Friday, August 27, 2004, was a sad and then happy day. We were sad to find that Scruffles had
died during the night. Although she was irreplaceable, we wanted to get another pig soon to keep our pig count
at three. We also wanted to choose a name that started with "P" to go along with our two other pigs, named Piggles and Pippi.
So when an opportunity to visit to the pet store "just to browse" came up, naturally, I checked if there were
any guinea pigs. I had never seen a teddy pig at this store, and fully expected not to, but there she was, the only guinea
pig in the store, a cute black and white
teddy. Next, I had to investigate whether she was female, and she WAS! It was fate; I held her and couldn't let
go. She stole my heart the minute she was
My son, who hates peppers, had suggested the name, Pepper, to add to my "short list" of names.
When I questioned his reason, he said it was for pepper, the spice, not pepper, the vegetable. So I added it to my list
possible names starting with "P." When I saw the mostly black baby, I knew her name would be Pepper. It just fit!
So Pepper came home with us that day.
I readied a small cage for Pepper to stay in, until her vet check the following Monday. In went newspapers
to line the bottom, Carefresh bedding, a house, some hay, some dry food, a water bottle, a bowl
of grass, and a piece of red pepper. Pepper, overwhelmed, ran straight to the food dish, not to eat, but because it seemed
safe (see the first photo above). She stood there, perfectly still for the next 15 minutes. Then, she heard
a noise and dashed into her house, where she stayed immobile for hours. She didn't eat or drink, at least to our
knowledge, but somehow she was producing poops, so she may have raided the hay pile a few times without us realizing
The next morning, Pepper was sleeping out by the food dish. But the second, I entered the room she dashed
back into her house. I saw a nice pile of poops where she had been, so I knew she must have been eating. But all that
day, she never ate in our presence. I kept wondering if she was eating and drinking enough, so I tried to leave her alone
a lot to, hopefully, eat. By evening, she was a little more comfortable, and while I sat in the room not far from her,
I saw her nibble hay and drink occasionally for an hour or so. Phew, she was finally eating more. She also seemed to
few bursts of energy and zipped back and forth in the small cage a few times. I vowed to give her some floor time the
On the third day, I let Pepper out on the floor to play, in a fenced-in area of the carpet. Well, that was
very exciting for her. Now, instead of the still statue she had been for most of the past two days, she was bursting
with energy. She ran so fast that she practically flew around in the play area. She loved the box and house I had put
there for her to run through. She was curious about the plush hamster and guinea pig too. She squeaked
and squealed and ran in and out
and around everything for quite a while. Her personality finally had come out. She wasn't that shy after all. So we took
her out again later in the day to play. We allowed Piggles and Pippi to see her, but not to get too close, since her
vet checkup wasn't until the next day.
On Monday, Pepper went to the vet. That was really scary for her, both being in the carrier and riding
in the car, plus having the examination at the vet. Dr. Hoch verified that Pepper was female and checked her over thoroughly,
even checking some dandruff under a microscope to make sure it wasn't mites or lice. Pepper was perfectly still, unless
she was put down on the exam table, and then her legs would go flying. So the vet thought it was best to hold her for
the entire exam. Pepper weighed .82 pounds (372 grams). Dr. Hoch thought she was around 6-8 weeks old, so since the
pet store had said about six weeks old, I used that to determine her birth date of July 16.
We introduced Pepper to the other two pigs later that day. First we put Pepper in the floor play area. Then
we added Pippi. The two of them seemed to enjoy following each other around. They were squeaking and sniffing and running
in and around things. Then I added Piggles to the group. That went well too, except I almost think that Pippi wanted
the new "toy" to herself. At first, she lunged at Piggles (the oldest of the three) a few times, as if to say, this baby
is mine. But then after that it didn't matter. They were all running around and going in and out of things. After a little
while, I put everyone back in their own cages to rest.
Later the same day, I put Pepper in the big cage with the others. There are boxes and houses and plenty of
places to hide and run through. Piggles and Pippi chased the baby a lot, but she didn't seem to mind. In fact, she loved
it. She was so much faster than the 1- and 4-year-old pigs! Pepper would zoom through the boxes and around corners, whereas
Pippi and Piggles would chase after her, but then lose sight of her, as she zipped around a corner and came back out
on the other side! It was lots of fun to watch. There was a little chasing of the baby away from the food at times,
but I think Piggles and Pippi just wanted her to know that they rank much higher in dominance than her, and she
is allowed to eat only because
of their generosity (sometimes). Pepper seemed fine with the chasing, because they would tire of it quickly and then
she could eat. Her attention span is so short that she didn't eat for long anyway.
By the fifth day, all seemed fine in pigland. Everyone was getting along. There was much less chasing most
of the time, as the older two pigs settled into their eating/napping normal routine. However, all three seemed to be
on much higher "people alert," as the slightest noise or movement of a person in the room caused all pigs to frantically
scatter in all directions. I think the baby has caused pigland security to raise the alert level to orange!
May 2008 Update
Pepper suffered what may have been a stroke in October 2007. One morning, we found her almost completely paralyzed. She lay there, helpless. A few hours later, she was able to clumsily crawl to a back corner of the cage. It appeared that she could move one side better than the other, and her head "bobbled," like she couldn't quite support it or balance it correctly. Over the next few days, we had to deliver all food directly to her and keep the others away while she ate it (so they wouldn't eat it all first). We didn't dare separate her from the rest of the herd, because she would have been terrified to be all alone. I did some online research (see Peter Gurney's Guinea Pig Health Guide) and discovered that guinea pigs often survive strokes and usually regain most of their ability to move. Happily, that turned out to be the case with Pepper. She is almost back to normal now, except for the "bobble head" effect. She is also much more vocal than she used to be, squeaking and chortling around the cage quite often now.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
July 28, 2009- Pepper had surgery! She had a mammary tumor, which was making it difficult for her to move around. The vet said she could remove it surgically. Even though Pepper was about 5 years old, we opted for the surgery. The surgery was successful and the area healed with barely a scar.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
August 2009 - Unfortunately, Pepper's health began to decline, apparently for other reasons. One of her back legs, which had seemed partially paralyzed for a while, deteriorated to a point where it seemed not to function at all. She became mostly immobile and had to be moved around the cage to keep from staying in one place all the time. We gave her daily "butt baths" and kept a close watch for flies in the house, since Pippi's sad demise due to a Fly Strike a few weeks earlier.
We gave Pepper "personal food" at her various locations and tried to encourage her to eat, but she seemed to eat a little less each day. On August 20, I came home from work and found her upstairs. I was surprised she'd gone up the ramp. But she was very sleepy and sluggish. I went outside to get grass, and when I came back, she was at the bottom of the ramp, again sound asleep. I moved her to the middle of the cage and covered her with a house. She was too groggy to eat the grass, normally a favorite treat of hers. She was very sleepy, but woke a couple times to scratch herself. I went out for a bike ride, and when I got back, she was no longer breathing. I think she just passed away peacefully in her sleep.
Pepper a.k.a. Blackie loved to hide in the shadows. Her black fur was perfect camouflage! She also liked to be a scavenger pig and "clean up" the food treats after everyone had left. Her favorite treats were dandelion greens and fresh grass. She amazed us by surviving a stroke and going on to live to the ripe old age of five. In her old age, she decided she needed a wide berth of personal space and would whine and squeak if anyone came near (mainly Sheila). Pepper was a survivor and a trouper and will be much missed!