- Supporter in '12
First of all, I started keeping guinea pigs when I was 10 years old, in 1986. I am sorry to say that my first guinea pig only lived for six months because I was not a very responsible pet owner. I was much better after that, and I like to think that I am a very good Slave to my guinea pigs now and have been for most of the time that I have kept them as pets.
My first three guinea pigs came from the pet store. All were adults when I chose them, and the third was a very large male who I believe had been brought to the store from a school. I got my first one because I wanted a pet. We had a small dog, and my mother said I could have a pet, but it had to live in a cage, it had to be too big to escape easily, and it couldn't have a tail. (Rats were out anyway since it was in Alberta and you need a special license to keep pet rats there.) I basically could have a rabbit or a guinea pig. After that, it was basically a given that guinea pigs were my kind of pet, though obviously there was a steep learning curve.
I was a voracious reader as a child, and made sure to read up on the proper care of guinea pigs. At the time, of course, small cages were the norm (nobody really knew any better), hay was barely even mentioned, water-soaked bread was touted as a good food to offer to a pig with broken incisors, and the only pellets available to give them were alfalfa. But in my reading, I learned a couple of very important things - namely, that they are smart and can see colours. And the fact that a guinea pig would sit mostly quietly on my chest or bed while I read a book was high on my list of good reasons to own one.
So, back to my history with guinea pigs.
My first two were solo pigs. Patrick lived for six months, as I said, and Checkers died of a heart attack after a year. The place we were living at the time didn't have an exotics vet, but my parents spent the money to take her to the vet for a checkup when she wasn't looking really good one day. I remember I was worried about her and called home from school (I was in grade six) to ask Mom to check on her, and Mom had to tell me that she'd taken the guinea pig to the vet but she had died while they were in the examining room. Mom said that the vet diagnosed a heart attack.
I remember choosing Stardust because his markings reminded me of Checkers, and because he was so large. He was sitting in the aquarium at the pet store, all relaxed and pancaked, just chillin'.
Stardust was my last pet store pig.
My next two came from my school. We moved partway through my grade six year, and Stardust made that move with us. The school I attended through grade eight included a class called "Science Alive." The room was filled with exotic pets of all kinds: snakes (of all sizes up to boa constrictors), turtles, lizards, fish, birds (parrots, toucans, cockatiels, finches, and a great big blue & gold macaw that made me want one someday), and little furries (chinchillas, a pair of red squirrels, guinea pigs, mice - including some that were breeders so we'd have pinkies to feed some of the smaller snakes, gerbils, and hamsters).
Moonshine was an adult when he came home with me; the classroom at the school was where the town's unwanted pets often wound up, but there really wasn't room for more. I remember being appalled when I came in one day and two of the guinea pigs had been killed and put into the boas' cage for their dinner. (We always killed adult rodents prior to feeding them to the snakes, because while pinkies can't hurt a snake, a live adult could certainly do so. That was the first time I'd seen guinea pigs in for the boas, though; usually we had shipments of frozen lab rats that we thawed on the lizard cage lamps prior to feeding.) Moonshine and Stardust met twice, and both times they became a ball of furious fur. I have no memory of how I separated them, but it was very traumatic and Moonshine lost both times. Once he had a gash on his nose; I forget if he managed to get cut up the other time. I distinctly recall that one of those meetings occurred while I was looking after a female rabbit for a friend, though, and Stardust had a huge crush on her. I would avoid female rabbits just as much as female guinea pigs if I want to house males together.
Moonshine died after about a year, of pneumonia. I cared for him as best I could that last night, and held him as he struggled for breath. My parents didn't make me go to bed because he was so sick. He finally passed at about midnight (Hallowe'en night) when I laid him in his cage so I could change into my pyjamas.
Some of the guinea pigs in the Science Alive classroom were paired up male-female, and when Porcellus (which we pronounced "Priscilla" because her mate was named Elvis) had a litter, I was ecstatic when I was named one of the lucky ones who would get to bring a baby home. Twilight was three months old when I brought him home, my first baby pig. I'd learned my lesson with Moonshine, and I kept Twilight separate from Stardust. Stardust died after I'd had him for about 3.5 years, so he was at least 4.5 (difficult to know just how old a pet store pig who came to the store from a school actually is).
Then a friend's guinea pigs had a litter, and I got to take one of the pups (my second baby pig!), who I named Tito. Again, I kept Tito and Twilight separate at all times. They both lived until they were about a year or 18 months old and died of cancer that went undiagnosed. (It was a small town, and the only vets dealt with cats, dogs, and livestock.)
I was pigless from 1991 until 1995, when I acquired Tika from a little girl in a town I was teaching VBS at. Tika was 6 months old and the last of her litter; the family lived on a farm, and the parents really didn't want to keep any of the babies from that litter. I was, of course, extremely happy to take her off their hands. I had Tika for four years, through most of my university years and most of the year following graduation. She was my darling, so sweet and calm. I took her to the exotics vet in my city (I went to university in Calgary) when I discovered thick blood coming from her vagina. The vet took x-rays, which my parents paid for because I was poor, and diagnosed her with uterine cancer. She was showing no sign of distress, so I took her home with me. The vet gave her two more months, and she lived for six. She never went off her food or lost weight, and she never got that scruffy look; when she went, she was standing with her nose in the corner of her cage, in the middle of the night while I was asleep. That is actually how I found her; she didn't lie down or anything, she just went quietly and stayed standing up. She weighed easily twice as much, though. That I found really strange (and now, thinking about it, I still think it's strange. I've held a lot of guinea pigs as they died, and they almost always get lighter.)
After Tika, I couldn't bear to have another pig steal my heart and then break it by dying. But after six years, I started looking at pictures and watching videos online, and I felt the longing. I knew I needed one, but I wasn't really interested in just "any" pig. It had to be the right one. I wasn't sure anyone could take the place of my Tika.
In 2003, a friend contacted me and asked if I would be interested in taking in a guinea pig she'd rescued from a school she was working at. Apparently the kids in the class had been told that if they didn't look after Rose properly, she would be taken away. So she was taken away.
I renamed Rose pretty quickly; she was very much a Princess to me. She came in a small cage, with a leaky water bottle, nowhere to hide, and no name brand "small animal pellets" that were alfalfa-based and had no added vitamin C. I'd done enough reading online by then to know all about the need for timothy hay and timothy-based pellets, as well as the need for companionship. My Princess had post-traumatic stress disorder from the school. I got her an igloo, and she spent all of her time inside it. She positioned it so that her food bowl was inside with her and the opening was right at the water bottle tube, so she wouldn't have to come out for water. I put her veggies on top of her igloo to encourage her to come out more, and I held her a lot. I took her to the vet for a basic physical. Princess didn't make a single sound for a full 30 days after I got her, including at the vet (who stuck a thermometer up her bum and opened up her mouth to check on her teeth and everything). Then one night I decided to watch Friends instead of M*A*S*H, and she voiced her disapproval by coming out of her igloo, looking right at me, and wheeking! That was seriously one of the best moments of my life. Princess was never a very vocal pig, and her wheeks were always very hollow and wheezy, but I loved that voice.
I wanted to get Princess a friend, in hopes that this would help encourage her to be a bit more brave, so I went to the Humane Society and visited with a little girl named Katonia. Katty (who had a thread in the medical forum a few years back) was six months old and had been found by someone running loose outside in the middle of November. This was in Calgary, which is definitely not a pig-friendly place at that time of year! Katty was an active little girl who took the lead in a lot of things. There weren't really any dominance issues with the girls, though there was some mounting when one or the other was in heat.
And then I heard about a family that was moving and wanted to rehome their guinea pigs. It turned out that they had been breeding them so they could show their children "the miracle of life" (gag). Someone else took the female, who was pregnant at the time (totally unkbeknownst to me, one of my friends took a baby girl from that litter), and I took the male, who I named Napoleon (I believe he is mentioned elsewhere as well). So I had three guinea pigs, and I built my first C&C cage. I put the girls in a 3x3 and added a 2x3 to one side for Napoleon. I also put a bunch of the grids over the dividers so that Nappy would have to manage to get over a two-grid-high barrier to go visit the girls.
Princess died when she was about 4.5 years old. I held her for several hours as she struggled to breathe, crying and telling her it was okay to go. I wailed when she was gone, and I sobbed again when I left her at the Humane Society for cremation (you have to pay for that service, too; it seems really awful to me now and it was really hard when I was there, too). Katty died of pneumonia about a year after that, and Napoleon followed a few months later. Katonia saw the vet more times than any guinea pig I had ever had, as she went for a physical after I adopted her; then during a pregnancy scare during which we discovered that she had a heart murmur; and again when she went off her food due to the pneumonia. That's an expensive adoptee, but so worth it. I loved my little "Valley Girl," though she wasn't as close to my heart as my Tika or my Princess had been. I'm pretty sure Napoleon became depressed after Katty died. I didn't have the time I wanted to spend with him, which wasn't a happy thing for either of us, of course, but he'd been used to having her right next door and I think it was just too much for him. He was also about four years old, which seems to be when my pigs achieve old age.
I waited a few months and then I found Isabella. A family from a nearby city didn't want her anymore (her friend had died and she was too much trouble, apparently; they never even told me what they'd named her) so I took her and her cage and got her sorted out at my house. She has a thread somewhere here, as well; I never did figure out why her belly was so large, and I really wish I'd been able to take her to the vet right away.
I also brought home Guido, who had belonged to (and received very good care from) my friend who had taken in one of Napoleon's babies. Guido wasn't that baby; she had died of an unknown illness the year before. Guido kept his own nails short. He was always underweight, barely making it above 1000g a couple of times in his life with me (he was about 750g when I brought him home; he was a very petite pig, though, so I think it was genetics). Both Guido and Isabella moved with us to Saskatoon.
Isabella lived for about a year. She is buried out here on our acreage; we kept her frozen until we were able to bury her properly.
Last summer, I adopted a pair of brothers from the SPCA. Batman and Robin were teddies and very cute. They were about 8 months old and larger than Guido, but I really wanted to have friends for him to hang out with. Sadly, Robin died of a heart condition the next day. I got Batman to the vet right away, and he got a clean bill of health. For good measure, I took Guido to the vet as well, partly because I discovered a cyst on his leg (turned out it was just fat). Following quarantine (which I always observe) I introduced my two boys. Batman was excited; Guido not so much. He'd been an only-pig for most of his life and was already four.
Guido died last September of a URI. He also had a parasite infection that I didn't discover in time. The vet said that the parasites probably made it harder for him to fight off the URI. Batman went to the vet again to make sure he hadn't caught something from Guido, and I got him dewormed while I was at it, just to be safe.
In January, I found the brothers, Bubble and Squeak. They were living with a family that had ten cats, seven dogs, a large fish tank, and four horses (one of which was due to give birth any day). The thing that told me they needed to come live with me was feeling how long their nails were. It was horrible; their back nails were close to an inch long, and their front nails were starting to spiral in on themselves. One of the boys had a nail that had spiralled around the toe next to it - I counted myself incredibly lucky that it hadn't grown into the foot! (I will here take a moment to boast that, with two black pigs, I managed to trim all of those nails to a proper length without nicking the quick even once.)
The brothers haven't been to the vet yet, mainly because the city is half an hour away and I'm working full-time right now. Once this temp gig is finished (or at least once I've moved to part-time), I'll make them an appointment because I want there to be a record of them at the vet's office and I want to talk to the vet about putting together a rural emergency kit. I keep Critical Care on hand, and have a syringe to use for feeding it when necessary, but sometimes you need medication. I also want to get them onto a deworming protocol, and I want to get all three boys started on the other preventative treatments I've read about, so that I can ensure that they're protected from potential infestations. We don't have any livestock, and we have tons of grass, so I want to let them hang out in the yard come summer (in an enclosure with a roof of course; we have a cat and there are ravens living in the barn, plus dogs who like to visit neighbouring farms from time to time). I have a thread about introducing all three boys, so I'll stop talking about them now. :)
It has long been a dream of mine to open a guinea pig rescue. Now we own 40 acres, we have the space; just need the capital to build the facility I've been dreaming of (and a board, and all that administrative stuff). Batman and Robin were living in cages in a cat room at the SPCA; while we do have a cat, I'm pretty sure that rescue pigs would be happier in C&C cages, surrounded by other piggies, than in store-bought cages, surrounded by cats. (Just a hunch.) The hardest part of the rescue would definitely be letting the pigs go to new homes. But being able to give them a great temporary home is definitely more important than getting to keep them forever. (And doing my best to make sure their new homes are forever homes is the most important part of the whole operation.)
http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q= ... _dxyW_JMLw
I recently purchased a piggy from PetSmart here in New Bern NC. Not surprising to most of you, there were complications. (Long story. My post for that is in the Emergency Medical Forum under "Complaint: Vet removes scab..") if your interested.
Anyway, It wasn't until I was in the middle of the big mess, that I found out about the horiffic conditions Pet Smart and Pet Co's animals live in (breeding mills). I started researching laws, my right's (so I don;t overstep my boundaries, etc) and came across this www.got petsonline.com website. Something just struck me as wrong that and clicked on the link.
Upon arrival to this site, I saw many things I didn't like, so I decided to email the site administrator and tell him what I thoiught about the majorly overcrowded and inadequate housing conditions for the animals. After a couple of his ignorant responses,I decided to email certain listings to the dept of ag, so they could see for themselves the cruelty, but the site administrator was removing most of the pics in their ads. Hmm. It's a very shady business. You can list for free, but have to register and purchase a "subscription" if you want to ccontact an owner, because "it;s for privacy"
Checck it out if you get a chance
I try to do my part, although it's hard here. No pet stores mean your regular piggies get nothing to eat. Country hay is often low-qual. Same for pellets. I really hate to give them fundings, but I can't starve my current pigs.
Wish I could help in any way to stop the piggie mills.
Since my surgeries and related problems I can't catch her and hold her much. I feel guilty as Haides about it. Going to try harder.
She is in great shape. She doesn't have much of a booty or belly, but still lookin' good.
I am going to give Lil Bits more time too, I promised.
- You can quote me
2. When you have had lots, and cared for them all well, and loved them all, you still can't keep track. That's okay. My husband and I got our first in 2001. There are now 17 resting in the back yard. My husband knows where all their graves and markers are. I don't. I started to feel badly about that, then thought, "well, it's better to have given 17 a good life, and take good care of the 4 we have now, than to remember where they all are."
My $0.02 only.