Skin Pickings -We are animal.
Bare with me, this is about skin 🙂
As so often happens the most valuable lessons that I’ve learned about life, the universe and everything came bundled up in an unexpected parcel of un-planned, un-expected and often inconvenient parcels of truth. I like that about life, it reminds me that I are not just autonomous control-bot computing and rationalizing my way through life. I am not alone, my actions cause re-actions and vice versa. I both contribute and feed off the chaos and it is good.
So, it is usually whilst in this un-planned state of mind that I sit watching my tribe of Guinea Pigs go about their daily business. We currently have four boys and four girls, a status-quo that changed as a result of a heat-wave induced Guinea Pig cull back in January that wiped out 6 of our beautiful girls and 2 boys leaving us bereft and having to re-think our piggie policy. With respect to our Guinea Pig friends we try to split them into friendship groups based on sex, age and personality to make their lives with us as happy and peaceful as possible. Having got this spot on before said hot day things were going well but afterwards we were left with a problem. We ended up with three boys plus two girls to re-jig. The girls having been living together before were fine and carried on eating grass, drinking water and pooping merrily as if nothing had happened. However, the boys were more of an issue.
Two of the three remaining boys are young brothers that had, up until hot day been living in perfect harmony with their older male mentor Ned. Ned was a lovely boy, about a year older than the ‘babies’ and so was perfectly placed to teach the little guys a thing or two about being man-pigs. The other remaining male, Malcolm had lost his close friend Fudge in the heat wave and was now alone. Being a placid, friendly guy we just popped him in with the now big-brother less younger ones thinking that he would just take the place of Ned (who was now dead). But it didn’t work.
After a few days Malcolm started to get quite aggressive with the younger ones and in turn the more dominant of the young ones who clearly had a chip on his shoulder at this point started to take on Malcolm. This made living Guinea Pig Hell for the less dominant piggie boy who started to get scabby.
Initially I thought they would sort it out after a few days as long as they had space, lots of food and water plus some time to re-adjust but poor old placid boy started to look more and more dejected and quite depressed. By day three I’d had enough (as had our little piggie) and I went out and bought another baby boy for Malcolm to room with and moved the two of them to new digs.
Almost instantly our bullied little piggie boy’s smile returned to his face and he stopped scratching. I couldn’t make it up, the change was amazing to see. After a week he was looking better than ever and the two babies had found their own groove without the need for an older male. Malcolm was taken with his new friend ‘Richard Parker’ and life in pig land was sweet again.
The moral of the story.
Watching my Guinea Pigs work through a stressful situation was interesting and very telling. Of course I would have never done this to them on purpose (that is just cruel) but my experience with this tribe of piggies taught me that we (Guinea Pigs and people) are not all that different. When I get stressed my skin itches, I scratch, it gets dry and sore and I feel worse than ever. My piggies do the same.
What’s more interesting is that removing the psychological issue allows the animal to repair and restore their health without the need for further intervention. Well, this was true for this situation, I am sure that if I had left things until the Guinea Pigs skin was more damaged I would have had another problem on my hands and some form of treatment would have been needed.
I wondered how many times we reach for a jar or tub of cream to ‘band aid’ a psychological skin problem?
I wondered about the many other forms of avoidance medication us humans use that Guinea Pigs don’t have access to…..
I wondered if we have lost sight of our ability to heal ourselves?
I wondered and am still wondering why mental health services aren’t free to all as part of our national health ‘dis-ease prevention’ strategy.
I love my guinea pigs and would never do anything to intentionally harm them but I am grateful that my mistaken attempts at trying to build a piggie friendship gave me a window into Guinea Pig and maybe even human psychology. Now I know the signs I’m looking forward to many more years of happy piggie watching and care.
Enjoy your skin and if it itches or gives you grief maybe stop and think about how you feel before reaching for your fix-all balm of wonder.