The oldest animal in my house is KiWeed, a 26 year old male cockatiel. He was surrendered to me in 2000, before I was really even an official rescue, due to aggression and biting. He had significant damage to the right side of his head, including a misshapen nare and a cataract in his eye, probably due to being attacked by a cat in his youth. He ended up being a funny, pleasant bird, whose primary vice is attacking poking fingers (he has no problems with fingers as long as they are shaped like perches, and he has no problems with being kissed).
KiWeed is pushing the upper end of a normal cockatiel lifespan, so when he gets sick we always expect the worst. On Saturday, when I went in to wake him up, I noticed that his bad eye was watering and he was repeatedly rubbing that side of his face. With Chester’s eye problem fresh on my mind, I rushed KiWeed to the emergency vet, expecting that his old injuries were finally going to cause him to lose his eye or his life. All sorts of probabilities ran through my mind – tumor, infection, traumatic injury, you name it. Three hours and$300 later, we had our diagnosis:
A really big booger.
That’s right, KiWeed had nothing more than a stuffy nose (admittedly, probably due to a tiny fleck of food getting in there) and it was bothering him enough to cause the eye watering and the face rubbing. The vet flushed out the booger with saline, and we went on our merry way with no further difficulties.
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.
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:
- they were both on the second floor, which is unusual as they prefer the ground floor
- 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.
The following is an old story which has never before been recorded, back from the days when I used to be involved in cat adoption.
I don’t work with cats any more. Stories like this are the reason for that.
Several years ago, I was a foster home for a cat rescue group. I fell into it by accident (that’s another tale for another time), but at one point I had six young kittens living with me.
After a couple of weeks, the kittens got big enough that they started roaming the house instead of staying nicely in their nest box. In general, this wasn’t a problem – we kept the door to the office and bedroom closed, so they never bothered our things or our birds. However, it became a problem once the kittens had enough energy to get up and play during the night, and decided that the Humans were great fun, and that it was Not Acceptable that we spend 8 hours at a stretch lying down quietly in the dark. Three AM is the best part of the day, you guys are missing it!
The kittens started by having early morning wrasslin’ matches right outside the bedroom door. When they realized that this caused us to get up and open the door and make loud noises at them, they started playing with the door, banging it and scratching at it and meowing loudly because the opening at the bottom was only big enough for a paw or nose and not a whole kitten. We blockaded the hallway with an up-ended kitchen table – and six 4-month old kittens quickly learned that they could leap about twelve times their own height to reach the door despite us. For about three days we were both getting up for work by 4am, because that’s when the kittens absolutely refused to let us sleep any longer.
The fourth day, by accident, I hit on the perfect solution to midnight kitten madness.
I had tried to block off the door itself by sticking the vacuum in front of it – outside the bedroom – under the assumption that the kittens, who disliked the vacuum, wouldn’t climb all over their nemesis to reach the door. Didn’t work. Bracing against the door, they could more easily attack the cords and hose, which made great, loud fun! If I got up and turned on the vacuum for a moment, they’d run off, but would be back as soon as I closed the door again.
Then I realized that there was a wall outlet within easy reach of the bed, and the vacuum cord could reach under the door and all the way across the room. So I went to sleep with the vacuum turned on, but unplugged, and the cord draped over the nightstand.
That morning, when the kittens started their matins, I half-awoke, grabbed the cord, and plugged it into the wall socket for just a second:
Under the vacuum noise, I heard a hailstorm of twenty-four little kitten paws tearing away down the hallway. Then, silence. After a moment, a tentative miao? was distantly heard from the vicinity of the kitchen.
Kittens can be persistent, but they can also be very fast learners. They soon understood that their presence near my bedroom door would awaken a Big Growly Monster instead of a person who could operate a can opener, and we were able to sleep through the night.
It wasn’t the nicest thing I had ever done, but it meant I could go back to sleep. I made peace with my demons,and I’d certainly recommend this strategy to anyone with a kitten infestation.
Both branches of ACR&S – the main adoption branch in NC, and the Sanctuary branch in WI – are each fortunate to be located very close to a major vet school. Ever since ACR&S’ inception, I have loved vet schools and loved working with them on rescue projects whenever possible. This past week, ACR&S and the Wisconsin Guinea Pig Rescue (WGPR) collaborated with the vet school at UW-Madison on a opthalmology clinic for exotics. This was a unique opportunity both for the two rescues, as well as for the vet students who participated.
We were approached by one of the coordinators, asking if our guinea pigs and rabbits could donate their time for eye exams. Normally, these clinics involve laboratory animals, all of whom are young, healthy, and identical. The laboratory animals are typically bought just for the clinic, and then euthanized for use in the cadaver labs. By working with rescues, the vet school was able to avoid unnecessary euthanasia, as well as to give the students the rare chance to examine animals across the spectrum; old and young, health and with medical conditions.
Between ACR&S and WGPR, we were able to present the students with 12 guinea pigs and 7 rabbits to examine, ranging from 2-12 years in age. The guinea pigs ranged from healthy animals to those with such various conditions as pea eye, cataracts, and entropian eyelids. The rabbits included healthy eyes, conditions such as chalazions and cataracts, and eyes of different colors (pink and blue in addition to the normal dark brown!).
After the exam, one of the vet professors told us this was the first time some of these students had done an exam on guinea pigs. They just don’t have any opportunity for exotics clinics in the typical “track” of classes. The variety of eyes and conditions allowed the students to practice with a wide range of instruments and challenged them to make diagnoses rather than just observe healthy eyes. We also benefited – it would have been impossible for us to pay for specialty clinic opthalmology exams for 19 animals!
ACR&S was very grateful for this opportunity. All of these animals in our Sanctuary owe their lives to vets who have donated time and experience, and a few hours of non-invasive examination is the least we can do to help pay it back to the younger generation of vets. I love the idea that just maybe, working with a rescue will motivate a vet student to become involved in rescue later in life, or that seeing the differences in guinea pigs and rabbits will engage a student to become an exotics vet rather than taking the usual cat/dog track. In addition, it’s good to know that we saved the lives of 20 lab animals who would have otherwise have to have been used for this lab.
Most vet schools are eager to work with rescues, and the benefits are tangible. I strongly recommend such a partnership to any rescue.
Now on to the pictures! We weren’t able to take photos of the exams themselves, since eye exams are performed in the dark (obviously!), but I got a couple of interesting shots I wanted to share with you.
I’m often accused of driving a Tardis, and several folks were skeptical when I reported I would be carrying myself, the president of WIGPR, and 13 carriers in a Toyota Corolla. Well, here’s the proof:
Six crates… Nine crates… Eleven crates!
Plenty of room left over for the two crates from WIGPR, plus, I can still see out the mirror!
Roo was a little concerned about why he was in this box…
But most of the guinea pigs were more concerned with eating breakfast.
Here’s all the crates unloaded. 19 animals in 13 crates!
A shot of the lab room, showing some of the interesting decor.
The school lobby.
Random painting in the hallway of doctor parrots.
Several people have asked me to post more about being in Wisconsin. I’m hesitant to use this as a personal blog – we have plenty to say about the animals without getting off topic.
I will mention just a couple of things this time. First, we’ve had some bad weather up here recently: tornadoes, torrential rain, thunderstorms driving destructive winds and hail. The joke “nine months of winter, three months of bad weather” was not a joke this year. Fortunately, apart from one journey into the basement due to the local tornado alarm going off, I haven’t much been affected. I did get this shot of a mudslide about to come into my lane on the highway.
Other than that, the most other interesting thing I’ve seen up here is, apparently the local plumber is offering the deal of a lifetime: SEVEN houses on my street threw out toilets last week. I only captured five of them.
So yeah, that’s why I don’t post about Wisconsin, much.
… to keep from screaming. Sometimes a little off-color humor helps you make it through the rough patches.
Up in WI, the other day we found out that one of the local GL regulars just lost her last piggy. It was really sad; she’s a fantastic piggy mom and loved Blackberry like crazy. But she made a very generous donation of supplies to WIGPR, so Blackberry’s memory will live on with all the piggies her donation helps support.
Among the supplies was this thing:
Part of me reeeeeeeally wants to keep it; the other part knows I do NOT need another dust collector in my house, especially one with crazy eyes that might come to life and start stalking me in the middle of the night. It’s going to have to go to the WIGPR with the rest of the stuff.
We’re taking in a sow from Char-Meck animal control this week. She’s obese, possibly ill, and has bumblefoot. But if we can get her healthy, she’ll be going to one of our great repeat adopters out in Asheville, which is about the best happy ending any piggy could ask for.
Apparently she’s so rotund that we might have to check her for pillbugs:
Pudgie had a near-death experience on Tuesday. He seemed to be feeling much worse – dragging his hind legs and not really willing to move for his treats. We took him to the vet once again, fully expecting the vet to recommend euthanasia. But the vet didn’t feel like Pudge was ready to give up. Instead, we’re trying two more treatments – a new pain medication in addition to his Metacam, and a different topical shampoo to try and directly relieve his skin discomfort. So he got to come home after all.
He’s not as eager to move around as he was a week ago, but he’s definitely still got attitude and appetite – he didn’t want to get up to get his orange, so instead he whined and bitched at us till we put it right in his cuddle cup with him:
Finally, a note on Spring in Wisconsin. It’s pretty nasty. There’s no green growth yet, so everything’s grey and brown. The melting snow reveals a lot of ugliness and unpleasantness: dirt and garbage (the street sweepers can’t operate on ice), months-old frozen deer carcasses, ruts in the grass where cars ran off the road during snowstorms.
Among the worst things I’ve seen revealed by the snowmelt:
Yes, that’s a pissing toddler Brent Favre and a horrified toddler GB cheerleader. Seriously, Wisconsin, WTF.