In the beginning: Kiyoshi
I had just finished my Standard Grade exams and was overdue my "well done" monetary congratulations when I saw the loan boar who would trigger my spiral into Cavy Slavedom. I was one of those idiots who had owned a hamster and guessed that a guinea pig was the same but bigger and the poor pet shop assistant didn't have the guts to tell me otherwise.
After some keen trickery with words and reason my mum and I left the pet shop armed with the necessities for a pet guinea pig, a boxed up new pet and a proud mother who had made her daughter happy. As we discussed how we were going to explain the new mammal to my father I had no idea that what I had just purchased would cause me so much stress and heartbreak in the future.
I named him Kiyoshi, having stolen the name from a RP character I often encountered on an AOL-based RPG chat.
However, as I fell deeply in love with my new squeeky, small and terrified pet I also tumbled into knowledge of guinea pig care. The first knock to my system from the RSPCA Care Guide I had purchased was that pigs were social animals. I felt guilty that my own pig was a lone sailor and my mum and I searched for information that would confirm Kiyoshi would be okay on his own. We failed and it was decided that we would have to find him a friend.
But while we waited to find Kiyoshi's dream companion I continued to get to know my new little friend and pour onto him every rookie mistake I could, all of which he kindly endured and seemed to enjoy.
A friend came in the form of an older boar, Ghost/Snow. Ghost (as I later kept him) was an ex-breeding long haired red eyed boar who had already had a tumble in life who was given to me as he was beginning to pull his hair out from living with his sow (neither were fixed) who had begun to deny him consistently. His baldness was beginning to concern his breeding owner and with a caution Ghost came to live with us... they never were a match made in heaven.
Ghost's life began in breeding negligence. His mother had been bred and from this litter came Ghost along with his brothers and sisters. All piggies were kept in the same cage for months until some of the girls became pregnant again. When the children of the family who Ghost and his parents and siblings got bored of the pigs new homes were sought along a network of friends. Through this network of friends I learned that Ghost outlived his only long-living sister by two years.
Ghost was given to Jane* to look after as Jane already had knowledge of keeping piggies and it was believed that he would have a good home there. Ghost was such a beautiful boar that Jane was keen to pass on his genes through her own sows and that he did, meeting and singing to all of the girls in the piggie room.
It was believed that Ghost would be unable to get along with another boar because he had been bred from and so, when he failed to get a young sow pregnant, she and he were kept together as companions. In frustration or boredom Ghost then began to pull his fur which resulted in his subsequent rehoming when Jane caught word that I was looking for an older boy to pair with Kiyoshi.
Their pairing was epic; I was horrified that Ghost continuously chased and humped the younger Kiyoshi -- Kiy' was a baby, afterall! The pair, until I later was able to build a C&C cage were given floor time and grass-time together while they slept apart. They got on famously when they had a large space, but in a small tank of a cage they would bicker and grump.
After a few blissful years Ghost began to show his advancing years... it was time for my beautiful boy to become sick and sick again.
Gosh, I can't believe how much I've forgotten about Ghost and Kiyoshi - I keep trying to pull stories about the two to tell and I can't remember many of them!
I worked each evening and before I left I would quickly prepare an area of floor with boxes so Kiyoshi and Ghost could enjoy floor time together. Looking back, they must have been seriously confused as to why they were constantly separated then put back together.
Then I found guinea pig communities online, conveniently so because the RSPCA book said nothing about what signs to look for when a pig was sick. I'd had Ghost for around a year when he had his first illness, one to which I'll never know the cause.
I took him to my traditional vet and we were given baytril and syringes to handfeed (the latter not prescribed but followed from advice from the communities) and he got better again - huzzah! I'd helped Ghost to defy death!
Meanwhile, a Livejournaller had kindly offered to send me some C&C grids and with the help of a local flooring shop I ditched the small cages and Kiyoshi and Ghost were together.
I remember at night waking up to the sound of Ghost trying to drink from the water bottle. Ghost had a habit of trying to deep throat the spout which often led to him choking himself. He was also a keen chirper, which I liked to listen to. Looking back now, his chirping would often coincide with when he would become ill, although not always.
I had to change things around in the cage a lot to keep Ghost and Kiyoshi on their toes. They weren't bonded in the way pigs will lay beside each other but on the same page they wouldn't tolerate being left alone in the cage. While I would often find healing cuts and scabs over Kiyoshi's body and Ghost's long beautiful hair was often neatly barbered, they would wheek after each other if Ghost was out for his daily groom until put together.
The pigs antics soon wasn't the only thing keeping me awake at night... especially after we adopted Holly.
I soon got into a tango with Ghost after he had some dental work where he'd become ill...
...I'd take him to the vet, force feed him, give him baytril...
..and he'd start eating again. He'd get better...
I felt almost like I was cheating death. I felt like I was keeping him from succumbing to whatever it was that my vet couldn't find that caused him to lapse into being unwell and not eating. When my second bunny, Mouse, had kits Ghost seemed to get a new lease of life and loved grumpily watching them through the holes he'd chewed in the linolium bottom of the cage...
It just made it so much harder when he died suddenly and I couldn't save my grumpy old boy.
Then there was one.[/img]
Which left me with Kiyoshi at a very unfortunate time in my life - I was moving to student accommodation away from home. My mum promised to lavish him with extra attention and I believed her. I looked forward to returning home and imagined we'd be reunited every two weeks with wheeks and lettuce, but it wasn't to be.
Kiy made it clear he wasn't happy with my absence and when I returned it took longer and longer for him to re-warm back to me again. I was forever talking to his butt and snuggling next to his grease spot. I nicknamed him "Emo Pig"...
But his new attitude, from my lovely fluffy pig who liked to nip my collar bone, into this pig who knew his owner had better things to do than be his world anymore became less joke-worthy when he began to lose weight. My mum confided in me that, for Kiy, she'd be okay with us bringing in a new boy as a companion - she loved him as much as I. He was such a belly pig :)
It took a few months for me to notice and my mum and I to agree that Kiy wasn't happy as a lone pig.
So we brought Cashew into our lives as a companion for Kiyoshi.
He got along so well with my friends little boy Chinoey...
Even though there was a pen-full of older sows right next door. Chinoey sat and happily sang at the girls by Kiy seemed determined to show Chinoey that the world actually evolved around napping and grass and since there was lots of napping and grass around, girls really weren't that exciting...
But as I mentioned before, we sought out a permanent companion for Kiyoshi. Their pairing went well, not because they got along but because Cashew was so incredibly skittish that they rarely crossed paths.
Kiyoshi was a social butterfly who was interested in what was going on in the world and what his human companions were up to -- Cashew was more concerned with locating the nearest hiding spot.
I had come back home and working two jobs when I noticed that Kiy was skin and bones. He wasn't eating although he was still just as enthusiastic as ever to see me...
I battled with him for a month but at the end of the day I realised that what was wrong with Kiyoshi was beyond the scope of what my vet could treat. Kiyoshi was seriously, seriously ill by the time I reached out for the support of a local rescue and vets who resided hours away from where I was located.
I took my little fluff ball to the nearest rodentologist where he was x-rayed and bloodwork was done. The next day I found the results: his stats were everywhere and he had both bladder stones and elongated roots in his jaw. I felt awful...
... the next call I got was to report that he had lost the use of his hind legs.
... the next day I woke up to an early phone call.
"I'm sorry to say that we lost Kiyoshi during the night..."
I will always remember my response. I'll always remember how numb, guilty and horrible I felt - I'd left him there to die, what if... what if ... I considered crying, I considered breaking down. Instead I said in a strange, strange voice:
"Oh... that's the opposite of what we want..."
Then I cried. I cried. I cried.
In the months that passed I considered rehoming Cashew. Cashew refused to let anybody form any sort of bond with him and my mum told me that she didn't think Cashew really minded being a lone pig.
My mum never really liked Cashew - not in the same way she enjoyed Kiyoshi and Ghost who would interact and respond to humans. Cashew was quiet and easy to forget and while my mum promised, before I left for uni again, that she'd give him enough attention I don't think she ever did.
As became evident during Christmas time when a few off-beat comments from my mum about being left with the pig hit a unfavourable cord with me. He deserved better and I wasn't in a position - YET - to provide him with better...
I contacted Thistle Cavies Rescue and asked if she would kindly pig-sit Cashew until my year at university was over. Wendi kindly agreed and to Thistle Cavies Cashew went.
During my visit we spoke at length about the possibility of Cashew returning with a companion. I mentioned that if she had any boys who she thought would be suitable then it was defiantly an option I was willing to consider.