Sunday, May 17, 2015

Interesting Weekend

So, this was an interesting weekend.  I trainee judged at the Ohio Field Day (chinchilla show) in Plymouth, Ohio.  It was kinda fun, a bit difficult, I thought, to come up with comments for the chins.  Knew what I was seeing, but harder to put it into words.

Then came home today -- we had three living baby chinchillas when I left.  Two of them had slightly squishy poo, and I asked Jim about that this weekend, and I came home... now the poo's fine, but one of the two has passed.  The other seems fine, with better poo.  The third baby, the nicest and most promising in terms of show potential, developed a prolapse and passed.  So this hasn't been a good few days for babies here.

All the other chins seem to be doing well.  For a moment, I wasn't sure Cheech (one of the new rescues) was eating, because I didn't see a lot of poos.  I still can't say I see a ton, but I gave him hay, and did see him munching on that... and found poos outside the cage, so always a good start.  Will continue on the hay.

Got in two more chins today.  Salt and Pepper.  Wasn't feeling wonderful (well, still not), so today I just set them up with some food, water, and chew toys, and got them in their cage.  Hopefully tomorrow I'll feel better and can get more going in their cage.  Their previous owner took great care of them, nice cage with wood shelves and all, I'd just like to make it a bit more homey if I can.  Today I did mix up their food with my food so that they'd immediately start on a mix.

Then I have the dark ebony female set to go home on the weekend... well... she was in the same cage as the sapphire that developed fungus (did I blog about that?), and the sapphire was taken back to Jim's, and now the dark ebony has fungus.  So I emailed the person who is going to come adopt her, and explained to her about the situation and asked what she would like to do regarding the fungus situation.  Part of what makes this more difficult is that she already has a chin at home, so there's always the potential that the other chin could catch the fungus.  Anyway, I told her, I can either wait a few days and then let her know how the chin's doing, or send her home with more treatment, or continue to treat her here until I see new hair growth... so we'll see what she wants to do.  The thing is, between now and her appointment, it's unlikely that there will be new fur growth (which would be a sign the fungus is gone) between now and then.  And that's the easiest way to tell that the fungus is gone.

So, she was in one of the ferret nation cages, so I moved her to a smaller cage that I had the sapphire female in when she was treating.  Wiped down the entire cage, changed bedding, new food bowls, etc etc all that good stuff.  Gave her dust with treatment in it and she was dusting to her heart's content, so hopefully this will nip it in the bud.  Left the FN she was in wide open so I remember to remove everything and scrub and boil everything.  That'll be another day.

Fed Sammy (the hamster), cleaned Cookie's (rabbit) litterpan.  Gave everyone food and water and the guinea pig and rabbit hay.  Need to clean the runs, but since I'm not feeling well, that will be tomorrow.  Put away some of the stuff I washed where it goes, opening up my drying racks to wash more items.  Was planning on washing more items, but I started feeling worse at that point, so I decided that was enough for today.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Quick post

Ok, so this is one of those totally random things, but Amber (of Wheekers) reminded me of this... when we were at the Chicago Pet Show in Oak Lawn, we were at the rescue booth, and the one lady who was looking at the rescue chins, looks at me and asks, "so, have you ever owned a chinchilla before?"  I told her, yeah I run the rescue, I usually have between 20-40 chinchillas at the rescue.  "Well yeah, but have you owned one?"  I told her, the rescue's at my house, and I have my own pet and show chins (and technically, the rescues are all "mine," until they're adopted), so yeah, I've owned quite a few.  She still looked confused.  Not sure exactly what else she could have meant....

Getting LOTS Done

So.... a few people have heard about the volunteer drama going on here, and others have asked about it, so I might as well post, as that does relate to other things going on lately.

I had a male volunteer come by to help multiple times.  First time he was here, mentioned he wanted to go out with me.  I told him I have a boyfriend, and he told me that if it didn't work out, he wanted to date me, but regardless, whether we dated or not, whether we dated and it worked out or not, he didn't want to let that interfere with volunteering.  I thought, how mature.  But he said he wouldn't be a pest about hanging out or dating or whatever.

Apparently not so much.  Cause he kept bugging me every time he was here about hanging out, going out.  He acted towards me the way I've had MOST of my boyfriends act towards me, until it got to the point where I had to nicely tell him, I mean nothing mean by it, but I told him, he's my volunteer, and I don't see him as anything else.  Told him, I don't "like" him like that, and really, we didn't even get along that great with him just being a volunteer, and I told him, because of our disagreements when he was at the rescue, I didn't really want to hang out with him for any longer than that.  I told him, I appreciated his help, but I didn't want anything further than volunteer help from him.

Well, in typical guy fashion, I've never heard from him since.  Which I feel is so immature, especially because he specifically said, no matter what, he wanted to volunteer.  Funny, cause it's looking to me like he thought that the more he volunteered, the more I'd like him, and maybe end up going out with him and all that... uhh... no.  Oh and he unfriended me on facebook.  Personally, I don't care, but if he supported the rescue and all (which he said he did, ALL the time)... doesn't quite add up.

Now, don't get me wrong, he did help.  He wasn't quite up to my speed on helping (something that I can easily do in 40 minutes, he took 3-4 hours to do).  But he did help as best he could.  But when I say we didn't get along well, we did not get along.  I totally get, when people are here, they want to pet the chins, hold the chins, all that.  I get it.  But if you come to volunteer... volunteer.  You can hold the chins, but I'd like to get something done as well.  The 40 mins vs. 3-4 hours thing... was cleaning the runs.  There are 23 pans, so in 40 minutes, that's 1.7 minutes per pan.  Dump, scrape, refill, slide back in.  3-4 hours is 8-12 minutes per pan.  We are talking mostly 15" x 22" pans here, nothing huge or difficult to move around or anything.  And so the once, I asked him something about how long it was taking and he went into this whole thing about, well, he comes over after work, because I'm never home when he's available, and he's tired, but he comes over when I'm available.  And he said, if I didn't go to Ohio, he could come over more when he's not tired.  Um... excuse me?  It's not like I'm going to give someone a key to the house so they can come by and help only when is perfectly convenient for them.  I told him, if he's tired or whatever, he doesn't have to come, I don't want people wearing themselves out on account of me.  And going to Ohio is paying the bills, so I'm sorry if I won't cancel that just because someone wants to volunteer.  I appreciate having volunteers (the few I get!) but I can't rearrange my life for them. 

One more thing.  Sort of one of those last straw things, was I had another volunteer coming over, the one day right after he was leaving.  They had adopted Oreo (rabbit) here and they brought her with them so I could see how she was doing.  Well, he immediately texted me and said he didn't think they'd work out, and he had a bad feeling about them, and they'd probably spend the entire visit playing with Cookie (the current rabbit here).  Now... mind you... he said all of this before they had even started helping me.  So, nothing to go on except that they brought their rabbit with for me to see how she was doing.  Now, I know I assume lots of things.  But I hate when people assume the worst, especially when they have next to nothing to go on.  And, also, mind you, this coming from someone who told me that he "took lots of great pics while you (being me) were cleaning" -- when HE was supposed to be cleaning.  Anyway, that volunteer turned out to be just great, she was more my pace and we got a lot done.  Well, so I told the male volunteer that (in response to him saying that they probably wouldn't work and had a bad feeling), and he got all huffy and started with the excuses again about why he's slower and all that. 

The thing is, if people really don't want to volunteer, not like I can make them.  But it does me no good to have people around who I really don't get along with.  Volunteering shouldn't be all work.  It shouldn't -- but it shouldn't be all play either.  There can be a happy mix.  I'm not a slave driver by any means, if a volunteer is here long enough (as in time, like if you come for 30 minutes, you won't be doing probably more than one thing), I try to throw some fun things in there so it's not all boring stuff.  But... I also will limit volunteers to things they actually can do.  And I mean that in the nicest way, but it's the truth -- if you prove to me that you cannot sand wood and I have to go over every piece I give you to sand... you will not be sanding.  If you leave cages open when you think you've closed them, once or twice, not a big deal.  All the time, you won't be closing cages yourself so I don't have to catch all sorts of loose chins when you're gone.  If you can't sand wood blocks, unfortunately, that means you can't help me make houses, because those are more difficult (and naturally, I could use more help with that).  In general, I don't have these problems.  Usually, I'll see someone have a hard time closing a cage, and I'll show them how.  I'll see someone having a problem with sanding, and I'll show them how I do it.  Or like with this more recent volunteer (different than the ones talked about above), she was helping me with houses and I felt she could use a bit more glue.  So I told her, and the next stuff she glued she used plenty of glue.  That's how simple it is.  But like with some people, some people will literally argue and tell me, oh they're using enough glue.  Maybe so, but if I ask that you use more, can you just please use more? 

All this said, moving along, I now have a NEW volunteer that I love.  Love love love.  She's the daughter of one of my adoptive homes... never met her til she came to volunteer.  But she is awesome!  She was here both days this weekend, and we got so much done!  She fed the chins and gave them supplement, she put together toys to be hung in my holding cages, she helped me clean the holding cages, she helped me make several houses, we made a bridge for a custom order, she helped me make shelves for an order.  I asked her to wash some food bowls that I had in the sink while I cut some wood, and she washed the bowls... and everything else I had in the sink!  She passed out some toss toys and toilet paper rolls and hay to all the chins.  She cleaned the guinea pig cage when Leo & Jeffrey went to their new home, so that Marble could be moved over into the bigger cage.  She helped get bedding for some of the smaller cages that I was setting up, she sifted the dust that was in the dusters and added dust to them.  She helped me weigh chins.  I took apart a dog gate that had been in my parents house (all pine wood) and she helped me move all the wood to the shop room.  She helped me move some packaging materials over to the shop room.  She cleaned and refilled with bedding the prairie dog cage.  I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but she helped with just oodles and oodles of stuff.  And we get along wonderfully, and she does this stuff at my pace.  A lot of people are iffy on catching chins (to weigh), but she just reached right in and grabbed em and it was great.  I'm very thankful I have someone helping out like this.  Let's all give a hand to Brooke for being so kind as to spend her time helping out.

Now to figure out what I'm going to say tomorrow.... I am presenting on chinchilla and small animal care at the HeadStart program at Lake Ridge School.  They told me today that I can set up in their gym.  I thought I was doing it like in front of a class, now I'm worried lol.  Off to write my "speech"....

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Lots to mention

First, discounts.  I know, I've been talking about them a lot, but they are important.  Right now, we have our May Madness sale going on, which is $25 off adoption fees $100 or over, $50 off adoption fees $200 or over.  During this sale, our usual pair and trio discounts do not apply.

I guarantee you, I will get people still asking for discounts on top of this.

Last week, we had someone who had emailed asking about this one chin we had available.  Chin was $175, they said they got their previous chin at a discount (not from us, so really doesn't make any difference to me).  I asked them what they're looking to pay for the chin, and they came back with $80.  Um, no.  Sorry, but no.  Thing is, if I reduce a $175 chin down to $80, then everyone else paying $175 is going to want their chins for $80 (believe me, the word gets around), and besides that, it's not fair to those people who actually are getting a standard grey adult for $75 that someone else pay $5 more and get a white baby.  So, no.

Moving along.  I try my best to help people out.  I really do.  I had someone awhile back who wanted to stay under $250 for everything.  So we reduced the price of the chin she wanted to $150, and I found her a cage and all supplies for $100.  Literally, I have the cage here at $60, shelves added at $18, used ceramic food bowl $1, used water bottle $1, dust pan $2.50, anything goes toy $4, 1 lb dust $1.25, 1 lb hay $1.00, off-size hammock (to fit the small cage) $7.50, and 3 extra lbs food $3.75 = $250 for everything.  Now, the thing is, to get it to that amount, I had to sit down and figure this stuff out.  Naturally, the person says, yeah, they want all this stuff, so I get all this stuff together... and they fall off the face of the planet.  Not a big deal, I ordered the cage and now it's sitting here and can be shelved and sold to someone else, but it's just the principle.  People wonder why I get aggravated when they want me to drop everything for them, and this is why -- because then when they fall off the earth, I've wasted all this time on them.

Moving along.  Had someone email me about chins, sounded like they saw one in a pet store or something, and thought it was cute.  Also asked about shots, degus, and everything else under the sun, making the email sort of a messy list of random questions.  One of the things they said was they wanted an inexpensive cage that was over 50" high.  Uh-huh.  If you have a cage over 3' high, you know they don't come cheap.  So I asked the person, what did they consider inexpensive, like, how much were they looking to spend on the cage.  And they email me back with the link to a cage that's too small for even one chin and just under $100.  Plus, the cage wasn't even 24" high.  What happened to that 50" high thing?  I'm guessing it was too expensive.... but they wanted to get two chins, so I told them, the cage needs to be at least double that size for two chins....  so they said they will keep looking.

And also, that person also said they wanted to keep the chins inexpensive... so I suggested our older pairs.  Which, mind you, the older pairs are 2 & 3 years, and 3-4 years.  Hardly old.  Oh, they want a pair of up to 1 year olds.  Yes, let me churn our chins just the exact age they want.  I told em, if they don't want the older pairs, the younger chins are significantly more expensive (figure, $150 for an adult pair, versus $135 each [minimum] for a baby)... so we shall see.

Moving right along.  Had someone the other day who wanted to talk on the phone, and I was in the middle of something (while out of town).  So I told her to email me.  So she emailed me her name and phone number.  Well... I guess I should have specified, email what she was asking about.  Anyway, finally got around to calling her back today, turns out she was 4 hours away from us, and was only able to drive maybe 15 minutes away from where she lived to meet.  The sort of stupid thing is, had she just said she had a question about whether we'd meet, we could have resolved this days ago.

Moving along.  Went to PSP in Crown Point to pick up my donation jar... and... it's gone.  As in, the one employee that I know thought I had been in to pick it up, because they hadn't seen it in quite some time.  Wonderful.  Considering back in February, when my job ended there, I left the donation jar there with at least $20-30 in it, with the intention of picking it up monthly.  Needless to say, I haven't been around to pick it up, but turns out... it hasn't been there FOR me to pick up either.  Wonderful.  Somehow it doesn't surprise me that it vanished.

Moving along, let's talk about the new prairie dog.  Sadly, he passed a few days ago.  He wasn't acting quite right and was acting lethargic, and we were on our way to Jim's after dropping off cages here and Jim was gonna give me baytril to give him, and give him baytril, but he didn't make it quite all the way to Ohio.  Sad.  :(   I called up the prairie dog people, not expecting much, just wanting to get another, and turns out, we are still within the range of the health guarantee, so they just want me to bring the prairie dog back (he's still at Jim's, I forgot him there) and they will do a necropsy on him and give me another one.  So that's good.

But that also brings me to something else -- the insane number of people who asked me, whether at the expo, or in emails, or whatever, about adopting the prairie dog.  If the fact that he died, while under my care, and the fact that the rescue spent literally upwards of several THOUSAND dollars on Shiloh's vet care over the four years he was with us haven't already enlightened you, allow me -- they are NOT pets for exotics beginners.  Now, let me explain why. 

First -- I have people complain day-in, day-out, that they cannot find good chinchilla food at a pet store.  Think that's a pain?  Good luck EVER finding prairie dog food!  It pretty much doesn't exist outside of online!  I've even contacted Mazuri, which makes almost PRIMARILY exotics food, and they don't even make a prairie dog food.  They eat typically a mix of rabbit and guinea pig food (or one or the other if you have good enough brands, take your pic).  Plus, timothy hay.  Plus, leafy greens and veggies (they typically like kale, cilantro, and sweet potato, in my experience).  Plus, dog food for protein.  They can eat an awful lot of things as treats, but unfortunately, because of that, they're prone to getting fat.  Who saw Shani (our female) when Shiloh was having a hard time keeping weight on?  Raise your hands.  Ok, keep em up.  Who remembers that she looked like a freaking beach ball?  I know, I know, your hands are waving in the air.  Because he couldn't keep weight on, we had to keep him on a high fat diet, and that turned her (who could keep weight on) into a morbidly obese prairie dog.  Now that he's gone, she is back down to more of a normal prairie dog weight, but they are prone to becoming overweight, so you have to watch what you feed them.  Plus, you have to keep up with the varied diet.  Because if they don't have the hay, or the veggies, or the gp/rabbit food, or the dog food, they will lack nutrients that they need, and that can create all sorts of a mess.

Second -- they need a large cage and it sure better be completely metal.  Think about what you know about prairie dogs.  They are diggers and tunnelers.  Which means.... plastic tends to not last long with them.  So, they need a metal cage to be sure they can't chew through it.  Including the pan (unless they can't get to it).  The only reason you see us with plastic pans at the expos with our prairie dogs is because it's temporary.  We have dryer tubing (you know, the big black tubing with ribbing) in our prairie dogs' cage.  It literally disappears overnight.  They chew it and it vanishes.  Same would go for a plastic pan.  Also, they are not jumpers, so they need ramps.  Keep in mind, not plastic shelving and ramps, because they will not last long, so metal or mesh.  They also need places to hide.  Cause let's be honest, we're not going to re-create an underground tunnel system for them, but we can do the best we can.  For us, we have dryer tubing, all sorts of hides, and so on.  All sorts of toys too, because they like to play.  Oh and let's not forget, if they were underground, they would have a nest spot.  So they need something to nest with.  I made for the prairie dogs a nest box (sort of like a rabbit nest box) and occasionally I'll throw in pieces of scrap material, which they will carry around and eventually make a nest of.  You will be providing these hides, toys, and nesting material year round.

Second part 2 -- did I mention they dig?  Good luck keeping any sort of bedding in their pan.  Our cage has a pan below a metal grate.  So, they can't get to the bedding.  Some people say they can potty train their prairie dog, but when we tried... no litter ever stayed in the litter box.  And that's also why, for expos, you see us use the fleece, because it won't get everywhere should they decide to dig.  And that's why, you'll find, a lot of companies that make cages specifically for prairie dogs have the pan below something that the prairie dogs can't reach.

Third -- they go into rut from October to May.  This is their breeding season.  Supposedly, this is less "bad" if you get them neutered and spayed, but spaying / neutering them is like spaying / neutering any small animal.  You'll pay several hundred for the surgery, and fingers crossed they live through it.  So ours have never been spayed / neutered.  During this period of time, they have the potential to be crabby, bite, and so on.  And by the way, when they bite... they tend to not let go.  So if you're good with sitting there and not panicking while a good-sized squirrel-rodent has your skin in their teeth and wait until they let go, by all means.  But the average person panics, yanks, and a large majority of prairie dog bites result in stitches.  Yeah, stitches.

Fourth -- they may not like your favorite person and may still be aggressive to you, even after you raise them.  They learn who their family is by who they grow up with.  So, it is advantageous to introduce them to a large amount of people (without stressing them out and killing them...gotta find a nice balance) when they are young... but sometimes that still doesn't help.  With Shani, she was intro'd to a lot of people as a baby.  Despite that, I've had two really bad bites from her.  She has bitten two other people pretty badly, and because of that, she doesn't go to expos with us.  And mind you, she was raised around lots of people all the time.  In general, she is sweet, but the few times she has bitten, there's been no warning, just CHOMP.  Even when she's being nice, there are a few people who she has seen a ton of times who she just starts attacking the side of the cage when they come near.  Why?  No idea.  But think, if she was your prairie dog and she did that when your boyfriend came near... would you be happy with that?  And because of the bites they can inflict, when she's like that, I won't even reach in for her.

Fifth -- they are prone to expensive medical issues.  Specifically, odontomas -- bony growths behind their teeth.  Guess what -- if they develop these behind the top incisors... you might as well just burn your wallet right now if you want the prairie dog to live.  See, prairie dogs have their breathing tube so far back, that when they can't breathe through their nose, they trache them through the back of their neck.  You read that right.  For people, we see it done on the front of the neck, but for prairie dogs, their breathing tube is so far back, they have to trache them from the back.  So here's why that's a problem -- they absolutely cannot breathe through their  mouths for any length of time.  They will literally die of exhaustion.  So, if your prairie dog develops an odontoma on the top incisors, the vet has to go through the top of the mouth to remove the tooth and odontoma.  Shiloh had odontomas on all four incisors.  Just one surgery of his (top teeth) was estimated to cost $600-800.  Mind you, that's the estimate.  Problem was, surgery day came, and they could not wean him off oxygen (cause remember... they can't mouth breathe, and swelling was making it hard for him to breathe), so he stayed a week (instead of the estimated two days) and the vet capped off that surgery at $2900 (though the bill was much higher).  He had two more surgeries to deal with his bottom incisor odontomas before he passed.   

Sixth -- they may not even be legal.  When we got in Shiloh, first thing I did was look up Indiana law regarding prairie dogs.  You can't have them everywhere.  In Illinois, you need a permit to have them.  And typically, what happens if you don't have one, is the animal gets removed and put down.  So you better make sure you are able to have one, before you get one.  The places that sell them are not going to know whether you can have one or not, so just because you can find one for sale doesn't mean you can legally have one.  I've gotten both Shani and this last prairie dog that died in Illinois -- where mind you, you need a permit to own one. 

Seventh -- you probably need more than one.  In the wild, they live in colonies, and literally can get depressed if kept alone.  I know I occasionally make fun of people who say their chinchillas are lonely... but that's because chinchillas can legitimately be kept by themselves.  But for prairie dogs, they literally can get depressed and die.  Shani has not been the same since Shiloh passed, and that's why we're working on getting her a companion.  But keep in mind, all of these things could be doubled with two prairie dogs.

Now, all this said... they do like people.  They like being scratched and tend to greet you when you come into the room.  They're fun little critters.  But... they are work and while I was thrown into getting the first one, I wouldn't recommend one to someone without two things: (1) someone to help them along the way as far as questions, vet concerns, etc, and (2) lots of money.

Ok, I think I'm done now.