The call came in at 5:15 on the evening of July 2: a guinea pig had been found abandoned in a cardboard box on a path near a reservoir in Fairfield by someone who was out walking a couple of dogs. The day had been hot, one more in a series of uncomfortably hot days, and our first concern was heatstroke and dehydration.
When I retrieved the pig, he was in a cardboard box with a Chube, a half-filled water bottle, and a food dish with a few food pellets in it. Gisella, the young lady who'd found him, said she'd been unable to get a good look at the piggy (because he wouldn't leave his Chube) but thought she saw a bite on his back. It was by the grace of God she'd found him; the piggy was left on a path she walked only infrequently, but that afternoon something -- Something -- pushed her down the path, she thought, to give the dogs a change of scenery.
What I could see was dull eyes, dirty fur, and a lot of flakes in the fur. The piggy had no trouble accepting the romaine lettuce and carrot that I placed in the box. I called Cindy to tell her I was bringing him to Durham that night, instead of fostering at my place until the weekend, because something was very wrong and I knew she had a variety of medications on hand that I didn't.
When she lifted the piggy out of the cardboard box 60 minutes later, she was as horrified, angry, and worried as I was when she saw his condition. Considering some of the horrific cases she's taken in over the last 8 years, it said something that she wasn't sure if he could be saved.
He was thin. His eyes were surrounded by crusted discharge. Easily 75% of his hair was gone. Where there had once been hair was bare, scratched-up skin and layers of dandruff-like flakes. A couple of places were scabbed over, where he'd scratched himself until he bled.
He cried out in pain when Cindy gingerly lifted him from the box. He cried -- I'm not exaggerating -- when you lightly touched the tip of a small clump of hair with a gentle finger. He cried at every kind of touch in between. Each time Cindy touched him to give him medicine, she'd have to wait over a minute to touch him again because physical contact left him quivering, twitching, and almost seizing. In record time, she managed to give him Metacam (for pain), antibiotic, ivomec (for mange mites), and Vitamin C. We both cast up prayers, because neither of us thought he'd live through the night.
Every time he cried I alternated between wanting to cry and wanting to put my fist into whoever neglected and abandoned him (and I'm not a violent person). Every time we looked into his dull, listless eyes, our hearts broke. Every time he twitched and flinched, pieces of us died inside.
This doesn't happen overnight. It doesn't happen over a weekend. It doesn't happen in a week. This takes time. We've had people surrender pigs to us who were missing half the hair that this little guy was, and listened to them try to convince us that it "just happened in the last couple of days"...as if Cindy wouldn't know better after 950+ pigs and 8 years.
This is what mites do to guinea pigs.
This is what a neglected guinea pig looks like.
Cindy named this little guy Rolo. His story gets worse before it gets better. 10 weeks. $600 in diagnostics and treatment. Numerous vet visits. Boundless patience and compassion.
I'll be telling his story in installments, because the story and some of its pictures are too overwhelming to take in at once.