Big bonds with small creatures: my favorite cavies

24 Oct

There’s this thing going around on Facebook right now where cavy fanciers tag their five friends and ask them to post pictures of their five favorite cavies. I know a lot of people who breed and show cavies, so, naturally, I’ve been tagged.

But rather than share the pictures with a few Facebook friends — I choose to keep my Facebook closed to all except those I know in person — I decided to share a couple pictures and memories with the world.

I don’t have pictures of all of them. Sorry about that.

Aragon

Aragon was a self red Abyssinian, and my very first cavy. I got her for free from some kids my mom knew after months and months of begging my parents for a guinea pig. They had finally relented, agreeing that I could have a guinea pig if I could find a way to pay for one. So I scrapped up my pennies, and found a free guinea pig, for which I then bought a commercial pen, bedding food, hay, toys — all the necessities. I think my parents figured it was a phase, something I would grow bored with, eventually. I didn’t. I read everything I could find about cavies, and after some time of demonstrating that I could and would take good care of my new pet, my parents allowed me to get two more cavies. Even though I desperately wanted a long-haired cavy, I ended up with two more mixed-breed short hairs. That’s a long story I’ll have to tell you some other time.

I had Aragon for several years before she died after being treated for dental issues. She was old, and didn’t handle the procedure as well as she had others in the past. I, of course, bawled my eyes out. And my dad, doing what most dads do in this situation, offered to take me to a cavy show the next day and let me buy any guinea pig I wanted.

We came home with my first breeding pair of Peruvians.

Once we got our first little caviary set up, my dad made a big sign that read “Aragon’s Legacy” to put on the biggest pen we had. We later derived the name of our caviary, Legacy Caviary, from the sign.

Legacy Lloth

Lloth, a black-and-white Peruvian, wasn’t my first show pig, but she was the first I managed to get into some semblance of showable coat condition. Those of you who have tried to show long hairs know this in and of itself would make any guinea pig special. But Lloth also had the genetics to back up my fledgling grooming ability, and she became my first grand champion by the time she hit breeding weight. She gave us one litter, a pair of sows, and then subsequently refused to allow any other boar near her ever again. Since she wouldn’t breed, I decided to clean her up and coat her out again — an effort that earned her three additional legs, the equivalent of earning a second grand champion status.

Legacy Tycho

Tycho was born for the show table. He came out of a long line of show animals, going back to Lloth and those original Peruvians, but he came out as a silkie, which wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but I went with it, anyway. Tycho was not only a stunning show animal, but also a bit of a character. He more or less tolerated being groomed, unless you were my dad, in which case, you weren’t allowed to touch him. Naturally, my dad took over the effort to coat Tycho while I worked an internship away from home for a few months. When he and my sister did manage to get all the hair out of his wraps, Tycho made a habit of spinning around and sitting on top of his hair so no one could comb it. He later tamed down and became quit persistent in his demands for attention: Whenever someone walked by his pen, Tycho would stick up his nose and wait for you to pet him. If you didn’t, he would chatter and wheek in protest.

Tycho just passed away while we were at a show two weeks ago. He had grown rather elderly, so it wasn’t entirely unexpected.

Legacy Gapper

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It’s not his best picture, so he doesn’t look very impressive, but Gapper was the first Peruvian satin I had tear up the show table — or at least, he came as close to doing so as any Peruvian satin I have every owned. Gapper took best of show, once, after a rather amusing exchange. During the show’s best of show round, with all of the breeds on display, the judge paused to admire Gapper and remark that he was a rather nice Peruvian Satin. “But,” he said, “let’s compare him to this Peruvian over here.” The judged walked over to the Peruvian on the table, ran his fingers through its coat, and, with a rather shocked expression, pointed to Gapper and said “that one’s best of show.”

Gapper never bred for us; we sent him to a veterinarian friend of ours who thought she could persuade him to produce some offspring. We now have his son, David, and several grandchildren.

Legacy Padma

Padma is one of my most recent Peruvian satins, and also my most recent national champion — Padma took best of breed at the 2014 ACBA Specialty. He recently retired from the show circuit and is now in breeding.

Legacy Marshall and Legacy Rodney

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I’ve included these two together because they’re brothers, and because that is an important part of their history. Marshall is the oldest; we knew almost as soon as he was born — a singleton boar — that he would be a phenomenal animal. But after a month or two, Marshall contracted pneumonia. We caught it early and began treatment, but the prognosis for pneumonia in cavies is not good, so we didn’t think he would survive. Worried we would lose possibly the best Peruvian we had ever bred, we put his parents back together and hoped for the best. Marshall not only survived and went on to a long and successful show career (though he always has had a funny wheeze ever since), but his brother, Rodney (the black and white one), turned out even better and had an even more spectacular show career. Both are retired and in breeding, with litters on the way.

 

So that might be more than five. Oops. I guess I have trouble with basic math. Or, more likely, I can’t narrow it down to five favorites. I have felt a special bond with each of these animals, and I couldn’t narrow it down any further.

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