Altitude Sickness

Guinea pig training progresses

Pip the guinea pig, peaking out from his blanket fort

By Brady Crain

I have, based on the orders of everyone, been taking it much easier.  I lift or do pushup/pullup sets every two days, walk at least once a day, and trail run every two to three days, between four and 12 miles. Easy peasy. A little yoga, and a lot of sitting in a recliner, now without ice. The back is healing, and that is that.

It is time, however, for an update on the emotional recovery process of my guinea pig, Pip (“the Impaler”). He was testy for a while this year, and I don’t really know why, but now he is lovely and purr-y, but still nervous about being touched.

I have been doing some different things with him, though, and his emotional range is increasing.  Every day after I return from my exercise (a couple of hours after his breakfast), Pip gets a little treat.  The treat is actually a vitamin C supplement, and it is not sugary, but he still regards it as the highlight of his day, and paces the front of the cage squeaking until he gets his treat (I had to stop bribing him with sugar because it was making him sick).

For a while I was just giving him the treat, and then I was making him eat it out of my hand and petting him, then I started giving him the last little bit by making him take it from between my lips. Then I had an idea.

I started putting him on his cuddle pillow to get his treat, which means that to get his treat he has to let me pick him up and set him down.  He is getting good at this (if I approach slowly enough he lets me pick him up without a fight). When I give him the last bit, I let him eat it on the pillow, and then I walk away.

Pip has started to use this freedom to run around the house a bit. He only does it every three or four days, but it is hilarious to see him run around, checking things out, looking for food. He does not ever go to the bathroom outside his cage, so when he needs to go, he gets back in his cage and stays there until his next adventure. It’s pretty nifty.

I have always wanted him to be a house pig, so when I set up the apartment I put all my power strips up on the wall so no power cords would be on the ground. It is a safe place for him to exist. I just close the bathroom door and the doors to my office and bedroom.

Furthermore, it seems we might have the issue of lack of snuggling taken care of. Most of the time if I just put him on his pillow on my lap, he is agitated, and turns around and stares at his cage, as though it will leave without him.

What I have done, instead of putting a blanket over him like Stinky Pete used to love, is I have started to basically make a blanket fort, sort of a sideways guinea pig soft taco, with him facing me. After a few days of chafing at it and exploring, he has started to settle in, and will sit there and look at me with his nose poking out of the blankets while I scratch his chin.

He even lasts 15-20 minutes (much longer than his usual five minutes) and is much friendlier.  I am not sure, but I am betting that this is because Pip, like every other intelligent being on earth, feels safer in a blanket fort.

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