Tribute to Gentleman Blaze

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Recently Cosy Cottage suffered another bereavement when well-loved Blaze passed away. He was the eldest of the residents here, between six and seven years of age, and had been feeling various ailments of old age – stiff legs (arthritis probably), blindness in one eye and general slowness.

Blaze previously lived at my Book Club friend Liz’s house. He arrived at Cosy Cottage as an elderly widower a year ago, after losing his friend Fury.

At the same time, Cosy Cottage’s Loco had lost his partner Bugsy.

My book club friend Liz and I decided to try and matchmake these two lonely old men so they would have companionship in their old age.

It worked a treat and, for a year, Loco and Blaze got on very well. Blaze nibbled on his hay contentedly while Loco continued his lucrative career as a professional beggar. Blaze happily helping himself to the profits of Loco’s begging schemes.

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When Loco died, I started to search for a pal for Blaze. He seemed to be happy enough, eating and drinking, but still… They do say Guinea pigs prefer to be with others.

So that was when Tom and Tim, pictured below, arrived. Again, like Loco and Bugsy, they came from the adoption section from Pets at Home. Three pigs meant a bigger cage was needed – so I bought a c&c cage with an attic. I went through the same routine as last time, when introducing Loco to Blaze. This included separate cages next to each other and quick, fleeting ‘getting to know you’ sessions.

And then D-day arrived and the the three moved into the large c&c cage – a palace for Blaze, who had been living in a cottage by comparison. But this was when I found that, even though most experts say male guinea pigs need company, it does have to be the right companion, especially for someone of Blaze’s age.

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Tim and Blaze got on well until one day Tim started trying to mount Blaze. This is actually natural in the boar world, and is a way of asserting dominance.

But I was concerned about Blaze and any potential stress this may cause at his elder years, so Blaze moved out of the palace and back into his little cottage. The new boys were too young and too boisterous.Blaze really needed an older companion like himself.

I moved him next to my settee so he was closer to human company, if not pig, although he may well have heard the bickering of his quarrelling neighbours from across the room!

Blaze was a quiet, well-mannered boar of simple tastes. As long as he had his hay and his muesli, he did not ask for much. Never complaining and always polite, he was a little gem among pigs.

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He was very popular with my godchildren, especially two-year-old Wilfred. I think Wilfred would have loved to have taken Blaze back home with him in his pocket.

Blaze came across as a wise old boar. Rather than demanding treats, he seemed to be meditating on the meaning of life. Saying that, he never turned down anything tasty that came his way.

But he had his health issues. About to cut his nails one day, I noticed there was something wrong with his foot. Was it dried mud? No, it was bumble foot. This is a horrible condition where pigs’ feet get scabs. It can spread to the bones so a visit to the vet was essential. 

After a visit to the vet, he was given antibiotic, foot wash and painkiller for this, but sadly, a few days on, he passed on.

I like to think of him going to Dandelion Heaven, where Loco, Fury and all his other pals will have waited for him… And where there will be many fields of dandelion and hay to munch on. 

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R.I.P Blaze, you were a lovely little gentleman.

 

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Children and pets

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My godchildren came to visit recently, aged two, four and eight years old. The first thing they wanted to see at Cosy Cottage? The residents of course!

The zebra danios were nonchalant as always, swimming in their water world, only paying attention when Honey, Noah and Wilfred fed them.

Although the guinea pigs and hens were a little startled at first, hearing the sound of loud young voices and the pattering of little feet, they became fond of them over the weekend.

Especially when it meant more treats!

Loco and Blaze met the youngsters and enjoyed being stroked, even Loco who sometimes makes a big fuss about being handled (we don’t eat guinea pigs here, Loco, you’re quite safe!). He is always happy to beg for parsley though!

There was much hilarity when Blaze pooed on Noah (big sister Honey couldn’t stop laughing!)

Loco then decided to do the same to Honey.

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Guinea pigs, so polite in company!

Noah helped me clean out the chicken coop, doing a much thorough job than I usually do!

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They helped with giving the chickens corn. Unfortunately the hens then thought it amusing to lead me – and the children – a merry dance and not head into the coop when it was time to go in.

I was expecting the hens to follow me in (bribed by corn, no less) straight into the coop, but no. They thought it would be a laugh to run around while me and the youngsters tried to herd them in.

Have you heard the phrase, ‘it was like herding cats’? I’m not saying it was as bad as that, but not far off either.

Never work with children or animals as they say in showbusiness!

It was a fun weekend for us all but I remain convinced the chickens were deliberately trying to show me up in front of the children and the five of them had a great laugh about it afterwards, especially Jemima!

🙂 🐹🐔🐟

Children and pets – top tips

1. Teach your child to be gentle around pets and other animals.

2. Pets are good for teaching responsibility. But don’t get a pet and assume your child will always look after it. They may get distracted with other interests as they get older. Make sure you want the pet too and are happy to look after it, if your child loses interest. 

3. Be logical when choosing a pet. It’s better to research and consider how much time, space, attention etc you can give a pet than get one on a whim and give it away the next month. As they say, a pet is for life, not just for Christmas. 🐈🐕🐹

 

Making friends (the chicken method)

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So it took two weeks for Mabel and Ava to meet and greet Florence, Jemima and Dottie through the fencing, first of their coop, then of the small run.

The first time Florence set eyes on the two new girls peering curiously out of the wire mesh, she launched herself aggressively onto their coop, flapping her wings.

Not what I expected from the once docile, sweet Flo.

Jemima did the same.

Not what I expected from the lazy, often broody Jemima.

And Dottie? Who was bossy and used to peck Florence when she was a youngster?

She ignored them.

To be fair, most of the time everyone ignored each other. There were curious glances but otherwise both groups of chickens got  used to the other gang being in the vicinity. As long as they were kept apart from fencing, that is.

After a week of ‘quarantine’, where Mabel and Ava got used to their new surroundings, they were allowed out in the small run. The older hens roamed free in the outer garden. I worried that the youngsters would try and sneak through the flimsy netting and (typical of my worst fears) get pecked and eaten by a three-strong gang of tough pekin bantams.

Well, maybe just the pecking although I have heard of cannibalism in chickens…

It went smoothly but, because of my concerns, I continued to keep close watch while they were out.

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They were often in full sight of the other chickens.

Then it was deemed time for them to wander the full length of the Hen Garden. I closed the other chickens in, and Dad and I cleared the garden of anything that could possibly be a danger. We also closed off any potential small areas of escape. I worried they would fly away, squeeze under a tiny hole or eat something they shouldn’t.

None of these things happened. They loved their new-found freedom.

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Then it was Meet and Greet Day. One by one, in the comfort of my living room, Ava and Mabel met Jemima, Florence and Dottie. All went well except Florence pecked Ava (where was the nice Flo?) and oddly, Mabel pecked Dottie.

Originally, they were all going to be introduced that night as I heard bedtime was the best time to introduce chickens. But after the two pecking incidents, I, well, ‘chickened out’ (!) Instead, every day for the next fortnight, all the chickens went out in their designated Hen Garden but slept in their respective coops at night.

At first, there was chasing by Jemima (well, at least it woke her from broodiness) and Florence. No harm done but it did make Mabel and Ava wary of the mean girls.

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There also seemed to be segregation, with one group at the top and the other at the bottom of their garden. And vice versa.

But gradually, over the fortnight, Mabel and Ava creeped over towards the group, little by little, step by step. Still a little chasing went on, usually by Jemima, and I caught Dottie peck Mabel (was this revenge?) but generally, they slowly, surely, accepted the two youngsters.

When Mabel and Ava wandered over to the older hens’ coop and pottered around, eating grain, there was an air of acceptance.

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I was nervous when the big moving in day arrived. At 5pm, when it was twilight, not dark for us humans but bedtime for chickens, Dad and I took out Ava and Mabel from their perches and placed them on the perch in their new home.

A couple of times I sneaked towards the coop, hovering by the door, waiting in anticipation for any noises.

All quiet on the chicken front.

The next morning, they were all as one. A little bit of bickering went on about corn (well, if you can’t argue about corn, what can you argue about?) but otherwise…

I left them in their coop, to their own devices, while I went for a walk. When I got back, I found Florence had laid an egg (good girl, Flo!) and she had been followed into the bedroom by Jemima, Dottie, Mabel and Ava.

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Florence on top, Jemima, Dottie, Mabel and Ava bottom

Over the last week, the once segregated groups have integrated into one, bigger group. It took patience, anti-pecking spray and nerves – and a few weeks – but it looks like Ava and Mabel have made themselves at home and made new friends at the same time.

Most importantly, they also learnt very quickly where they could beg for mealworms!

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A guinea pig bromance

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Regular readers will remember the two guinea pig residents of Cosy Cottage, Bugsy and Loco, and how, sadly, Bugsy left this earthly realm. Loco lived a solitary life for the following month, still eating and drinking, but somehow seeming to age in that time. I didn’t remember him looking so old or so blind. And when he was given the option of venturing further afield from his cage home, he often stayed put or, at least, moving only to a spot nearby.

And yet when I thought of adopting a new companion, my mind reflected on all the info I had gathered over the years about boars (male pigs). How they had to be introduced slowly, oh so slowly because, if not, they could end up fighting and biting… And Loco was getting on now and the last thing either of us would want is aggro.

So I dithered. Looked at the RSPCA website for suitable ‘bachelors’. And thought, maybe. Maybe not. It was akin to entering the world of internet dating and lonely hearts columns. Should I place an advert in my local newspaper?

Elderly black, red and white boar, recently widowed, looking for easy-going male for platonic friendship. Hobbies are food and food,  particularly dandelions and parsley. 

And then Blaze, small, dark and handsome, arrived on the scene.

 

My Book Club friend Liz also had two guinea pigs and Fury had sadly passed on. Now she was looking for someone with a lone guinea pig who could be a companion for Blaze. And if it didn’t work, she would take Blaze back.

This was Loco’s second chance of a ‘bromance’ (friendship between two males).

Liz, her husband and I tentatively introduced the two elderly widowers one evening, holding the two up close to each other so they could smell the other’s scent. Then she left Blaze in his cage, alongside Loco’s, so they would get used to each other’s company nearby. Blaze hid mostly the first couple of days, while Loco peered in, looking for him. Loco tended to show this interest after feeding time. Perhaps it was Blaze’s food he was more curious about.

Is he getting more than me? I could imagine Loco wondering…

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A few days later, it was time for their first date, a breakfast date at an improvised cafe (otherwise known as eating lettuce together in a cordoned off area of my hallway). They could have been entrants for First Dates on the telly!

This was their first time together and it looked like, at worst, they tolerated the other, at best, was this the start of a blossoming friendship?

There was a little sniffing but lettuce was the priority of course!

After this, they were let out together more often. They followed each other, smelled each other, and took turns to mount each other. I was curious to see Loco doing that as Bugsy was always the dominant pig in that friendship. This apparently sexual behaviour is perfectly normal with two boars as it’s a way to figure out who will be top pig. The experts say that, as long as the newly introduced boars aren’t fighting, it’s best to leave them to it.

Eventually co-habitation day arrived. Up to now, they had been either apart from each other or in a large area, closely supervised. Now they were going to move in together.

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First, I placed Blaze in Loco’s cage and vice versa, so there would be less of a territorial feel. Then back again.

Keeping Blaze’s cage and Loco’s ‘bed’ (a wooden house he is doing his best to demolish with his teeth), taking the plunge, I moved Loco in.

It was going to be for an hour or so at first, but they seemed to get on so well, so the hour became permanent and Loco’s cage was dismantled and the base turned into a seed/plant tray.

One evening seemed a cause of concern when, after being fed parsley, Blaze started following Loco around and trying to mount him to the extent that it started looking like harassment. This worried me, especially after they had been getting on so well. Would I have to separate them again and give Blaze back to Liz? I had got rather fond of the silky dark featured one, normally so placid and laid-back, and I didn’t want this scenario to happen.

Phew, the following day they were back to normal. Since then, they live together quite happily albeit with rare minor disagreements that, let’s face it, we all have with those we live with. Loco seems to have got younger and more inquisitive as well. Who needs a face-lift when you have a Blaze in your life?

I imagine the below scenario may have happened at the beginning:

Loco tells Blaze his number one rule: What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is also mine. Blaze responds: Amazing! That’s my rule too!

So Loco will try to take food off Blaze and Blaze will do the same to Loco. Their favourite game appears to be tug of war with dandelion.

It’s a perfect match (second time around) for these two elderly widowers. Thank you Liz for bringing Blaze into Loco’s life ☺️

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Tribute to Bugsy

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A sad week at Cosy Cottage – a death and burial (under the apple tree) of Bugsy, companion of Loco and well-loved guinea pig in general.

He was more reserved than Loco but under his pal’s influence and wise guidance, learnt to be outgoing and become a professional beggar.

He could be irritable and, at times, to human eyes, a sex pest towards his fellow bachelor (to be fair to Bugsy, in the guinea pig world, mounting your fellow male housemate is showing – or trying to show – dominance).

And often Loco would get his revenge by snatching dandelion or parsley straight from Bugsy’s mouth.

That wasn’t about showing he was boss. It was just greed.

Bugsy had a funny way about him, making a brrr sound rather like a motorbike or motorboat. He would also swagger from side to side, like a cowboy.

Again, I think it was a dominance thing. Bugsy elected himself boss – that is, until it came to food, then it was Loco’s turn to rule the roost.

The red-headed one loved adventuring. One of his escapades was hiding under my desk. Safe and sound for him, worry for me as I wondered how on earth a flesh and blood rodent could simply disappear.

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He resided at Cosy Cottage for two and a half years, his previous dwelling was at an adoption section at a large pet shop.

Before that is a mystery. Apparently he and Loco (they were adopted together) hadn’t got on with the other guinea pigs (or vice versa) at a previous home but other than that, nothing else is known.

So how old he was is unclear. What is certain is that one day, during an arctic cold week (had this anything to do with it?) he fell ill and weak. A day later he had gone, as they say in the animal spiritual circles, over the Rainbow Bridge.

Ultimately, for all their disagreements, he and Loco were great companions who got on most of the time. He was a fabulous little character who made me smile. We will all miss him at Cosy Cottage, especially Loco.

If you’re thinking of adopting a guinea pig, why not try your local pet rescue charity? Read up as much as you can about guinea pigs first though. Pet adoption is a commitment. 🐹