Altitude Sickness
March 29, 2017

Guinea Pig emergency

Guinea Pig emergency

I have said a lot of mean things about my Guinea pig Pip (“The Impaler”).  To be fair, he has deserved most of it over the past year and a half since I rescued him. But also to be fair, the first year of his life was horrible, and he was basically feral when I rescued him. And to further be fair, he doesn’t seem to get it if I yell, “Why are you biting me, I rescued you, for pete’s sake!”
In the year and a half that I have had him, his behavior slowly improved, but recently he had slid into a terrible digestive affliction that caused him to be basically half covered with poop all the time. But, $400 in vet bills later, I finally have a guinea pig that can safely process food without becoming a tiny Golgothan, and who rarely draws blood if even he does occasionally head toward biting.
So a week ago, right about when it was time to write this column (you may have noticed the conspicuous, soul-hollowing absence of my column last week), I noticed that Pip had a piece of poop stuck to his front left foot. Being the attentive and loving Guinea pig parent that I am I picked him up (he thrashed about as though I were trying to kill him) and pulled the piece of poop off his foot.
Now, for context, when I clip Pips toenails (which I do nearly always without cutting the quick), he screams like he is being murdered with a belt sander.  The sounds he makes are pathetic and heart rending, and cause me paroxysms of guilt.
But, when I pulled the pellet of poop from his paw (that’s a lot of alliteration), I apparently pulled off about half of his paw pad with it, and he bled like a stuck pig, to borrow a turn of phrase.
He did this, ironically, without making a peep. Clip his toenails, and he acts like he is going to die at the hands of Hannibal Lecter. Rip off half his paw, and he goes about his business uncomplainingly while he bleeds out, the contrary little bastard. He bled so much that he ruined about half his pellet bedding in a very short period of time.
I quickly wrapped him in a towel, threw him in a cardboard box, and jumped in the car and sped toward the animal hospital (luckily they had just opened). I was prepared to lead any pursuing police officers on a high speed chase ending with my running inside with my cardboard box to get Pip in the capable hands of a vet before being shot or tasered.
None of this was necessary of course. I arrived at the hospital in one piece, Pip sitting on his extremely bloody towel wondering what all the fuss was about. Apparently, this is fairly common with Guinea pigs, and the solution is to put an adorable little cast on the buggers (see picture of the most adorable, pathetic, tiny, finger sized cast ever in the history of animal care), making them look remarkably like a sad little thumpy Pikachu.
Pip adapted very well to the cast, although for the first day every time he stepped he would wave it around and shake it, remarkably like when Bugs Bunny walked in a lower leg cast (I will admit to making video of this). I started calling him Thumper, and it may have stuck.
The cast is off now and he is fine, though the first day without the cast he just held his foot up and didn’t use it much. He is infection free, and we seem to have bonded some. I have now spent so much time picking him up for various antibiotic treatments that I can tap my fingers on the side of his cage, and he will put his hands up on the side of the cage, and allow me to very slowly pick him up (even though he hates the administration of antibiotic). This is a big deal. Very few Guinea pigs will tolerate being picked up.
Now I just need to get him to sit in my lap for a few minutes … that’s something I really miss from my old Guinea pig Stinky Pete. He was a skilled and enthusiastic snuggler. Hopefully Pip (“The Thumper”) will continue to come along, gaining tolerance for my presence.
So here you have it, the reason I missed last weeks column: I didn’t notice the deadline because I was paralyzed with guilt for injuring a defenseless Guinea pig. Hopefully he doesn’t hold it against me.

Photo by Brady Crain
Pip (“The Thumper” formerly known as the “The Impaler”) recovers with a tiny cast.

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