I had guinea pigs when I was a child. I always loved how vocal and cute guinea pigs are. I bought my first pair as an adult from some large pet store chain. There was a pen filled with dozens of guinea pigs and I decided to take two home with me. Pandora and Abercrombie turned out to be perfect breeding-mill specimens: so tiny they couldn’t have been more than few weeks old and looked nearly identical to every other guinea pig in the pen. They must have been terribly inbred. The health problems started within weeks of bringing them home. Pandora had a series of abscesses and and an ear infection which left her with a permanent head tilt. Poor Abercrombie died at 18 months old, due to a congenital heart defect. They taught me how hard it was to find a good cavy-savvy vet and the heart breaking results of breeding mills.
I vowed off of the big pet stores. After Pandora passed, I found Teddi and Eclair at a locally owned pet store that bred a small number of guinea pigs. These guinea pigs appeared much healthier and this pet store seemed to have a genuine interest in their care. They stocked a good brand of pellet and stressed the importance of having a cage large enough for the pair of pigs. I had these two for several years. Eclair broke my heart when she died from a spay (due to tumors all over her uterus). Teddi’s heart started to fail soon after.
In researching Eclair’s illness, I found out that there were guinea pigs in animal shelters. I had never considered this before. Shelters were for cats and dogs. You could find guinea pigs at an animal shelter? I discovered animal shelters had all sorts of small animals! There were rabbits, mice, ferrets, hamsters and, of course, guinea pigs.
I wasn’t sure if I was up for another 5-7 year commitment, so I looked for a pair of adult pigs. Through Petfinder.com I found a possible match at the Brockton shelter: Athena and Victoria were 3.5 and 2.5 years old. They had been at this shelter for at least three months and had been at another shelter several months before that. Athena had been surrendered at least twice in her lifetime. Victoria had been paired with her the previous time Athena had been brought in. How sad that they had been unwanted that often.
I had gone to the shelter intending to just check these girls out. It was the week before Christmas, I had just lost Teddi, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to bring more pigs home. But the shelter could see I was a good caretaker with lots of prior guinea pig experience and that I had a landlord that was was informed and agreeable to my owning a pair of pigs. The staff convinced me to take them home that very afternoon. I couldn’t give them a good reason why I shouldn’t.I honestly don’t know who was more excited with the adoption. My apartment had been so empty without Teddi the last few days. These two sows were entirely adorable. The woman at the front desk literally jumped for joy when a fellow staff member told her who I had adopted. The shelter staff feared their age would prevent anyone from wanting them, since they had already languished at the shelter for so long.
I learned that adopting a guinea pig from a shelter is one of the best feelings in the world. I was helping the shelter by taking home some of their residents and donating money to help other animals in need. I was bringing this pair of lovable guinea pigs a good home. I knew they would never have to go back to another shelter, ever again. They had finally found their forever home. I would never again purchase a guinea pig from a pet store.
I loved Athena and Victoria. Getting an older pair of sows was a very different experience than bringing home baby pigs or youngsters. They took six months to entirely adjust to the new surroundings, just like any new guinea pig, but they were so mellow and already had so much personality. My only regret: their time with me was too short. Athena remained with me for 18 months and Victoria passed away after a bit more than two years. I missed them terribly, but was so happy to have been lucky enough to adopt those two fat middle-aged ladies.
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