The Guinea Pig Diaries – Part 9

The Guinea Pig Diaries – Part 9

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Infection

Being pregnant was strange experience. I could feel the babies growing inside me and I loved it when they kicked. I felt very special and the bigger my babies grew the fatter I got. Tintin was very nervous about motherhood and she couldn’t accept the new life growing inside her. I loved the idea of being a mother and Penny used to call me Mother Earth, she was really excited about the babies and so was I. She had dreamt about their names and so their names were chosen before they were born, Snowflake, Patcheous, Ginem, and Harold. I was glad she chose the name Harold because that was the name of my beloved father.

As Tintin and I grew, Penny went out and bought two more males. ‘‘Two more boys,’’ I thought, ‘‘what’s she doing? We don’t want four boys. How will Tintin and I cope?’’ Tintin agreed with me and we hoped we wouldn’t have to share a cage with that many boys, we would be worn out and have less idea who the father of our babies were. At least now we could pin it down to Hamlet or Black Beard, if we ever needed to claim child maintenance in the form of cucumbers and carrots to feed our brood.

Carrots

When Penny introduced us to the boys, I understood why she had bought them. They were so cute and appealing, even I thought they were loveable, but they were mere babies and I didn’t want them in my cage. I didn’t realize then that one of them was destined to give me some of the most adorable babies imaginable. Hamlet was a bit jealous at the time, but he soon got over it when I was allowed to live with him on a permanent basis.

Penny called the boys Mohawk and Silver Feather. Mohawk was completely black with a main of hair that stuck up from his head to halfway down his back, a bit like a Mohican. He also had a lovely white blaze, on his forehead, like a horse. In fact, when he got older, the Mohican of hair looked like a horses main and with the white blaze, he looked very much like a horse. But I was never tempted to ask Penny to buy me a saddle, so I could gallop off into the sunset with him.

You may be asking yourselves, ‘‘how does Henrietta Harriet know what a horse looks like?’’ You forget, I watched television with Penny and she liked all the nature programs. Penny often explained about the animals we saw on television and that’s how I saw my first horse, so that period in my life was very educational. ‘‘An educated guinea pig?’’ You’re saying. Don’t be so discriminatory, guinea pigs can be educated, it just takes a human with plenty of time and love.

Silver Feather had the most wonderful black and white hair. Some of his black hair had bits of white streaked through it, which made him the most unusual guinea pig Penny had ever seen. She later discovered they were from a breeder who bred the Magpie and Dalmatian guinea pigs, but because they were not show quality they had to be sold. You could clearly see about six spots of white hair on the side of Silver Feathers body. He was a handsome guinea pig and I was proud when I had his babies, but I didn’t love him, I loved Hamlet. Hamlet was and always will be the love of my life.

The brothers were put in a cage next to Tintin and I, and we used to have really long chats with them, they had lots to tell us about their old home and their mother. They were sweet little boys who were full of fun and they brought so much joy and happiness to Penny with their antics. They did a lot of pop-corning, which is jumping in the air and twisting their bodies before landing, which was wonderful for all of us to watch. They were about two months old when Penny put them out in the hutch-run with Hamlet and Black Beard.

The weather was getting hotter and so before our babies were born Penny put us girls in the garden during the day, under the metal top of our lounge cage. We were next to the hutch-run, and the brothers came up to us every day to complain about Black Beard, who was bossing them around. They had to obey him because he would bark out orders and look so murderous until they complied with his wishes. I heard him barking out orders a few times and it made me jump. Tintin cowered in the corner of the cage when she heard him, and said, ‘‘I’m glad he’s not living us now.’’ Tintin was the type of guinea pig who would have been a battered guinea pig, poor creature. I would have kept her safe.

We enjoyed our time out on the grass, it tasted so sweet and delicious, and I became hooked on my daily munch of grass. I enjoyed watching the birds and the different cats that came into the garden to be chased off by Poppy. The cat that hung around the most was the big ginger and white one that Penny always fussed over. He wanted to live with us, but Poppy was not having it and she always tried to chase him out of the garden, but Ginger, as Penny called him, took no notice of Poppy. When Poppy slept on Penny’s bed in the night, Ginger would sneak in through the cat-flap, eat Poppy’s food and sleep on the kitchen chair. When Penny got up in the morning, Ginger would greet her and ask for breakfast and then he would hang around the garden all day until it was time to eat Poppy’s food and sleep on the chair again. So unofficially, Ginger was living with us.

Guinea on Grass

Poppy was at this time, fed up of all the boxes arriving with new guinea pigs and she was getting really shitty with Penny every time there were new additions to our guinea pig family. We had a mother and daughter arrive in their own cage, and Penny put them in with Tintin and me. Their previous human hadn’t properly looked them after, and they became ill because they had been fed on human food, such as pizza crusts and corn flakes. How sad, we all thought. I helped Penny look after them and Tintin and I shared our food with them. They had never had such good quality food and they ate as much as they could. They were called Lucy and Holly, and they were pretty ginger and white guinea pigs, with a crest of hair on their heads like a crown. The only problem was, the bad food they had been fed had damaged their immune system, which meant they had no protection from viruses and illnesses.

Lucy and Holly told us about their human and how they sometimes had no food for days on end and had to eat the shredded paper in their cage. When I heard this I started crying and so did Tintin, we felt so sorry for them. They were happy guinea pigs and had lots to tell us about their first home with their mother and their experiences in the pet shop before the human who neglected them bought them. I learnt so much from them. My life was broadening out and I was learning more than I had ever imagined.

When Penny took the neighbours two dogs for walks along the coastal paths, she used to go foraging for food for us and would bring back carrier bags of grass, dandelions and wild kale. Unfortunately, Lucy and Holly caught ringworm from some of the vegetation Penny had picked along a farm track that had horses going up and down on a daily basis. Horses catch ringworm from cattle. Ringworm is a fungal infection that looks like a raised bright red circle of tiny spots that grows wider and deeper, unless treated. It is very contagious and spreads by contact or by fungal spores traveling through the air. Penny caught the infection from one of us and had a patch of it on her shoulder. It was a very difficult time for all of us.

Penny had to take Holly and Lucy out of our cage in case they infected us and she treated them to twice weekly baths with a fungal shampoo and twice a day they had to have fungal cream applications. The ringworm had affected them badly and they both had bleeding sores. Lucy’s one eye turned completely white and that’s when Penny decided to have them put down. Tintin and I, and the boys were also infected with the ringworm to varying degrees. The boys were not as badly affected as us females and they didn’t suffer for as long as we did. We all had to have the special baths twice a week and the fungal cream applications. Silver Feather was nick named Mr Nippy, because he tried to bite Penny each time she bathed him, the other three boys were like me, good little guinea pigs that didn’t bite.

Minolta DSC

It was very difficult because our babies were due to be born and Penny knew if we were still infected the babies would also be affected. All our cages had to be bleached twice a week; poor Penny had to work so hard to clear up our condition.

Weeks later, while Penny was still dealing with the ringworm infection that now only affected Tintin – the rest of us were miraculous clear – the brothers Mohawk and Silver Feather were up to no good. They were so small they were running out through the bars of the hutch-run and having a great time running all over the garden and eating various plants. They would sneakily run back into the hutch-run before Penny went outside and caught them. Hamlet was too big to get out through the bars and follow them, but Black Beard, after a few weeks of this going on, managed to get out through the bars with a bit of a struggle. The danger was, he couldn’t get back in.

Penny was looking out of her bedroom window the afternoon that Black Beard had managed to escape, and she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Three of her male guinea pigs were running around the lawn. I sensed the panic in her mind and I picked up her thoughts of, ‘‘What if a cat gets one of them? What if the magpies attack them?’’ She ran downstairs and raced out of the back door onto the lawn. Tintin and I watched as she tried to catch them and we had a great laugh watching them running around trying to avoid her. Silver Feather ran into the flowerbed, Mohawk ran around the hutch-run playing pee-a-boo around the corner. Black Beard was easiest to catch because he was trying to get back into the cage to escape from her. Penny brought Black Beard into the house and put him in a box, which she placed next to us in the lounge, and then she went outside with a towel to get the boys.

‘‘How’s she going to catch them with a towel?’’ I asked Tintin, who shrugged her shoulders and looked really vacant. We watched Penny chasing the brothers and when she managed to get them onto the lawn, she threw the towel on top of them.

‘‘Well that stopped them.’’ Tintin nodded, and we watched Penny trying to get them out from under the towel.

When Penny brought them into the lounge to put them in the box with Black Beard, Mowhawk was screaming, ‘‘don’t put us in there with that bully!’’ But Penny didn’t understand what he was trying to tell her.

Images courtesy of freeimages.com

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