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Guest blog from S.L. Wallace

December 8, 2012

Today I am honored to have my friend and fellow animal lover and author, S.L. Wallace as my guest here! She is sharing the story of a very special rescue. Thank you, S.L., for sharing this with us! Please check her links at the end, too!

Over the years, many non-human animals have become members of my family, but none have made quite the same impression as the guinea pigs I’ve known. For years, I was a volunteer with the CritterCorral, a guinea pig rescue in the Chicago area. You may be surprised to learn that guinea pigs need to be rescued. According to the Critter Corral website, they have taken in 2,800 homeless guinea pigs since 1999.

Where on earth do these animals come from? Some come from large-scale rescues when animals are removed from unsafe or overpopulated conditions. Some become homeless when owners are evicted or have to move and cannot take their pets with them. Sadly, many simply outlive their novelty and are no longer wanted by the people who adopted them. Some people actually think they’re doing the right thing by letting an animal loose; they think their domesticated pets will survive on their own. Guess what? They won’t. Letting a domesticated animal go “free” is actually signing their death warrant.

It’s my belief that by taking an animal and confining it to a cage or an aquarium, you become responsible for that living creature for their entire life.

Where do rescued guinea pigs go? Many are taken care of in one central location while the rest are sent off to foster homes. Until we moved away from Chicago, I was one of the volunteers who fostered guinea pigs within my home. I helped educate the public during events at area pet stores; retrieved animals from overcrowded humane societies in the area, especially those that didn’t specialize in small animals; and handled skittish guinea pigs often so that they would learn to trust humans again.

There are many stories I could tell you about the furry critters that have touched my heart. How about the story of the orange and black Abyssinian that loved to swim? Or I could tell you about the tri-colored short-haired guinea pig that would purr like a cat whenever I pet her; this typical warning, a sign of affection from her. Then there was the time I was sent out to the women’s shelter to pick up a guinea pig because they didn’t allow animals, only people, who were running away from abusive situations (the children didn’t want to leave their beloved pet behind with their abusive father).

One very special guinea pig was named Beauty. She had a pure white coat and pink eyes, but that’s not how she looked when I first met her. I was asked to pick up a guinea pig from a local cat/dog shelter. When I arrived, I found a tiny gray guinea pig. Her cage was so filthy, she was actually gray. It was only after a bath that I discovered she had pure white fur. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Not only was she gray when I first met her, her claws were so long they curled around and around, and her teeth! She had no bottom front teeth, and no one had ever trimmed her top front teeth. Guinea pigs, like beavers, have teeth that constantly grow. Had her teeth remained unchecked much longer, she most certainly would have died because she would not have been able to eat. Fortunately, Beauty had a full set of molars. Before I took her home, I stopped at the vet where I had her teeth trimmed. I quickly learned how to trim them myself as this needed to be done every couple of weeks. Then I took her home, trimmed her nails, and gave her a sudsy bath.

I offered to adopt Beauty rather than simply foster her and so she joined my group of four other guinea pigs who were living in an extremely large homemade cage. (Visit CavyCages to see what I mean.) I put up a divider so Beauty could get used to the others and they could get used to her, but she wanted in immediately! Fortunately, they took to her as well.

In many ways, Beauty wasn’t like the others. They seemed to understand that she was different, and they tolerated her quirks. For example, when Beauty held her nose in the air, she wasn’t vying for top rank, she was simply sniffing the air, and the first time I set her on the carpet, she began wandering in larger and larger circles until she understood her boundaries. That’s when I realized Beauty was blind. Then one afternoon, I took the guinea pigs outside. A car backfired. The others all jumped and scattered, but Beauty calmly kept munching grass. That’s when I knew she was deaf, too.

I did some research and learned Beauty was what guinea pig breeders call a lethal. Lethals occur when roan or dalmatian varieties are bred to each other. They are always white and often have life threatening deformities. And breeders will often kill them.

I’m glad Beauty and I crossed paths. I didn’t care that she couldn’t see or hear, and the rest of my herd didn’t seem to mind either. As for trimming her teeth, it wasn’t much different than cutting one’s fingernails, and shaving fresh veggies was no bother at all. Beauty was one of the calmest, sweetest guinea pigs I’ve ever known. She lived to be four years old, not very old but also not young. And one night, she died peacefully in her sleep.

S.L. Wallace is the author of the Reliance on Citizens trilogy.

You can connect with her at:

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From → Pets

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