The Guinea Pig Mansion
‘Calico likes to eat his way out of everything,’ my daughter is giggling her story out to a fellow guinea pig lover. The girls haven’t seen each other for a few months. We haven’t been venturing too far since the cyclone and not necessarily visiting too many people. However it’s about time we caught up with these friends. They live up the road just outside of Innisfail, which was in the path of the cyclone and was for a time where the media thought it was definitely going to hit. Although Tully, Cardwell and Mission Beach were more severely physically hit that is not to say other areas haven’t felt the impact of the cyclone in other ways.
My daughter’s friend’s Mum and I are discussing what we did with the guinea pigs during the cyclone. They used cardboard boxes and a washing basket to bring them inside. We bought ours inside as well. Ours had straw lined orange plastic crates that were very cheap. They were very comfy. I still can’t believe they slept through the cyclone, even with the tree falling on the house. They only needed an occasional pat when they became just slightly distressed about the whole thing. Their little squeaks were barely a whimper.
Prior to the cyclone we’d been a bit worried about them as someone told us her guinea pigs all died of heart attacks during cyclone Larry. The kids knew this and were very watchful of their little ones.
A few weeks before the cyclone was apparent, and made its journey to us, the kids had bought two guinea pigs. They began with Chocolate and Misty, and the new ones to join the brood were Calico and Soot. It took a while to introduce them to each other. When a new set of guinea pigs meet they must have time to adjust to each other. My eldest explained the psychology of it to me in great detail, as he tends to google all things guinea pig. They were not getting along yet, but had been getting used to being near each other with pens alongside each other. The first few meetings a pecking order was being established. Calico definitely wanted to be boss, but none of the others were having it – especially Misty, who can be rather stand offish, and was not giving over any power. Sometimes however they were delighted with each other, and purred even. But then a plane of something would fly over the garden and they’d all be fighting each other. ‘Guinea pig wars can be slowed down by a towel being thrown over them,’ our googling guinea pig expert told us, demonstrating by dampening the fight with one of our towels.
The days went on in the lead up to the cyclone with quite slow progress to friendship occurring. Each day the guinea pigs spent some time with each other. The kids bought them inside for separate cuddle time still though as they were a bit weary of breaking up fights.
Then along came Yasi. It was very stressful leaving our pet guinea pigs behind in the eye of the storm. I just had too much to carry with scared kids, cyclone kits, and the worry about how long we really had to take it all to the car and get going. My eldest son and his Dad were off clearing a path for the car to make it out of the drive way and I couldn’t see them in the dark. I called out to them- and as I did so dropped some parts of the cyclone kit. I couldn’t grab four guinea pigs, and two birds to add to the refugees from the home.
Although we lost Peep, we have gained some new friends, like this tree frog.
My youngest son was very distressed about this. ‘We leave them in the hands of God.’ This was all I could say to comfort him. ‘If they die they died to save you – and allowed us to make it to the car and out of her before the eye of storm ends.’
So we left them. I thought of them all night, prayed that they were safe in the bathroom were we had nearly stayed. I really hoped that they were well. It was such a relief when we saw them and of course Peep – still alive at that stage and Buddy our little quail was also fine.
After Yasi the guinea pigs were rescued from our NG marked home and placed in a cage in the garden of another friend’s house. They had to be together, we didn’t have the luxury of a spare cage as their other one was a bit cyclone damaged. We were watchful and put a couple of them inside a washing basked inside the other cage. We found next morning they had Houdini like made their way out. They were all getting along famously. Not convinced we put two back under the wash basket. Again they escaped, and still showed they were great mates now. They all snuggled together, and were not going to be separated by anyone -a new home brought a new attitude.
Of course when we had to move them again to their actual new home, our new home, around twelve days later we were a little concerned things might go backwards. They didn’t like leaving their comfy surroundings much for the first few days, but it didn’t take long and they loved the new home. We were happy they did not suddenly drop dead like Peep. Concerned for Buddy we went and tracked down a female quail at the pet store, and paid for her and bought her home. Buddy has never been happier and they now have quail eggs, although they aren’t particularly good parents to them.
They now have a deluxe apartment no less on our balcony for wet weather, and a couple of out door hutches whenever it is dry and sunny for them. They kids have purchased them a pet bed which they can’t wait to try out. My eldest son thinks first of his pets whenever we go out. ‘They need something soft’ and what about their food and today he said ‘Now Mum don’t forget their vegetables and check their water.’ Which I do everyday when they are away without being told, but I am sure he just feels that little bit extra protective of his surviving pets. There have also been bath days. It’s always a lot of fun to watch as all of them love the water, which is not true for all guinea pigs. They are then wrapped in towels. I have special old towels for guinea pigs now and they are kept in a cane basket for the kids to access. They love snuggling their guinea pigs and watching them sleep, which is one of their favourite occupations after eating, and purring. Although there are occasions on which they indicate they are watching television.
Now the other amazing story of Yasi, apart of the survival of guinea pigs who have hearts of steel, has to be the survival of chook houses. You would have thought with all of the torn up sheds that a chook house would have ended up somewhere on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, but no they made it!! We went to check on some friends after the cyclone. We drove to lots of people’s houses as we couldn’t ring them as the power was out and that was when we were proudly shown the surviving chook houses. Some people had taken their chooks indoors and others hadn’t but all of our friends’ chooks had made it through.
Last cyclone I saw lots of butterflies afterwards. This time I don’t see so many –but our new garden has lots of dragon flies. They have the most delicate wings, and yet they make their flight so easily. Other friends have seen butterflies though, and one tells me they surrounded her. It was simply amazing for her as they settled on her shoulders and in her hair. I love picturing her as a butterfly woman being healed by the butterflies who say, ‘Don’t worry about silly old Yasi.’ I don’t hear this story until a month after the cyclone. Again we haven’t seen each other mainly because we are so busy moving stuff in a Ute from our sodden house to the new one, and she also is busy sorting out insurance and those practical things that happen after cyclones. She tells me about how she had hoped to have my family out to the farm to go on the walking trails and river to see the land and the crocodiles where her family live. Her husband had made all these trails but Yasi has knocked the trees and debris over them. It will take a long time to build them again.
Butterfly from the old home
A poem for healing……..
Touched by the healing wings
Knows that nature sometimes
Takes away precious things
But Nature returns more than suffering
Placing the love of purple orchid flowers in my lap
She whispers the sun and rain
To give the forest a smiling refrain
She sometimes is stormy
All bolt and lights that scare in the night
Then she is depositing a Prince from the skies
It will all heal she says and we know she tells no lies
Because once before her son Larry stormed through this space
And people joked he was looking for his takeaway
But now much lost then is returned
And more will return
Giving peace to the butterfly woman
Touched by the healing wings
(c) June Perkins, All rights reserved words and images.
Second piece written during International Writing Sprint with Anita Heiss, Jacque Duffy, Niloofar Davidson and the rest of the writing gang!