Rescues are the vibrant heartbeat of our piggy community. They generously provide shelter, unsolicited love, expert care and advice, all driven by the dedication of a team of volunteers. We really do owe them an immense debt of gratitude.
For today’s highlight, we’re sharing the touching rescue story of Momma Sugar and her adorable babies, Pink & White. Thank you to Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue for sharing their story with our readers.
Article & photographs by Becky Wilson from Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue, Washington DC, USA and first published for Guinea Pig Magazine, Issue 70.
Every day, you wake up with certain expectations like anyone else, but when you rescue, you know that each phone call, each email, and each message can be a major disruption—some big, some small, some that will consume every moment for weeks to come.
Wednesday, March 2nd, 2022, was my birthday, and it was destined to be one of those days – the day the Sugar Babies came into my life.
A shelter had contacted us on Monday after they had opened that morning to find a guinea pig on their premises that had given birth overnight to three pups. We agreed to take in the little family. So, we arranged transport for Thursday. However, on Wednesday morning, we received a second call from the shelter, this one frantic. Mom and the three babies were in “serious medical trouble,” and the shelter’s veterinarian felt he could do no more. My husband and I left immediately for the shelter, which was over an hour away. When we arrived, they took the carrier from me and went to collect the little family. Unfortunately, I was informed that one of the babies had died in the meantime.
They handed me the pet carrier but then tried to take it back! They said they could not decide if they should euthanize mom or not!? Fortunately, my grip on the piggy carrier was stronger than theirs. So we left with momma Sugar and the two babies.
The original plan had been to take the little family home and evaluate them there. However, we realized how desperately poorly the piggies were, so I started calling vet clinics we work with straight away from the car while my husband drove. While starting with the closest vet, I told my husband to head towards the one I knew would not turn us away, which was a further 90-minute journey. All along the way, I kept calling, but office after office refused to see us as a result of the veterinary business having been decimated by Covid in the US.
Finally, one of them said yes, they would see me. At that point, I still had not properly seen the guinea pigs. I didn’t pause to look at them either when I took the carrier straight into the clinic, handed it to the secretary, and then sat down to wait. A few minutes later, they called me into a treatment room, and a young veterinarian I had never met came in. She asked how much I was willing to invest in the guinea pig. I smiled, told her how much the rescue had in the bank and said every penny of it.
She did not reply; in fact, she didn’t speak at all, and there followed a strange silence. I informed her that I had not seen Sugar and her babies yet in our rush to get them here as quickly as possible. She turned and left the room to return with them. When I picked Sugar up, she was limp, her legs totally splayed out, unable to lift her head – she was clearly dying and beyond any help. It seems she had developed a rare toxaemia (blood poisoning) complication; it was also highly likely she had never been able to produce any milk for the pups because of it. A course of antibiotics may have saved her on Monday or perhaps even still on Tuesday, but by Wednesday, her body had shut down. I kissed her and promised to try my very best to save her babies.
I was given the name of a kitten formula to purchase on my way home and set off with the tiny Sugar Babies. Because they looked so similar, I put a pink mark on one of the babies’ heads, so we could distinguish who was who quickly and correctly. So we called them Pink and White!
Once home, I finally met the little girls. They were so weak and so tiny. The shelter had tried to feed them corn syrup. It had hardened like rock around their mouths and on their faces, making a difficult situation even trickier.
I realized that I needed some more help right away, so I put the babies on a heated gel pad and called on my good friend Julene, the director at Wheek Care Guinea Pig Rescue. She had experience with orphans, which I did not. She taught me about the anal stimulation to help kick-start the digestive tract and that there was a powdered colostrum (antibody-rich first milk) formula that we could get to boost the babes a bit. She also shared her care protocols, which meant feeding every two hours around the clock. As anyone with a sick pig knows, it isn’t easy – but I was up for it.
It was a week of highs and lows. On Thursday, it looked like the babies had declined further, but by Friday, they rallied. By then, got an appointment with my most trusted vet. He thought Pink might make it but only gave poorly White a 50/50 chance. He gave me some additional instruction but not much hope. Over the weekend, things started to turn around. Pink began to gain a bit of weight, and White stopped losing weight. They were both still weak, but they were enjoying their feedings. The first week was hard, but by Wednesday, they were both taking their formula quickly and begging for more. It was not at all easy to refrain from giving them too much at once, but I had been warned about trouble from overfeeding, and I managed to resist the temptation.
It soon became apparent that, unlike normal baby guinea pigs, these two had no interest in eating any solid food. By that time, I had also been in contact with Wiebke from Guinea Pig Magazine. The two things she helped me with were: Firstly, I did not have to stimulate the babies for a whole month. Once there were plenty of little poops around the cage, I could stop. Secondly – she suggested introducing an older ‘nanny pig’ to teach them how to be guinea pigs. So, I would put my old girl Favor in with them from time to time, and that brought significant improvements in both babies. Favor would not adopt the Sugar babies fully, though.
At the time of writing this, the Sugar Babies are 12 weeks old. They are happy and healthy youngsters and now well past the critical stage. They will remain in my living room until they are big enough to be neutered according to our rescue policy and then adopted out as a pair. They have a lot of fans, and I suspect there will be lots of applications coming in for our little miracle girls.
I will be forever grateful for the international community that came together to support and advise me on how to save the tiny Sugar Babies.
The Piggy Pocket Guide
You can find trusted rescues in GPM’s Piggy Pocket Guide. All the rescues featured here come highly recommended by our dedicated readers.
If you have a rescue story to share, please get in touch with us at email@example.com