More Mini-Sanctuary

Posted in Sanctuary Spotlight at 1:42 pm by Jenn

The next part of the “mini” Sanctuary in Morrisville are two of the boys belonging to the Jacksonville 48. I’ll leave the entirety of the Jacksonville Saga to Susan to tell, as it is largely her story, but I did end up with two of the boys from that group. Basically, a backyard breeder duped a fellow rescue into believing that they were a rescue and left her with 48 sick half-dead pigs.

I volunteered to foster, and I ended up with #20 (who became Picadilly) and #21 (who became Hobo).

One of Hobo\'s earliest intake pictures.Hobo’s tale is an illustrious one filled with humping and yearning after guinea pig women.  He was one of the less spectacularly marked of the 48, so Susan paired with him Picadilly (an agouti satin) to help move him into a home. He got his name because of his ragged ears… we speculate that this breeder must have crammed pig after pig on top of each other and that there must have been nearly constant fighting. At his intake, he was probably only 8-9 weeks old.

They fostered with me for a good six months without any solid adoption leads, and Christmas quickly approached. They got stockings, and they got presents, and we realized that it was not in us to make the two of them go elsewhere. Shortly after Christmas 2005, Hobo’s problems began.

It started out with a scream in the night. He was screaming painfully while urinating, and was obviously in distress. He was rushed to the our current rescue vet immediately the next morning. A round of x-rays, intensive care, urinalysis, and other diagnostics revealed…. nothing. He was absolutely completely healthy. Lacking any other option, he was given a round of antibiotics and sent home.

The problem seemed to go away, but another problem had arisen. Having been separated from Picadilly, Hobo would no longer accept him. After several days of trying to rebond the two, it was given up, and Picadilly moved in with my first two guinea pigs, Gizmo and Mogwai.

A couple of weeks later, the problems resurfaced, and we went back to the vet, came back with more Critical Care (which is really good stuff, keep some in your house, seriously), more fluids, more Reglan, and more antibiotics. After a good two weeks of fighting tooth and nail to feed this poor pig (who was actually quite obnoxious when it came to being fed), I finally found the cause of the problem. He had a lump in his left testicle.

Hobo has a bad life.So back to the vet, and Hobo was neutered to remove the lump, which turned out to be a tumor surrounding an abscess. Then the fun began. Hobo abscessed a total of 3 times for a total of 8 weeks of antibiotics. He also rejected the suturing materials, which I discovered one horrifying morning when I found a small plastic string poking out of one of his surgical wounds. This was not due to the vet, who has performed many successful neuters for us before. Hobo is a genetic Frankenstein.

Finally, we healed him, and integrated him in with two spayed sows adopted for the purpose of being his friends, Lethe and Mnemosyne. It was decided that he was never really going to be a good candidate for adoption, given his history of aggression to males, and his extreme allergies to surgical materials, AND the fact that at the age of 1 year, he had already had a tumor removed. So he stayed with me.

Since then, Hobo has gone into stasis 6 times. He has had 3 sets of x-rays, and 4 urinalysises. He has also had 3 penis infections, and tends to produce grit when dehydrated. Because of his aggressive obnoxiousness, he has had 2 abscesses removed. We finally figured out that he was pinning the girls inside of pigloos and then marking them constantly until they finally bit him to escape. We removed the pigloos. Today, Hobo is 3, and he has already had more surgeries than many other elderly pigs.

Picadilly, his counterpart, has had less problems, but is in worse shape.

Pica (as he’s known) is a satin pig. Satin is a coat type on guinea pigs (much like teddy pigs, who have curly fur, or peruvians, who have long fur). The hair shafts of a satin guinea pig are hollow, which makes the pig especially “shiny”. Unfortunately, the price of having a pretty, shiny pig is an unpleasant death for them, in many cases. The gene which causes pigs to have these hollow hairs is very frequently accompanied by a disorder known as osteodystrophy. When a guinea pig has osteodystrophy, their bones begin to lose calcium. Their joints can “collect” this calcium, and become thickened, and it is often painful for them to walk and/or eat.

At one year of age, Picadilly began showing symptoms of osteodystrophy. It has progressively worsened, but he is now managed with pain medication and calcium supplements. Today, Pica lives in relative happiness with the addition of daily pain medication. Without his medication, he painfully hops, and becomes lethargic, refusing to move from his cuddle cup, even for his favorite foods.

Many intentional breeders, even today, deny that their guinea pigs have problems with osteodystrophy, yet none that I have talked to do baseline x-rays or screen for it. I noticed Picadilly’s hopping one winter afternoon. At that point, he showed no signs of weight loss, and was still speeding around with excitement after food. But I knew he was a satin, and I knew what the hopping was a portent of. It wasn’t until nearly another year later that he began showing severe painful symptoms. Had I not already had my baseline x-ray, I wouldn’t have thought it was osteodystrophy. But comparisons showed severe bone loss.

Very limited studies have been done because of the specialty nature of both the disease and the species it occurs in, but what limited research that is available points to extremely high statistical occurrence of this disorder in satin guinea pigs. Even sadder, at least as his adopted mom, is the fact that Picadilly is such a sweet guinea pig. He has the personality of a feather bed, and gets along with everyone. He and Mogwai truly love each other, and they have ever been tolerant of newcomers. It’s heartbreaking to watch such a kind animal going through such suffering, and knowing that there is no end to it. Not only is there no end to it, but that the suffering was purposefully produced, just so that someone could have a pretty shiny guinea pig.


The miniature sanctuary

Posted in Sanctuary Spotlight at 12:12 pm by ACR&S

Although the main sanctuary of ACR&S is up in Wisconsin, I do have several animals classed as Sanctuary living with me in North Carolina. They were adopted into my household because they were unadoptable, and because I am a sucker and couldn’t let them leave. Although these animals are officially part of ACR&S, as part of sanctuary care I provide them with all of their food and vet care to ease their burden on the rescue.

I have a total of 4 guinea pigs, and 2 rats that are classed as sanctuary residents due to their long term health or behavioral problems. The rats were my most recent addition, after the last time I officially said “no more ‘keeper’ animals”. (You would be surprised how few times “no more animals” actually means “no more until the next one that has nowhere to go”. Or maybe not.)

Phedre entered my life shortly before Christmas 2007. She had a pretty typical story for a rat. Someone had bought her from Petco to feed to their snake. Unfortunately for that person, she was way smarter than they were, and escaped the snake, and then the tank, and ran amok in their house for a couple of weeks.

When she was inevitably captured, they decided to take her back to the Petco and chuck her back into the bin with all the other rats. Fortunately for her, one of our volunteers overheard the saga at work, and agreed to take her (thinking that the rescue could find her a home once she was rehabbed a bit).

Unfortunately for Phedre she had (like most pet store rodents) a rather severe respiratory infection that had raged untreated while she was fending for herself in their house. Once our volunteer got her, she was immediately put on antibiotics. Because of this, she stayed at my house during the Christmas holiday so I could medicate her. That’s always how they get you.

The second night she was there, I headed to the bathroom to medicate her, and then realized I had forgotten to bring the syringe. I plopped her down in the tub to run and explore while I went to fetch it, and she stood on her back legs, reached for me, and let out a heart-rending cry. I knew she wouldn’t be able to leave my house.

Unfortunately for poor Phedre, her respiratory infection was so severe and had gone untreated for so long that it scarred her lungs, and now she permenantly wheezes. She gets a steroid/bronchiodialattor combination daily to help her breathe more easily, but we knew it would be nearly impossible to find a home who would buy her medication, especially since she was already around a year old by the time we exhausted our supply of antibiotic treatments. Rats with lung scarring also typically don’t live as long as ‘normal’ rats. Their expected lifespan is 1.5-2 years, in general, instead of the longer 2-3 years for a healthy rat.

So she did get to stay with me. Typical rats are very effusive and friendly. They like human interaction, and most enjoy being held and played with. Because of her early days, Phedre is afraid to be out of her cage. She’ll cower in your arms until she can return, and actively tries to climb back in if you take her out. She shakes in fear at being let loose on a couch, and ignores all food until she can go back to her safe place.

OM NOM NOMBut she is still a rat, and she needed a companion. Rats are incredibly social creatures, and regardless of how much love, attention, and spoiling she received, one of her own kind to snuggle with, lay on, and share food with was essential. It took several months to find her a companion, but we did finally find a person doing private rehabilitation of rats, and I adopted Cecilie to live with Phedre.

Cecilie is about as opposite to Phedre as day is to night. Phedre is calm (by neccesity, with her poor breathing), demure, and careful. She grooms herself extensively, and makes sure that every single hair is in the correct position. Cecilie stampedes around like a bull, often falls into her food, and is frequently stained odd colors by the day’s treats. But they do love each other, and they’re frequently found curled up in a big rat ball snoring away. They follow each other everywhere, and Cecilie is helping Phedre to become more outgoing, and enjoy her treats (as seen to the left).


It’s not all bad

Posted in Memorials, Sanctuary Spotlight at 2:45 am by ACR&S

We had to euthanize Dora and Daphne last Friday. These are two rats who were pulled from the OCAS last summer. They had persistent illnesses and ended up never leaving foster care.

Sometimes it certainly seems like there’s more bad days than good in rescue. By and large that’s true – by the very nature of what we do, we see more negatives than positives. But overall, the good outweighs the bad – when that changes, you usually get out of rescue.

Partly, you keep the good on top because you’re constantly trying to make good out of the bad. Fr’instance: although Cinnamon died of lymphosarcoma last Monday, we were able to let the Pathology Club at the UW-Madison vet school use her body for a teaching session led by none other than Dr Steinberg, the author of the lymphoma article I cited a few weeks back. Hopefully some of the students will get interested in guinea pig medicine and down the road we’ll have a few new vets!

Sometimes the good is unexpected: This weekend our NC coordinator Jenn did a “Bunny Party” for a 5 year old girl who is rabbit crazy. The mom is one of those rare and wonderful people who are teaching all the right lessons at the right time. She knows that a child that age isn’t a good match for a bunny, but wanted to direct her daughter’s fascination into appropriate channels. So she arranged a bunny themed party where all the kids played HRS-inspired learning games, and Jenn visited with one of our adopted bunnies, Doc, for some supervised real-bunny interaction. Jenn was surprised at how quickly the birthday girl started repeating the important messages: don’t pick up bunnies to hold them, just pet them on the ground, etc. Personally, I wasn’t surprised at all. With a parent modeling the right behaviors that way, this girl is bound to be a perfect future adopter!

We also can make good by taking pleasure in what we do all the time. We had the good fortune to bring in two new piggies, one as a pet pig and one as a new Sanctuary resident. Honi came to us in the middle of February. She was going to make up a triple with our pet pigs Stinky and Cinnamon.

HoniHoni was an owner surrender to the WI-GPR. She had lived for over two years in a 12″x12″ rubbermaid container. Occasionally, she was let out to run around on the floor with the owner’s other pigs, allowing her to get pregnant. It was after the second pregnancy that she was surrendered.

Due to her confinement and her poor diet, Honi developed into a soft, blobby little pig. She feels like she’s made out of soap suds and would just ooze right out of your hands. She’s not at all athletic and doesn’t have the muscles for the cage sprinting that some of our piggies have. However, her activity level has definitely gone up since meeting Stinky! She also had a heart condition, and is on a permanent blood pressure medication to help this.

Honi & StinkyHoni & CinnamonStinky was immediately in love (both with Honi, and with the idea of having two girlfriends), but Cinnamon, who was just starting to show her lymphoma, wasn’t so sure.

Honi and Stinky are alone again, but hopefully we’ll find another needy girl and finally be able to get them back into a triple. But it’s really wonderful to see her blossoming and running and playing with Stinky. Her 3’x7′ is a far cry from that pathetic little box she spent her last two years in.

Our new Sanctuary resident is a little intact boar named Freddie. He was being advertised on Craigslist – “Free pig with aquarium”. Apparently that owner got him from Craigslist too, along with the same aquarium, but now that her son had learned to walk, she was afraid he’d stick his fingers in the aquarium and get bitten. Apparently a lid was a foreign concept. So we expect that Freddie is probably 3 or so yeas old, and he has lived all his life in an aquarium.

For all this, he’s in surprisingly good shape. He had a bit of an URI when he came in, but that was treated by WI-GPR before he came to us. He was put in a side-by-side cage with two other single boars, and this weekend, we introduced them. Freddie & CoThey get along surprisingly well! Gonzo, there in the back, is another intact male, and Aragorn (hogging the water bottle) is a neutered male, and we expected some problems because both have always been very dominant, and we had no idea how Freddie would react. However, he was ecstatic to finally have a friend. He sleeps and eates very close to Gonzo. Also surprisingly, Gonzo has ended up on the bottom of the pecking order – he never threatens or challenges anyone, and if challenged, always backs down. It’s Aragorn who has turned out to be the big cheese. Freddie mostly defers to him, but Aragorn is always trying to remind the other two that he’s the boss. Maybe he has a complex about being the only neutered boy in the cage!

We’re still keeping their 2×6 totally empty of toys, just until we’re sure that they won’t fight if two of them unexpectedly walk around a corner and come face to face, but Freddie doesn’t seem to mind. All three of these boys have been alone for a long time, and it’s wonderful to see them enjoying each other’s company. Thus we find the silver lining!

Friday: Pictures of the Sanctuary and of the Plush Pets. F’real, the post is already written!


Bunny dance!

Posted in Sanctuary Spotlight at 2:40 am by ACR&S

Knowing that you’ve made an animal’s life better, is the one thing that makes all the other crap in rescue bearable. A couple weeks back I had the pleasure of introducing one of our Sanctuary bunnies, Noelle, to a new potential partner.

First a little backstory:

Noelle came to us from our friends at the Cape Fear Rabbit Rescue in 2005. A elderly but gorgeous little grey agouti dutch, she was supposed to be bonded to one of ACR&S’ bunnies and then adopted, but she didn’t get along with either her new boyfriend or her foster mom. CFRR wanted us to keep working with her to find a bunny friend, and asked if we could keep her at ACR&S, rather than sending her back – she never left!


Noelle was probably about 6 years old when CFRR got her, and had been living alone in an outdoor hutch her whole life. She was incredibly fiesty, and didn’t really get along well with other rabbits. However, social interaction and companionship of their own kind is crucial to the health and well-being of rabbits. No matter how much we love our bunnies, humans just cannot take the place of having a bunny friend who sleeps, eats, and plays with them 24-7. So despite the fact that rabbit introductions can be dangerous and time-consuming, and despite the fact that we tried Noelle with partner after partner, with no luck, we were committed to continuing to try to find her a friend to live with.

In early 2007, we did an introduction with another older Sanctuary bunny named Flax. Their first date didn’t go as poorly as Noelle’s previous ones had, so we settled in for the long haul. After nearly seven months of living side-by-side and having supervised meetings, Noelle and Flax bonded!

Sadly, Flax passed away after just a few short months with Noelle. After allowing her toNoelle & CB grieve for a short period, we once again started looking for a friend for her. We introduced her to CB, a 10-year-old chocolate dutch belonging to one of our volunteers.

They didn’t merely “get along”. Noelle’s reaction to her new friend was stunning:

She binkied and danced for a good 20 minutes solid, interspersed with the occasionally flop-and-roll, displaying her adorable fuzzy belly.Look at mah belly! The honeymoon didn’t last (CB, once he recovered from the shock of meeting a whirlwind, tried demonstrating his dominance, and they are still working out who’s the boss), but the two bunnies live happily side by side and enjoy daily playtime together.

Was Noelle perhaps afraid of being left alone for another 6 years, and demonstrating her relief? Did she just really like the change in scenery? We can only speculate, but it’s hardly even anthropomorphizing to say that she reacted with joy to meeting a new friend. It clearly demonstrates that providing companionship for these gregarious animals is critical to their happiness.

Adopters – do you have video of your adopted pets? Send them over and we’d love to feature them on the blog or on our YouTube channel!

Next Tuesday: Advice for adopters on how to be picky about selecting a rescue!

« Previous Page « Previous Page Next entries »