Tag Archives: Guinea Pigs

Daily Drama 81 – Everybody Jumps

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Daily Drama 81 – Everybody Jumps

The neighbor’s tree started it. A rotten alder next door leapt across the fence in an attempt to reach my house. It crushed my pigeon loft, a former chicken coop donated by a fellow who dropped off his two elderly hens, Angel and Coffee Bean. The pigeons had moved in, nested, and hatched a baby before I had a chance to remove the egg during a catastrophic snowstorm. They were now loose and Phoenix gleefully greeted me at the gate when I entered the aviary that morning. The tree had rested on the top of a fence post, sparing the fence structure and panels. It touched the dove cage without marking it and reached the roof of my house, sparing the barn beneath by suspending itself neatly between the fence post and roof. Only one rebellious branch poked through the barn roof. It could have been worse, but the strategic placement of the suicidal tree meant that the bulk of the insurance check went toward tree removal. The insurance check that I received within a week of the catastrophe. Thank you. (Most insurance companies do not cover farm buildings. Does yours?)

Repairs kept us hopping. Connor had the tree carefully lifted off the farm buildings and house within a day or so of the disaster. Remik was out here the day I called him and repaired the roof the following day. The Bartender helped me construct a level foundation of concrete pavers for the new chicken coop I am using for a pigeon loft. Meanwhile, in order to discourage the rats living below the dove cage, I spread 17 bags of ready-mix concrete to make a new floor. Icky vermin had discovered that the wire sub-floor was rusted and disintegrating, providing easy access to the scattered seed the doves thoughtfully provided throughout the cage. I have a new handy source of cat poop to drop into the rat holes, and now I see the poor scavenger scurrying hither and yon, possibly homeless. (If I have cat poop, where are the cats and why aren’t they doing their job? Keep reading . . . )

Most of us have seen how goats jump up onto everything, so that’s one reason why I got sheep, instead. I didn’t want goats on the roof of my house. Sheep, as I have discovered, are jumpy, too. I started “target training” by having Charlie and Hamish “turn around.” They immediately caught on and Charlie continued to twirl long after the saltines were gone. A couple days later, I decided to try a new trick, but I was in the front yard and had no “target” handy. Training in the back yard had been so successful that I decided to throw caution to the wind and try it without the target. I asked them to stand up on their hind legs, holding the saltine aloft. They dutifully stood up, one after the other, and then the enthusiasm grew and suddenly they were jumping up for the cracker, and then jumping up on me, and then jumping up on each other, snapping at my hand and then the package of saltines tucked under my arm! The beauty of the target, you see, is that the focus is on the target, and not the hand holding the saltine. We won’t be doing tricks without the target, ever again. Hah! A couple days later, a repairmen was out to the house (a recurring theme around here) and, of course, he wanted to see the sheep. I decided to see if they would do a trick and reached for the saltine package. Before I could grab the target, they were jumping all over the place, all over me, as the repairman slowly backed toward the kitchen door, feeling behind him for the doorknob. He let himself in the door, vaguely mumbling something about how they are certainly well trained when I finally snatched up the target and re-programmed them to turn circles. Next, I’ll try something easy, like getting them onto a scale so I can weigh them.

Shetland Tree-Sheep

Princess, my beautifully behaved House-Hen (she has a heart murmur and receives meds 3x daily) has started jumping, too. She sleeps in the bathroom, but no longer in the bathtub: she jumps up to the edge and perches where she can more easily keep tabs on us during the evening. Earlier this year, we moved her to a day pen in the living room where she is nearer the kitchen flock, though she has never admitted that she is a mere bird. I am not efficient enough for her, so if I am delayed, she will choose a new bedroom for the night. Atop a curtain rod, on the capybara rabbit barrier wall, maybe the kitchen sink. The pet-sitter once found her in the fireplace. Once she is in the bathroom for the night, she generally stays put. Princess hardly ever jumps onto my shoulder when I am brushing my teeth, for instance.

She’s still sick, but stabilized, so I let her out with the other hens for Garden Party in the afternoon. Charlie the sheep quickly discovered that she would shriek and pop into the air if he put his face down at her level and took half a step forward. I had a stern talk with Charlie and he doesn’t tease her any more, though she’s still wary of him. It will be a while before they are sharing birdseed out of the same dish.

Do guinea pigs jump? Of course they do, it’s called “popcorning.” It’s like a miniature Doofus Dance. That’s not really jumping, though, is it? I’m talking about capital J-Jumping, like when one guinea pig catapults herself over a barrier into the other guinea pig cage. Sigh, it’s contagious. I have been working with Daniel Danielle since February, in hopes of moving her in with lonely Squirrel. She was too exuberant for mellow Squirrel, though, and she didn’t really get along with Brutus and Cookie Monster, either. But Danielle was was outgrowing her smaller separate cage. I finally gave up and divided the Dude Ranch into three adjacent pens: Brutus and Cookie Monster kept their section, Squirrel donated a portion of his oversized space to Danielle. My volunteer and I continued to give them floor time in neutral territory, and Cookie Monster’s “Date Nights” with Squirrel became more frequent, and we finally moved Cookie Monster in with Squirrel. I got out my slide rule, calculated the sizes of the spaces, and made adjustments to meet the minimum recommended standards. One big C&C cage divided with more wire grids. It allows them to communicate and eat together without controversy. One day last week, I went in to deliver snacks and discovered Danielle in with Squirrel and Cookie Monster. They were all milling about without concern, but I pulled her out and replaced her to her section and distributed the snacks. In the morning, she was back in with Squirrel and Cookie Monster, snack uneaten. She had jumped back over before I was down the hall. I removed the divider and Squirrel and Cookie Monster quickly investigated their new enlarged territory. I’ll recalculate the areas and fine-tune the divider between Brutus and the Three Musketeers to give Brutus a scosche more space and snug that divider up. Nobody trusts Brutus with other guinea pigs, though she is a sweetheart with people

Dobby lurks.

Grover, in better days. But wait! Who is that lurker? Behind the chair!

My mother always said “You always worry about the wrong thing.” My cat, Grover, passed away a week ago. Not the diabetic cat, Kitty Hawk, but the other one, his good buddy. I had no idea anything was wrong, but then I had him 6 years before he would let me touch his tail, though he finally did a “nose bump” with me most mornings, lately. Apparently, FIV+ ferals often succumb to dental disease, and so went poor Grover. No wonder there was increased rat activity this past couple of months. I jumped right into it, though, and got Kitty Hawk two new feral buddies from the Seattle Alley Cat Project. Larry is a dumb but pretty feral FIV+ female, so skittish she may never tame down, so another Grover-style kitty. Half-Stache has a white spot on half his upper “lip” and he’s feral, but not FIV+. He’s not adoptable due to his distinctly outdoor-only toilet habits. So Kitty Hawk has two new charming kitty friends, caged for introduction purposes. I’ll keep you posted.

 

Daily Drama 79 Sweet Kitty Hawk

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Daily Drama 79 Sweet Kitty Hawk

Kitty Hawk isn’t sweet at all. He bites and scratches me because I am never fast enough with the food. In fact, he bit the veterinarian and then the vet tech.

North Seattle Veterinary Clinic

Kitty Hawk pretends to be an innocent kitty cat.

Kitty Hawk is a barn kitty, a former feral tomcat who tested positive for FIV after he ended up at the pound. (He broke into a house, beat up the resident cat and ate his food.) He lives outdoors in my aviary where he is second-in-command to my serious rat catcher, Grover, another FIV+ former feral tomcat.

He still has plenty of energy and follows me everywhere, stopping to take a swing at the hen’s tail feathers if they don’t hop out of his way.

Diabetes is the reason why Kitty Hawk has gotten so skinny, even though he is eating twice as much food. Last week’s blood test told us the bad news and today he had his first insulin shot. Twice a day, evenly spaced, means that I get to traipse out there in the dark to give him his evening injection. It’s going to be inconvenient, expensive, and painful. For me, not the cat. He doesn’t seem to care. He likes his new food, and so does Grover.

The guinea pig room

Let’s talk about something more fun: guinea pigs! It’s great when kids grow up and leave home, because then you get an entire bedroom for your guinea pigs.

Brutus lives in this end of the cage, but where is she?

Squirrel lived alone for several years after his buddy, Stevie Ray, died. He was within sniffing and squealing distance from the others but he wanted a live-in buddy. Cookie Monster loves Squirrel, but Brutus is aptly named and will not tolerate Squirrel. So, Cookie Monster had dates with Squirrel but always went home for the night.

This is the middle apartment. Squirrel is hiding in the log cabin but you can see Cookie Monster’s white nose peeking out of a pigloo.

Daniel was supposed to be a dude buddy for Squirrel, but turned out to be Danielle. She was in a separate cage while I worked to introduce them, but like Brutus, she is very opinionated. Squirrel is a mellow guy and Danny is a speed demon, always rearranging her furniture so she can run circles around it.

Danielle is in her pigloo. Note the fence extension at the right, by the timber hideaway. You can’t be too careful with this maniac.

Brutus tolerates Cookie, but Squirrel adores her. I decided to make some changes. My large L-shaped cage has plenty of room for four, but I had to get clever in order to divide it into three spaces that each meet the minimum space requirements. I did the unthinkable: I put diagonal dividers in.

Here’s Brutus! The diagonal dividers make some odd corner spaces, and now this is Brutus’s favorite place. So I throw some hay in there and she munches away, watching her neighbors.

Squirrel and Cookie Monster have the middle apartment, and Brutus and Danielle each have end units. Brutus and Cookie Monster can still visit through the divider, and Danielle can continue to get acquainted with Squirrel and Cookie Monster. And Squirrel doesn’t have to live alone anymore.

Danielle has quiet moments, too. She is getting some dark pigmentation at her nostrils, like fancy nose make-up.

They still get floor time, of course, and we switch out the piggies to keep things interesting.

This day they had a box maze and wheatgrass treats.

The Funny Farm is getting ready for some new additions, but I’m not ready to spill those beans yet. Instead, here are some short news items.

The doves are pretending to be lovebirds. Every once in a while, I discover an egg in the nest.

The handicapped doves (one can’t fly, the other can’t walk) are, in fact, mother and daughter. Recently I added a soft little nest for The Pirate, the not-walker. Her mom, Snow White, joins her in the nest, and they snuggle on and off during the day. I had no idea that would happen, but it has totally changed the way they interact, and it’s wonderful to see them grooming each other and chatting.

Frieda lays tan eggs. Adelita lays chocolate brown eggs, and Angel lays pale aqua eggs.

The six vintage hens that live in the aviary lay about a dozen eggs a week this time of year. They range from about six to ten years old. We had a raccoon in the yard yesterday afternoon, while everyone was out for their daily Garden Party. I ran out when I heard the ruckus, but the geese and ducks had already high-tailed it back to the aviary so I only had a couple straggling hens to march back in. It was a scraggly nasty looking raccoon, not a big healthy one like I am used to seeing around here. Garden Parties have been cancelled for a while.

Sneaky Pete (AKA Norman) nibbles the edges of a head of romaine lettuce.

Here’s silly Norman, stealing some lettuce. I take out a head of romaine every morning, and distribute it fairly among the geese, ducks and hens. I drop it into the sink until I am ready to fight my way through the spider webs to toss it around. As I throw it into little piles, Norman follows me and takes a little bite out of every leaf. What a guy.

The Bartender raised up the bench to paint it, making the job easier on his back.

The Bartender has been busy painting the Little Free Library. He also painted the old bench from the back yard to match.

Chock full of books!

It’s probably the biggest Little Free Library I’ve ever seen. I put a bunch of books out there at the beginning, but more books show up all the time! There are so many new ones I have been sneaking a few for myself! It’s fun to see people walk up to take a look, and I have even seen people drive up and park!

It looks great, doesn’t it?

Stay tuned. My next blog will be full of surprises!

Daily Drama 64 – Am I smarter than a goldfish?

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Daily Drama 64 – Am I smarter than a goldfish?

In nice weather, I open the door next to my desk so that it feels like I am working outside. I had a couple raccoons approach one night, but I sent them scurrying. More worrisome is that I could step away from my desk, forget about the open door, and take Dobby to the front yard. I can only imagine the capybara glee when he finds the inviting open door into his old territory! He was banished from my bedroom/office over seven years ago. Double the glee when he finds MY pristine White Rabbit Rug! He has destroyed his, but he’s not touching mine!

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Cookie Monster and Brutus below, Stevie Ray and Squirrel above

Queen Brutus and Cookie Monster are two young guinea pigs who came to live with us recently. We are waiting for Cookie to grow up a bit so that they can be spayed at the same time. After their recuperation they will move upstairs with the dudes.

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“The bowl is empty!”

The second photo was taken after “The Great Escape.” See those orange clamps on the side of their cage? Even in this photo Queen B has been messing around with the ground covers, checking for breaches. They didn’t get far when they made their break. The girls had a little picnic way in back there by the baskets full of hay.

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The engaging plastic ball is a parrot toy stuffed with hay.

They were “free-range” before they came here, and are surprisingly tidy. They use the big hay box with the pigloo for a litter box, and have a well-used smaller litter box in their cage. I lock them in their cage at night, especially since their Big Adventure. It’s easy to shuffle them in with a big salad.

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No guinea pig photo is complete without beans!

The girls like vegetables but frown on strawberries, mango, and kiwi. Queen B is a year older than little Cookie and steals her food, but Cookie is quickly learning that I always have something for her if she waits until Brutus runs off with her prize!

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Stevie Ray will be 7 years old this fall.

Stevie Ray was losing weight and has an abdominal mass, but the trip to the vet must have scared him into getting his act back together. He’s friskier and seems to be putting weight back on. This is a guy who likes his strawberries, carrots, and tomatoes. Check out the fur under his chin! Guess he’s due for a shampoo.

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Squirrel, Maniac of the Year, in pole position at the food dish

Squirrel has been here almost a year. Not five years old, as advertised, maybe three. He’s a speed demon, very excitable. Clean cage? Popcorning. A lettuce leaf? Standing up oh-so-tall. Cleaning girls’ cage below? Zoomies going on above. I’ll never know why this amazing pig was considered un-adoptable. He’s a hoot!

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No, not a goldfish, it’s a Misgurnus anguillicaudatus, Dojo loach.

I have been trying to dip a goldfish out of Dr. Pepper’s turtle tank for two years, and now it’s enormous. It isn’t “gold;” it’s black and fast and smarter than me. Now there’s a smaller one in there, also black and fast and smarter than me. It’s not worth draining the tank to get them out. They have eluded the turtle for a couple years, too. I put them in as fry several years ago, for mosquito abatement, but with the three of them in there, nothing lives long.

Remind me to tell you the Dojo story some other time.

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Climbing rose, Rosa ‘Cécile Brünner’

This climbing rose has the most precious little rosebuds you can possibly imagine, thumbnail sized. You have to have a teeny tiny bud vase if you want to bring them inside. It’s easier to bring in a spray of flowers.

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Sluggo

Welcome to the Pacific Northwest! Bring flowers in, Sluggo will crawl over to your dinner plate from the bouquet! Seriously, slugs invite themselves into the house all the time. I guess they do, I rarely find the slugs, but see slime trails all the time.

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Norman splashes in Dobby’s clean hot tub. It won’t be clean after Dobby gets in there.

Same roses, hiding the gang valve and four hoses on the wall. It broke (don’t ask) and one of the hoses was frozen into it, the live feed into the aviary, of course. That particular hose is threaded through 50′ of protective tubing. I needed another project like a hole in the head.

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The hens are making headway at killing the brand new grass.

Winter rains kill Dobby’s grass in the back yard. After Mother’s Day, the weather is perfect for reseeding it. Every week I broadcast seed and water. The hens love to pick out the seedlings and the ducks dig holes if there are any puddles bigger than your big toe. Still, it’s looking good this year and should be in great shape when the September rain storms massacre every single blade. It’s a testimony to my optimism and sheer stupidity. Anything for Dobby, though. The boy needs pasture.

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“Actually, I prefer the mud.”

Dobby stops to indulge in a mud treatment on the way to the front yard every day. It gives the chickens time to scoot past me into the storage area where the baby grass is even more lush and tender. A couple good scratch-and-pecks and they have ripped up an area the size of a bathmat by the time Dobby finishes up at the spa.

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Dobby and Jello wait for the front door to open.

Sometimes, Dobby invites a hen to the front yard. This was little more than a week ago, and old Jello looked as perky as ever. A couple days later she suddenly departed for the big dustbath in the sky. This was her 7th spring, and her cohorts preceded her long ago. Hens are both tough and fragile as I have learned in my 30+ years of chicken wrangling.

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Practicing to be an alligator.

The mudhole in the front yard has the perfect amount of water, muck, and weedy buffet. Today I watched Dobby grazing and asked him “Go swimming?” He perked right up and we walked over to the mudhole and he scrambled right in! He used to swim in his big pool on command, but he’s not using it any more (even though his diving video has gone viral). We’re not sure he can get out of his swimming pool, though it’s unlikely he can make it up the straw bale stairs that are no longer there.

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“All I wanted to do was clean my face off on your pants. Why did you run away?”

He still has trouble walking and going up and down steps, but his weight loss seems to have bottomed out at 110 lbs and he’s back up to 116 lbs. He’s eating like a horse. Literally. The grass in the front yard is, well, it’s BIG. You can see some of the coarse blades in the foreground of the faux-alligator photo. He grazes and I cut him a bucket full and haul it around to the back for him. Prince Dobalob’s trusty servant.

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Bored with svelte, and going for the porky look next.

This toolbox holds his milk meds and supplements, all color coded for morning, noon, and bedtime so they don’t conflict with each other. The actual milk powder is in a separate container, and the yogurt is in the refrigerator. Some of the pills have to be ground up with a little mortar and pestle. The Fluid Action HA is the newest concoction to be added. Dobby started receiving K-Laser treatments at about the same time as we added the Fluid Action HA, or “Castrol” as we so fondly refer to it. One of those two treatments could be the reason why he seems to be improving.

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Where’s the milk?

Dobby’s book is in final editing and moves next to formatting for publishing! So we are very close to our due date of Late July or August.” I hope we don’t “April the Giraffe” it! When the book is available I will be pretty obnoxious about letting everyone know. Dobby’s smug fans who request postcard announcements can ignore my blithering. I will need your snail mail address. That’s what the form below is for.

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That’s all for now! Once Dobby’s book is launched, I’ll be back to my irregular but more frequent blogging.