Saturday, October 04, 2008

Guinea Pig Ass Squeezer

This is a chock full entry, with an update on my lack of sleep and the adventures I'm having in owning a guinea pig. I hope you're ready!

I've spent the better part of the last few weeks in a mild state of anxiety because of the neighborhood situation thing discussed in a previous entry. On Thursday night we had a second neighborhood meeting, invited the church to come (which they did) and share their side of what we've slowly uncovered through research and due diligence.

Folks were encouraged to leave the torches and pitchforks home and for the most part they did. I'm amazed at how pleasantly derisive some people can be, without being outright asshats. Under the breath mutters and tongue clucks reign out here in the woods. It's semi-polite society, with a few truckers and farmers and laborers thrown in. Small town USA.

As usual, one guy always loses it at these meetings. The woman who has been kind of spearheading all of this really held the meeting together quite well for 90 minutes and then this guy went off like the devil in the church in the middle of a crowded room (to steal from Dave Matthews). I brought the meeting to an end, and the moderator/spearheader dismissed us and that was that. There's another meeting, run by the church, next Thursday. I have a feeling it will be equally divisive, if not more so, as people begin to dislike the plan more and more.

Thing is, I know that SOMEthing is going to go into that space. It is inevitable, it is unstoppable. The church proposes a large number of units and a daycare, all on about 2 acres of land, (with septic? where's the leeching field?) situated on one of the most dangerous corners in town.

If they fail, it opens up the opportunity for another developer to come in and under the 40b laws, put in a bigger development. And they'll get the town's blessing to do it because our town is at about 4% 40b mandated housing now, and we have to be at 10%. Or, they can put in a strip mall, and that will bring all kinds of traffic to the corner. Doug almost doesn't disapprove on that one because hey, if we can walk two doors down to get pizza that'd be nicer than driving across town. But I really don't want to live two doors down from a commercial strip.

So the devil you know is sometimes better than the devil you don't. And I'm of the mindset that we should really work with the church, not against them, and convince them to downsize the plan to something more akin to what fits in the neighborhood. A few others agree, others don't want them to do anything, so it seems we're not going to make everyone happy.

Regardless, for days and weeks now I've been unable to sleep at night, filled with anxiety. I haven't had this kind of experience since I worked at the college (up to the year 2000) and was flat out stressed and miserable about everything.

Add a layer of the whole banking bailout stress with everyone talking about how we are about to enter a period worse than the great depression, and that makes for sleepless nights.

Add another layer of a very sick guinea pig... yes. He's sick, and I'm worried. Who worries this much about a 2 pound animal, a rodent? Me. I toss and turn at night worried about what is going on with him.

Add another layer of Geoff going off to a 2 night sleep over program at a nature education center, and the uncertainty that he'd behave himself over two nights and three days of being cooped up with most of his sixth grade class, and yeah. I'm a bit frazzled.

Work is the only steady, reliable, not totally stressy thing in my life right now. When did you ever think you'd hear me say that?

Anyway -- I've been rather exhausted from all of this. I have a lot going through my mind but don't necessarily want it out on the web. Especially about the project in the neighborhood. Don't poop where you sleep, right?

File this under TMI, if you like to skip it, it involves a Guinea Pig and poop.

Poor old Gordon the Guinea Pig.

A few weeks ago, he came down with some sort of upper respiratory infection. Guinea pigs are prone to them. I am not sure if it is my fault or not, or just what happens. I bought cheap bedding/litter for his cage because I'm trying to save money and the stuff we've been using for 3 years is a little pricey. Well, he got ill, and had this horrible stuffed up nose, horrible clogged and caked up eyes, and a death rasp for breathing. We went to the vet and got him on antibiotics, which seemed to clear things up rather quickly. The breathing got much better, his nose wasn't all the way clogged, and the weepy eyes were still there but nowhere near as bad as they'd been.

Earlier this week I noticed that he wasn't walking, or even moving. He was just sitting in one spot in the cage, and lifting his head around when we came through the room. Normally, he'd rush over and start gnawing the cage for attention, but there he was. Sitting in the middle.

So I lifted him up to hold him and he was just drenched in pee and poop. Rather uncomely for such a regal pig. So I grabbed some paper towels and rushed him to the sink to bathe him.

While debating what I should use to wash him (Dial antibacterial, dog shampoo, Herbal Essence... hmmmm) I noticed this STENCH filling the room. So I walked over to pig, who was desperately trying to escape the sink, and I noticed the water was just a putrid greenish brown. He must be much filthier than I'd initially thought. Ech.

I decided to change the water, lifted the pig up and discovered that now that he was sopping wet, I could see that his bunghole was clogged with a marble sized poo. For you or me, that'd be probably a grapefruit sized poo. Ouch.

That was the stench, the water was softening things up, and the poo was trying to make its way out.

Great. I now know what I have to do.

I drain the sink, lift the pig and hold him, squirming for his life, over the toilet. I squeezed his belly gently, massaged him, and encouraged the poo to its natural progression -- downward with the help of gravity. Did all this while screaming for Jessica to come and help me. What she could help me with? Who knows. I just wanted someone else there in case I completely freaked out.

Most of the poo fell, and I opted to set him back in the warm water and allow that process some more time.

Herbal Essences for you, pig. No Dial antibacterial, no doggie shampoo, we're gonna make you smell pretty after this.

The nugget wouldn't budge, so I ended up using a Q-tip and hating myself for anally raping my pig. But once I got that thing cleared, normal poop just started flowing out of his butt. I held him over the toilet again, counting 10, 11, 12 plops into the can.

Drained and refilled the sink, got the pig washed, got some towels and massaged him nice and dry. Boy was he happy. Fed him some kiwi, and figured all was well.

I got up the next day and discovered the same situation. Pig in poop, not moving. I thought for sure that cleaning poo out of his butt was the solution, but I picked him up and realized something that I'd glossed over the night before. I could feel all of his bones. His hip bones, his spine, his rib cage. I have never felt them before. He was always a good chunk of pig, and now he was ratty and skeletal. Gasp.

His back left leg was also swollen, something I'd failed to register during Night Of Poop. That's why he couldn't walk. Not because he had a butt of poo pellets, but because his left leg looked like he had lymphadema.

Doing some internet research ("to the internet!") I kind of determined Gordon has scurvy.

Arrrgh. Yes he do. He be afflicted with a deficiency in C. Matey. He's a scurvy pig. Not a dog, not a knave, a scurvy pig. Arrrgh.

I took him to the vet to confirm the diagnosis. And she agrees... she gave me detailed recommendations, she said he probably won't make it, but if we're diligent and careful, we could cure it or at least give him a happy and comfortable end of life, however long that'll take.

Our family now has a daily Guinea Pig Maintenance Program.

We have to give him water by syringe, because he can't stand up to drink from his water bottle. Two or three times a day we've got to pull him out, hand feed him the water, make sure he's getting C drops, clean him, clean the cage, do physical therapy with his back legs so the muscles don't atrophy (yes, guinea pig physical therapy..) and stay on top of it.

She said that the reason why his ass is clogged is he can't reach down and clean himself up, because he can't stand on his hind legs. I watch him try, and it breaks my heart. I see him poop, and he goes to pull out the pellet and chuck it across the cage, and he can't do it, he falls. It's like an old man who can't wipe his own arse after using the can... So that's the reason for the backup and the giant nugget. So she showed me how to help him out, and I've got to do that several times a day or it'll repeat. Nice.

Her prognosis for his recovery was iffy. He could clear up completely, he could last a couple weeks, he could last a year or more just like this... she doesn't know. She said the fact that he's eating is great -- as long as he's eating, there's a chance. We have to give him very high in C foods, and orange juice concentrate.

So I am now the sleepless, tired, guinea pig ass squeezer of Essex County. Nice to meet you.

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