Blueberry Lane: Good Will Ambassadors

blueberry lane rabbit chinchilla guinea pig and bird

(Don’t miss coloring page downloads at the end of chapter two!)

Chapter One

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock sweeps the minute hand on the clock.

Rasmus rabbit nibbles the paper corner off his writing assignment.

Guinevere twirls a pencil in her long white fur.  She dreams about being a shorthaired guinea pig.  She would spend less time fixing her fur and more time playing.

Pedro taps his paw.  He is anxiously waiting to get his English report card.  He sneaks a snack of Small Pet Select Timothy hay to calm his nerves.   It tastes like the hay he had when he was a baby chinchilla in Peru.

The teacher said, “Rasmus, please read your last poetry assignment to the class.”   Rasmus lifted his head up.  He turned one tall ear to the side then quickly obeyed the teacher.   With a hop to the front of the classroom he proudly read:

One, two, three, four

 The number of bags we pack 

Small enough to fit on our back

Five, six, seven, eight, 

Steps to the train on the iron track 

See the coal smoke from the stack

Nine, ten, eleven, twelve

Ambassadors for pets who have no home

Everyone please adopt so they are not alone.

Ding dong, ding dong, ding dong rings the dismissal bell.  Cheers roar!!  All students, small to tall, rush to wish their friends a happy summer vacation!

Tilly parrot flutters around Blueberry Lane Farm.  She is waiting for Guinevere, Pedro, and Rasmus to arrive home with report cards.   Coral Bell waits by the garden gate to greet them.  She has a surprise for them.  It is a basket of fresh picked parsley and romaine.  Rasmus hops down the lane with Pedro right beside him.  They race to the door excited to eat their afterschool snack.  Meanwhile, Guinevere dilly dallies along picking wild blueberries.   Then she dilly dallies stuffing blueberries in her pack.  Then she dilly dallies to untangle her fur from off the brambles.  Then she gets home late.  She’s always late!

Using her beak, Tilly snatches everyone’s report cards from their back packs.  She flutters upstairs to the library.  Proudly she pins them on Coral Bell’s bulletin board.  Coral Bell has lots of interesting things on her bulletin board.  Tilly sees seed packets, garden notes, and pictures of herbs.

Tilly saw gold star stickers on Rasmus’s report card.  Then she saw the grades on Guinevere’s report card were scribbled out.   The scribbled ink was a different color than the teacher’s ink.   Hmm, Tilly wondered, this was odd.  Why was there scribbling?

Tilly perched on her favorite desk chair.  It has wheels on it.  When she flaps her wings, the chair spins around.  Tilly likes to wonder and think about things while the chair spins.  She remembered Rasmus won a geography contest in school.   That would explain the gold stars, she thought.   Then she remembered Guinevere got in trouble for fussing with her long fur in school.   Her fur always distracts her. Maybe she turns her work in late. Coral Bell always said “Guinevere, stop playing with your fur, you will make us late again!”   Then Tilly would sing “we’re late, we’re late, we’re late for a very important date.”

Now that it’s summer vacation, Tilly wondered if they were going on a trip.  She flapped her wings and flew from one end of the bulletin board to the other.  Yes!  There were travel plans.  Four train tickets, a list of addresses, and a schedule were pinned to the board.  Coral Bell scheduled the group to visit shelters and be ambassadors for pet adoption.   After all, Rasmus, Pedro, Guinevere, and Tilly knew what it was like to be abandoned or lost.  They all remembered a lonely life in a shelter.   They wanted to give back to the community.

Rasmus is an organized bunny.  He planned the first ambassador trip.  They had train tickets to go from Peapack to Philadelphia.  Rasmus told the others they could travel by boat or hot air balloon on the next trip.  It would be more fun that way.  And besides, there would be less traffic.

Thump.  Thump, thump.  Thump, thump, thump.  Rasmus called a group meeting.  He demanded everyone pay attention.  Everyone needs to know the important details.  Everyone needs to have their assignments.   Rasmus reminded the group he got an “A” in geography, so he assigned himself to handle maps and directions.

“Pedro, you are in charge of packing snacks and hay.  Take your time packing.  Don’t get nervous.  When you get nervous you eat too much.   Make sure you pack extra for nervous days.”

“Tilly, you are in charge of our paper stuff:  tickets and travel schedules.  You are the only one who won’t be tempted to shred them.  Don’t worry, I folded the paper stuff very small so it will fit neatly in your little pack.”   Tilly flapped in excitement.  She loved to have a purpose because it gave her confidence.

Tilly could see further than Rasmus, and she secretly wanted to fight him for the map keeper job.   After thinking it over, she decided it was more important to be a team player.

Snoring sounds came from the corner.  Oh dear, Guinevere!  She fell asleep during the important meeting!  Rasmus loudly THUMPED his foot with force.  Guinevere awoke in a startle.  Sleepy and yawning, she rubbed her dark little eyes and rolled over.  She had bed head fur.  That’s when chaos broke out.

Tilly cackled in laughter.  She flapped her green wings, and flew to her perch to get a better view.

Pedro exclaimed, “oh, señorita, your fur is el messo!  eres azul!”

Rasmus ran the bunny-500 around the library then stopped with a quick halt.   “Guinevere, your fur is blue.  There is a blueberry in your ear!   You cannot go on the train with blue fur!  Now you will have to stay home.   Instead, you can weed the garden for Coral Bell when we go to Philadelphia.”

Tears rolled down Guinevere’s cheeks.  She saw her reflection in the window glass.  Her long white fur really was blue.  There really was a plump blueberry in her ear.   Pedro was so nervous, he plucked the blueberry from Guinevere’s ear and ate it.

Tilly flew to the desk chair.  She flapped extra hard so the chair would spin for an extra-long time.  She needed extra thinking time.   All this flapping was hard work for a parrot.  Tilly was in a tizzy.

Rasmus thumped again.   “Calm down everyone.  No need for all the fuss.  It’s settled.  Guinevere can stay home.  Or maybe she can get a wig.   Never mind all that, now it’s time for a nap.”

Chapter Two

Tilly knew she must help Guinevere.  It was too hot to wear a wig.  Besides, where would they get a wig for a guinea pig?  And who would carry Guinevere’s pack?

While the boys napped, Tilly got busy.  She collected a towel, lavender soap, a tea cup of warm water, and a comb.   Then she went to work on Guinevere.   Tilly used her beak to gently scrub away the blueberry stains.  Soap bubbles floated through the air until the blue faded to gray.  Guinevere’s fur smelled fresh and clean, but it had to be combed.  This was the real work.  Tilly used her beak to untangle the knots and pick out some brambles.   Her wet, messy fur looked like a spaghetti factory.  Tilly combed until they both fell asleep for the night.

Thump.  Thump, thump.  Rasmus called an early morning meeting.  This one was urgent.  No time to prepare.  Guinevere stumbled in with her fur still a mess.  Tilly explained it was work in progress.  She stood up for Guinevere and said, “We were up all night washing and grooming her fur.  We’re almost done.   If she can’t go on the trip, then I won’t go either.”

Rasmus turned his tall ears left and right, then toward each other.   His nose twitched.   Tilly hollered, “Rasmus, stop turning your ears.  You are not getting any radio signals doing that.”   Rasmus thumped in denial.

Pedro was feeling nervous.  He ate some basil.  Pedro wanted to speak up. Then he ate some thyme.  He had to be brave.  “Señor, the guinea pig should come.  Her fur es mucho better.”

With all this pressure, Rasmus decided Guinevere could go.  He made her promise to be on time.  He made her promise not to cause a fuss.  He made her promise to have her fur ready early.   Otherwise, Tilly would sing, “we’re late, we’re late, we’re late for a very important date.”

Pedro wanted to help the petite guinea pig.  He gave her wise advice.  “Guinevere, it’s time to put others first.  You cannot just think about your fur and how pretty you look.   It is best not to worry about what others think.   Look at me Senorita.  My English and Spanish get mixed up all the time.  I make mucho grande mistakes, but what matters is that I try.  I don’t worry about what others say about my English.”

Guinevere tried to understand Pedro.  Her fur is too beautiful not to fuss over she thought.  She wondered if it would be better to concentrate on her eyelashes instead.  After all, they were much easier to take care of.

The next day when the group met, Guinevere kept her promise.  She arrived on time.   a pink bow hid her gray fur.   Rasmus took attendance and checked back packs.  Then they waved good bye to Coral Bell.   From Blueberry Lane, they scurried with excitement to the Peapack train station.

Toot.  Toot, toot.  “All aboard,” the conductor bellowed.   The boys hopped up into the train.   Guinevere was next.  Her little legs were short.  She took a running leap on the step.  Oops.  Ouch.  Ow.  Her pink bow unfurled and got caught on the train track.   “Tilly, Tilly please help me.  I cannot get on to the train, and Rasmus will be so mad.”

Toot.  Toot, toot.  The train signaled for departure.  It started to chug forward.

Rasmus thumped, “Guinevere, what are you doing?  Where are you?  What’s taking so long?”

Guinevere was in a panic.  Tilly quickly untied the tangled ribbon with her beak and helped little Guinevere up into the train.   “Oh Tilly, how does my fur look?   Is there dust on my eyelashes?”   Tilly does not like to tell a lie, but it was a mess again.   She promised to comb her fur on the long train ride to Philadelphia.   There would be plenty of time to fix a pretty pink bow too.

The ambassadors enjoyed a scenic train ride from Peapack.  The train rolled over hill and dale until they reached Philadelphia.   It was a busy city.  No sign of wild blueberries or fresh hay here.   Since they were guests of honor, they stayed overnight at each shelter they visited.  They had plenty to eat, and shared their Small Pet Select snacks with new friends.

They met bunnies, chinchillas, ferrets, birds, guinea pigs, and other pocket pets in need of homes.   They worked hard to promote adoption from shelters. They talked of the importance of adopting old and sick animals.  They championed for all who needed a home, a warm bed or bird cage to call their own.  They told stories of how it makes a difference to be loved and feel secure.  Guinevere even gave lessons on grooming and fur styling.

When they returned to Blueberry Lane Farm, Coral Bell was eager to hear about their trip.   As they shared their stories with Coral Bell, they realized they learned new lessons in Philadelphia.

Pedro learned confidence.  He could speak in front of strangers and not be nervous.

Rasmus learned to appreciate passion for being brave and speaking up for what is right.

Tilly learned the importance of helping a friend in need and how it made her feel good about herself.

Guinevere learned she is loved for who she is, even if her fur is a mess or her eyelashes are dusty.

They all learned that together they made a difference.  They learned that their messages made a difference, and many animals in need will receive the gift of a home to call their own.

The foursome agreed they will have the best summer vacation stories to tell when they return to school.

They were happy to be back home at Blueberry Lane Herb Farm, a place they could call home, happy to be a family, and grateful to enjoy their Small Pet Select meals together.

The end.

 

Be on the lookout for our next quarterly installment… coming this fall!

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Living Space for Hamsters, Gerbils, and Mice

Gerbil, Mouse, Hamster Home Size

It's about time our littlest friends got some attention. Hamsters, gerbils, and mice may be small, but that doesn't mean their living space needs to be. "Starter" cages that don't allow enough room for normal behavior and enrichment can lead to boredom, depression, aggression, and even health issues.

Hamsters

Hamsters are primarily solitary animals that prefer to live alone, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need plenty of cage space. Your Syrian may not want a friend, but he does still have an urge to play, explore, and dig. Just like we see with guinea pigs, a lot of the commercial cages on the market are simply inappropriate and too small for hamsters.

The bare minimum cage size for any hamster, regardless of breed, is 450 square inches. Bigger is always better. Hamsters are more active than you may think, especially because they are nocturnal and burn off their energy while you sleep. Experts have started to recommend at least 800 square inches for a Syrian hamster to thrive, and 650 square inches for dwarf hamsters.

When calculating cage size, multiply length and width only, not height. In the wild, hamsters live in very large open areas, which is why floor space is the most important factor. Finding properly sized, safe hamster cages isn’t always easy. Luckily, bin cages are both cost-effective and easy to create DIY-style!

Gerbils

Gerbils, unlike hamsters, are social animals. These guys are the life of the party, living best in pairs or even large groups. It’s important to have enough cage space to accommodate their popularity. While hamsters are big on running, gerbils are more into digging and burrowing. This make tanks a good option for them.

As a general rule of thumb, the minimum space needed is a 10-gallon tank for a single gerbil, and then add 5 gallons for each extra gerbil. If you have the space, you can upgrade to the following:

One gerbil = 10 gallon tank
Two gerbils = 20 gallon tank
Three gerbils = 30 gallon tank
Four gerbils = 40 gallon tank

As with most rodents living in groups, too little space can result in territory battles. However, while bigger is always better for animals like hamsters and guinea pigs, too much space can also cause fighting among gerbils. If you have two gerbils, it’s best to have a tank between 15 and 20 gallons for best results.

Mice

As with gerbils, cages at are too small or too big can cause problems. Too-small enclosures can cause mice to become bored, inactive and depressed. Giving them too much space, on the other hand, can cause stress, skittishness, and fighting.

A ten-gallon tank (or equivalent in floor space) is the minimum standard for a single male or up to three female mice. Cages around 30 inches by 12 inches make a nice upgrade for long-term living. If using wire cages, be careful the bar spacing doesn’t allow mice to escape, and there are no exposed wire floors and shelves to cause leg injuries.

Regardless of cage size, large open spaces aren’t ideal for mice. The largest open space should be the nest, with the rest of the cage full of activities and enrichment opportunities like toys, hides, and wheels.

Remember, the majority of these little guys' lives will be spent within the four walls you choose. Pick a roomy, yet cozy home with plenty of species-appropriate enrichment to make their years as fulfilling as possible. 

Traveling with Small Pets

how to travel with small animals

Guinea pigs and rabbits aren’t known for their adventurous spirits. Small animals are easily stressed by a change in scenery. If you’re taking a brief vacation, they’d probably prefer to sit this one out. If possible, let them enjoy a staycation with a trusted friend, family member, or pet sitter. There are times, however, when traveling with small pets is unavoidable. Short trips, such as a journey to the vet, are manageable for most small animals. This is even good practice for longer car rides. Major travel, like a cross country move, requires extra precautions to make for a smooth transition.

Practice makes perfect

Small animals can find changes to their surroundings upsetting. Car rides can be scary, especially if they aren’t used to traveling. Start with short trips, even just 10 minutes, to help train your pet for the big event. If the cage or carrier is going directly on the floor of the vehicle, putting down some towels underneath can help to minimize vibrations. Making the adventure enjoyable, perhaps with some treats, certainly won’t hurt.

Safety first

For shorter trips, a few hours or less, the safest transportation option is a hard-sided pet carrier. This is one of the only times when smaller is better! You want your rabbit to be able to comfortably stand and turn around, of course, but the less room there is to slide about in the event of a sudden stop or accident will minimize the chances of injury. Bonus points if you can strap it down for extra security. For longer trips, a cage may be a better choice to accommodate a litter pan. This can also give your rabbit a comfortable place to call her own if stopping overnight at a hotel with unfamiliar smells and sounds.

Not too hot, not too cold

Goldihops is especially sensitive to changes in temperature, including drafts. Keeping the travel cage or carrier as close to you as possible will allow you to monitor the temperature best. You don’t want to expose them to too much direct sunlight or put them right in the blast from the cold air conditioning. Covering some of the cage with a blanket or towel will keep out drafts, as well as potentially spooky lights from oncoming traffic. Never, no matter what the temperature outside, leave your rabbit unattended in a vehicle. Traveling with small pets and sit-down meals just don’t mix.

Water woes

There is no way around this one. All water bottles WILL leak and all bowls WILL spill in the car. Traditional water containers are a no-go for traveling with small pets. Instead, offer water at every pit stop and keep unflavored Pedialyte® and syringes on hand in case of suspected dehydration. Guinea pigs that are too frightened to drink during potty breaks may be enticed into munching on some hydrating melon, celery, or cucumber slices. Keeping a small cooler full of water-rich veggies can keep your pet both hydrated and distracted during travel.

Take it slow

Your guinea pigs and rabbits probably won’t be game for an all-nighter. Stopping overnight will allow them to decompress a bit as well as eat and drink regularly – super important – to get ready for round two. Hay should be available 24/7 in the travel cage, but it isn’t unusual if they don’t eat much on the road. Small animals may refuse to chow down in the car, and going too long without high-fiber food moving through can be dangerous. Adding a few extra hours, or even days, to the journey is worthwhile to make sure your pet is given enough opportunity to eat as normally as possible.

Bentley NEVER forgets his hay when he travels.

Rats, Hamsters, Mice and Gerbils… Welcome to the Fam, Ya’ll!

rats, hamsters, gerbils and mice join the small pet select family
I’ve been a part of the Small Pet Select family for about six months now, and one of the reasons why I joined is because I love funny, furry creatures. I want to tell you a story about my mouse, Smokie.


I don’t know why, but when I was 10 and living in Illinois, I became intrigued with mice. HOW CUTE ARE THEY?! So, I convinced my mom and dad (who were not on the same page) that I should own one. We went to the local pet store, and I picked one out.

We got the works. My dad just let me go at it. Hay, food, bedding, snackers, toys, grooming. I swear that bill was probably more than my first teal green Sunfire (do you remember those cars?!). But I was so excited for my first little snuggly pet that I was going to own. It would be MY responsibility to take care of him: feed him, cage clean and educate myself on what it takes to keep healthy mice as pets. And while he only lived about two years (very normal for the mouse community), the joy I had each day, literally running to check on him and play when I got home from middle school… it’s invaluable. I still remember that. I remember exactly where he lived - in his cage on a little white wicker table. That was 21 years ago.

So, Small Pet Select decided that because these little guys (and rats, hamsters and gerbils) bring so much joy to all sorts of people, we needed to start supplying our community with products to support them and keep them healthy and happy.

Happy official SPS birthday, guys! Welcome to the family, and we hope you enjoy the products made just for you as much as we believe in them!

- SPS

I’ve been a part of the Small Pet Select family for about six months now, and one of the reasons why I joined is because I love funny, furry creatures. I want to tell you a story about my mouse, Smokie.


I don’t know why, but when I was 10 and living in Illinois, I became intrigued with mice. HOW CUTE ARE THEY?! So, I convinced my mom and dad (who were not on the same page) that I should own one. We went to the local pet store, and I picked one out.

We got the works. My dad just let me go at it. Hay, food, bedding, snackers, toys, grooming. I swear that bill was probably more than my first teal green Sunfire (do you remember those cars?!). But I was so excited for my first little snuggly pet that I was going to own. It would be MY responsibility to take care of him: feed him, cage clean and educate myself on what it takes to keep healthy mice as pets. And while he only lived about two years (very normal for the mouse community), the joy I had each day, literally running to check on him and play when I got home from middle school… it’s invaluable. I still remember that. I remember exactly where he lived - in his cage on a little white wicker table. That was 21 years ago.

So, Small Pet Select decided that because these little guys (and rats, hamsters and gerbils) bring so much joy to all sorts of people, we needed to start supplying our community with products to support them and keep them healthy and happy.

Happy official SPS birthday, guys! Welcome to the family, and we hope you enjoy the products made just for you as much as we believe in them!

- SPS

Benefits of Pets for Mental Health: They’re a lot… Trust Us. Here’s My Story.

mental health pet ownership
I don’t really open up about this. I’ve suffered from panic, anxiety, and most recently, some depression after my beloved dad (and BFF… seriously, my BFF), passed away in October of 2017, so almost 7 months ago.
 
I remember the last time I saw him. It was at the end of August, and my cousin called me at 11 PM on a Sunday night, and I either thought she was butt dialing me or something was wrong, so I answered. Something was wrong. I went home, dad had double pneumonia, and he was in the ICU. Hospital, hospice, home. Home, hospice, hospital. Pittsburgh to Illinois. And back again.
 
He died two months later.
 
I didn’t really want to get out of bed most days; I even left my big-time job that I’d worked so hard to climb the ladder with (and started writing for SPS, which was the best decision I’ve EVER made). But I was looking for a companion, something or someone to just help me through it. Not necessarily talk, but just be there. Really, just be. My family was an amazing support system, of course. They understood, kind of. But, my pet… he understood without saying anything. Not. One. Word. And he got it more than anyone else did. May 2 was his first heaven birthday, and Harold snuck into my bed and licked the tears off of my face at 2 AM when he heard me quietly sobbing, trying not to wake up my husband and my daughter. We went on the couch and binged Bunflix a few minutes later.
 
Life happens. And while we all go through trying times, I don’t really know if we’re ever really ready for them. I wasn’t. And that human-small pet bond is completely undeniable.
 
According to Desiree Wiercyski, a life coach in Fort Wayne, IN, “A pet can make you feel like you’re not alone. Pets offer unconditional love, which can be unconditionally soothing when you’re feeling isolated.” Touch helps increase oxytocin levels and reduces cortisol, the stress-related hormone. And trust me, I’ve lived it.
 
Sandra Barker, a professor of psychiatry and the director of the Center for Human and Animal interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University said, that after surveys, people with severe depression felt more relaxed, less lonely, and had less pain after visits with animals. I couldn’t believe all of the studies that have been done on this topic. And why we don’t talk about it more blows my mind. Animals can help you. They’re so much like us, and they need interaction, too. It actually helps them when they help us.
 
Animal assisted therapy (AAT) is becoming more and more popular (for good reason). Care homes, prisons… any place that needs some sort of mental rehabilitation is taking advantage of this gift. It’s a gift. In 2013, a study in the journal of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry found that ten weeks of animal assisted therapy halted the progression of depression, agitation and aggression in dementia patients.
 
In Britain, SKUNKS are being used to calm schizophrenia patients, snakes help with bipolar and chins are prompting memories with those suffering from dementia. Many times, when we’re having mental health issues, we’re so, so concerned about if we’re being judged. Who’s talking about us? We can relate to animals because we know that they’re loving us, no matter what, unconditionally. They don’t care if we didn’t shower that day. Or if we didn’t change our socks. Or pants. Or we didn’t brush our teeth until 11 AM. Or 11 PM.
 
Physical activity helps us get through the hard days. Going for a ten minute walk on a sunny day. Social time – pets can open an entire new world to your grief. You’ll still be sad, but they are infamous for giving you a few little nose bumps or kind kisses when they know you’re feeling down.
 
When I feel sad, Harold (my little guy) feels sad. When I’m happy, he’s a hoot. When I need him, he’s there. He reads my body language, often times better than my husband. Ha. (Chris, get better at that!) But in all seriousness, it’s really just a bond that no one can take away from me. Or him. Actually, us.
 
As I began this post, I was a little teary eyed. And now I’m smiling because of the joy I see when I look at my fur baby. He helped me through the worst day. The worst week. And he’ll help me through the year of firsts, too.
 
 
 I love you, H.
 
-Mom