Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Introduction: Rocky

Phew! The past week has been utter insanity. So much running around, moving this, saving that, dropping things off and picking things up!

Let's start from the very beginning.

Saturday when I was at the farmer's market, I asked the farmer I buy my greens form if she would please bag up some of her scraps for the piggies at our local shelter. Later that day we went to the feed store for a bale of hay and to deliver some composting worms, and then headed to the shelter.

While we were doling out the greens to the shelter bunnies, Bob, a volunteer at the SPCA who worked with me and a few others on the swamp rescue, met up with us and told me about a guinea pig they had who was down on his luck. He had been at the shelter for a few weeks and had "something wrong with his butt." We went to see what was up down there and it was immediately clear to me that poor "Rocky" was impacted... pretty badly. Unfortunately I didn't have any experience dis-impacting piggies and the last thing I wanted to do was do it wrong and make a bigger mess out of the situation. I promised Rocky I would come back for him, and set him back down in his cage.
I went back on Monday, after a doctor's appointment, to meet with the vet tech there and do the deed. I was shocked to find that not only was the mass no longer sticking out of Rocky like a cork, but there didn't seem to be any obstruction when I poked around with q-tip after q-tip. At any rate, Rocky was in poor shape and I had already made up my mind that I wasn't leaving without him. I left all of my contact information with the tech, got some kisses from her three-legged pit bull and headed home with Rocky in tow.

Driving down the main road near our house I saw a little yorkshire terrier trott
ing down the sidewalk. He had a collar and tags but no leash and no person. It had begun to rain. I told Scott that I would 'scoop him up real quick and be home in five minutes.' Since this is Rocky's introduction I'll make a long story short, suffice it to say that I was not home in five minutes. I spent nearly two hours in the rain with this dog, until finally he let me drape my handkerchief over his face, pick him up and tote him home. He had recently been re-homed to our area and escaped from his yard, he was very scared and very obviously lost, but we contacted his owners and got him home safe.

Rocky was a sneezing, wheezing, shedding mess when I got home with the pup. I called the vet immediately and jammed him in for an appointment on Wednesday. I suspected he had mange mites--due to a bald patch on his hind end--and a URI in addition to his impaction.
At the vet today we were relieved to learn that rocky did not, in fact, have mites. He has a bacterial infection on his rump, a URI, and the vet was able to dis-impact mister Rocky in one fell swoop. The pig who had been silent since I got him home let out a shriek so loud that all the dogs in the kennels began barking and some even howled! Poor boy.

Our doctor thinks that his impactions may be chronic, but proper diet will definitely improve his condition. We're also thinking he may be a bit older [3-4+], since he seems to have limited control of his muscles back there.
The little man is safe and sound now in my big 2'x4' quarantine cage. He had a pretty poor diet at the shelter [where I am now a volunteer] so he is enjoying his hay, veggies, and seed-free pellets!

Is he a resident? It's not official yet, but my mom is taking Milo and Winston for a "test run" this week, to see if they like living in the day care, and if she likes having them there. So far all looks well. We have set them up in the "quiet" room, so if need be, they can be closed off from the kids. Their cage is just high enough that the kids can look, but not touch, and we've attached a crib bumper to the outside of the cage so no-one bumps their head accidentally.
If my mom likes Milo and Winnie, I'd be perfectly happy letting them be permanent residents of my mother's in-home daycare. And if my vet thinks that having Rocky neutered will improve his condition, or at the very least not make it any worse, there is a distinct possibility that he could be a permanent resident.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Number Eight.

More on this story as it develops.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Yummy New Fabrics

I went to Jo-Ann's last night after picking up my CSA goodies, and bought sooo much fabric. Mostly flannel prints, as I really need more selection in my shop. I bought a lucky 13 flannel prints, and I believe I got 5 new polar fleece prints. I do plan to go back, but I only had so much cash on hand. You can see my selection of flannels here. I was so excited... It's been a long time since I spent more than $40 in one place that wasn't the farmer's market or the grocery store. Special thanks to Chris, the nice cutting girl who was patient with me and talked to me about her guinea pig while her co-workers looked on in horror at the mountain of fabric on the cutting table.

More things to be happy about... I have secured two jobs, and neither one is going anywhere anytime soon. Eeeee I'm so happy! This dreary rainy gray day can suck it!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Snuggle Up" Photo Contest


I am planning a sale for November and I'm in need of some cute photos.
This is the first contest/giveaway I've done, so here goes:

1.] The theme of this photo contest is "Snuggle Up," please take that into consideration when entering.

2.] Entries must be e-mailed to SilverBeatShop [at] yahoo [dot] com.

3.] No more than two photos/entries per person.

4.] Brownie points if your photo also features one of my products.

5.] No Stealing! The photo you submit MUST be your own.

6.] Entries will be accepted until 12:00AM [Midnight] EST, October 21, 2010. That gives you a whole month!

7.] The winner and runner-up will be announced October 23, 2010.

8.] The winner will receive $25 worth of goodies from my etsy shop. The runner-up will receive $15 worth of goodies from the shop.

9.] The photos of the winner and runner-up will be used in my newsletter (join by emailing SilverBeatShop [at] yahoo [dot] com, with the subject "subscribe), shop listings, etc and the photographers will be credited. Please include a website, if you have one, when you enter.

10.] Ready... GO!

EDIT: I am just feeling so darn snuggly today, I made a treasury.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Vet/Emergency Funds

Hi everyone, happy Sunday! I'm writing to you today about having a Vet/Emergency fund for your little ones. This applies not only to guinea pigs, but any pet. It is always a good idea to have extra cash set aside so that, no matter the circumstance, you can give your friend the care he/she needs.

This is the first question you need to address when starting a vet fund: How much should I be saving up? The answer varies, depending on how old your animals are, how many you have, what kind are they [cavies or chow chows? rabbits or rhodesian ridgebacks?], and other questions. This is definitely something that you need to sit down and brainstorm on your own, but I will give you the guidelines I came up with way back before I adopted my bunnies.

An emergency could be a one-time visit, a couple hundred dollars and everything's fixed, or it could be a long drawn-out process. You really should plan for either. I recommend at least $500-700 per guinea pig, depending on your average vet bill/ER bill. To give you an example, the vet I see regularly is $45 per visit, but my emergency vet (Cornell) is nearly $200 for a fairly small emergency.
For rabbits, it's a good idea to have at least $700-900 on hand The reason that number is slightly higher is because folks are more likely to have 2+ guinea pigs, compared to one or two rabbits [not true for everyone, of course]. But if you have three guinea pigs, and one gets very sick, you have at least $1500 in care funds for it. Whereas, if you have one rabbit and it gets very sick, you only have $900 in care funds.

There is no set amount, no limit, to how much you should have saved, but the numbers I've given should cover you for basic emergencies. In five years keeping rabbits and guinea pigs I've only had to go to the ER vet once for Benner [Newman's brother] about a week before his death--he wasn't eating and his regular vet was on vacation--the only other emergencies I've had was Sophie-Mo and Olive's emergency spays [$240 each], and Newman's upper respiratory infection, which went downhill so fast after I noticed it that we couldn't get him to a vet in time.

It's best to have a vet fund before you adopt your friends, since almost no vet these days will accept a payment plan. [many do take Care Credit though, which is worth looking into if you have a lot of animals and no vet fund]. Some vets will work out a payment plan if you have a particularly hefty bill and you've been a client for a certain amount of time. My vet allows this for me, and I usually have my balance paid off within a month. I do this so that I don't have to take money out of our emergency fund if I don't need to.

It's also very important that you register with a vet before an emergency arises. Our emergency vet requires a $60 registration fee for each animal, so for my 9, that's $540. Do I have all of them registered? No. Three of my animals are registered there though, one of whom is still living; and the vet knows me from the House Rabbit Society. Some clinics, however, provide emergency care only to registered clients, whose animals have already had one routine check-up with them. Our regular vet clinic is one of these clinics, but our exotics vet doesn't do emergency care regularly, so we have to have a back-up.
The moral of the story being, have a vet fund and a vet before you need one.

I may add to this later, but for now I'm filing this in Cutting Back and HDYDI.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Social Sunday No. 6

Hey folks. I hope your month's been good.
Quick little updates....
+ I have installed a "how to navigate this blog" page at the top left column... you should all check it out.
+ My etsy shop now has a mailing list. I will be using it to notify folks about sales, new products being launched, etc. I'm only going to be sending out probably 1-2 [no more than 3, ever] emails per month. You can join by emailing silverbeatshop [at] yahoo [dot] com
+ Due to more insanity than I've dealt with in a while, I'm jobless. Again. It's making me really moody.
+ The other night I accidentally deleted 25 comments. My apologies.

Now, onto the creamy nougat-y center.

What's one change you've made recently that you're super proud of?

My Answer: I cleaned out the garage and it makes for a really great storage space. I've got all of my old kennels and cages in there, plus 4 bales of hay, extra towels, my vermicompost bins... soon to add more!

WELCOME NEW FOLLOWERS, Please do join the fun!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fleece Bedding Breakdown.

This post, as the title suggests, is a breakdown of the ins and outs of fleece bedding. As a newbie I found the GPC Forum post to be wordy, long and a little confusing. So I have taken the main post, plus the more helpful of the replies, and boiled them down to this user-friendly post.

What is it?
Polar fleece is a 100% polyester fabric, made from recycled plastic bottles. It's super-soft, doesn't rip easily or fray, and once it has been "broken in" [by tossing it in the washing machine a couple of times] it wicks any liquid from the surface, which makes it ideal for small animals such as guinea pigs, ferrets and rats, who have bare feet and carry their bodies so low to the ground and thus are particularly vulnerable to urinary tract infections.

Where can I find it?
You can find polar fleece at Big Box-Marts, thrift stores [fleece throw blankets], fabric and crafting supply stores such as Jo-Ann Fabrics and Hancock Fabrics. Fabric supply stores and some Wal-Marts have many colors and patterns of polar fleece available for purchase by-the-year. All you need to do is let them know how much you need. Most bolts of polar fleece are 60" wide, so for, say, a 2x4 cage [28"x56"] you'd only need 1 yard [36"x60"]. Most places that offer by-the-yard cuts will also have fleece throws available, which come already cut and hemmed; I find these usually work perfectly for a 2x3 or 2x3.5-sized C&C cage, or a similarly sized cage. If possible, you should get anti-pill polar fleece, as it will last longer than just regular polar fleece. It's also best to get two sets of fleece and whatever you'll be using underneath it [towels, etc], for an easy cage cleaning.

How much is this going to cost?
That question is best answered here.

How do I get the fleece ready for pigs?
Make sure you have a good absorbent material to go underneath the fleece. Mattress pads, towels, puppy training pads and newspaper are all common choices. Fleece itself is not absorbent, it simply wicks liquid away from the surface. It needs somewhere to wick the liquid to. If you use fleece and fleece alone you'll be sorely disappointed.
Also make sure that you send your fleece through at least 2 wash cycles; 3 if you have a front-loading washer. In my experience, you do not need to use detergent, and you don't necessarily need to tumble-dry it between washings.

How do I set it up in my cage?
The best way to set up your cage so that your fleece doesn't become a mess is to set up a kitchen area and use a hay rack. Your pigs will do most of their "business" in this area, as an added perk.
As far as putting down the fleece, first layer your towels 3-4 layers thick, or use 2-3 layers of mattress pads. Place your fleece over the top of the towels/pads, and tuck the fleece under the towels [you'll want to leave about 4"-6" on either side of your fleece blanket]. If you find that your pigs are burrowing under the fleece you can use bricks or binder clips to secure the perimeter fleece.

This all sounds like a lot of work.
It doesn't have to be. Cute and stylish cage liners are available online in a number of places.
I make customized cage liner pads, available here. And so do a few other folks, here, here, and here.

How do I clean/care for it?
For regular upkeep you'll want to sweep or vacuum your fleece. Every 4-7 days you'll need to thoroughly sweep/vacuum/shake out the fleece and throw the fleece and towels in the washing machine. Never use fabric softener. Line or tumble dry. I prefer line drying, as the fleece always seems to smell fresher. How often you'll need to wash your fleece depends on your cage size, number of pigs, their age, and etc. For more cleaning tips, go here.

Did I miss anything? Please comment with questions/concerns/praise.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Tiny Tips no. 2: fleece care.

I am in love with fleece bedding. I have already said this, probably multiple times. It makes so many aspects of my life so much easier. But occasionally, there are bumps in the road. In this Tiny Tips post we will address some of the problems that people encounter with fleece bedding, and how to fix them.

1.] Hay sticks to it.
This is easily solved with a small hand rake, a cat litter scoop, or if you lack that kind of hardware, slipping on a latex glove and
picking it up with those wonderful things called your hands.

2.] Poop.
Hands do not work so well here. There are better tools for the job. Many people use a small handbroom and mini dustpan. If your cage is on the floor, upgrade to a regular broom and dustpan. Occasionally I throw my mini broom into the wash for a thorough cleaning, because I'm like that.
I know a gal who swears by using a soup ladle to scoop poop, and if you've got one of those little hand-held vacuums hanging around, I haven't ever tried one but I hear they work great.
When to be on poop patrol is mostly up to you. I sweep about every other day. If you have a vastly expansive cage, you may not need to sweep at all; just shake out the fleece before you do your regular washing.

3.] Laundering: fur
Cleaning the filter in your washing machine regularly can keep fur from building up in there. An alternative to this is to run a rinse cycle after washing with only water and non-chlorine bleach or vinegar, OR you can thoroughly shake out your fleece and place it in a washing bag, or a duvet cover, to keep the fur contained.
4.] Stank/cleanliness
After a few months of using fleece I started noticing a stinkyness that wouldn't go away even after a washing and line-drying. This can be tackled a few ways.
a.) When laundering your fleece and towels, run them through a rinse cycle first, THEN a full wash cycle. This gets most of the nastiness out so that you're not just shampooing and up-covering the stink of urine-soaked towels.
b.) Add a cup of baking soda or vinegar to the wash cycle, along with the detergent. Be sure also not to use too much detergent as it can build up in the fabric and irritate your pigs' skin.
c.) Sprinkle baking soda onto the bottom layer of towels when you are changing your pigs' linens. Though many people hate to admit it, animals [and people] SMELL. It's a fact of nature. By adding baking soda to your pig's towels/litterbox, you can absorb most of this unpleasantness.
d.) Line-dry your fleece and towels. Sun exposure will kill any yucky/stinky stuff in your towels and fleece and all that fresh air, sunshine and unicorn saliva will leave them smelling fresh and clean.
5.] Laundering: poop
Let's admit it, we're not perfect. Sometimes the odd poop-capsule gets into the washing machine, despite our best efforts. But luckily, cavy poop floats [count it, David Letterman]. I just let my washing machine fill up, agitate for half a minute or so, and
capture the unsuspecting victim(s) with a yogurt cup. I'm not sure if this is a problem other people have, but if so, there's my solution.

Have you ever hit a snag when it comes to fleece bedding? Got a tiny tip to share? Need a solution to your problem? Please post in the comments--with or without a Blogger ID. :)