Ellie's Story

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Post   » Thu Jun 01, 2017 11:33 am

It's been almost 2 months since we lost our Ellie, and finally the pain has lessened enough to be able to share her story. We only had her for 6 months and yet she changed our lives.
My 14yo daughter had been wanting a pet for a few years. We couldn't in good conscience get a dog that would be alone so much with our schedules, and eventually someone recommended to her that a guinea pig would be ideal. DD started researching extensively (she actually referred me to this forum and others) and decided very soon in the process that it must be a rescue animal. Her research was excellent. She educated me on the proper cage requirements, feeding, care and estimated costs. She also found Ellie in September 2016, looking for her forever home. I wasn't yet sold on taking on the responsibility but DD was relentless. She isn't the most outgoing kid but she took the initiative to call the rescue and express her interest in adopting Ellie. I asked her to think carefully before making the commitment. Yes, I knew I'd be doing a lot of the work. I still believe in making sure a young person will be committed to an animal before bringing them home. DD kept campaigning and was convinced that Ellie needed us as several weeks went by and she wasn't adopted. I finally agreed. DD ordered the cage and we bought supplies. DD had to chip in some of the cost from her allowance, not that I was being mean but again because it seemed important to instill a sense of ownership. We set up everything and made an appointment to drive 40 miles each way to adopt Ellie.


Post   » Thu Jun 01, 2017 11:44 am

Ellie, a white Aby with partial brown markings, was sharing a cage with a small rabbit in the back of the pet store when we arrived. The employee looked a little sheepish as she tried unsuccessfully at first, to pick Ellie up, who shot away like a bullet. "She probably... hasn't been held as much as she should be," the girl finally said. I could see why. She clearly was intensely fearful of contact. Finally, we had Ellie in the little travel cage, with some soft towels and hay, and after completing the paperwork and paying the fee plus a small donation, were on our way home with our new companion. Ellie was noticeably scared, on the thin side, and was missing a large swath of her hair across her back, which we were told was likely from treatment of a mite infection (an opinion seconded by our vet later). She made no noises except the constant chewing of the hay. Ellie was a stress eater from the getgo. :-) By the time we got home, the hay was gone and we had verification that she was pooping normally, and prolifically.
One thing I have learned from these forums is that the cage we had, while adequate space wise and had places for her to hide, was probably pretty boring. On the other hand, Ellie seemed to like her cage almost immediately. We had a large plastic tube that she was semi-enthralled with, and we'd hear her nails clicking on it as she walked through. She slept in either the hidey house or the litter pan, and seemed to appreciate our constant efforts at keeping her living quarters clean. She also appreciated food, and quickly trained us to feed her only the favored vegetables, disdaining almost all fruits. We couldn't pick her up, though, on the first day... or the second day. This let to frantic vet call #1.


Post   » Thu Jun 01, 2017 12:00 pm

My daughter was distraught when she still couldn't hold her new friend on the second day, which was Monday. We had to schedule the vet visit anyway, so when I called, I explained that we couldn't hold her. Ellie was skittish as hell! The vet assistant advised us to continue working with her, and to wrap her in a towel first so she would feel more secure. This did work, although Ellie was moved to start squeaking, and not in a pleasant way. We followed the vet advice and only held her for a few minutes at a time, after which she was noticeably relieved to be returned to her cage. Over the next couple of days, she quickly learned to wheek for her vegetables, so at least that was going right. However, she also stopped eating her kibble, and the vet visit was scheduled for the following week, so that led to frantic vet call #2. The nice lady had to think I was nuts. "Cut back on the treats until she eats more of the kibble," she said firmly yet kindly. "The kibble contains the nutrients she needs." We scaled back on the cucumbers, peppers, kale, and so forth, and sure enough, Ellie began to take an interest in her food. She even appeared to plump up a bit over the course of the next couple weeks. At the vet office, she was pronounced free of the mite infection, and the staff there approved of our feeding, care and handling routines. We were warned that guinea pigs do have their personalities, and that Ellie might always be on the skittish side, and that she would probably warm up to us to a certain degree, which was exactly how things developed. Ellie gradually accepted being cuddled - always with a dish towel, like a baby in a swaddling cloth. She disliked being held without any cozy fabric. Maybe it was related to her missing hair, maybe she was mishandled in her previous life. No matter - we wanted to make her comfortable and happy, and DD was over the moon when after several weeks, Ellie finally consented to sitting on her lap without becoming agitated.

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Post   » Thu Jun 01, 2017 9:12 pm

She sounds like she was a much-loved guinea pig. I look forward to hearing more about her.


Post   » Thu Jun 01, 2017 10:57 pm

Ellie was a sedate girl and seemed older than her stated age of 4 years. She never moved very quickly except to escape being picked up. She also never displayed any interest in chew toys or for that matter, any toys. We bought the recommended bird toys, tried stuffing hay into cardboard rolls, and so on. As far as Ellie was concerned the toys didn't even exist, so eventually we removed them. She liked exploring her cage and when she got a bit more comfortable with us, would hang out by her hay rack during the day. Ellie always got excited when we topped off the rack with fresh hay, usually once in the morning and once in the evening. Some of the smaller pieces would fall out and she loved sniffing amongst them, and eating the most tender stalks. She also gradually began to enjoy eating the hay pieces that we held out to her, and both my son and daughter bonded with her this way. DD compared the procedure to a dollar bill going into a vending machine. :-) I think Ellie liked the attention and it was non-threatening to her. We also devised a schedule so that Ellie got her fresh vegetables in the morning before we left the house, and in the evening when I was getting dinner ready. Vitamin C was always a concern. I gave her citrus slices, which she would maybe take a bite from and then remove from her food bowl. She actually dragged the offending orange slices a few inches away. The only citrus she really liked were strawberry leaves, so we gave her those as much as possible. The leaves have to be green, fresh, not wilted, washed, and preferably organic. A pint of strawberries usually yielded a small amount of edible leaves for Ellie. Luckily, Ellie's favorite was green bell peppers, a good source of Vitamin C. She would also consent to eat a grapefruit section, peeled and divided into smaller pieces, maybe once a week or so. She adored cucumbers, especially the firm pickling variety, along with fresh grass from the yard, carrot pieces, romaine lettuce, arugula, kale, and of course, bell peppers. Ellie helped to refocus our dietary habits once I realized that she was eating more vegetables than her owners.


Post   » Fri Jun 02, 2017 8:42 am

As Ellie warmed up to us, it became apparent that she greatly preferred being fed her veggies on schedule. And if we didn't adhere to the schedule, she would let us know! Since no one got up as early on the weekends, we would be wakened by loud wheeking if we slept in too long. I had everything washed and chopped from the night before so one of us would come downstairs, to see Ellie standing up on her hind legs, with her front paws on the fence, chiding us for our laziness. I'd bring her treats from the fridge and while she was visibly excited, I never saw the "popcorning" described by GP owners. Occasionally she would take say, a slice of cucumber from the bowl, hold it in her mouth and toss her head, but from what I've read about head-tossing, it seems the GP is saying "back off" rather than "I'm so happy." So maybe she was saying "I'm so happy but keep away from my food"? At least, feeding her was something we could do that made Ellie happy. Certainly, it helped a lot with lap time, to have a piece of lettuce or cucumber ready. :) For all of the rest of her life, she was never very active, and seemed to sleep more than what I would now expect after reading all these forums. Girl was not nocturnal and would turn in for the night around the same time as we did. although she tended to wake up earlier (and commence eating and pooping). The rescue had said she would need "help" learning to use a litter pan, but I'm here to tell you that no amount of help was going to change her. She did use the litter pan more after I installed a makeshift awning with an old gift bag, so having the private bathroom helped, but it was more of a case that she liked to hang out in spaces where she felt safe, and the best way we found to keep her cage clean was to pick up several times a day. I got morning duty, daughter scooped the cage when she got home from school, (which was a big job), and then we did a more thorough cleaning in the evening. When we are ready to adopt again, we are thinking of getting a bonded pair, so that will be double cleaning!

For the Love of Pigs

Post   » Fri Jun 02, 2017 9:43 am

Looking forward to more of Ellie's story. It does sound like she was older than 4 - especially the fact that she was sleeping a lot. Our pigs regularly grab a tasty treat & then toss their heads. I like to say they're making sure it's dead. :)

We've lost 2 adoptive pigs 6 mos. after rescuing. One was named Ellie. It's hard, but try to focus on the great home & happiness Ellie had for the last months of her life. And remember, a month for a pig is a lot longer than it is for us.

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Post   » Fri Jun 02, 2017 2:01 pm

So sorry you lost Ellie. Sounds like she left you with wonderful memories to warm your hearts. You showed her love and gave her a wonderful home. That is a wonderful gift. Sending big hugs.

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