the beginning of April, had her remaining incisors pulled on the 17th. There was absolutely no sign of regrowth from the missing incisors in the month and a half we had her, so our vet was convinced that the tooth buds were dead, and that pulling the two remaining teeth would be easier on her than having monthly anesthesia to trim the teeth (without their uppers to grind against, the incisors would grow and grow until they impacted her upper gums).

The surgery was risky because Piglet has been in such poor body condition. She was so thin when she came to us, it took forever to get her stabilized above 700g, which is the minimum weight the vet felt would allow her to survive an extended anesthesia. There was a good chance that after all this effort, we’d lose her.

Fortunately, just a couple hours after she went in, I got the call that her surgery went very well. She was awake and taking syringed Critical Care very quickly afterwards, which was excellent. Here’s a picture of the extracted teeth. The blue lines roughly indicate where the gumline was – piggy teeth curve WAY down into the jaw! They are laying against the printed boxes on a GL weight record, for size reference.

Unfortunately, as soon as we picked her up we noticed something else was wrong: her right eye was dry looking and slightly swollen. It shortly developed a reddish spot. We traipsed back into the vet and he thinks that her eye rubbed against something during surgery or recovery. She had a definite corneal abrasion and would have to be on antibiotic eye drops, in addition to the oral antibiotics and pain meds for the tooth extraction.

The vet\'s e-collarTo make matters worse, the eye was clearly bothering her, and she persisted in trying to scratch it with her hind leg. The vet had to fit her with an e-collar to prevent her from causing further damage. The only e-collar small enough was actually a bird collar. He cut the central opening larger to accommodate the larger neck of a piggy, but it was designed to be very wide and stiff to prevent a bird from removing it. Poor Piglet could hardly walk with it on.

I was concerned about having to use an e-collar – they are bad for pigs and rabbits, for several reasons. First and foremost, both species are coprophages and must eat their cecal droppings in order to complete their normal digestive cycle. With an e-collar, they cannot reach these nutrient-rich pellets, and may quite quickly develop digestive problems such as stasis, because without them digestion does not occur correctly. This is compounded if the e-collar interferes with normal eating, too. This one certainly did, as Piglet could not even lower her head to reach her bowl.


However, we really didn’t have many other options with Piglet. She absolutely had to have something between her eye and her feet. When we got her home, the first thing I did was take off her collar and give her a chance to eat while DKMS stood guard against eye scratching, and I tried to figure out some alternatives to the collar. I figured she would spend all her time scratching, or her gums would hurt too much to eat, and I’d have to re-collar and handfeed her. Boy was I wrong. She went after her bowl of mash like a buzzsaw, actually STANDING in it to lick it up against the far side of the bowl!


At the advice of the good people on Guinea Lynx, we were advised to construct a new e-collar out of interfacing, which is a stiff but flexible fabric material used in sewing. While she was eating, I made one up, and after she’d eaten her fill, I taped it on. She was NOT happy. But at least she could bend her head down, lie down, and reach her bowl, now.

She managed to keep the collar on all night, much to my surprise (these guys are often very inventive at getting a foot inside the neck hole and wiggling out of them). She’d definitely eaten some more mush overnight, too. I took the collar off for about an hour, and although she wasn’t thrilled about breakfast, I did see her eat several cecals and do quite a bit of grooming. She only scratched at her eye once, and it looks slightly less red and swollen, although still very dry. Maybe, if it’s better tonight, she can go a little longer without the collar!

The next few days will be critical for Piglet. We must keep her eye from getting infected, because an infection that close to the surgery in her mouth could spread quite easily and become fatal. We also have to make sure she keeps eating, as the antibiotics and surgery have compounded the eating problems she already had with missing teeth. If we can just get both of these issues resolved, we can work on getting her to eat more whole foods, and that will allow us to try to find a cagemate for her. The ultimate goal of her rescue was to allow this poor, lonely, malnourished girl to have a shot at a normal piggy life. At this point we just have to wait and see whether that will be possible.

Eye - day 3Update: This morning, here eye definitely looks a little better!


Darling Clementine

Posted in Day-to-day at 7:26 am by Jenn

In addition to the absolutely adorable babies that I talked about in my last post, ACR&S has been growing with other intakes looking for homes as well. Our household has become pretty inured to new, itchy, complaining, antibiotic-taking animals coming into our home, in a very strange way. So when I drove to Greensboro on May 31st to pick up our newest intake, it was more of the “same old, same old”. In fact, I was actually pretty happy since it was only an hour drive to pick up this guinea pig (if that gives you any idea how much driving I actually do).

We had been contacted by the kind vet that took Clementine in, asking if we had room for a guinea pig. They’re primarily a dog and cat practice, and like most vets, don’t necessarily have the facilities to care for adoptable animals long term, especially animals which need recovery time. When I called and talked to the vet, he told me that she had a case of mites, but that they were treating her with ivermectin and she was in the middle of a course of antibiotics. I was cheered by this news — this meant that the guinea pig I was picking up was already on her road to recovery, and shouldn’t need a ton of care, just followup on Revolution.

Clementine's Right SideWhen I arrived, the staff was very nice, and loaded her into the carrier for me from their quarantine area. I peeked in, and saw a ball of fluff, with some balding, and didn’t think there would be any problem. They gave me a letter detailing their treatment, and thanked me profusely for agreeing to take her. According to them, she was a surrender from a classroom (which is not unusual, there is a history of classroom animals arriving with severe health problems, so I didn’t find that surprising). He suggested she may have a fungal problem, because the ivermectin treatments had only improved her a bit.

So I loaded up into the car, and headed back home. When I stopped to get gas, I took a moment to open the carrier and visit with our (then unnamed) pig. I was horrified. What I had taken as a mild case of mites was the worst case of mites, fungus, open wounds, and infection I’d ever seen. Her skin felt like a reptile’s because of all the scabs and open wounds. She was almost completely bald on both sides, although the left side looked better because her fur was black and she hadn’t scratched as much. Her face was covered with fungal lesions, and her ears were stiff with scabs, wax, and inflammation. Her chest was an untouchable knot of scabs, scratched and healed, scratched and healed. “Oh, darling”, I said to her, really wanting to cry, and she gave a little sigh and laid her head down on my arm.

I knew I had a big job ahead of me.

On the way home, I was listening to the radio, and they happened to play a clip from the song “O My Darling Clementine”. As soon as it started, I heard a raspy “wheep wheep wheep!” from the carrier. I knew that we hadn’t had a pig named Clementine, and it seemed like she really wanted that to be her name. She was certainly a darling. And so Clementine she remained.

Clementine's Left SideI called and consulted with Susan on the way home to formulate a game plan. Revolution for the mites, Nizoral and Monistat for the fungal lesions, Metacam to help her deal with the pain. I got home, made an emergency run to our grocery store to pick up supplies, and started “operating”. She was so very good for her bath, which must have been terribly painful. Bathing her only uncovered more and more knots of scabs, but I was glad to be able to get her clean.

Unfortunately, she was still apparently carrying quite a large mite population, in spite of her long treatment with ivermectin. Her bath triggered a huge set of seizures as the mites burrowed into her already sensitive skin.

For those that are unfamiliar with guinea pigs, their mite infestations, when left unchecked, can become horrific. They start out itching, much like a dog with fleas. Soon they’re losing hair, and have scratched themselves raw. In the last stages, they start seizing from the extreme pain of their infestation. I cannot count the number of times that people have told me their guinea pigs were “scratching their backs” only for me to inform them (to their horror) that the pigs were really having convulsions from pain. Though I had taken in pigs who were seizing before, never had I seen one as bad off as Clementine.

That night remains one that will stick with me. Anthony and I were frantic to keep her from doing damage to herself. She gashed open several of her scabs while seizing, and I finally held her with both hands and talked softly to her as she seized so that she couldn’t scratch herself (though she did scratch up my hands quite badly). As I was doing this, Anthony leapt into action, and quickly jury-rigged a small “sweater” for her out of a sock, so that she couldn’t scratch herself. This didn’t stay on for very long, but it did give me enough time to pull a dose of pain medication for her and give it to her. I kept her in my lap, holding her and helping stop her bleeding until her pain medication kicked in, and she once again relaxed. Again, she put her head on my arm and gave me this look which seemed to say “It’s been a heck of a day, hasn’t it?”

When she dried, she was treated with Revolution, at the higher ferret dosage of 18 mg/kg (as opposed to the more typical guinea pig dosage of 10 mg/kg). At the recommendation of several people on GuineaLynx, I went out and bought some coconut oil, and massaged it into her skin and ears. She seemed so grateful. With the oil, her skin was no longer scaly and brittle, and when she did itch, she didn’t tear big gashes into her skin because it was supple. Her ears were also flexible again, instead of stiff little flaps of scabs.

Her treatment has continued in this vein. Pain medicine and antibiotics in the AM, and then veggies, come home, more pain medicine, more antibiotics, and then her coconut oil massage. Today we’re adding an oral antifungal so that we can avoid the baths. Once she’s over the worst of it, we may also add a soothing oatmeal bath for her poor skin.

But for Clementine, hope remains. I found it surprising that an animal in so much pain could trust anyone at all, much less the crazy person who makes her smell like a tanning booth once a day, and makes her take the gross medicines. But Clementine is learning to love life. Sunday night, she heard me giving the babies from the previous post some alfalfa hay, and I heard her querulous, uncertain, raspy wheek (sounding for all the world like she had never used it before) lift over the other din in the house, asking for her share. In the end (at least for guinea pigs), where there is hunger, there is hope.

When I name the animals who I take in, I like for their names to have a meaning. Some are silly (Rincewind is named after a cowardly wizard, because he too is a coward), some are superficial (Kassidy, for example, means “curly”), and some are a right-time, right-place type of name (Kismet got her name by showing up exactly on time to catch 3 rides north). Clementine is my first pig to pick her own name. I wondered if she was expressing her love of folk music, for NPR, for documentary radio, or for the singer’s voice. Or if she was trying to state something, or even ask for something. So I looked it up.

Clementine means “mercy”.

Clementine enjoys breakfast.


Baby on Board

Posted in Day-to-day at 12:18 am by Jenn

As mentioned in an earlier blog post, ACR&S is suddenly inundated with baby pigs due to a recent rescue, two of which are probably pregnant, and we will then again be inundated with babies.

Eek!  She sees us!Baby animals of any type are both a joy and a trial. They are small, terribly cute, charming, and they draw people to them. In the case of many of the types of animals we rescue, they are also highly hyperactive, incredibly easily spooked, and can be deceptively docile towards humans. Because of the cute factor, they are also highly sought after, and screening applicants can become difficult.

Many people desire baby rabbits or guinea pigs for their children. They believe that the guinea pig or rabbit growing up with their child will give them a closer bond (much like a puppy, or a cat). In my experience, this is only marginally true. Growing up with a pint sized human in the house does tend to inure rabbits and guinea pigs to the more scary of childhood noises, and helps them learn that the small hairless monsters are roughly as harmless as the big hairless monsters.

However, on a much bigger level, most prey type animals seem to come preprogrammed with their “basic” personalities, much like a dog or a cat. Bringing home a border collie is never going to lend you that couch potato friend that you wanted to watch Scrubs with. Bringing home a “velcro”, cuddly kitten is going to guarantee that you never have the bed to yourself. And, to an extent, the personalities of many small animals are already there, but their babyhood “directives” can make it somewhat hard to evaluate them.

Over the past 6-7 months, I’ve personally dealt with 3 litters (including the ones in our house now). The first litter was an accidental litter from a shelter pig. She and her neutered husband were adopted to an unsuspecting adopter — but husband had not been neutered in time to prevent him from impregnating her one last time. The adopter was an excellent caregiver, and the pigs were spoiled rotten. She contacted us to help place the babies, and we willingly agreed. Those three pigs were Skittles, Hannah, and Fozzie. Skittles came “out of the box”, so to speak, preprogrammed to be bossy to all living things, even the ones providing food. Though she did not like being picked up and would run from “The Hand” (like most guinea pigs), she was fearless in a lap, loved to check things out, wanted to explore. Hannah was a scaled back version of Skittles. Still quite outgoing, but a little more typically “guinea pig”. She was more cautious, explored more timidly. And finally there was Fozzie.

Fozzie was always a timid pig. When brought to the couch, he would run frantically, trying to hide underA tiny baby Fozzie. anything he could find. When caught, he would freeze in place, almost as if saying one final guinea pig prayer because he was so sure he was going to be eaten. He would wail loudly for his cagemates, and was reluctant to be petted. Though he was in a very dedicated foster home who spoiled him senseless, he is still, to this day, a very shy pig. All three of those babies shared the exact same upbringing, yet had totally different personalities. Yet, to a first time pig owner, they may have appeared much the same. All of them ran around the couch, all of them screamed at the top of their lungs, and all of them ran from “The Hand”. However, the girls were running around exploring — Fozzie was running to escape. The girls were interested in talking to anyone that could hear them — Fozzie was screaming for backup.

Because of this, placing babies can become something of a trial. A lot of people who previously had very stringent requirements (for example, specifically not wanting a pig that was prone to nipping, wanting a very outgoing pig, wanting a pig that will be submissive to their established dominant pig, wanting a female rabbit to be spayed and bonded with their male, wanting a “calm” rabbit, etc) quietly forget those requirements while being sucked into the cuteness.

Because of the animal’s basic personality, I don’t really ascribe to the need to have baby animals so that they can bond. In reality, I feel that a much closer bond is made when someone picks an older, settled animal, with an established personality that is what they are looking for, and works diligently to gain that animal’s trust and love. In addition, there is much less of a worry of a child accidentally hurting a much smaller and easily spooked baby. Even in our household, baby animals are handled in containers such as baskets, because the smallest things will sometimes set them off and they’ll go skittering off laps, out of hands, and into things.

Rabbits, and their wretchedly adorable babies also pose much of the same problem. Baby rabbits instinctually snuggle. When they feed, they snuggle up to mom. That promises safety, food, and heat. Their instincts are to be snuggly, basically. Many people fall in love with this adorable, tiny, loving animal.

8-9 months later, they are living with an animal that scratches and nips them when they try to pick it up, may spray urine and defecate on floors, even if previously litter trained, may become aggressive in the cage, growling and boxing at hands, and then become destructive, destroying carpets, baseboards, and furniture. It may sound like living with a rabbit is hellish, but all of these behaviors are easily managed by spaying or neutering your pet rabbit, and with careful supervision and “bunny proofing” — much like owning a puppy or a kitten.

Yet, so many people are so startled and overwhelmed by this change to their little cuddly friends that bunny ends up looking for a new home. They can’t let bunny out any more because of it’s aggressive tendencies and destructive behavior, and it obviously becomes a problem letting a child interact with said bunny, and now bunny “doesn’t get enough attention” and is looking for a new home. Primarily for the crime of being a rabbit.

This problem is further compounded by the fact that many people end up with their first rabbit from sources which are not reputable, and may not fill them in on the ins and outs of owning a house rabbit. I was personally told by a “reputable breeder” that I recently met that rabbits do not make good house pets, and cannot be kept in the house because they’ll destroy everything and pee everywhere. Pet stores do not routinely advise customers that rabbits should be spayed and neutered.

In the end, the purpose is not to deter anyone from adopting a baby animal if they able to provide for that animal’s needs, but to look at the situation with open eyes, and make a decision based on what that animal will grow up to be, and how that animal will fit into the family for the next 5-10 years, not for the next 6 months.


Now Offering a Limited Number of Dogs for Adoption

Posted in Day-to-day at 1:44 am by ACR&S

Although up to this point we have specialized in small animals such as guinea pigs and rabbits, ACR&S was incorporated first and foremost to assist other organizations in their various missions to help homeless animals.

Due to several recent rescue shutdowns, we have been approached by dedicated individuals, most of whom have years of leadership experience in rescue, but whose expertise is primarily with dogs. ACR&S is now working with them to help them rescue and place a very limited number of dogs under the ACR&S umbrella.

These dogs are almost exclusively 11th hour shelter pulls, and we expect to offer less than five dogs at a time depending on the working burden to each foster parent. The ACR&S Dog Team will continue to provide the exeptional rescue experience for which ACR&S has become known: extensive pre-adoption health care, screening of adopters according to strict adoption criteria, lifetime post-adoption education and mentoring, and a lifetime return policy/Sanctuary option for adopted animals. You can view our current list of adoptable dogs and access the dog adoption application here. For more information on the policies and procedures of the Dog Team, or for information on becoming a Dog Team foster home, please email dogs@allcreaturesrescue.org.

ACR&S still do NOT take owner surrenders of dogs, nor are we able to assist with shelter dog pulls on a large scale, although we will be happy to refer you to local dog-specific rescues who can be of more assistance with these matters.

Currently we have two adoptable dogs, both rescues from the Orange County SPCA:

Chewy is a 6-year-old long haired dachshund. He is a sweet boy who is still a little confused from all of the change that has happened in his life this week, but is adjusting well and loves to give kisses. He gets along well with other dogs, but has never been around children, and would therefore most likely do best in an adult-only home. He appears to have some stiffness in his back hips/legs when it’s chilly outside and will likely have a touch of arthritis in the future. He may eventually need a maintenance arthritis medication as he gets older. Chewy is neutered, fully vaccinated and microchipped.

Kaley is a 4-year-old sweetie who appears to be a mix between a small terrier and either a Lhasa or a Shih Tzu. She came into the shelter looking like a skeleton, missing tons of hair, and with badly irritated skin. From first glance, she appeared to be extremely old, but a health exam showed her to be only around 4 years of age, and the cause of her appearance was simply starvation and severe neglect.

Despite obviously having quite a rough start to life, this poor little thing is as friendly as can be and is gaining weight and personality by the day. She is not yet spayed, but will be before adoption. We are waiting until she has gained enough weight to undergo the surgery safely. We are, however, taking applications immediately.

If you would like to adopt either Chewie or Kaley, please fill out our online application form found here.


Health updates

Posted in Day-to-day, Medical at 4:23 am by ACR&S

First, congratulations to our very own Dr Jhondra Funk-Keenan, long time volunteer and foster parent – she has won the 2008 Oxbow Veterinary Medicine Scholarship! We are very proud that Oxbow has formally recognized Jhondra’s skills and commitment to exotic animal medicine.

So a few health updates:

Blimpie went to the vet Monday for eye damage. He got a big piece of hay stuck in there (possibly as long as 12 hours before I saw it) and he scratched his cornea. He’s on medicated eye cream and looks much better.

Brownie, who had a broken tooth a few weeks back, has grown the tooth back but the four incisors are not meeting adequately. He goes back to the vet for another trim Monday. His weight is still way up, fortunately.

The other toothless pig Piglet had to go back in to the vet this past Monday to have her teeth trimmed again too. She has unfortunately stopped eating as many veggies, although she can now devour an orange slice right down to the rind with just her bottom incisors! She still picks at her alfalfa hay, but has plateaued at about 630g, which is far lower than I am happy with.

It was only three weeks between her first and second tooth trims. We have to make the decision about whether to extract her teeth by the time she’s due for her next trim. I’m going to be posting this question to GL to see whether anyone over there has any thoughts.

Pudge has made a surprisingly complete recovery from his skin condition. We still never got a real diagnosis or any firm confirmation on what caused this (nor on how we fixed it). Here’s a photo progression:

February 16: no symptoms yet. We took him to the vet for the initial hair loss just about a week later.

Pudge, 2/16/08

March 25: he had been sick for about a month and had almost complete hair loss on his sides and hindquarters.

Pudge, 3/25/08

April 3: Most of the original bald spots are showing hair regrowth, but he still had that scaly exudate covering patches on his back, butt, and cheeks. As that was removed (via scrubbing and medicated shampoos), those patches went bald.

Pudge, 4/3/08

Pudge, 4/3/08

Pudge, 4/3/08

April 23: Almost complete recovery, with just small thin spots. He does still have some scaly areas on his left cheek which I am working on. No apparent recurrence in the areas which have already healed.

Pudge, 4/23/08

Pudge, 4/23/08

I’m really not satisfied with not knowing what caused this, because it makes me feel like I can’t prevent a recurrence. But, as the prophet says, you can’t always get what you want.

We also did a very brief introduction between Pudge and Piglet. Unfortunately it didn’t go all that great. Pudge was more interested in defending the veggies from her perceived advances. Dummy. We’re going to keep trying – maybe once he realizes he’ll still have plenty of food, he’ll stop chattering at her.


Little Pig and her chinny-chin-chin

Posted in Day-to-day, Medical at 12:07 am by ACR&S

Three words (plus a conjunction) on the recent hiatus: taxes and kidney stones. What a week.

On Friday the 4th we got a call from our vet: could we possibly take in a special needs guinea pig? The owners brought her in for excessive drooling: an examination revealed she had no upper incisors – not just broken, but missing. She was supposedly three years old, but the owners could not afford the vetcare to treat or rehabilitate her, so they surrendered her. The vets and staff thought she was darling and couldn’t bear to just euthanize her.Even after seven years in rescue, you can still be shocked. Absolutely none of this made sense to me. How could she be totally missing her incisors? It can occur as a birth defect, for example in lethal whites, but if that was the case, how could she have made it to 3 years old with a non specialist owner and no previous vet care?

I went in expecting the vet to be wrong about the incisors, and the owner to be wrong about the age. Both were proven right.

PigletThis is the Piglet. She was originally named Cha-cha, which is too goofy even for me. We were going to call her Gummi Bear but that was sort of mean.

She’s incredibly underweight as the result of weeks or months of oral pain and difficulty – 608 grams on intake. Most of our sows are easily over 900, even the smaller ones. She’s very petite as well – easily fits in the palm of my hand. But she’s not just a dainty pig – you can feel the frailty that only comes with starvation.

Her nails do look like the nails of a 2-3 year old pig. She’s definitely not under a year old, which I would have guessed based on her size. I managed to talk to her owner – she had only ever eaten pellets, with occasional romaine and carrots, and vitamin C drops in the water. No hay, ever. She lived in a petstore cage, one of the medium-sized ones, with carefresh bedding. The owner confirmed that at one point she definitely did have upper incisors, this was not congenital.

No teefsThe veterinary exam showed the upper incisors to be missing, or at least, broken beneath the gumline. In this picture (taken after all her dental work) you can see a pink flap of supportive gum tissue which is normally behind the upper incisors. There was no sign of infection or swelling in the gums, and no obvious “holes”, all of which usually happens in broken teeth. Her lower incisors were so overgrown that her mouth could not close completely, and she had spurs and malocclusions on all her molar teeth, causing sores in her cheeks and tongue.

They sedated her to trim down the lowers and to plane the spurs off the molars. I asked them to also do an X-ray to verify whether the teeth were actually missing (including the roots) or just broken with an odd presentation. There are no roots. The teeth are actually completely missing.

You can also see in that picture that they shaved her chin, which was caked with dried saliva – she has a reverse goatee now.

According to Guinea Lynx, tooth loss can be caused by vitamin C deficiency. I think this is the most likely cause. The vitamin C in both water drops and in poor quality pellets degrades too quickly to provide adequate amounts like dietary C does. Occasional supplementation with romaine was simply not enough. C deficiency could also explain her small size; her growth overall was stunted.

Our primary goal was to put some weight on her. If we could keep her from dying of malnutrition, she might learn to eat without uppers and be able to live a fairly normal life, except for needing frequent trims on the lowers. We did assisted feeding using Critical Care, which Piglet took with gusto. She put on about 15 grams in the first two days; a very good sign that there was hope for her.

The next step was to see if she would eat at all on her own. Pigs who have lost their front teeth eventually learn to pull food into the mouth and chew it primarily with the molars. Could she learn to do this? We were also faced with the problem that she’d previously had a very limited diet; pigs tend to have neophobia about novel foods and it’s often difficult to tempt them into trying anything they aren’t familiar with or haven’t seen another pig eating.

Piglet’s dinnerSo twice a day, we feed her a large bowl of Critical Care mixed with applesauce, and a huge bowl of of greens cut into tiny 1/4″ pieces (she has shown a preference for romaine, kale, and fancy baby herb salad mix). She also gets a bowl with a variety of other fruits and veggies, cut up small, but all of them are hit or miss. She’s shown no interest in watermelon, apple, carrot or pepper; but loves tomatoes. Other greens like cilantro, basil, wheatgrass, and parsley have also been rejected. We continue to offer all of these veggies in rotation, just in case she changes her mind about any of them. She likes gumming a slice of orange, although mostly I think she’s licking at the juice rather than ingesting any of the pulp.

We’ve also been offering two types of hay, alfalfa and bluegrass. In her situation, the alfalfa is unlikely to do any damage. Fortunately, she loves it! She won’t eat the stems yet, but I crumple it up so all the tiny leaves fall off, and she eats them. I’m also offering the crumbles from the bottom of the bluegrass bag, which are short enough for her to eat, but I haven’t seen her making any great inroads into them.

Possibly because of the Critical Care, she has not shown much interest in her pellets, only eating one or two small pellets a day. The CC is much tastier and easier to gum. But in the nearly two weeks that we’ve had her, she’s gone from 608 g to 667. That’s an excellent recovery rate.

The next step, this weekend, will be to transition her from the Critical Care mash to a mash made with ground pellets. Once she’s eating the mashed pellets, it’s much more likely that she’ll eat the hard pellets as well – incisors are not used in pellet eating anyhow. We also need to keep assessing her for oral health; this diet is not the most conducive to normal tooth wear patterns. She goes back in Monday for a follow up dental and possibly re-trimming of her lower incisors.

We are also going to try to pair her with a companion in the coming days. I’m thinking about Pudgie, who is still arthritic, but who has recovered wonderfully from his bizarre skin condition. Pics of him will come next week!


Guest Post: Dr. StrangeRescuer or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pain.

Posted in Day-to-day, Philosophy at 12:27 am by ACR&S

As most of the readers of this blog know, ACR&S is based in NC, but I’m up in Wisconsin. I do the email/website/admin stuff and the Sanctuary work, but the greater burden of daily rescue work down in NC is done by the Amazing Jenn. She joined us first as a random stranger interested in pigs, then as a foster home/adopter, and is now the boss of everything in NC.

Jenn’s been flying solo for just over a year now, and recently I asked her how she was handling all of it. This is what she said:

All the traveling is kind of a pain in the ass — but on the other hand, I think it’s good to be there at the home to let the pigs settle in. It’s amazing how people can sound great on paper, and look great in pictures, and then you get there and they’re feeding a seed mix. Or they’re just doing something really stupid because they didn’t have someone to tell them any different. On the other hand, I feel we’re succeeding because 90% of our adoptive homes, even with the really stupid added in, are probably better than where the pigs would end up if left in the shelter, since we have screened these folks to a degree and educated them somewhat.

I do feel like I’ve become more cynical. I feel like what we’re aiming for is not so much perfect care, but just somebody that gives a damn and will try their best. More and more, I think we are just trying to buy a good death. Someone who doesn’t let the pig die after a week of starvation because they didn’t know pigs went to the vet, but who will let them die at the vet, or after having had a course of antibiotics and Critical Care. I haven’t lost belief that good husbandry is important, because I do think everything deserves as optimal a life as possible… but on the other hand, GL is full of people giving near optimal husbandry and still beset with bladder stones, heart problems, etc.

The worst part of the traveling is the money. Gas is expensive. I would love to get a mountain person and a beach person to anchor rescue branches in that area. I dread driving to Charlotte tomorrow to pull that sow. Three hours one way. Yeesh. But that’s about the worst of it. On the other hand, I LOVE driving to Virginia. I love the Bojangles’ restaurant that looks like a houseboat. I like meeting pig people, overall. Most are pretty nice. I really liked meeting Vicki at Cave Spring, she’s super-nice, and very unassuming. And her pigs are always ridiculously friendly. And potato shaped.

Probably the toughest part is being the only rodent person down here. People really thinks I’m silly when I insist on quarantines for animals, vet checks, or insist on helping people bond two pigs, etc. Dog and cat people just seem to have it easier. But cavy adopters are ridiculous, and flip out at the least bit of rumbling. Good thing they don’t have big pigs: Penny [head of the local pot belly pig rescue, and an ACR&S foster parent] says they just have to let them fight until they stop, and then go stitch both of them up.

Long rambling short, the work is simultaneously very rewarding (I left Popcorn and Peanut’s adoption and sat in the car and cried because it was such a good home), and the most depressing thing I’ve ever been involved with (I left the home of one surrender where the children *cheered* as their shit-caked, starving, mite-infested pigs left, and had to pull over and cry there, too).

A huge gold star and a big hug to Jenn for shouldering this incredible burden. Anyone who wants to contribute some gas money or Bojangles’ gift certificates, it would be much appreciated!


Still No Friday Post

Posted in Day-to-day, Memorials at 3:18 pm by ACR&S

Scrambling to write a grant application that I found out about on Tuesday, and it’s due Monday. Maybe next week!

I got my wish, though – just after I wrote my last blog post, I found Cinnamon had died in her sleep. Sweet dreams, little girl.

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