Sunday, December 14, 2014

Think, Think, and Think Some More!

I know I already posted today... but then I went through a few emails.  And I've come to the conclusion (many times over, over the last 12 years) that no one thinks anymore before getting an animal.  Let me share why that's important.

First, bringing a chinchilla into your house.  It actually can be more time consuming than a dog or a cat.  My dogs, I let them out to potty, they come back in.  I can pick up the poo, I can not pick up the poo, but even if I don't (only in my own yard), it doesn't turn my house into a stink-pile.  If you don't clean a chinchilla cage, eventually it will smell.  And mind you, it's inside.  In general, it's not common to use dog-sized food bowls for chins.  Because people use smaller ones, they end up refilling them more often.  Same with water bottles -- they only come so big.  So, you have to refill em.  Between filling food bowl, water bottle, making sure there's chew toys in the cage, and keeping the cage clean, it doesn't take all that much time.  If you keep up with it.  You let it get bad, and it takes longer to get that cage clean.  Do you have time to fit a weekly cage cleaning into your schedule?  Do you have time to interact with the chin, in the way  you want to?  Mind you, they don't need to come out daily, they are independent and do fine on their own, left to themselves.  But will you feel bad if you leave them in the cage a lot?  Because here's the thing.  The #1 reason I get chins in at the rescue (true or not), is that "they don't have time for it anymore."  Now, I understand schedules change.  People get different jobs with different responsibilities, and so on.  I do understand, don't get me wrong.  But people get a chin and two days later don't have time, and for situations like that, I have a hard time believing all of a sudden they had time Monday and their life (with no job change, no new baby, no nothing), flip flopped Tuesday.

Next, bringing home a second chin.  I am a firm believer that you should not bring home a second chin unless you are prepared to have an entirely separate second cage.  Second food bowl, second water bottle, second everything.  Let me repeat that.  Even if you want your chin to have a buddy, I don't believe you should bring another one home without being fully aware of the possibility that you may need a second separate cage, when they don't get along.  Just this week, I've had multiple people asking about bringing in chins.  Why?  Because they got a chin from craigslist, or a family member, or wherever, as a buddy for theirs, and the chins won't get along.  Which is definitely not unheard of.  And now, guess who gets those chins?  Oh yeah, the rescue.  Now, tell me, why is that fair to me, the rescue, because you didn't plan ahead, now I'm saddled with more chins?  Because you just thought everything would work out hunky dory and it didn't.  Now, sometimes it does.  Sometimes the chins become best buddies for life, and in a perfect world, that happens all the time.  But when it doesn't.... most people are not wanting to keep that second chin in a separate cage and separate everything, and so it gets pushed off on a rescue or on someone else.

Then, vet bills.  It says right in my care packet, if the chin has to go to the vet, it can be expensive.  Now, I do note, that is an "if."  Many of my chins here have never been to the vet.  Not because I don't care about their well-being, but because they do not need yearly check-ups, and if they don't get sick, no reason to take them in.  That said, I have never walked out of the vet's office for under $200.  And that's the local vet, mind you, not the exotic specialist.  Had one chin who was attacked by another chin, needed stitches on her head and back.  $200ish to get her stitched up.  Developed an abscess on her forehead at the stitch site a week or two later, another $175ish to get that drained and get antibiotics.  For a total of $375ish to repair an injury from two chins (see above regarding getting a second chin, another reason to think).  Had a guinea pig (though, would be the same for a chin) dropped and injured her spine.  Swelling around the spine, went in for two steroid shots.  Around $75 each visit, for two, and then the vet suggested laser therapy.  That was at least $400 over the next 6 weeks.  She ended up able to walk again, when the swelling went down.  To the tune of about $600.  Had a chin that got it's leg caught in the hammock (not here, was brought here after that happened), took to the vet.  Laser therapy again, antibiotics.  Soaking the foot nightly.  To the tune of $600+ as well.  Had a chin develop a blockage.  Over the course of a few months, over $2000 in vet bills for various meds, tests, x-rays, etc etc.  Point is, none of these are even major surgery.  None of these required amputation, anything as severe as that.  And look at the prices of these vet bills.  Point is, a lot of people think that because it's not super common for chins to get sick, that they never will.  Not the case.  If it happens, it can / will be expensive.  So people need to think, "ok, so it may never get sick.  But IF it does, am I willing to shell out a few hundred for treatment?"  And see, I'm even ok with people going to the vet, finding out how much it will cost, and saying, ok, they can't afford it.  We can't afford everything either, don't get me wrong.  But I feel like, people should at least be willing to go to the vet, check it out, and if it's not something they can afford, see about either surrendering it to a well-funded rescue or putting it down.

Going along with that, most rescues are not money trees either.  I can't tell you the number of people who call me up or email me about malo chins.  They can't afford the $200 per filing.  And I feel bad when I tell them, but.... we can't either.  It's a lot of money just to afford food for as many chins as are in the rescue at one time.  Much less add one chin to the mix who, alone, is costing $200+ per month, plus gobs of time for handfeeding, and who will never get adopted.  I'd like to save them all, I really would.  But some just can't be.  And at the end of the day, money can be better spent.

Going along with that.  People have asked, when we have animals die, if we got necropsies to find out why.  If we have multiple die in a short period of time, then we will likely get a necropsy.  However.  We have had them done multiple times in the past, and in general, they come back inconclusive.  We've even had samples sent down to Purdue, which adds another $150-200 on top of the $200 for the necropsy, and Purdue does the same "we don't know" gesture.  Is it worth that money?  Generally, the answer is no.  Even when we had multiple chinchillas dying all at once, October 2013, and had samples sent down to Purdue, it was 5 weeks before results arrived.  5 WEEKS!  Luckily, whatever was going on stopped about the time we had the necropsy done, because all our chins woulda been dead by the time we found out what was wrong.  I just bought food for the chins.  Maybe it'll last a month or two... for $150.  That's just the pellets.  I'd rather have 2-3 months of pellets than know why one chin died.

Another thing to think about.  Moving.  My adoption form actually asks, are you planning on moving and what would you do if you moved.  In general, the answer is, "no, but if we were going to, we'd take the chins with."  Wonderful sentiment, but then you'd be amazed how many people turn around and can't find an animal friendly place.  Believe me, they could find them if they looked harder.  Now, don't get me wrong.  That animal friendly place may not be as close to work as they'd like.  It may not be the penthouse suite at the fancy apartment complex with the doorman that they like.  But... that's what happens when you have animals.  So, people need to think, "Ok, I say I want these chins.  I say I will take them with.  But when I move, am I willing to move into a less desirable place, in order to keep these chins?"  If the answer is no... I say, move on.  I don't feel like chins (or any small animal, for that matter) should be regarded as something throw-away, when moving because they've become an inconvenience.  If you want them, you should want what goes with them, or at least tolerate it, until you can get your own place, where you can do whatever you want.  Just like you wouldn't expect to adopt a pit bull and then complain when your apartment says they're on the list of banned breeds, no one should expect that they're going to be able to just move anywhere with chins.  Just because they're caged.

Sneaking them in isn't viable either.  What happens when the apartment complex catches you and says they need to be gone?  Oh yeah, now you have 5 days to get rid of them, and how are you going to do that in that amount of time?  If you put them up really cheap, you'll often end up with either (1) someone who could never afford a chin in the first place, and now can get one because you've put it up for $20, but can't afford continual costs of supplies and heaven forbid, vet bills, or (2) someone who wants to breed so they can make money.  If you don't put it up cheap, chances are, you won't be adopting it out quick, and then, when time runs out, you will be dropping it at a rescue.  I've had multiple people this year, who've brought by chins because they were either moving out of state, out of the country, to an apartment that didn't allow exotics, and so on and so forth. 

And an additional thing to think about.  Lifespan.  Chins can live 20+ years with proper care.  Do  you know what you'll be doing in 20 years?  No?  I don't either, so don't feel bad.  But the thing is, half the people who bring in chins clearly had no idea what their life plans were for next week.  If you know you're moving back in with your parents in 3 weeks and they absolutely forbid you to bring any animals, why in the world do you go and get a chin?  If you know you're going to college, plan to live on campus and can't take the chin with, and your parents refuse to watch it, why do you get a chin?  I can't predict 20 years into my future either, but there are people in my life who would know what to do with my chins if I keeled over tomorrow.  When getting a chin, or any animal, people need to think about the future.  Think past the next week, into some time into the future.  

And another thing to think about.  What a chinchilla is.  I get a lot of people who ask me, "what does a chinchilla do?"  Chins are caged animals.  What do you think they do?  They eat, they sleep, they chew on things.  You can let them out to run and they run around and hop on you.  Some people can get them trained to do certain things.  But in general, they're an animal that lives in a cage that you can let out for playtime.  Period.  So I get chins in because people's kids get tired of them.  Well.... I think that comes down to expectations.  If you research chins, you're not likely to find that they'll play fetch with you.  Cause they won't.  Rats might.  You're not likely to find that they will sit and watch tv with you.  Hedgehogs might.  Guinea pigs might even.  Not so much chins.  So, if people research, or even just ask questions of owners, rescues, breeders, find out what it's really like to own chins, and go from there... they won't be dissapointed.

It all comes down to this -- think before you adopt.

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