Friday, March 16, 2018

Hair Rings

Hair rings in males.  Fun fun subject.

If you're unfamiliar.... male chinchillas can get hair rings... basically, hairs wrapped around their penis, inside the sheath.  Usually, they remove them themselves, but the hairs can sometimes get so wrapped around that they require our help to remove them.

I get asked all the time how often I check.  Honestly?  Almost never. 

You know why the answer isn't literally, "never"?  Because I get people who, on occasion, ask me to show them how to do a hair ring check.  In the last, oh, 10 years... that's been the only time I've done hair ring checks.... to show people who have asked for a demonstration, this is how it's done.

Let me tell you why.  For the most part, chinchillas can remove a few stray hairs on their own.  Sure, there's the chin here or there that has a hard time with it, and gets consistent hair rings... but that's sort of the exception to the rule.  If you read stuff online, it sounds like they get them all the time, and OMG, you MUST check them all the time, in case they were to get one, and you didn't notice. 

Years ago, I used to check all my male chins every month.  If we assume maybe 1/2 the chins are male, you can imagine how much fun this is on 100ish chins.  I think I found one or two, over the course of 10 years.  They're really not all that common, and even the times when I found them... the male was paying particular attention to that area, enough that it made me check them (outside of my usual once-a-month check), and sure as shit, there was a hair ring.

Usually, they can clean off any hairs themselves, and this is what you see... I get emails allllllll the time about someone's chin pleasuring themselves, with its mouth on it's penis going up and down.  Yes, I know what it looks like, but he's cleaning himself, and no, he's not doing it to make you feel awkward.  Remove mind from gutter. 

The thing is... think of it this way.  If we get a wood splinter under our skin, and we don't have tweezers to get it out... we will keep trying to get it out cause it's bothering us.  And if we leave it alone, chances are, it will bother us again, and we'll again try to remove it... whether or not we can.  This is how hair rings are.  You notice when they're paying too much attention to that area... and that's when I would check, and that's when I would recommend that anyone checks.... if you see too much attention being paid.  Otherwise, I leave it alone.  You're welcome to check all you want, and I'm happy to show you if you'd like... but just not something that I feel has to be done all the time....

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Chins Causing Hospital Visits (aka Rabies in Small Animals, Part 2)

Ever wondered what happened with the post where I talked about how we got a call from a hospital about chinchillas carrying rabies?  this one --

Let me give you an update.

Maybe a week or so ago, I get a text from one of our adopters, telling me that it was her with the hospital phone call.  Turns out...

She was carrying the chin in her arms to take the chin to playtime.  Randomly, the chin bit her, breaking skin.  Not a horrible bite, but she immediately felt like something was wrong, and put the chin down.

Her finger swelled to 3x it's normal size and she developed hives up her arm.  She started having a hard time breathing, and called for her husband.  Her husband immediately recommended that she go to the ER, so they went.  By the time they got there, she had passed out.  It took two epi-pens to get her conscious again.

She was in the ICU for 3 days treating this allergic reaction.  When she was set to be released, for some reason, her doctor was changed.  The new doctor wanted to hold her on a rabies quarantine.  This person was all, hell no, and the doctor said that if they could verify that chins didn't get rabies or whatever, they would then, not do the rabies quarantine.  That's when they called me.

I guess what I said was alright, cause they released her.  Now, she has epipens to carry with her....and a $12,000 hospital bill to pay.

I asked if they found out what she reacted to... they did all sorts of infection and bacteria tests and those all came back negative... turns out, she is allergic to chinchilla saliva.

I couldn't make this up if I tried.

She did return the evil furball chinchilla, Nora, who you will see is up on our website under the Upcoming Chins section.  She didn't want to take another chance with her, since the result of getting bit is such a severe reaction, though she is keeping her other chin, and the family actually wants to adopt another chin in the future.  Once the hospital bill is paid off.

But anyway, we welcome Nora back to the rescue.  This is her:

If anyone wants an evil furball biting chinchilla (joking, joking), that's 3-5 years old, we have the chin for you!

If it was me... I honestly don't know, if I had this severe an allergy, if I'd even want chins in the house... but, if she and her family aren't fazed by this and all, more power to her.  I just hope she never gets bit again...

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Cage Pictures

Wanted to share a quick story with you all.  I had a potential adopter who was all set to come by.  They were emailing / texting / fb messaging back and forth, trying to set up an appointment, all excited.

Well, then I was waiting for an email from them, wanting to set up a time to come by (like once we'd nailed down some potential days), and I got another excited email from them, asking if they could come later that day, and also sending me a pic of their cage that they were so excited about. 

The cage itself was fine as far as size, though it had plastic shelves and a few other unsafe items.  I mentioned to her, hey, watch for chewing on the plastic shelves, and replace with wood shelves if /  when (WHEN) she noticed chewing, and she had this... I guess you could say a hanging fabric tube, and so I told her, I'd stay away from anything fabric other than fleece, plus the fact it was hanging by four thin cords... all the chin needed to do was chew the cords, and it'd dump itself to the bottom of the cage.  Might have been one other thing I mentioned, but all in all, I wasn't crucifying her cage.  It was decent, just a few things to watch out for.

I never heard from her again. 

Part of my message was saying that she could come later that day, and probably the best thing as far as that would be to send me a text or call me, as emails pile up, and I'll see a text or call way faster than an email, which gets quickly buried.  Didn't hear from her... about a week later, ran across that email again, and so I sent her another email, basically saying, hey, I didn't hear back from you after I sent you some tips on your cage, let me know if you're still wanting to set up an appointment.

That was at least a week ago, if not more.

Which is fine. 

But here's the thing... if you send me a pic... of anything... I want the best for the critters.  So, if you send me a pic of an unsafe cage, I will tell you, and I will be helpful and try to advise ways you can make it safe (if possible).  If you tell me (like in a current email in my inbox) that you are feeding nuts and dried carrots, I will tell you that that's a bad idea and why, and what treats may be better for the chin's health.  I'm not here to sugarcoat and make everyone feel like happy rainbows and unicorn smiles.  Rather... and I suppose this may be surprising to some (considering this is hardly the first person who doesn't respond back after I advise that things aren't safe)... I WANT YOUR CHINS TO LIVE HEALTHY HAPPY LIVES.  It gets old when people show up all the time and tell me their chin died of old age at age 5, and you find out it ate fresh fruit daily and walked outside on a harness and played with the family cat (who it loooooved, even when the cat used to swat at it).  It gets very old.  I want you to come back in 15 years and want another chin, not in 5 years.  So, you have to understand, when I advise that something isn't safe... it's not because I want you to feel bad (and honestly... I'm awfully nice about it, so some of you need to grow a pair if MY constructive criticism is offending you)... it's for the health of the chin.  That is all. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Events We Are At

People are always emailing and asking, hey, will you be at this event or this event.  While I acknowledge that I may not always be super on top of things, one thing that I do my absolute best to keep updated is the "Come See Us" section on the website. 

In case you missed that section, it's on the home page, on the right hand column.  It is basically a list of expos and other events where you can come see us.  Mostly, we will have a booth at these events, but I've also started listing chin shows where I will be, because of course, I can also bring supplies and chins to those as well.  It is noted if we will not have a booth, so unless it says something along the lines of, "we will not have a booth but can bring chins / supplies, contact to schedule"... assume we will have a booth there.

It is currently up to date as far out as May.  I'm not positive as far as what's going on beyond May, and actually, there is one weekend coming up, where I'm not sure if I'm going to be here, at the AAE, or at a chin show.  So that one's currently left off... but the others up there are current and we will be there.

If you're wanting to come to the house and see all the chins, as usual, we will schedule appointments, but I do my best to keep the Come See Us section updated, as I understand that not everyone can find easy time to make appointments and it may be easier for some people to show up, at some time, while an expo is running.

Just never hurts to check that section and see if I have an event listed.  If I don't, you can always ask if we'll be there, but common sense -- I can't be in two places at once, so if I've already got an event for Saturday and another event you're thinking of is Saturday... probably only gonna be at one.  Email if un-sure though.  Thanks!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Interesting Phone Calls

So, I know I've posted before about some interesting phone calls we get.  Typical ones involve people thinking we're either animal control or the humane society... and telling them that we're not does NOT prevent these people from telling me why they need to drop off their dog.  Usually takes a few times of explaining, we only take in small animals, and those must be small, caged animals, sorry, your chihuahua, while a small animal... is not what we specialize in.

Plus, explaining what a chinchilla is to a lot, and I mean a LOT of people.

But today's takes the cake.

Just got off the phone with someone who asked... do we sell baby chickens??  😆😆😆  Sorry, no.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Shipping Fees & Refunds

So, I think I've talked about this before, but I try to keep shipping as low as possible.  The shopping cart isn't the greatest (to say the least) about figuring out shipping.  On large orders, especially ones containing several houses, it's not uncommon for me to be refunding $40-60 in overcharged shipping fees.  These fees are refunded after the order goes out and I see what actual shipping costs are. 

In addition, if you order something that's in a flat rate box, and I can squish the other items you ordered in that same box, I will, and I will try to save you shipping.  Sometimes this is possible, sometimes not, depending on what is ordered.  For example, someone last week ordered a box of Tradition and 3 oz. rosebuds.  Undoubtedly, those rosebuds will fit in the box with the Tradition, so I am able to refund any extra shipping charged for the rosebuds. 

But that isn't always the case.  I had someone else who ordered a flat rate box of Tradition, several toys, and a water bottle.  Mainly because of the water bottle (which is too thick for the skinny flat rate boxes), I had to ship these items in another box.  I actually calculated shipping to determine if it'd be cheaper to send the Tradition box with some of the toys (they wouldn't all fit) and then ship the water bottle and remaining toys separate, but since this person was on the east coast, it would actually be cheaper to send one big box, than a flat rate box and another smaller box.  But that meant shipping went up, and I had to use some of what this person paid in their extra shipping charges, to ship all of these items to them.  So, they'll get a refund, but it won't be all of those extra shipping charges.

Also.... I try to get the orders out and get emails out to customers, saying when the package shipped, estimated delivery (for priority mail... first class doesn't give estimates), and let them know about their refund.... I try to do this all as soon as possible.  Often, delays happen, but sometimes, even like this past week... I shipped out the items 3/8, and I still have not done the paperwork.  I'm working on it now, so it will be done today and everyone will have their emails and refunds soon, but I did get an email from one of the customers who received the shipping notification (paypal sends one out when I print the label) about their order, and noticed I hadn't refunded the extra shipping they paid for their extra item, and wanted to check if this was new policy or what.  I told them, sorry, just haven't gotten around to the paperwork part yet, but they would be getting their $4 back as soon as I did.  Never hurts to ask! 

Honestly, it drives me insane when I order something from a company that weighs less than a pound, and I could fit in half-a-shoebox... and shipping is $15.  Come on, now... it's a ripoff.  I found something on ebay I wanted the other day, economy shipping (ha!) was $12.  I ship stuff all the time, I have an idea how heavy this item is... shipping ought to be no more than $6-7.  Yes, I know, we all gotta package and use labels... but if I can manage with charging $0.75-$1 packaging / handling for every package, they don't need $5-6 packaging / handling for theirs.  I even asked if I could pick up the item (cause they're in Valpo) and they said no, but they'd lower the price of the item by $1 to offset the shipping.  Bullshit.  Sorry, but I feel like if you want to make more money, up the price of the item, rather than try to make money off of shipping.  I just won't buy from them, because I know that the price of shipping is way inflated, and honestly, I'd rather see the item itself be $6 more, as opposed to be ripped off on shipping.  Especially since they say economy shipping.  PRIORITY for this item should be $6.  Economy shipping, HA!  It might be light enough to go first class, and if that's the case, it might only be $4 to ship, and they'll make $8.  Oh hell no, they won't be getting my business.  And this is why I will always refund the excess shipping, because I hate it when people try to rip off customers like this, and so I won't do it. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Gargoyle Gecko

I apparently was not aware how much everyone seems to want gargoyle geckos!  Granted, you don't see a ton of them at the expos I go to, so maybe that contributes... but jeez!  I posted the new geckos up for adoption, and four of them have gone to their new homes...

... but in the meantime, I've had at least, AT LEAST, 20 emails about the gargoyle gecko.  I had no idea they were popular!  When you go to the expo, for geckos, you see 95% crested geckos and leopard geckos, with those split pretty equally between the two... so I would have thought a gargoyle gecko would have had less of a following... but I've gotten so many inquiries... maybe not.

At this point... everyone's out of luck, as one of our previous gecko adopters is scooping him up... they put down a deposit on him (and they were the first one to contact us about him... checking and re-checking the website for animals you want does have some benefit), and right now, we're just working on scheduling a time for her to come get him. 

This is the gecko, for people curious what the little guy looks like:

Friday, March 9, 2018

Fostering Chins

Wanted to do a quick post about fostering chins.  I've been getting a lot of emails about fostering, and several of those people have talked about reading the blog, so might as well post something quickly here.

We do provide everything for fosters.  Food, dust, toys, etc.  Cage.  But.  BUT... I don't have an endless supply of cages to lend out.  So, if you don't have a cage (which many people don't, I understand), you will have to get on our waiting list to foster.  When we get cages donated or returned or whatever, then we can re-dole them out, and eventually get to you.  Until then, please be patient.

The chins that can be fostered out are the rescues.  Sorry, you cannot foster a white baby.  Also... due to the way adoptions go, we will not foster out super-adoptable chinchillas.  For example.  Right now, we have an adult white male chinchilla -- Snowball.  He's super nice, super friendly.  Once I manage to get pics of him and post him, he will be gone.  There is no sense to send him to a foster home, only to have him adopted a day later (usually, with more difficulty, due to scheduling either a return by the foster, or a pickup at the foster's home... which tends to be more difficult than scheduling an appointment here, with my typically more flexible schedule).

Which brings me to my last point.  The chinchillas that need to be fostered are typically the ones that would benefit from more one-on-one attention.  Often, they are the ones that will not come up to the front of the cage.  The one that will bark at you.  Possibly spray you (females).  Possibly hide for days when they go to a new home.  If I had enough cages to allow everyone to foster... well, that would honestly create some problems of it's own, but if I did... all the chins could be fostered.  Some people could have a great chin to foster that's super friendly and super nice.  But... at the moment, without having that many cages / fosters... I have to foster out the chins that really need it.  So, I don't mean to be mean or offensive in any way, when I email people back about foster requests, and let them know that they probably won't be fostering the most friendly, playful, colorful chinchilla... but rather, one that may not necessarily endear them to chins if they didn't already like them.  It's just that that's the chin that would benefit most from individual attention... and it is all about the chins, at the end of the day.  That is all.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Other Day

So, I think a lot of people don't realize all that goes on here.  I know I've said that before, and said I'm gonna occasionally post about what goes on certain days, so I wrote this a few days ago when I was listing what I was doing, and this gives you an idea of a day:

In a typical day, I don't just do orders, I don't just answer calls and emails... I also have 150-200 chins at any given time to care for, plus 2 prairie dogs, currently about 30 crested geckos, 5 guinea pigs, 3 dogs... plus emails, phone calls... you get the idea.  And of course, much of those things takes time every day, and someone said the other day that I have the greatest job ever (thank you... not sure they'd necessarily feel so strongly if they did this for a week, but you know)... so I thought I'd post about what was going on today...

So, get up in the morning, immediately check the emails.  Of course, there's a million junk emails, so I delete those that aren't necessary to respond to, and remain with 169 emails in my inbox.  Not all from today, mind you, but there are 71 from today and yesterday.  Plus some from the few days before that, because unless I skim an email and it needs immediate response, or can be answered in a sentence or two, I come back to it later and do them in order.  With the junk deleted, I move onto the next thing.

See, I break up my days.  I could spend 8 hours answering emails.  Totally could.  Might even get done (probably not, but might).  But then... I wouldn't be answering people's fb messages and texts that I get, and all that, so I usually spend gaps of time on certain things, and then come back to them when I have time later.  So, some time spent on emails...

Moving on, I wrote my list of what I needed to accomplish for the day.  Answered all the fb messages and texts that had accumulated overnight.

In looking at my list, the one thing on there is getting my rescue stuff ready for taxes to be done.  I broke down what needed to be done into tasks, and one of those tasks was getting the total year 2017 credit card fees.  That requires opening up the account, and opening each month's "deposits" page, and counting up the processing fees, and then adding them up for the year.  This is fine, I was doing this last night, but I got to September, and everything was good... starting October, my account showed deposits... but no transaction fees (which I knew couldn't be right... I usually have $800-900 in transaction fees per year), so I went and logged onto their live chat (this was last night).  Of course, live chat was open until 9 pm EST, and it was... 8:12 CST (so, 9:12 EST).  So, that had to be put off until today, so I logged on this morning, logged onto live chat, and asked.   Chat person looked up the account and explained my account had been switched to some other type of account.  Looking back, probably should have asked what exactly that meant, but oh well... anyway, so she explained to me that if I logged into the business portal, I could download monthly statements, and I went on there, confirmed which category was transaction fees (cause of course, it couldn't just be called, "transaction fees" -- no, it was called "offset to sales")... ended the chat.  For once, this was actually a useful change, because they group the entire month, so rather than having to add up the month, I was able to see, ok, October's fees were X.  Great.  Checked out the fees for Oct / Nov / Dec and input those into my spreadsheet.  Spent enough time on that, moving on.

In looking at the orders that I have to do (I know, I know, I'm sorry if you're still waiting for one), I realized a lot of them required some stuff I was out of.  Also realized, I should probably get on the stick with making a donation basket, as I always end up making one super last minute before the expo... going to aim for not doing that this time.  Want to say I don't have a ton of expo basket stuff lying around (baskets, yes... stuff for them, not so much)... so I planned to go to the ATM to get money out for the weekend, plus the dollar store for expo basket items, plus Home Depot (my favorite place!) for wood / supplies.  The ATM let me get all the way to selecting how much I wanted to withdraw, and asking if I wanted a receipt, and then said it could not process my transaction.  Of course not... no money today, then (the other ATM is a ways away).  Stopped at the dollar store, and picked up some stuff for the donation basket.  As always, lied to myself that I wouldn't need a cart, and then ended up having to trudge back up to the front of the store with armfulls of stuff.  Then went to Home Depot and picked up the wood / supplies, where a very persistent cashier really wanted to get me to sign up for their credit card, even though I explained I already have one.

Came home.  Called back the voicemails that were on my phone for calls I missed.  Got another call, lady wanted me to take in, and not put down her cat.  I referred her to Cats of St. Francis.  I know of not a lot of rescues (well, I do, but good ones I can vouch for are harder to come by), so these good ones probably could do with less referrals... but it's like here... run a good rescue, everyone wants your help.

Went downstairs to feed and water the chins.  Fed everyone, medicated the chins that needed it.  Started watering the chins.  Decided to take a break from that (watering takes FOREVER... it's like 200+ water bottles... it's a LOT of filling and refilling and refilling and refilling the pitcher), and hayed all the chins.  Swept up the hay on the floor, that hay went to the guinea pigs.

In case you're thinking all this can be accomplished in an hour or two... this brought us to 5 pm. 

Realized that I still had not gotten back to someone who had wanted to know if I had any white or black velvet females, and also hadn't gotten pics of a dark ebony female that someone wanted to see, so headed back downstairs.  I have a white female, so I took and sent pics of that one.  Also took pics of the dark ebony and texted those to the other person.  They want to put a deposit on the dark ebony (yay), so we talked about that.

Got a text from the person who's picking up rabbit chow (yes, we really do sell everything), they were scheduled for 6 but wanted to come early.  No biggie, I told them they could, and I stopped what I was doing to go bag up their 10 pounds of rabbit chow.  Got that bagged up, came upstairs.  Texted back and forth about pickup with the person about the dark ebony, while waiting for the person for the rabbit chow.  In the meantime, went through more emails.  I know from experience, the second I go downstairs, they will arrive, so I will stay up until they do.  They texted they were here, I went out and handed them the rabbit chow, they handed me the $10.  Very quick for some pickups.  Went back to the office and marked down on my "walk-in invoice" that I sold 10 pounds of rabbit chow.

Sat down at the computer again and did the books and balanced accounts for November.  Got that done, moved onto the geckos.  The crested geckos get fed / misted / watered Monday / Wednesday / Friday.  Mixed up their food and about that time, the phone rang.  The person calling was the one putting down the deposit for the dark ebony female, so I took down their card info and tentatively set when they're going to get her (we will update later, since it's over a week from now and they still need to plan).  Ran the card for the deposit, sent them a receipt, and made myself a note that that chin is now on hold with deposit and that I will be bringing her with on the next trip to Ohio.

Back to the geckos.   Spent about a half hour feeding and watering and changing paper towels (like bedding) if needed.  Got about half done.  Moving on for a bit. 

Supposed to have help tomorrow (would be great! but not holding my breath) so I started a short list of what can be done tomorrow with help.  One of those things is that we're gonna do a hammock inventory, as I know what's listed on the webstore isn't even close to matching what's actually here.  So, I thought, I'll just print out the webstore pages with the hammocks.  Nope!  My printer printed out just a list of the hammocks, no pics.  So, I had to manually select every one of the stinking pics, copy and paste it into a word doc along with the name of the hammock and a space to right how many there really are... and then print.  Yes, I acknowledge, we could just look back and forth between the website (like on a phone) and what's in front... but you'd be amazed how much more time that takes.  Now that that's printed, and I've added a few more things to the list for tomorrow, moving on.  '

Onto orders.  I have my clipboard upstairs, so I check what I have written down against what orders I have actually in to-do... there's of course more orders (thanks!  but it takes time...), so I get more invoices and copy down more orders.... literally in 30-40 minutes, all I got done was writing down a few orders, emailing back one person who'd inquired about a part of their order, and then sending a fb message to someone who'd wanted to order and pick up, working to arrange that.  In the meantime, got a message from another person who gets their chin chow here, and we set up an appointment for them to come this upcoming week to re-stock. 

Decided I should probably eat, as it's like 8 pm and all I had was two corn dogs earlier.  Had lots of reward points with Papa Johns, so decided to order a pizza.  Cleaned up a bit while waiting for the pizza, ate, then went back to geckos.  Finished the geckos, also fed all the toads and gave everyone crickets, and that is done for the day.

Went back downstairs, watered more of the chins.  Got all the water bottles to a reasonable level, so that was done for the day. 

Went through and finished and packed up some of the orders that I could easily get packed and out that day.  Printed off labels, sealed them up, went online and scheduled a package pickup, and set them outside for the package pickup.  I actually had to stop what I was doing, packing the boxes, because the cutoff for a package pickup is 2 am.  As in, you have to submit the request on the website by 2 am.  So, stopped packing around 1:50 am, went and submitted the package pickup, and then back to packing. 

Watched a little tv and then went to bed.  Fun fun.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Tradition Pelleted Food Availability

This was almost funny.  I got a message from someone the other day, asking what pet store I get tradition at, because they can't find it.  I replied:

I get my Tradition delivered by a Hubbard dealer, a half ton at a time.

Obviously, not everyone knows that, but I do.  We go through 50 pounds every 2-3 days, and that's not counting the amount I ship out.  So, for example, saying roughly 2 bags a week comes out to 8 bags a month, that's 400 pounds of chin chow a month... just for our animals.  Not including the feed that's shipped out.

Anyway, the reason I mention this... I did respond more to this person, I didn't give her a short little answer, but the thing is, we get in Tradition from Ohio because it's the best.  Maybe not for every chin out there, but if you have a whole herd of them, it's considered the best as far as nutrients and having been developed especially for chins and all that, and it's reasonably priced, accessible (well, if you're getting the amount we are), and it works good.

But all that said, it is only available in 50 pound bags.  You won't find it in a pet store.  You might be able to get your feed store to order it in, like special order it for you... but you're not going to be able to pick up a 5 pound bag off the pet store shelf.

And that's why we sell it.  Initially we started selling chin chow (which was Mazuri back then... which we still do sell and the rescues are on) because people didn't want to immediately have to run to the pet store to pick up more (though all animals do come with ~2 pounds to start you off)... and now, most of the animals are on Tradition.  It sells for $0.75 per pound or $35 for a 50 pound bag.  People pick up their orders all the time here, and then many are shipped out.. I can ship 11 pounds of Tradition for $23 shipped to the door.  So, there are options to get it, whether you're picking it up in person or getting it shipped... just unfortunately, you won't be able to go to the pet store and pick it up....