“Fostering means that you save a life. You are making room for another animal at the shelter. One more open run or cage means one fewer animals put to sleep.” Leslie Brown.
As my time with Beauty, my first foster guinea pig, who was entrusted to me by MSPCA Nevins Farm, winds down, I’ve been feeling a little sad and contemplative so I sought inspiration from, where else, the internet and found Leslie Brown’s quote on the blog Dogspired.com. I modified it slightly to include all animals and not just the dogs she focuses on.
Fostering this little skittish cutie (basically a gooshy fur sausage with lightning feet) and her pending return to the shelter is a test of so many things. Did I make her social enough (She’s still crazy hard to catch, (but what hyper-animated sausage isn’t), on the plus side she now runs to the side of the cage when I enter
the room (albeit hoping for treats), likes to be scratched on her head and under her chin and I can easily and calmly remove her from her cage, it’s just getting her back)? What kind of hubris made me think in a month’s time I could change an animal’s learned behavior? My abilities seem so small compared to Uli, the Guinea Pig Whisperer, at the shelter who in seconds calmed my freaked out pig a couple of years ago making it possible to clip Babalu’s nails safely? I can’t do that. Neither Babalu nor Beauty demonstrate(d) the calmness and serenity of my first guinea pig, Hope, the one I found abandoned in a nature preserve. Does that mean I haven’t been as successful or is this just a personality difference?
Also staring me in the face is the fact that I promised myself a new gpig only when I achieved the equivalent financial security in my solo business venture as I had when I was a full time employee. I want to be able to provide for any medical attention that might be necessary without missing a mortgage payment or jeopardizing the medical well-being of our existing animals. You might be thinking “how much could a guinea pig run up in medical bills”, and I can tell you we spent thousands on our sickly giant white rabbit the first months we had her and then there were the hours upon hours we spent taking her to specialists. We could have had hundreds of rabbits for the money, but we only wanted this one to be well so she could share her life with a companion rabbit she wanted to kill (in the beginning at least, and fwiw, the feeling was mutual). We had heard that there might be some financial support from the shelter given that she was sick so soon after we got her, but we also felt if we took any of that money some other animal would go without, some other family who wanted to keep their pet but had hit a rough patch might not be able to, so we struggled and scrimped and when my car a/c broke, I did without for the summer to support the rabbit we promised to keep and want. Tons of tears and countless prayers were shed over the sicknesses, the difficult bonding situation and the feelings of frustration and hopelessness. And that made me realize, that I don’t want to make any animal’s health (really, life) decision based on a financial one.
Six months into my new career, and I’m doing pretty well, but I’m not there yet. So I am turning over a charmingly chatty little pig wondering if I failed the pig or myself, while also worrying if the loss of his new friend is going to be too hard on our giant black bunny who has strangely befriended her. Bullwinkle can be so cranky and nippy to just about everyone else. And at 10.0lbs, he could do some serious damage to the little chublette who probably tops the scales at 1.5lbs, but he literally lets her crawl all over him.
I know what the days will hold immediately following the return. I will be clicking on the “small and furry” category of “adoptable animal” listings over and over again to see if someone recognized her beauty and couldn’t resist the many charms of my Beauty. Both wanting to see she’s adopted and wanting to think she will still be there as I develop more new business. I hope she has a bunny friend. She’s pretty tough when she needs to be; I witnessed her ripping food out of the mouths of both our giant rabbits, she smacked me in the butt with her head when she found me sitting on the floor in her way. And she timidly comes to my outstretched hand, jeopardizing her “freedom hour” outside her cage when I offer her a treat. It’s really supposed to be a “Freedom Half Hour” but catching her is an all consuming process, even for someone who has occasionally been told at a tennis lesson (admittedly by very generous people I was paying to instruct me) that I have fast hands.
Resolved – I will call the shelter Tuesday, five short days from now. I am working out of the house on Friday and Saturday and Leisa comes home Saturday night, so the days will seem even shorter. I am trying very hard to be responsible about this pig and not give in to my misguided desire to keep her and just hope it all works out (hoarding tendencies must be contained). I must be more responsible than her last caretakers who enjoyed her briefly, got bored and neglected her and her care and transformed a sociable little animal into a terrified one. Now, I know that the hard part about being an animal foster
parent is the recurring empty nest syndrome, and yet despite that I recognize the greater good and added pleasure of sharing my home with a new creature. It is definitely worth it, especially because it spares an animal’s life. So Tuesday it is. Now I’m putting on my marketing hat and trying to let everyone know how great she is. What was it Charlotte wrote about Wilbur to keep him alive? Now I remember: “Some Pig”. Beauty is “Some Pig!”
Follow her progress or check out other adoptable animals on the MSPCA Nevins Farm website and consider being a foster parent. http://www.mspca.org/adoption/methuen-nevins/nevins-farm-available-animals.html
©2011 by Alison Colby-Campbell