December Hiking and a Farewell

I’ve totally been slacking with my blog lately…

Today, we finally made it out to enjoy a bit of unseasonably warm December weather and take a hike. Chilly decided she’d rather not go in favor of all-day snuggles with her grandpa. She really missed out! We headed out to Chippokes Plantation, which is a Virginia State Park and also a functioning plantation. While the trails aren’t particularly long or interesting, and the weather turned sour just as we arrived, we managed to have a pretty great time. The rain cleared just as we were gearing up to get out of the car. We noticed there was a path from the visitor’s center leading to the river below, so we followed it to get our trail started (the trail maps aren’t particularly helpful).

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First off, there were more shells than I’ve seen on any beach ever! And it’s the James river, but apparently still brackish at that part. It was mostly clams, scallops, mussels and oysters, but my mom managed to located something that looks like ancient coral. There were some people panning for something on the beach. I’m pretty sure they were looking for shark’s teeth (there’s a Boy Scout camp up the river that’s known for it’s beach full of shark’s teeth– or used to be before everyone cleaned them out), but I’d like to think they were searching for pirate’s gold!

Shizuka had a blast navigating the river-beach strewn with fallen logs and giant rocks, while I tottered along behind balancing Yuuki in one arm. She played in the water, swam across a feeder stream and back again (thank goodness for extra long flex-leads! we only use them when we hike). Then we hiked up the trail a bit and ended up at the tourist area set up like a farm. Shizuka came face to face with chickens, saw a giant pot-bellied pig, eyed some goats like a coyote on the other side of chicken-wire, and attempted to chase some donkeys. Then we made our way up the path to the lookout over the river, and Shizuka pounced into the brush after any number of wild animals. We only walked about 4.5 miles, but she was “on” the whole time– swimming, pouncing, prowling and zig-zag-running. Good times!

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Also, my little fat dog only rode in his pouch for about 10 minutes in the middle. After that, he was fine and waddled his awkward little frame all over that farm. He’s definitely a cold-weather Chihuahua.

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On a sadder note, Sir Ouch-a-lot passed away last Friday. He went in for surgery to have his cancerous foot amputated. We didn’t actually think he would live this long, but since he seemed to be doing fine, and his foot was really swollen and starting to smell a little, we had scheduled his amputation. He made it out of surgery fine, but we think maybe they should’ve kept him longer to monitor him. He was gone by the time Thomas got him home. You wouldn’t think a little guy like that, who didn’t really enjoy our company, would leave such a hole…but he did.

We, of course, shed far more tears for our spikey hamster than seems reasonable, and then committed the worst sin of all. We got rebound pets. Argh. I will regret this forever and ever. Thomas had gone to the store to get guinea pigs before I got home and found out Sir Ouch was gone (like I’m a helpless child!), and ran into a woman who instead offered to give him her 2 degus, which she couldn’t properly care for with all their other pets (her daughter’s pets). We didn’t think it through, and she handed them over- cage and all- and then we got them home and realized we could never protect them from the wrath of the big dog. These things chitter and chirp and cling to the side of the cage. I later read that they’re so inquisitive, they often won’t flee a domestic predator because they’re more curious than fearful. Eek! So, we did what no one should ever do, and took that lady up on her offer to give them back. We didn’t make it even 24 hours. Sigh. So the hedgehog tragedy turned into a terrible pet-return disaster. I felt so guilty that I bought them all new toys and researched healthier food and bought that for them, so I’d at least return them in better shape than I got them. How can we be this old and not know better than to get a rebound pet? HOW!? That will go down as one of my most shameful moments ever. At least we didn’t actually buy them, and she had offered when we took them that if we changed our minds, she would take them back. I still feel horrible. And it wasn’t going to fix the hole that that little prickly, grumpy guy left in our hearts.

Rest in peace, Sir Ouch-a-lot. We will miss you, even if you won’t miss us!

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Cancer…

The final diagnosis on Sir Ouch-a-lot’s foot is that he has cancer. It’s pretty localized, so we have two options: amputation of the foot (with the hopes that it hasn’t yet spread to places we can’t see) or keep him medicated and comfortable until the end. Our wonderful vet, Dr. Silverstone, called his various exotics-speciality colleagues and what’s really standing in Sir Ouch’s way is his age. If he were 1, we’d amputate and assume he’d adjust. But he’s 5. For an animal with an average expected lifespan of 6, our vet and his colleagues all agree that at this point there’s a quality of life issue that makes the recommondation not so clear cut. He’s older, so it will probably take longer to heal if we amputate. He told me that while amputation may extend his life some, it extends it in hedgehog time, which may be the equivalent of several months in human time. Is it worth him not being able to run on his oh-so-favorite wheel for most of his remaining time? I’m leaning toward medication and comfort over amputation. I don’t think I could bear to take his leg and he never recovers to run on his wheel again. What to do, my prickly little friend…

Calling in sick today

Seems like everyone’s coming down with a bit of something or other in this house. Yuuki’s been having allergy flare-ups to the point of nearly chewing through his paws. He’s been sentenced to little foot wraps laced with bitter apple at night to keep him from messing with them. Once they’re on, he boycotts our affection– he’s a grudge-holder.

Yuuki wearing his anti-chew tape

And Sir Ouch-a-lot’s foot is on the mend, but not as quickly as his doctor would like. We’re going to wait two weeks for the next check-up, and hopefully the toe will be on track to heal normally. In the meantime, here’s the cutest picture ever that his vet had on file.

Sir Ouch-a-lot at the vet’s office being put under to have a full examination (without the puffing tantrum)

Sir Ouch and the Sore Toe

Sir Ouch-a-lot running so fast the camera can’t get him

It’s hard for a tiny hedge-pig to tell his humans that his toe is hurt. In particular, Sir Ouch-a-lot is the toughest little hedgie that you’ll ever meet, so he can trooper-on when his toe has swollen to twice its size because he’s tough- but, also because he’s so fast we hardly ever see his tiny little feet whizzz by. The fact that we missed his boo-boo until his bath two days ago is based partly on the commitment I made when Sir Ouch entered our lives.

He was kept as a teenager’s tortured pet at the start of his life, and then relegated to the cold garage when the boy no longer found him interesting. He existed entirely off dried meal worms in a cage not big enough to comfortably house a finch. When I offered to take Sir Ouch from their hands (I don’t even think he had a name other than “hedgehog” before us!), I promised him that since he didn’t like to be held, I wouldn’t take him out and try to make him cuddle. I would give him a big cage and let him live out the rest of his years in peace. I would love to give him free time to run around in a safe room, but my hunter-dog, Shizuka, has twice proven that isn’t a viable play alternative. Probably a boring life for a hedgehog, but he doesn’t much like to be out of his cage- when he is out, he just curls up and goes to sleep. We talk to him and he comes to the bars to wiggle his little piggy nose, but in general, I don’t handle him unless its to (tooth)brush some poop off his quills or clean his cage.

I noticed the foot during his last bath, and we immediately made an appointment with the vet to have it looked at. Hedgies have sensitive, vulnerable little toes. Onward with a regimen of twice daily antibiotics and weird foot creme. We’ll see how it goes! On the up-side, he has no idea he’s been injured so he’s continued to run around all night. Also, despite all the dreams I had about animal control coming to get me in the middle of the night for allowing my hedge-pig’s toe to get all red and swollen, the vet acted like this type of injury is totally normal. The hedgehog will now be subject to daily body inspections to ensure no one will have to witness me crying over my hedgie’s toe ever again. Maybe I should’ve considered the karmic implications of naming him “Sir Ouch-a-lot” when I got him– I was just trying to be funny, not usher in a future of casualties!