Gloria (sister to Ivy and Noelle, who went home ear
ly this year), remained at our rescue, awaiting her forever home. Alison, mom to Amelia and Sophie, contacted us soon afterwards. Sophie had gone over to the rainbow bridge (a dignified and well loved old lady at over five years of age), and Amelia needed a new friend.
When she saw Gloria’s picture, she knew that was the pig for her! Introductions went well (although Gloria immediately developed runny poo and had a brief course of antibiotics to clear it up). Amelia then had to undergo an emergency spay for a uterine cyst, but last week they were finally able to be put together, and now the two girls are roomates!
Thank you to Alison for giving two of our pigs now a wonderful home!
Winnie and Leo have the distinction of being some of our longest fosters, and definitely our longest bunny fosters! Anne and William were looking for another pair of bunnies to add to their life after the passing of their beloved Patches. They saw Leo and Winnie on Petfinder and were interested in the pair!
The meeting between the two went well, and we prepared for their adoption on the 18th. We carefully explained that Winnie was quite reticent and somewhat shy, and that she may take a week or two to warm up to her new surroundings, but that Leo was nearly bombproof and shouldn’t have any issues. Leo had been carried to Rabbit Day in February and spent the entire time boredly rambling around the rabbit pens we brought with us while Winnie refused to leave the carrier.
Rabbits being rabbits, they set out to prove us wrong. Winnie ambled out like she was returning to an old friend’s house, and Leo graced us with his unhappy face. Serious disapproval was aimed at Andrea for interrupting his Sunday afternoon.
Despite Leo’s disapproval of his travel plans, Anne and William built an awesome rabbit palace for the pair and bunny proofed a playroom for them to enjoy. They’re settling in wonderfully and arrived to a giant box of hay and plenty of interesting things to chew.
Thank you Anne and William for adopting Leo and Winnie in memory of your wonderful Patches.
Petal, daughter of Noelle, was born in our rescue in late February along with her brothers, Bud and Leaf.
This past Saturday, Petal found her forever home with James and Amanda! James and Amanda’s pig, Lucy, was looking for a friend after the passing of their beloved Daisy. We talked about several single female pigs, scheduled a day for dating, and crossed our fingers!
Turns out we didn’t need to do much finger crossing. Petal scooched right over to Lucy and snuggled down. Lucy was pretty patient with the tiny interloper, and they were soon sharing carrots and veggies together. (Well, Lucy was sharing — Petal was eating right out of her mouth!) After a quick cage cleaning, both girls went in, noshed on some pellets, and fell asleep inside their towel tents.
Thanks to Amanda and James for offering our Petal such a wonderful forever home! Also for not letting me steal Lucy who is adorable and puffy and likes to give kisses!
On the other side of the coin, we have had a slew of happy endings recently as well.
Firstly, our bouncy buddy Pantalaimon the chinchilla found his forever home shortly before Christmas. His new adoptive mom, Diane, had a girl chinchilla named Olivia who was looking for her forever partner, and Diane just couldn’t get over Pan’s handsome (if goofy) face on Petfinder! She contacted us, we arranged to get Pan neutered, and then he travelled home where he and Olivia are now working on introductions together.
His mom says:
Once we got home, I contained the kitties upstairs and went downstairs with him, set his crate on the floor and opened the door. He didn’t want to come out so I lounged on the bed down there and put the crate next to me. He came out and sat on my chest and belly for about a half hour. Oh, my god! I am in love! He was letting me kiss him and pet him all over!
Olivia and Pan are slowly getting to know each other (Pan loves Olivia, and Olivia thinks he’s ok — like a lot of human courtship as well? ) and will eventually cohabitate, but chins are so fragile and persnickety that their new mom is taking things slow.
Next, our little snuggle buddy Phoebe (often called “Peepers” in her foster home) has found an amazing adopter who fell in love with her adorable Petfinder picture and couldn’t understand why an adorable baby dumbo rattie couldn’t find someone to live with! We met, and Phoebe made her choice. She snuggled into her mom’s cuddle pouch and went to sleep while we were talking! Adoption plans were made, and overall Phoebe is doing well in her new home. Her mom is giving her some time to settle in before she introduces her to the rest of her mischief so there’s not a ton of scary happenings at once, but we at ACR&S have our fingers crossed for a great fit.
Her mom says:
Oh my, what a talker she is! And she likes for me to talk back. What a personable little rat! She’s spent a lot of time in the igloo you brought. I think that has really worked well to make her feel more at home. I guess we’ll have to wait for introductions, but I just cannot imagine that she is not going to work out beautifully.
The whole experience was great, and I got to spend a lot of time being snuggled by her mom’s other rats, who were so pampered and spoiled that they happily walked right up to me and crawled into my arms for snuggles.
Finally, a big congratulations to Zinnia and Marigold.
These pair of girls, abandoned at the local animal shelter with five other pigs, have hit the jackpot! Their new mom Susan and new best friend, Kaylee, have spoiled these little red piggies rotten. Initially somewhat afraid of their new surroundings (and who wouldn’t be!) they’re now spoiled and plump, and happily beg their new family for yummy snacks, especially their daily salad. I stopped by to see them a week after the adoption to drop off some extra cubes for their cage, and it was clear how fast these little ladies have bonded to their family! They were immediately out of their hidey house and up to the cage trying to wrangle a few extra treats.
Thank you Susan and family for giving these girls the kind of home they never even knew existed!
All Creatures Rescue & Sanctuary has already had a very rocky Christmas. We lost a foster animals and two sanctuary animals, in addition to the loss of my mother.
Friday, December 19th, we lost Patchy, a double rex girl who was surrendered a couple of weeks ago by a couple with allergies to rats. They had recently adopted the rats, and her husband was unexpectedly allergic and they contacted us. Patchy was initially from a breeder, who’s website advertises that she’ll ship anywhere in the country, although she is located in our state. Double rex rats have genes which make them lose and regrow hair in random patches (also sometimes known as “patchwork” rats). This “responsibly” bred rat came to us already with entropion issues (where the eyelashes sometimes grow into the eyes), and mild occlusion problems (which sometimes required minor dental work).
She was discovered in her cage gasping for breath after I returned home from the hospital with my mother on Friday evening, and we rushed her to the emergency vet. We could not stabilize her on oxygen, and the vet recommended euthanasia. We reluctantly agreed with her, seeing the misery that Patchy was in, and that all outcomes were likely to be fatal (either tumor related, serious cardiac condition related, or pneumonia so severe that she was affected literally to the point of near death in 24 hours).
She left behind Oree, her neutered male bondmate who is terrified of people, whom we worried about greatly. We weren’t sure who to put him with, as we had no other available fosters which seemed to suit him.
Phedre solved our conundrum for us by lying down on Christmas Day and dying quietly in her sleep. My mother died in the early AM of Christmas Eve, and I returned home the day afterwards (having sent Anthony home to tend to the animals) to discover that little Phedre had gone over to her food dish and curled up around it, and then gone to sleep and left us. It was heart wrenching, even on top of the recent death of my mother. Phedre was my first rat, and was talked about earlier in the blog, here. As the year had passed, she had become more frail and spindley, but hung onto life with an almost grim determination. Each time I began considering euthanasia, her huge personality would shine through. Once, when I had determined that the next day was “the day”, she leapt out of the cage and into my arms to beg for a treat. Her pairing with Ysandre (first talked about here) was wildly successful. Both were unable to frolic and roughhouse like healthier rats, but they loved cuddling and snuggling, and it was unusual not to find them with each other at all times. Phedre taught me so much about rats, and became the impetus to focus our program more closely on rats.
Ysandre was left alone, and we have begun bonding her with Oree. They now share a hammock together, and Oree is warming up to his human friends.
Finally, late last week, our little friend Picadilly, also laid down and appeared to have had a heart attack. He was first talked about with my other Jacksoneville retention, Hobo in the post here. In a way, I am grateful that he was able to pass quietly in his sleep. The alternative for many pigs with osteodystrophy is having to be euthanized as the ongoing pain of their crumbling bones and swelling joints becomes too great to cover with pain medication, and I am grateful that my gentle grey piggie never have to suffer through that. But I am saddened that his particularly pointy nose no longer pokes out of the cage at me in the mornings when veggies are coming, and his cagemate, Mogwai, was devastated. Picadilly’s ears showed great distress — Mogwai had stood next to his friend, urgently grooming and chewing his ears in an effort to get him to stand up again. Because of his severe distress, we opted to go ahead and attempt introductions to Mnemie, who seems to have alleived some of his loneliness.
So goodbye to all my little furred friends. Hopefully they have all gone together, and are released from the painful bodies that kept them from frolicking happily for so long.
This is Gabriel’s story.
Gabriel was surrendered to ACR&S shortly before the Christmas holiday. It started with an email:
I have A guinea pig he is one and a half give or take. I got him for my daughter she is five now and She is severly allergic to him. She wasn’t at first but it keeps getting worse. I was wondering if you had room for one more because he is a very sweet guinea pig and it breaks my heart to have to give him up. But he doesnt get the attention he deserves here. I play with him when I can but its just not the same as it should be. Also about a month ago his hair fell out and he started to itch ALOT!!! so I got some anti itch spray and I sprayed him a couple times and he got better and his hair is staring to grow back. About a week ago he
was acting lathargic and drinking water like crazy I noticed he had a puddle of poo around him so I started treating him for wet tail. He didn’t improve much so I took him to the vet. The vet said he might have ring worm or something else. And he gave me some medicine that he said might work.And It could be contagious to me. ( I know the ring worm is, but he was saying a parasite of some kind) Basically he didn’t know. I just want to be totally honest with you. I really wanted to find him a good home before he got sick, but I know you guys will take care of him even if he is sick. You guys can hve his cage and everything I have to go with him I just bout him a new bag of food and treats. He has about a half a bag of bedding left and he loves oranges and apples. Every time you open the fridge he thinks he is supposed to get a treat too! I would really appreciate you concidering him as a rescue. Again he is very sweet
but we are just not the right family for him and he needs to be with some one who can play with him more and give the attention he should get.
It’s unfortunate, but we get several dozen emails like this every month. “Hi, I have a sick animal, and he’s still sick, and can you take him?” These animals cost us hundreds of dollars, and yet there are not really other options for them. Most shelters are unaware of what needs to be done for them, or even how serious most of these problems are. Often these animals have no other options, and often we are too soft-hearted to say no to them.
We were optimistic. Hairloss and diarrhea, although not ideal, are fairly treatable, and are also fairly inexpensive.
We arranged for a pickup with his owner, but due to the last-minute nature of the exchange, our Charlotte coordinator was unable to complete the transport (the piggie himself was in SC). The owner then refused to meet us when we could not meet her with literally 24 hours notice. We sent out a call for any volunteers or former adopters in SC who were ready and willing to pick up a corner of the transport to please email us. We were desperate.
And they responded in force! We quickly had transportation agreements, kind people offering donations for gas money, and a cheering section rooting for this little lost pig. 2 days after the failed transport, our volunteers managed to meet with Gabriel’s owner and pick him up. Brenda, one of our treasured SC operatives, called us nearly in tears. “Please”, she begged, “can I take him to my emergency vet? The vibrations of the car are causing him to have seizures over and over again!” The “minor hair loss” we’d been told about was one of the worst case of mites we’d ever seen in a living animal. We encouraged her to go straight to the emergency vet, where poor Gabriel was stabilized and given valium and pain medication to try and dull the agony of his broken body.
He then continued his trek northward, and ended up with Andrea. She threw the kitchen sink at him — antibiotics, benadryl, Revolution, hand feeding, veggies, you name it. She spent her nights by his cage, nursing him, trying to feed him, asking questions and contacting vets. She held him while he seizured, and tried to clean off his poor damaged face (which started losing disturbing clumps of hair around his eyes). He had support from all over the country being mailed in, and had developed quite a cheering section.
On December 27th, a few short days after his initial rescue, Gabriel laid down to sleep and didn’t get back up. Although his condition had improved, he had too many odds stacked against him. The mites, his poor husbandry prior to surrender, and possible poisoning from the use of over the counter medicine to treat him were too much.
In Gabriel’s name, this is my plea: demand better care from your vets. Do not stand by while your animal dies. Gabriel died from mites. From a parasite treated with $5 worth of medication because his vet didn’t know any better and because his owner said nothing as his health spiraled downward. Nobody looks at a pig like Gabriel and thinks that he is fine. Nobody listens to an animal screaming in agony as it has convulsions and thinks that they’re ok. According to Andrea, the first night, Gabriel would seizure and wail every five minutes, and could be heard all over her house. She couldn’t sleep because of the noise. Please, speak up. You are your pet’s only advocate! A death like this is not a quiet release, it is a bone agonzing descent into nothing but pain, until pain is all the animal knows. And Gabriel suffered, alone, without even the benefit of pain medication.
So goodbye, Gabriel. You were our failed Christmas miracle, but at least you didn’t die alone, and you got a measure of respite from the pain that you had been trapped in for so long.
The holiday season is upon us, and since starting to rescue, I have come to dread it.
Christmas/Thanksgiving time has traditionally been my favorite. I love buying presents, love wrapping them, love having the tree in my house… the whole 9 yards. I am one of those crazy people that spends more money on their electrical bill at Christmas than probably the rest of the year.
But the season of giving is different in rescue. The season of giving generally entails giving away a lot of pets. The reasons are varied, but predictable. Usually it’s becuase they’re travelling for the holiday and don’t want to bother to board the animals. Maybe they’re getting a new pet. Maybe this pet is old and it depresses them for Christmas. Sometimes the reasons are never known.
So here are ACR&S holiday intakes for 2008. They are seeking the gift of permanence. Of never being in the shelter again, smelling the strange smells of despair. Of never having to take a 6 hour car trip because their lives depended on it. And of never being given away again. The gift of a home.
Willow, Remy, and Rhett
Willow, Remy, and Rhett came to ACR&S from way down south. Georgia, in fact! Friend of ACR&S Talishan was contacted by a local vet. A family in the area was going to dump these guinea pigs off at the local kill shelter, and that shelter euthanized all exotics because they did not have the resources to care for them. The vet called Talishan, Talishan called me, and we set up a transport train to bring them north.
Willow remained with Andrea in our Charlotte sorority house, and the boys came east to stay in Raleigh with me. They were pretty shaken up by the long ride, but they graciously accepted a prepared meal of lettuces, dandelion, bell peppers, and carrots when they arrived, showing me that they weren’t too traumatized by this whole trip.
Flower Power Piggies
Zinnia, nearly identical to Poppy and Marigold
The Flower Power piggies are an emergency pull from a local animal shelter.
A mother and father, two aunts, and her litter of four were abandoned, and one of the litter was male! Unfortunately, the shelter didn’t have the space or resources to be able to seperate by sex, and were were afraid that (if left to their own devices) the adolescent male would shortly come into puberty and soon we would have a whole flower patch!
We opted to go ahead and pull them in the hopes that we could prevent the accidental pregnancies. As of their vet checkup, we appear to have been successful, although we still have our fingers crossed. Rodents can be notoriously sneaky about pregnancies, and it’s not unheard of for a female to deliver one or two extremely small babies even though being cleared earlier in the pregnancy.
And so, Bryony, Zinnia, Marigold, Tigerlilly, Poppy, Rowan, and Hawthorne came to ACR&S. This group is very similar! Zinnia, Marigold, and Poppy could all be twins. They’re all a beautiful solid rust color (with Zinnia and Marigold having one white foot each). Rowan, Hawthorne, and Tigerlily are also all alike, with a broken rust and white dutch pattern. Mama Bryony is the outlier, and looks like a carton of neopolitan ice cream!
So join ACR&S in welcoming our new piggie friends home for the holidays! They are all asking Santa to bring them a forever home where they won’t ever have to spend a Christmas alone again!
On Friday the Bird Lovers Only Blog posted a really exceptional comment about bird breeding, a message which I feel needs to be spread far and wide:
Because of the ease of breeding parakeets, cockatiels, quakers, lovebirds, and other small birds such as these, these birds have become grossly overpopulated. Even if I wanted to, at times I wouldn’t be able to GIVE these birds away. There are just not enough homes out there. And even fewer homes are available for such high maintenance birds such as cockatoos.
This is a sentiment that just can’t be repeated enough. People should NOT be breeding these birds right now. There are plenty already born who are in need of homes, and THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH HOMES OUT THERE.
This is true for almost all other pet species as well, certainly for guinea pigs and rabbits. The breeders who are contributing the problem are primarily the ones who breed to serve the pet store market, so you can make a difference by choosing not to shop at stores which sell live animals. Please spread the word about this. Speak through your pocketbook, by buying your supplies from rescue-friendly stores which do not sell live animals, or from internet suppliers.
Please visit the Bird Lovers Only Blog to read the entire post, and please donate to them to support bird rescue.
I recently participated in an interesting on-line discussion about “starter pets”. I get asked about guinea pigs and rabbits as starter pets quite often, but I usually address these questions on a species-by-species basis. However, I think it would be good to look at some overall questions about the concept of beginner pets.
This is Part One of a three-part series. In this part, I talk about how we define beginner pets, and considerations for beginner pets for adults and for kids.
What defines “good beginner pet”?
Many novice owners who are seeing a good beginner pet have never cared for another organism before, and may need to be taught even the “obvious” things about an animal’s basic needs (like how often to change the animal’s water). So they want an animal who has relatively simple basic needs. This can either mean that they don’t need things like specially controlled environments (like amphibians), or just that their food and environmental needs are commonly available at any store, and don’t need to be ordered on-line or bought from a specialist.
Occasionally, a novice may have helped care for family pets in the past, but they have time constraints (college students), so they might not mind an animal having more complex basic needs, but they want to be able to provide a low time commitment to caring for the animal.
In almost all cases, money is often a concern, so cheap to care for becomes part of the definition.
Most novice owners also recognize that, by definition, a beginner will make mistakes, and they want a pet who won’t be harmed by these mistakes. This component is often the most important to non-novices: one of my vets defined a good beginner pet as, “An animal which can’t be seriously damaged by minor mistakes made through ignorance.”
So, taking all of these considerations into account, a good beginner pet is one which:
- Has simple-to-meet basic needs
- Has a low time commitment
- Has a low average/expected cost of care
- Cannot be harmed by simple mistakes
What about beginner pets for children?
The answer to this question depends very much on what the parent means by a pet “for the child”.
Do you mean a pet that the kid can do 100% of the chores, with no supervision? There is no such pet. Get them a plant or a pet brick instead. The selfish, ignorant decision by parents to use an animal to “teach responsibility” is literally the #1 reason small animals die or end up in shelters:
I think it’s unfair to both the child and the pet to make pet care a burdensome task for a child. So there’s never an appropriate age to “make” a kid “learn responsibility”, not when another being’s life is at stake.
Now, if a child WANTS a pet, and claims to understand the responsibility involved, I still think it depends on how much the parents are planning to be involved. If your kid makes a mistake in care, or gets bored and whines that they don’t want to take care of the pet anymore, the parent MUST to be willing to make it a learning experience. By this I mean they must explain the ramifications of any mistakes, and if necessary, to be willing take over all the responsibilities without going the “well then we’re getting rid of it” route. There’s hardly a worse lesson to teach a child, than the idea that animals are disposable.
When I was growing up, we had “family” pets where, rather than teaching responsibility by forcing us to practice animal care, my parents demonstrated responsibility, by teaching that commitment to care was a prerequisite to enjoying an animal. For example, we weren’t allowed to take the dogs out on unaccompanied walks unless we had helped with their care every day for 3-4 days in a row. If we got bored, or busy with other childhood commitments – well, too bad, no walkies for us that week. This form of modeling responsibility I respected, even as a kid, and I think is an excellent way to do it.
So if by “good beginner pet for a child” you mean a pet that the adult will be, in word and deed, wholly responsible for, but the child will be “told” the pet is his and will be allowed to do a lot of the care, under supervision: Any pet that the parent can care for, is fine for a child to help with.
Now there’s one exception to this. You also have to consider the age of the child when allowing them to be around any animal (supervised OR unsupervised). Before a child should be allowed to participate in the care of an animal, the child needs to understand consequences (don’t poke the cat in the eye, don’t feed the dog your chocolate bar EVEN once), needs to be able to follow instructions (the cat gets one half-cup of CAT food, not a giant pile of dog food), and also needs to be old enough to have some control of their reactions.
I mention this last item, because a fairly young child may be able to follow a supervised cleaning/feeding schedule, but how old do they have to be to not instinctively react in ways that could harm an animal? When you’re holding something and it nips you (even gently), what’s the instinctive reaction? To open your hands and drop it. A fall from as little as 12″ can break a guinea pig’s leg (it’s happened to me). I’ve also seen kids get mouthed by puppies, and react by trying to hit the puppy. The kids mostly weren’t being malicious, they were just trying to push away the noxious stimulus of the perceived bite.
So even if the parent plans to supervise closely and take ultimate responsibility for animal care, a child should STILL not handle a pet without close adult supervision, unless they are old enough to be able to withstand a surprise nip without reacting harmfully towards the animal.
Tune in next time for Part Two, where I’ll talk about how to do enough research to determine whether a certain pet is right for you, and also some considerations about the costs of caring for a pet.
On August 12, we got an email requesting us to take in a sick pig:
I’m desperate! I have a sick guinea pig and I will be leaving to go out of town on Thursday for a wedding that my daughter is in. I don’t know what to do as I had planned on leaving the pig with a neighbor but I now feel that she needs more care than an inexperinced person. I do not have the time or resources to take her to a vet. I suspect a possible jaw malocclusion as she tries to eat but cannot seem to chew. She has diarhea and is losing weight. I really just noticed today how sick she is.
Can you or do you know of anyone who can help? I don’t want to put her down.
Normally, we don’t take owner surrenders, and this attitude is exactly the reason why. If your pig is sick and you cannot afford medical care, euthanasia is the only humane choice. But this person was seeking to absolve themselves of responsibility by dumping their problems on someone else. By helping them, we reinforce that this is acceptable behavior, rather than making them deal with the consequences of their choices. But my NC coordinators both badly wanted to take this poor piggy in, so I agreed.
My Charlotte coordinator Andrea went to get the piggy, named Trixie, from the owner. This horrible person was not even willing to donate even a DOLLAR to help cover vet care costs. Why? Because she had just spent $1,000 on her horse, and her daughter was in this wedding and had to buy a dress, and they both had to fly out, and it was all SO expensive.
Incidentally, she was only feeding the pig the cheapest, seed-filled, Walmart-brand pellets, and baby cereal (unacceptable under any circumstances).
Trixie seemed to have a raging upper respiratory infection. We took her to the vet on August 13th and got Baytril and a general physical exam, which showed no problems with her teeth. Andrea syringe fed her, gave her subcues, and there seemed to be improvement over the next day or so. She was even eating hay and drinking a little water on her own. Then on August 15 she took a turn for the worse. Andrea put her on the floor for playtime and Trixie completely freaked out, hobbling and trembling and doing weird little jumps. It was like a seizure but it wasn’t steady, it was like a popcorn only she squealed each time, like she was in pain. It was anywhere from a few seconds to a whole minute or two in between each one. Eventually these subsided and she seemed calm again. But Andrea knew Trixie definitely had something wrong with her joints and her shoulders/legs, and needed an X-ray to diagnose.
First thing the next morning, Andrea got Trixie in with Dr. Lauren Powers, who is one of the best exotics vets in NC. They did the X-rays and the findings were unbelievable: Trixie had almost no bones left. Every bone in her body was degraded, showing a swiss-cheese pattern similar to the calcium-leeching disease osteodystrophy. Only Trixie was not a satin. Our regular vet in Cary reviewed the X-rays and asked if she had been starved. Presumably, her condition was caused by terrible malnutrition. As is common in OD, her bones and joints were probably causing her tremendous pain, to the point where it hurt even to eat.
All of us were in shock (including both vets). Andrea dosed her up with pain meds, but we finally decided she would probably need to be euthanized. There are a few reports of OD being reversed through calcium supplementation, but given the extent of the the damage, and the amount of pain she was already displaying, we didn’t think we could give her a reasonable quality of life long enough to reverse the bone damage. We decided to wait till Monday in case our vets or anyone on GL came up with any better ideas.
On August 17, Trixie chose her own ending. Andrea found her dead in her cage around 4pm EST.
I’m so sorry, Trixie. I’m sorry your former owner was so heartless as to starve you to death because you weren’t worth spending money on. I’m sorry that three vets, $200 in diagnostics and medications, and all of our tears and anguish over the last five days weren’t enough to save you and give you a chance at a better life. I hope you find peace, comfort, and plenty of good food as the newest member of Death’s herd. You will find many new friends waiting for you there as well.
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