Monday, May 25, 2015

Welcome, Bella

After handing the abandoned baby guinea pigs over the Little Critters Rescue Club, I became aware that they had an old guinea pig up for adoption. Bella is about 5 years old, and her owner recently gave her to the rescue because she didn't want her anymore. She's also been alone all this time. It breaks your heart, that someone would choose to give up on their pet in their old age. I felt bad for her, thinking adoption chances are slim when she has to compete with all the young animals at the rescue. So after much thought (I wanted to make sure I'm not replacing the Poe shaped hole with another guinea pig), I felt that I would at the very least be helping the rescue out by adopting and also it's not much different caring for 3 guinea pigs instead of 2. So in early March, after a successful home check, I brought the girls to meet Bella at the rescue and then took the 3 of them home.

Bella was so scared. For the first few days she just hid. She was terrified of us and even of Sylbie and Tiramisu. She would only eat if we put food right by were she was hiding. You could see that she's not had much interaction because she is impossible to pick up/hold. She would squirm and wriggle and if you loosened your grip she'd bolt. The first week was tough, the others also bullied her because they were establishing their dominance.

But it slowly got better. She taught the other 2 to eat pepper and cherry tomatoes! I now have pigs who happily munch on bell peppers! She also came out of hiding more and more and now runs out like the others when it's food time. Still working on getting her to be less afraid of humans. She takes food from our hands, and I've managed to wrangle her twice for nail clipping and weighing (gaah! it's terrifying, I have a pillow case for her to bolt into for some feeling of security, else she'll literally jump from my lap.)  You can't stroke her like we do with Tiramisu and Sylbie (she runs away). Having Bella has made me realize that my guinea pigs are actually really tame! I used to complain that they don't like being picked up, but geez, if their natural instinct was to get as far away from my giantness as possible, to hide and never come out, then they've come a long way.

I really hope she settles down and becomes less afraid of us. It frustrates me to think that the previous owner never put in any effort at all to get her to be accustomed to humans, to a point where routine things that are important for a guinea pig's well being like nail clipping and weighing is very difficult to do with Bella (imagine if I had to force feed her!) It's basic care that a guinea pig needs, never mind the poor girl was kept alone her whole life! I wonder why she got a guinea pig in the first place.

When I try to take photos of the three of them munching away together, this is what usually happens:
Sylbie and Tiramisu: "Ooh do you have treats?!" (Runs up to investigate)
Bella: "You fools! It's danger approaching!" (runs away to hide...)

But I did manage to get some photos, it makes my heart glad to see them relaxing and eating together. I hope Bella will have a good retirement with us.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

I saved some lil dudes!

In the same week that I said goodbye to Poe I came across 2 baby guinea pigs that were dumped in a parking lot. The car guards were looking after them. They thought they were hamsters and were giving them hamster food. Their cage was very small and was filthy with an algae filled water bottle. After talking to the car guards and making sure they are not out to make a quick buck, I took the babies home with me. 2 boys.

My plan was never to keep them, I contacted the Little Critters Rescue Club in Johannesburg and arranged to drop them off in a couple of days. I only had them for 2 days but they were so charming. I'd forgotten how energetic baby guinea pigs were! They were very skittish, but they still tried to take food from my hand and it didn't take them long to wheek loudly for food! I could see that with just some love and care, they'd be delightful pets. It was clear they hadn't been well cared for, so I tried to spoil them as much as I could. They behaved like they've never had vegetables before! I also took them out to the grass, but they didn't seem to realize they could eat it.

I kept them separated from my ladies of course, here's one meeting Sylbie through a fence. They were very interested in the girls, but Sylbie and Tiramisu mostly ignored them. I sometime felt that they were rolling their eyes at how energetic and noisy they were - these young whipper snappers! He looks really big in these photos, but the babies were half the size of my girls, the rescue estimated them to be about 4 months.

Photo from Little Critters Rescue Club

They eventually went to a wonderful home together, with a large outside run. The lady who did home check for the rescue said it was one of the nicest homes she's seen :) keep well little dudes! It was a lucky chance meeting and I was glad I could help. May you both grow up to be majestic plump potatoes... 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Remembering Poe

It is hard watching your pets grow old, when you can remember so vividly the days when they were filled with the exuberance on youth. None more so than Poe and Tiramisu. I remember the chilly spring morning when I cradled a very new born Poe in my hand. And how, when they got bigger, would always break out of their enclosure whilst I was at university and I'd come home to them having fully explored my apartment, hiding behind book shelves, eaten my orchid and chewed my wires.
A few things can be said of Poe, she was stoic, stubborn, tough but very cooperative when it came to being man handled by humans. She had a good memory - there was a time when I'd clean their living area and move the big cage so that there was a gap between it and the corner it's usually in. Poe loved this magical tunnel that opened up, she loved to hide there and use it as a sneaky thorough way to the room beyond. So every time I cleaned, she'd wait patiently by the cage where it touches the wall. I imagine it's like her own gate way to Narnia :) Poe was not fussy about food, it always heartened me to see her persevering with vegetables that others have turned their noses up at. I could see that it's not her favourite thing in the world, but she'd keep munching. She was however, very adverse to green pepper. I once introduced it to them after learning it was a good source of vitamin C, but Poe actively ran away from it, it offended her so much :D
Through the years, whenever I've picked them up, they would fuss and make worried noises and I would say, "Don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you". I would never let anyone hurt you. You are the best Poe, thank you for sharing your life with me.

 Poe, my little lion.
(Sept 2009 - Feb 2015)

Thursday, February 19, 2015


Tiramisu was easy to like, she was impressionable, doe eyed and being the smallest, appealed to people's sympathies. Poe seemed to be overlooked as Tiramisu became everyone's favourite, plus on her bad days, she was a bit like Ash from Fantastic Mr Fox. I felt sorry for Poe and always made an effort to connect with her.
Poe is more reserved perhaps than Tiramisu. She's not as vocal nor as much of an extrovert, but boy when she decides to speak up she did so loudly and confidently. She would stand out in the open with her head raised up (to peer over the grids) petitioning for food even when no one was in the room and wait, confident that her demands will be met.
She is incredibly brave, like everyone else, being picked up scared her, but she often held her ground as if saying: "do your worst giant hand, I shall retreat no more!" Poe was the only one to bite the vet in one of their earliest encounters. Yeah you showed him whose boss my little majestic lion :) Yes, she may not have been the cutest or the one with the prettiest markings, but she has a mane of glorious hair that she uses to her full advantage. Poe the majestic guinea pig.

I euthanized Poe on Monday, after a long battle with a temporomandibular disorder (TMD). She stopped eating and after putting her under anesthetic twice for minor teeth trims and head xrays where the vet consistently found nothing wrong we eventually discovered (via second opinion) that her right jaw joint is causing her immense pain. Diagnosis was 1 of 3 options: bone cancer (osteosarcoma), a hairline fracture or severe arthritis.
I took her to an animal physio for 4 sessions where she had acupuncture and her jaw mobilized. she made great improvement but still couldn't eat. The physiotherapist and I suspected an appetite problem because the tramadol (painkiller) that she's been on for so long causes a decrease in appetite. over the course of a week I slowly reduced her medicines (Tramadol and Metacam) until for her last physio visit, she had no pain killers that day. The physiotherapist verified that she was pain free. This was on a Thursday. On Friday she tried to eat bits of lettuce while I was syringe feeding her. Her bite was like what she was doing when the problem first started, she could open her mouth but seemed to have trouble taking the food into it to chew it with her molars. Hence the best she could manage is to bite down and tear off bits which mostly didn't end up in her mouth anyways.
I took them out on the grass on Sunday, and it was heart breaking to see the other 2 stuffing their faces when Poe couldn't even open her mouth. That is no way for a guinea pig to live.
On Monday she fought me a lot on the syringe feeding, it seemed like she was in pain again so I gave her painkillers. I took her to the vet, knowing that we must find a solution or let her go. The vet found that she was again very painful on her jaw joint, and we are back where we started. 6 weeks is a long time in the life of a small guinea pig, she was clearly suffering. She had lost all her fur on her chin from it being constantly wet from drooling (which the physio fixed), her sides are balding from constantly lying down and her arthritic foot had flared up from inactivity and is giving her bumble foot. She had lost so much weight. I felt that keeping her alive any longer would strip her of her dignity if it hasn't already.

You have been so so brave Poe, I give you all the love in my heart.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Priority # 1 :Cucumber

I made this awhile back :)

I even submitted it for guinea pig approval

Poe had a nibble to make sure it's got substance.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sailing on calm waters

Where to begin? I have been so lax in recording the comings and goings of my piggy trio. For a long time, things have been bad. Both Poe and Tiramisu have had to overcome some serious bouts of illness. From my last post in Feb until mid of June I was repeatedly in and out of the vet first for Poe's URI and then for Tiramisu's UTI.

Poe had Baytril injections for 3 weeks to root out a very stubborn respiratory infection. She even had an asthmatic inhaler for awhile to help open up her lung tubies. Even after that she was still not 100%, I kept on fearing for a relapse, but slowly all the symptoms faded and we could stop all medication. I think her lungs just needed some time to heal.

Tiramisu had a UTI that just wouldn't go away (bactrim and baytril stopped working), it was related to her ovarian cysts and begrudgingly I opted to spay her. She's almost 5 so I was so so worried. She's such a spunky lil ray of sunshine that losing her due to surgery complications would be devastating. Luckily everything went fine and she recovered faultlessly. I hand fed her the first evening, and when I woke up later at about 4am, ready for another hand feeding session, I peered into her cage and saw her munching on pellets and hay! They managed to get some pee from her bladder during the operation so that it could be sent to a lab for analyses. Tiramisu had some badass new species of bacteria living in her bladder, vet said it was full of abscess'. Again, luckily, they could treat it with injections of Duplocillin (a type of penicillin). Don't panic! The vet was fully aware that penicillin is toxic to guinea pigs, but apparently they are able to tolerate injections of Duplocillin. So Tiramisu had jabs for about 3 weeks. And now she's bounced back :)

So we've been in the clear for about a month now, and I'm just super grateful that everyone is happy and healthy. I feel very blessed that I still get to see 3 beautiful fluffy faces every morning and I treasure their company everyday.

 This was taken in the summer, as can be seen by the abundance of green grass.

Right now it's more like this. There are 3 guinea piggy lumps under those blankets...

I got some fancy tunnels and cubes made for them, will do a proper post soon!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Back when we were young...

Baby pics of Tiramisu and Poe!

And a pic of young Sylbie, basically a baby herself before the other two popped out...

I wasn't too camera happy when every one was little, regret it now as there are not many baby pics of them...

It's been a tough start of the year for the sisters, Poe came down with a respiratory thingy again over Christmas, a then again beginning of Feb - I think it's recurring and we never got rid of it properly the first time. So she's been on a 2 week course of Bactrium and I've also started giving her vitamin C. Tiramisu went in to the vet recently because we noticed she's getting a bald patch on the side of her tummy. Aaah! All sorts of bad things like cushings disease and ovarian cysts spring to mind! The vet treated her for mites just in case and if her fur doesn't grow back in 2 weeks we will need to book an ultra sound. If it's cushings disease they can do nothing, but if it's ovarian cysts they will spay her - gulp*

Oh by the way, I finally found a vet experienced with guinea pigs! It's Jean Davidson and Carol (didn't catch her surname) at Craighall vet! They are really nice ladies (Poe saw Jean and Tiramisu saw Carol) but just be sure to phone ahead and make an appointment especially during the week, as sometimes they are not in. They are also experienced with spaying guinea pigs as apparently everyone sends guinea pigs and rabbits for them to spay. They are quite expensive, Poe had an x-ray done and that together with the consultation was basically R800! But I guess you pay more for a specialist. They even stock critical care, which I have only seen on the internets...

Poe's being perkier and Tiramisu's still eating and running around voraciously showing no signs of hormonal imbalance so I live in hope that our year will get better.