Nevermore: The Dangers Awaiting Guinea Pigs Outside
Part of my routine was working in my home office and having the pigs in the playpen. Plenty of times I had turned to answer a phone call and had my back turned for 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 15 minutes. The first few times were accidental, due to work stress and distraction. After that, I neglected my watchman duties due to a false state of comfort. Everything had been fine. I had checked and double checked their safety many times. Their toys were safe. They had plenty of food and water and each other’s company. All was well.
The day in question, however, I had them in the backyard. I should point out that I’m an avid gardener and we have a Japanese Garden. A small closed space with a high wooden fence, stone pond and waterfall, plants landscaped with love, and warm patio stones cut into organic shapes and snuggly fit together. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work and a lifelong dream.
The french doors were both open and the warm air freshened the house. The deck above covered half the backyard making it feel like an extension of our home. The yard was so clean, I freely moved in and out of the house in socks without much dirt. This particular day was cage cleaning day.
Because it was warm outside, I put the pigs on the patio in their pen. They were on the flat stones that manicured their nails naturally. I had put a large tray of fresh cut grass in the pen along with the usual toys, tunnels, and snacks. At the time, I had a webcam set up and would broadcast my guinea pigs to my friends online. I put the webcam in place, and even though the sun wasn’t out, I put a shady cover over the pen so my sweet pets would feel safe. The cover fit snug and was difficult for me to get on and off. Certainly this pen was secure.
I went in and out between the backyard and our finished basement carrying cage pieces. I washed them at the hose and shook blankets out over the fence. I laid everything out to dry. The pigs were chasing each other through tunnels and playing nicely. The birds were singing. It was a beautiful day. The webcam was connected to the television in the house so I could see them on the big screen when I went inside to clean the fleece. All seemed well.I took a moment to have a brief conversation with my husband. “Where are the pigs?” he asked. “They’re in the playpen in the backyard. The cover is on and they’re snoozing. It’s a nice day.” I responded in confidence. “You better go check on them,” he said. His warning concerned me. Usually I was the one that was too uptight about things. Was I slacking? I glanced up at the webcam and the pigs were both snuggled in a tunnel looking quite… hmm, uncomfortable?
I walked into the backyard and there were a pair of ravens, twice the size of my largest guinea pig. They were on opposite sides on the pen lifting the cover. I lunged towards them and the big birds did not move. They had no fear. I was terrified they would get to my pigs before I could. The webcam didn’t show these meddlers and it seemed my sweethearts were just seconds from a horrible fate. I waved my arms and jumped around. The best the birds did was backup a little and look at me perplexed. I fumbled with the cover that the birds had so easily pulled back just moments before. The birds inched forward. I grabbed the entire tunnel containing my guinea pigs and ran for the back door. The ravens were strutting around behind me, moving towards the back door. I couldn’t close the doors fast enough. Once safe inside, the birds continued to cry out to me. (Calling them birds is an understatement. These were velociraptors!) Eventually one of them seemed to turn on the other and start bullying as if to say, “It’s your fault we missed out!” Only then did they leave. The pigs were ok but visibly shaken. I was running close to a heart attack.
That. Was. Too. Close.
After that encounter I went online and read about ravens. Turns out they are incredibly smart and the largest birds in the crow family. Studies on ravens have proven they have deductive reasoning and can figure out situations many other animals can not. This is why they could get the cover off the pen. One bird might have had issues. No, this enemy came with friends and they work together. A group of ravens are called a unkindness or a conspiracy. I just found out why.
Another thing I learned about ravens, they have been known to kill small farm animals and small dogs. They pick up the animals and fly straight up, dropping them from higher and higher heights until the animals are so broken they can’t move or die. Then the ravens tear them apart with very strong beaks.
I thought I had to beware of foxes, raccoons, and the neighborhood children that like to hang from our trees. I had no idea I had deadly birds in my neighborhood. I thought the webcam was a fine substitute for a real pair of eyes. My guinea pigs almost perished and it would have been broadcast online for all to see. Can you imagine? I will never walk away from them again. Technology can not replace being there.
We don’t live far from the home of famous poet, Edgar Allan Poe, and I now carry his words with me to remind me of the ravens that day. “Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!’Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’”
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