It seems that in some small way guinea pigs have featured consistently in our family life for several years whilst our children have been growing up. Trips to visit my good friend Sarah have always been accompanied by some excitement as it meant meeting her guinea pigs; enthusiastic, endearing and affectionate little creatures (the guinea pigs, not my children). It was only recently following the acquisition of the coveted “caring for pets badge” by my eldest at beaver scouts that I finally thought that the children were at a stage where we could invite an animal other than a goldfish into our home, Dearly loved though our fishy friend is, not surprisingly the GP’s were top of the list.
And so to April Lodge, the “guinea pig rescue”. It was well known and supported by our friend and so it was only natural for us to look to them first as we were, in the vernacular, “guinea pig newbies” and would need all the careful help and guidance we could get. We had already found a lot of valuable information on the April Lodge website on how to care for a guinea pig and on the adopting procedure and we refer to this still today for guidance on feeding and keeping the perky little chaps healthy, happy and well entertained but a visit was clearly the best way to benefit form the experience of the centre. It always seemed to me a sad state of affairs that such a thing as a guinea pig rescue should be needed, but it clearly is as it is presently home to around 60 or more abandoned characters and what struck us on our first visit was that each one was known by name and individual character by Val and her staff. It is a small observation but indicates the the care and commitment shown, the animals health and wellbeing is paramount, as it should be.
Our first visit will be memorable to the team there as we arrived en-masse one morning, four over-excited children with eyes like saucers delighted at meeting each new furry face that greeted them. This was a very important visit as we saw first hand how to handle the animals and how to ensure the younger children were properly supervised so that the guinea pigs were safe and at ease at all times. We had the security of knowing that when dealing with April Lodge that we could always refer back to them throughout the lifetime of the guinea pigs for support and advice, from medical check ups to important and general day to day care of the animals as well as for any supplies. The staff were very patient and gave us plenty of time to meet a number of different animals which was important as whoever ended up coming home with us was to become part of the family and even at an early stage you can sometimes begin to sense a possible bond with a creature.
We went home not having made a choice but decided to get our home ready with a hutch and run and to benefit from a home visit from April Lodge prior to taking the plunge. And so it was, having passed muster, that with the guidance of Val the two boys: Ron, a rather striking burnt orange Abyssinian; and Harry, a wonderfully scruffy long haired Peruvian (I leave it to you to guess the magical inspiration for their names!) returned home and promptly disappeared to the far corners of their run. They were rarely seen in the first week or so, as they were rather shy and a little suspicious of us. But over the weeks the care and love shown has begun to be reciprocated in a way that surprises, and they are both really quite at home now. They seek our company when the mood takes them and have lost any over-caution to our presence; they tumble and play happily. Val’s insight has brought us two very affectionate and gentle little souls who are perfect companions and well suited to being with the children too.
I must admit that I never saw myself as particularly soft on animals, being a rather straight forward person, not taken to over subjectify or anthropomorphise animals, but when the children are in bed and my wife is busy on some project or relaxing in the lounge I sometimes sneak Harry out of the hutch and sit with him on my lap. I feel quite definitely happy (is it okay to have a favourite? I hope Ron doesn’t mind) and I sense that he just might be feeling rather happy too.
J. Porter, February 2014