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.

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