Thursday, 27 October 2016

Introducing my family part 2

Guinea Pigs

Part 2: Molly and Emmeline

You know how some people dare not go into a particular shop for risk of falling in love with something they really don't need, but really really want. It might be a shoe shop, bakery, electronics store, stationers...mmmmm stationery!...Where was I! 

For me, it's Pets at Home, and in particular, the Adoption section...
I just can't stay away, and a single guinea pig will always pull really hard on my heart strings.

On Thursday 5th November 2015, Mr PB and I were on our way home after a long day; we needed some more Burgess Excel nuggets for Tilly and Phoebe so stopped in at Pets at Home, which is only a few minutes drive from work.

We picked up what we needed and then went to look at the baby piggies, then wandered over to the Adoption section. We looked at the rabbits, the hamsters, the gerbils, and then spotted a guinea pig shaped shadow in a cardboard tunnel.

The sign said "Ana and Elsa" of the assistants was clearly a Disney Frozen fan, or trying to make the piggies really attractive to small children. We looked and looked, but could only see one piggie in the cage, maybe the other one was hiding under the hay. we stayed for quite a while talking the the first piggie, but she was terribly shy.

I decided to go and ask an assistant about her.

It turned out that Elsa and Ana had been breeding sows for Pets at Home's breeding farm (it sounds like a big operation). The breeder had given a quantity of sows to the main supply hub, and they had been distributed to lots of Pets at Home stores across the region. The girls had been in quarantine for several weeks, but on the morning of being ready to re-home, Elsa had sadly passed away.

Now, I doubt very much that Elsa and Ana had been cage mates prior to being delivered to our store, I imagine the sows had all been in individual cages either pregnant or with their litters, and had also not been very used to being handled regularly.

Ana was taken out of the cage by the assistant...and I fell in love!

Rex guinea pig pet family

Imagine if you will a scrubbing brush and a hedgehog having a baby together...that's what she looked like! She is a Rex guinea pig, which means she has a wiry coat that stands on end rather than lying flat, and she has curly whiskers and paw hair. Being an ex-breeding sow, she had squashy saddlebags where her babies had been, her ears looked well-chewed, and she was very nervous.

I took her from the assistant and tucked her under my chin and...Oh my goodness!! "Yes, she's coming home with us!" I exclaimed.

We discussed our set up and experience, and the assistant agreed that as she wasn't a very socialised piggie, she'd be much better with us than with children.

We settled her in a cage on her own, underneath Tilly and Phoebe's cage, so that she could acclimatise. Eventually we hoped that we might be able to put them together as a herd, but after several unsuccessful bonding sessions, it became clear that although Tilly was very happy, Phoebe's 'Alpha Female' traits were too strong, she was all grown up now and didn't want another Mamma thank you :) 

We knew that Ana didn't really suit our new girl as a name, and we tried quite a few options before finally settling on Molly. We do love a name that ends in an 'eee' sound :)

We asked Pets at Home for some information, roughly how old she was, how many litters she'd had, that sort of thing. This is the bit that makes me sad and angry at Pets at Home. When we adopted her, the assistant said she would try to find out these things for us. After a couple of days I still hadn't heard, so rang the branch. I overheard a conversation between a Supervisor/Manager and an Assistant (because the assistant hadn't put me on hold or covered the microphone properly). The assistant was told by the manager that there were too many ex-breeding guinea pigs coming from the breeder in any one shipment to get individual histories. They just got divvied up between that branches by the central hub, and the branch "wouldn't bother trying to get that sort of information from the breeder just for a guinea pig"... Yup.... I seethed on the other end of the phone. When the assistant relayed this information is a slightly edited form, I said that I just wanted to be able to provide my vet with a few basic details. Regardless of how long she had left she would be loved for the rest of her days and it was an honour to be able to give her a happy retirement.

I would have thought that information would be fairly standard. A breeding sow was probably able to have 'x' number of litters, or would be kept for breeding until 'y' years old, after which they would be euthanised or given up for adoption. Surely then the breeder would have a rough idea of the animals age to know whether it could safely have another litter, of it was now unprofitable to keep it.

Anyway, Molly settled in, was doing quite well on her own and enjoyed laptime, but she was still very quiet and timid in the cage. Five months after we got her, a friend at work told us that his daughter's guinea pigs were having difficult times. Tipsy, the mother, had been diagnosed with lymphoma, and her daughter Emmeline (nicknamed 'Bitey') was quite feisty. I popped in one evening to see if I could offer any support or advice from my own experience.

A quick feel of Tipsy revealed lumps all round the lymphatic system, the biggest was under her chin, but she also had them behind her elbows and low down in her abdomen. It didn't look good. I talked to them about signs to look for as she declined, so that they would know when to get her to the vet to have her put her to sleep. I was thinking in terms of weeks, and sadly was proved right.

My friend had decided with his daughter that they didn't want any more guinea pigs, so I said that when the time came, and they were ready, we would give Emmeline a home.

family pets tri-colour guinea pig
The whole family brought Emmeline, her cage, food and all her toys over to our house one Saturday morning, I immediately got her out of her carry cage for a cuddle and took her for a walk round the garden on my shoulder while we (humans) chatted.

Her indoor cage was placed on our kitchen table near the other piggies, and stayed there for a couple of weeks while we began the process of introducing Emmeline to Molly.

family pets guinea pig bonding session
The introductions begin
We used the indoor run as we had with Tilly Phoebe and Poppy, filled with lots of hay, some veggies and water. Initially they were more interested in eating, then they spotted each other, and all hell broke loose! There was rumble strutting, wheeking, teeth bearing, teeth chattering and defensive weeing like I've never seen - Emmeline is more effective than a water pistol!! And where she keeps all that liquid I have no idea.

There were a couple of occasions where they were lunging at each other, but we always sat right next to the cage armed with towels to smother and separate them if needed. Thankfully they never went that far.

Slowly over the course of a couple of weeks, the incidences of fear and dominance reduced in frequency and  ferocity. We were able to leave them together for longer, then leave them unattended while we watched tv in the next room (always listening for signs of trouble). Once they were almost there Mr PB bought and modified a new cage for them to live together in (Molly's one was only really big enough for a single piggie). Once the hutch was complete, they moved in together with still an air of disgruntlement, especially when Molly tried to mother Emmeline and wash her ear. But Emmeline was determined to be dominant.
family pets bonded female guinea pigs
Happy, inseparable girls

When she finally realised that Molly was the Mamma and there was nothing she could do about it, she let Molly wash her ear and the war was over...just like that, and now they are inseparable friends. They smoosh up next to each other, share food and everything, it's adorable and I'm so happy for them, they are both lovely calm confident piggies xx

Next Time...The Hamsters

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