It all started when I received a phone call from my BFF.
“Hester is prego,” she said. “Stupid Brady made her pregnant.”
“But isn’t that what they’re *supposed* to do?” I asked. “They *are* boyfriend/girlfriend.”
“Yes, but still! I didn’t think it would happen this quickly,” she replied.
Ok, that probably isn’t verbatim, but I’m going from memory here.
“Point is, I don’t think we can keep the babies AND parents. Think you might want one?”
I was secretly jumping with glee, but wanted to sound aloof about the whole thing.
“Why would I want a guinea pig?”
“Why wouldn't you want one?”
“Touché. I suppose I could, but try to find other homes first, ok?”
I had mostly forgotten about the possibility of getting a guinea pig. Mostly because I was thinking the worst and didn’t want to get my hopes up.
Then, one fateful Saturday afternoon (August 20), I got a text. “Hesserann had her babies! They’re so cute! I hope the giraffe-looking one is a girl because that’s the one I’d most like to keep.” There was a picture attached and, indeed, one looked suspiciously like a giraffe. Color-wise, anyway; it was obviously shaped differently. No long neck and I couldn’t tell if it had legs or not. I was told all the boys would need to find new homes by week 3 so there wouldn’t be any additional litters.
Then, on a fateful Wednesday, I was told to come pick up my guinea pig ASAP. I said “I will be there on Saturday.” I rushed to Petsmart to pick up the essentials: super-big cage (ha!), alfalfa hay, pellet food, food dish (which I actually got from Walmart because I didn’t like the weird colors at the pet store), bedding, and a water bottle. I spent more than $100 on that first trip, mostly because I opted for the neat-looking water bottle with a floating duck, Carefresh Ultra (or whatever the white stuff is--because I couldn’t remember what kind of wood chips are best), and a cute little wooden hut. I was up very late that night setting everything up. Oh, I also had to buy a coffee table to put the thing on. And a little (VERY little) play pen.
Then, Saturday September 10, I loaded up my niece and headed to the friend’s house. On the way she called and said, “Oh, surprise! You get two of them. There are two boys left and, really, they should have a friend.”
And that’s how I was suckered into taking in two pigs.
All that was left were names. I decided the giraffe-looking one (yay! I secretly liked his coat the most, too) would be Apollo and his brother was Zeus. It just seemed to fit for some reason. (Note: I had originally wanted to find twin-god names or at least sibling names, but didn’t really care for the others. So let’s just pretend that the mythology lists them as brothers instead of father and son.)
The first night was rough. I wanted to hold them so badly! I was able to resist the urge, though I did terrorize them with a picture that night.
That is Zeus and Apollo's bum. They were so small!
And, for some reason I don’t recall, their cage was beyond gross the very next day, so I needed to spot clean. Which meant agonizing floor time. I feel horrible looking back :/
They were so sweet and innocent!
The next amount of time passed without many interesting things. As the initial new home shock wore off, I began handling them more. Apollo more so than Zeus. Zeus was (and still is) a butt when he sees The Hand. I spent a lot of time trying to convince them that I’m not an eagle, but I don’t think they quite understand.
Another thing: one night while I was browsing GL, I decided that the food I had bought for them was no longer acceptable. I had read about food and planned to switch to Oxbow after this package was gone, but I really panicked for some reason and decided to spend some time sifting out the seeds, colored bits, etc. I was up until about 2 am and hadn’t even finished the bag. I think it was the next day that I finally gave up and just bought a bag of Oxbow.
Also wanted to note that my parents were not entirely on-board with the idea of adding guinea pigs to our home. Yes, I'm a 26-year-old woman living with her parents. I told them it was too bad and I'll do what I want. My dad went "that's fine" and so it was. They still didn't want anything to do with them, though, until they came home. My mom refuses to admit that she loves them to death, but she does sneak upstairs to check on them almost every day. And my dad always cracks-wise about grilling them this summer ("They'll make some good bacon come Spring!"), which is his special way of saying that he likes things a lot.
Up next: the hazards of building a C&C and some veggie experiments.
I gave up twice in the middle, one time telling the BFF to come pick up her damn animals.
I finished it the next weekend though, and it was worth it. I knew I would need to expand again soon, but had to decide how I would arrange things to make room for more cage. (Side note: that time has come. The boys will have at least a 2x4 by next weekend.)
"Ok, maybe this New Mom isn't as bad. Would an eagle really try to make us comfortable?
This was also when I switched to fleece. It didn’t take long for me to get really fed up with hauling out bags and bags of Carefresh (and buying it all the time). Fleece seemed like a great solution.
I spent hours and hours browsing the care guide in these first weeks and decided that their suppers didn’t have to consist only of various colored bell peppers. I gave them cucumber and a little bit of parsley now and then, but their absolute favorite was cilantro. Both would calm right down during lap time as long as I had some cilantro for them. They even took it right out of my hand!
"U can keep ur stoopid chzburgr, for I haz a hat."
You may have noticed by now that I am Queen of Taking Crappy Phone Pictures. Sad thing is my phone actually takes better pictures than my actual camera.
(I swear I’ll make this more story and less textbook when I get a little more current with things. Just wanna catch up first. I may beat myself silly if I miss part.)
So, November rolled around. It was getting chillier and the boys were getting bigger. There was an obvious size difference—both have been growing steadily and seem to be at healthy weights, but Apollo is about 100g larger. Apollo was obviously The Dominant and Most Boarly Boar. I gave them two food bowls and veggie bowls (and water bottles, though they ever only use one. Ever. Even if the preferred one is empty, they never touch the second), but apparently Zeus is just a smaller guy.
Because of their (Apollo’s) increasing size (girth), I needed to find some new hidey-hole options. I had quickly replaced their old wooden shack with a chew-y log (I didn’t realize they were bad until after I bought it). I also took a spare scrap of fleece and made what I intended to be a hammock-type area in the corner. Of course, it was really a tent, as was demonstrated all the time by Apollo.
This was the first time I saw either pig lay down. Also the first time I saw saxxy leg.
November also brought the first butt inspection and subsequent cleaning. I had ordered some alfalfa and pellets from Sweet Meadow. They loved the hay, but it was very, very leafy and crumbled into tiny bits very quickly… and the boys (Apollo especially) started rubbing their butts on everything. Poor Apollo almost had hay growing from his privates! There is no picture here because they are minors and therefore unable to supply pictures of their genitals. Dr. Mom read until early morning about sac cleaning and decided to go for it. Very bad experience for everyone involved.
They hid from me for a full 20 minutes until dinner time!
Grandma Mom was thoroughly disgusted that I was digging around inside Apollo, but agreed to help with a pedicure.
In other less icky news, Zeus started to socialize a lot more, probably because he was getting extra attention and treats.
I adopted my female a year ago. She is very temperamental. One minute you can pet her, another, you can't. She has decided that she would rather turn around and PEE at me when she doesn't want to be bothered. And I'm pretty sure Jasper has been sprayed a time or two.
So YES, female guinea pigs will use pee as a weapon. There is a video of a female spraying in the face of another guinea pig.
I sure hope that works...
As an aside, I've been pigsitting BFF's kiddos for a couple weeks now, and I take them back tomorrow :( I'm hoping to get tons of memory pics before they leave me, so there will (hopefully) be more pics up soon. They just won't be my pigs, is all.
Grandpa Dad has been bugging me to bring one of the boys down during the day to hang out in his room. My dad is pretty much bed-bound due to his poor health.
"But Daddy, they'll get lonely! And the cage isn't big enough for both of them." (The cage refers to the old pet store cage, since that's what will fit in his room.)
"Oh. They won't both go in there?"
"They'll go in, but they won't get along very well because it's so small."
I should also explain that I work long, crazy hours, so if one came down during the day it might be 12+ hours of separation. They already wheek like crazy when I take one out for cuddles... and I pretend it's meant to say "BROTHER! WHERE ARE YOU?! PLEASE COME BACK I MISS YOU SO!" but I may be wrong.
So I started browsing Craigslist. After reading a few threads in the Placement forum, I realized that I very easily could become a hoarder. I wanted more guinea pigs more than I wanted anything in the world, but I had to work very hard to control my urges. I stopped pausing to look at the poor imprisoned animals when I walked through Big Evil Petstore. I stopped looking at Petfinder. I tried to eliminate every trace of there-are-other-guinea-pigs-in-the-world from my life.
But I couldn't quit completely. I didn't stop looking at Craigslist. The deal I made with myself was that I would only bring more pigs home IF they were found on craigslist and were living in poor conditions. A couple weeks went by and I saw nothing, so I basically forgot about it.
Then it happened. I saw listing, just posted earlier that day. A poor little guy in an aquarium(!) with what looked like dirty water, dirty bedding, and a pigloo.
"Hey Daddy... how about your very own guinea pig? There's one on Craigslist."
"Well, I think I would like that."
So I emailed. And then I got a reply! And a few more replies later, it was a nearly done deal. All that was left was arranging a time to pick him up. Then the owner flaked, and I was sad :(
In my depression, I forgot about my self-imposed rule and started looking at local (and not-so-local) rescue leagues. Then, as if it was fate, I found a rodent rescue an hour away from my house. "I must see them!" I said to myself. And Zeus, since he was watching me intently.
So I browsed through their adoptable things. Lots of bunnies, a couple hamsters, and two guinea pigs. I was specifically looking for a cute adult male, preferably without red or pink eyes.
The first was a male teddy-looking guy with pink eyes and a bad-but-improving case of bumblefoot. Eew, pink eyes! Poor guy, bumblefoot! I'm not experienced enough to bring in a pig that has health issues like that, so I kept looking.
The second was Travis, a sweet Abyssinian with a lovely dark brown and white coat. He was in good health, a little over a year old, and cute as the dickens! "Zeus, I must have this Travis!"
The deal I worked out with my dad was that he could be downstairs in the pet store cage during his quarantine period, then we would try introducing him to my boars and go from there. It was all worked out, so I went to inquire about my Travis, and then I saw that my Travis was already adopted. How could they give MY Travis away?!
And then I saw this:
Apollo found out that mom's blanket makes the PERFECT cozy when he gets to have cuddle time. He was pretty much laying on me then, which was cool.
Something that irritates my mom is when I bring a pig downstairs and let them sit on the table to eat. Zeus likes hiding in the Cilantro Jungle and pulling out whole stems for eatin'.
Side note: there has only been one (ONE!) "accident" on the table. Apollo walked about a foot away (my dad and I were both at the table and were corralling him with various things, including my arms), and peed on my mom's notebook of crochet patterns. None of the contents were soaked, though, so no harm done!
So I saw this:
and I emailed almost instantly.
Calico and Cocoa, one-and-a-half, bonded females. They were perfect! I loved them as soon as I saw them.
Wait--female?! That was NOT part of the deal. Through some miracle, though, I was able to make room for their 2x4, with the boys stacked on top. (Part of their adoption fee was a 2x4 C&C with a loft, cage blankets, hideys, water bottles, food dish, litter pan with liners, lap blankets, and cuddle sacks. They were much loved by their former family, it seems.)
So I brought them home, and many pictures were taken.
This happened minutes after their first supper at New House. Cali, formerly Calico, was just pooped from all the sniffing and pooping and eating.
This also happened. Right from my hand! This one is Coco, formerly Cocoa.
Couple days later was lap time. Or, really, chest time, since I was laying down.
I enlisted some help to get a shot of Coco's butt-hawk, but it didn't work very well.
Cali scooted around to look at Guinea Lynx with me.
This was *supposed* to be a pretty posey mouth shot. Didn't work.
ETA: I also ordered my very first hay from KMs, which arrived the day after I got the girls. Sadly, I had not ordered pellets since I was not really expecting to add adults to my mix. I got 9 lbs of bluegrass, which looked lush and tasty. I ended up giving half of it (plus a huge bag of wood chips and the little bit of Carefresh I had left) to the rescue. The hay is gone now, but I will be ordering again... I was thinking about getting 40 lbs. Too much? Probably. It's SO much cheaper than getting Oxbow at the store!
Coco decided that the new hay is the PERFECT PLACE to hide from eagles, nap, and eat. I think she stayed in there for a couple hours after I filled the hay box.
I've noticed that I enjoy photographing the girls a LOT more than the boys.
Also, funny mini-story. After I added the girls to the housing unit (boys in the penthouse, girls in the dungeon), the boys were confused, but didn't seem to notice that the girls were there. Until they started with their wheek-chorus. For the first week, the boys did a terrified scramble whenever a downstairs neighbor said anything, moved anything, drank from a bottle, or made ANY noise at all. I was worried that they'd try to break out and get at the girls, but that didn't happen.
Sidera--I think you may have mentioned it on my intro thread way back when. I still haven't gotten a good butt-hawk picture. So elusive!
Around the beginning of December, The BFF called to ask if I could take care of her kiddos while her family went East for the holidays. I told her to ask her cousin first, but that I would be more than willing to if that's how it had to work out. A couple days later, she called again.
"So... you still willing to pigsit?"
"Sure! I take it Bridgette said no?"
"Weeeeelll, I kind of never asked her. I trust you more. You're always on that forum. And plus, then you can make them a cage [a C&C] because we're not handy enough."
And that's how it happened. Hester, Bacon, and Brady were set to arrive on December 22 and stay at Casa du'Crystal and stay for about 10 days. I was excited, but very nervous. I was just adjusting to caring for 4 pigs and 7 seemed like a lot of work.
So, in the calm-before-the-storm time, I decided the best thing to do would be take holiday pictures. It was... quite an undertaking.
Interested in everything BUT posing.
"Can we eet that yet, mom?"
The boys were TOTALLY scared for some reason. Maybe it was the tumbling fleece backdrop.
... and they stayed that way until I moved them physically. It would have been perfect if they were sitting pretty at the start.
One moar. This is hanging above my desk at work.
Overall, it was a success and they all got extra munchies for being good little boys and girls.
Not many pictures were taken while they were here because, well, 7 pigs IS a lot of work (though not a whole lot more than 4, really) and I didn't get a whole lot of pose-y time. They were also, obviously, scared and spent a lot of time in their houses.
Brady. Lover. I didn't like him until I picked him up for the first time and he snuggled right into me like it was meant to be. I tried to keep him, but was not allowed.
Hester Ann is a pushy butthole! She wasn't overly mean to Bacon, but she certainly did not like Fake Mom at all. I did have her out for cuddle time. She jumped onto my shoulder and started headbutting me almost immediately.
There is no picture of little Bacon, who seemed to want to be friends with everyone.
I also decided that since the boys didn't seem as freaked out by hearing the girls, it might be okay for them to see each other. Just to have them associate each other's sounds and maybe have some friendly chatter.
The chosen location was my lap, where hands could easily whisk them away. (I also had help.) I intended to watch them like a hawk (er, eagle) and stop at the very first sign of rumbling or Imma-hump-you.
Not the brightest idea I've had, but it didn't go too horribly. Apollo and Cali were the first pair. Cali decided to be a pushy lovebug and squished Apollo trying to cuddle. He was scared for the first few minutes, then realized that he was in the presence of a very sexeh lady and thought it best to demonstrate that he is the Boarliest Boar Evar. That's when he was put away.
Coco and Zeus went better. Zeus didn't realize Coco is all woman until it was too late and he was back in with his brother. Nonstop rumbling, butt-puffing, attempted humps, and little spats were had that night.
AND THEY NEVER STOPPED!
I feel like I accidentally thrust my boys into adolescence. The last couple weeks have been fighting over the best spot to see the girls. Larger cage was in order, but would have to wait. I readied the quarantine cage in case there was any serious injury and got maybe 4 hours of sleep a night for several nights--due to my own freakout-ish concern and the noise. (They have a larger cage now which will be featured in another post.)
My advice to new pig owners: do not mix boys and girls, even for a few minutes, even if you're holding both of them. I had no accidental pregnancies, but it was DEFINITELY a major headache.
So, after the rumble-butting fiasco that never ended, I decided it was time to expand. I knew the day was coming... it was just a matter of deciding what I wanted to lose to make room for more cage space. I decided the best thing to do is just have stacked 2x4's, which meant losing the supplies storage space. I suppose that's better than losing my bed or bookcase though, right?
Another thing I wanted to try is a half-height loft, so I decided to work that into my design. All went well and there have been no major mishaps with the cage design thus far. I did run out of zip ties. I do still have almost a whole package of grids. I never want to cut coroplast again.
I was hoping to find a picture of the old setup for comparison, but I neglected to take one. So, I'll describe the various stages!
Cage 1: just the boys
-two grid heights of storage area with living space on the third story
-dimensions: 2x2 with a 1x1 extension. Yes, much too small, but it's what I was able to do at the time and it was still a little more than double the pet store cage size. They had a lot of floor time.
-I liked this cage. A lot.
Cage 2: girlyboars join the family
-level 1: 2x4 living area for the girlies with a 2x1 storage space
-level 2: boys. Same dimensions. Three grids hung over the girls cage. Covered unless I was accessing them.
-This was ok, but obviously not great for the guys.
Cage 3: Equality for All
-Level 1: 2x4 with a 2x1 half-height loft.
-Level 2: empty space and supports. I didn't want to have them stacked right on top of each other because I don't have the space to slide out the corofloor for cleaning every day.
-Level 3: Another 2x4 with loft.
Here is a picture:
Note that the bottom was un-fleeced at that point. I realized *after* building that I didn't have the fleece capacity to cover it, so I had to wash the girls' extra bedspread. I plan to order some more bedspreads soon, but I'm being thwarted by Mom's New Interest in my kiddos. She volunteered to science together some spreads for me, since they're pretty expensive to buy. I'm a little obsessive about having matched sets of things, though, so I don't know if I'll take her up on that offer or go behind the back and purchase them. We will see. For now, there will be LOTS of floor time while bedding is washed.
Also note the Christmas lights. I like seeing my guinea pigs, but the stacked cages don't allow enough light in to suit my tastes, so I added lights. So far, they've been left alone and are only on when I'm present. I should also note that I'm the type that leaves lights up all year 'round because I like the pretties. I started that in college and got a lot of weird looks, but everybody liked hanging out in my room because of the mood lighting. (This was before I finished adding all of the water bottles and other things.
This happened. I think the loft/ultra-large and accessible hidey is a win. Sorry for the blurriness. I also added a fleece forest (not pictured), and the girls LOVE it. The boykids are still confused and not sure how to use it, but they've grown accustomed to the loft.
It's amazing how messy the boys are with their hay and food. I have tried EVERYTHING to contain their hay, but nothing works after the initial confusion wears off. I've learned to just deal with extra cleaning and fleece-shaking.
This was 3 minutes after sweeping and supper. THREE MINUTES! (The little bits of hay were leftovers from the previous day's sweeping. The veggie chunks were new. They'll grab something from the bowl, take a few nibbles, and then throw it.)
And then this happened last night.
My sweet boys were acting sweet again. For a few minutes. I think they were interested in the hay I swept into the sweeping bowl.
Cali has also been very sweet lately, but I failed to get a picture. For the last few days, she finds a comfy spot and sits there, waiting for me to look up at her. Then she does a popcorn and perches her front feet on the grids and waits patiently for a chin scritch. THIS is the kind of thing I was hoping would happen eventually.
I'll probably be doing a Valentine's pig-ture party next weekend. I'm excited! My pictures don't turn out very good, but it's fun finding the props and setting everything up.