Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Two weeks ago, a chinchilla came into the Room.
He'd been left in his cage, on a street corner. The cage was bare except for a few shelves and, inexplicably, a little bowl of birdseed. The chinchilla sat on bare wire, looking half-dead. It was over 40 degrees outside with the Humidex, and chinchillas have extremely low tolerance for heat. There was a water bottle in the cage, mostly empty, which was at the top level. He would have had to climb up three shelves to get to it, and by the time he arrived at TAS, he was too weak to reach it.
We weren't at all sure he was even going to survive, to be honest. He was lethargic and bedraggled. When I put a bowl of water in the cage (one he could reach), he fell into it, he was so desperate for a drink. We gave him hay, proper food, and a chew toy, and we moved him into the back room where it was cooler.
The next time I saw him, he was a different chinchilla.
Amazing, isn't it? He made a spectacular turn around. He had several dustbaths and now he looks very handsome indeed. His fur is shiny and fluffy again and his eyes are bright. As I always say, it really doesn't take much. We don't have a proper cage for him at the moment, so he's still in his awful original one, but with the addition of food and toys, he doesn't seem to mind so much.
We've named him Sir Nigel. I was going to go with Nigel, because with his fancy coat I thought he looked like an old man living in luxury. Nicola, one of the staff members, decided that we had to go all the way and knight him.
Even better than his turn-around in condition, Nigel has turned out to be a total sweetheart. Most chinchillas that we get are extremely skittish or tend to bite. But Nigel is lovely. He isn't a great fan of being picked up, but he puts up with it, and he enjoys being held. He'll put his little paws on your arm and sit there happily. He likes to be scratched on the head and back, and runs right up to say hello to you.
I will never understand how people can be so cruel to their own pets. How do you justify leaving a chinchilla outside in over 40 degree weather? Nigel is a sweetheart. They must have played with him, scratched him, held him. How do you take an animal you've held and played with, and leave it to die of heat stroke on the street? It's incomprehensible.

Chinchillas take forever to get adopted, because they have such specialized needs and long life spans. We're trying to contact rescues in order to get Nigel into a foster home, but for now he sits in the back room at the shelter, getting spoiled by the staff.

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