One week ago I held Ziggy for the last time. It has been a summer of sadness, with many losses, both pets and humans. With each new loss, it feels as if I lose the others all over again. It occurs to me that while my little sanctuary is made up of all ages of homeless pets, more often these are older pets. Because of the different ways these homeless pets find their way to the Funny Farm, sometimes I have no idea how old a pet is until I see the walk, the stiffness, the hesitation and the slowing down that I feel in myself, now, as I age. I recognize the signs. So it was with Ziggy this past year. I could see a bit of weight loss, a few stray gray hairs, the little trot not quite as sprightly. And now he is gone.
Some pets come to me as if by magic. Others I seek out. My little female guinea pig Jette was alone, her auntie having passed on, and I located Ziggy at a small rescue north of here. (There were two males and I often wonder what happened to the one I passed over.) Ziggy came home, got neutered, and went to live with Jette. She was in a long narrow cage, two cages, really, end-to-end, and she could really catch air in there! Recently, a very large guinea pig had arrived and grown and grown and grown and was now spending a lot of time outside that cage.
Ziggy was quite athletic in those days. He spent a lot of time on top of his huts and roared back and forth in the long, long cage. I made him a suspended hay rack out of the leg of a pair of blue jeans. He liked it best once the hay was gone- he’d take a running leap up into the blue-jean tunnel and loll about up in there for hours. The “missing guinea pig” could be located by poking at the pudgy bulge in the tunnel. “Yep, he’s in there!”
Ziggy and Jette had some very good times. This was a photoshoot for a Papua Piig halloween mask contest.
Ziggy was less cooperative than Jette.
Here is Jette and Ziggy looking at the fancy sweatshirt that was the prize for the mask contest. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that they weren’t really the winners. The Great Big Guinea Pig actually won.
Ziggy thought nothing of hopping up into a food basket. He had just enough long, long fur to make his bum look big and round. But not enough of it to create an inconvenient grooming obstacle.
Jette and Ziggy lived together happily for a couple of years.
Alas, not long after Hanukkah, Jette succumbed to one of her many respiratory problems and then Ziggy was alone. He began to taunt the Great Big Guinea Pig in the kitchen, and Dobby in turn began to click and stomp and let everyone know about the annoying little rodent in the intrusive cage in his kitchen.
Situations change quickly at the Funny Farm. Before you could say “poor lonely Ziggy,” I had agreed to provide sanctuary for two male guinea pigs, and a second pair came as fosters. Suddenly I had 5 male guinea pigs and The Dude Ranch was founded!
It was a lengthy process, but eventually they all got along well enough OUT of the cage, to be put INTO the cage. I have learned never to rush that process: not with guinea pigs, not with rabbits, chickens, and never with ducks.
And then they were five.
The Dude Ranch was the perfect environment for a widower pig. Ziggy loved to be held and petted. Visitors would reach toward the cage and the guinea pigs would scatter, diving into huts and pigloos. All except Ziggy, who came near to be touched. He was a trusting and confident pig, reliably pettable for small children. He was always my first choice for toenail clipping night. Might as well start with the easy one!
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Ziggy is centrally located at the feed trough.
Yes, in fact they are constantly eating. Why do you ask?
Alas, summer sadness struck The Dude Ranch. One of the foster brothers, Ankhsheshonq, died suddenly. His brother Carl, who is healthy (other than needing eyedrops for cataracts) will be 7 years old in October. A very respectable old age for a guinea pig. I noted the fragility of little Ziggy, the guinea pig for whom I knew no birthdate, no age. He continued to join the stampede at the food trough, though. Until he didn’t.
He spent a very quiet last day in my arms. He said goodbye to his friends, he drank a little water, but his time here was done. And The Dude Ranch is now three. They are subdued, but their friendship is strong, and the snacks keep coming.
It’s tough to be a sanctuary sometimes. So many homeless pets come here to live . . . and then to die. It’s what I do. I take in homeless pets. I can only take a few, but when they come here, they come home to stay. Until they leave.