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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How Big Should a Rat’s Territory be?

domestic versus wild rat territories and how big they are
Wild rats are found basically everywhere humans are – that’s their natural habitat. The farm, the city, the garbage dump, sewers, subways. You name it – they’re there. And while climate can play a part in where they flourish (if the weather is mild, they may stray from their human hosts), they prefer people. Free food and less predators seems like a pretty good deal to me.
But, we know that wild and domestic small animals require different living situations. So, if you’re thinking about adding a domestic rat to your family, how big should their territory be?
As we very often recommend, roomier cages are recommended. However, as a rule of thumb, these little guys and girls require at least 2 cubic feet of space per rat at minimum. If you want to give your rat additional room to live, they’d appreciate it. Especially since it’s very important for our pets to get regular exercise. Larger ages encourage this, and reduce the likelihood of obesity. And since rats generally only live 2-3 years, we want as much time with them as possible.
Overcrowding, too, can lead to medical conditions and cause upper respiratory infections. And that’s the last thing we want.
Remember, like any small pet, providing a proper territory for them is so very important to their safety and to their happiness… and their overall quality of life.
Happy rat… I like that.

Potty Time! Know your litter…

litter materials are not created equal
Use only safe litter

All litter materials are not created equal! Find out what to look for.

Hey, humans. When it’s time for you to – ahem – ‘go’, I bet you prefer it to be in a place that is comfortable, clean, and not smelly. It’s the same for us rabbits. You want the rabbit/s you live with to be healthy and safe, so think carefully about what you are putting into the litterbox before they put their stuff into the litterbox.

Not all litters are the same. Some are more absorbent, some reduce odors better than others, and some pose health risks to small animals!

Rabbit rescue groups and rabbit care experts agree that the best litters for rabbits are those that:

- Do not make much dust (Because who wants to get that up their noses, into their lungs, and open the door to infection?!)

- Do not clump (Clay-based cat litters could cause a nasty blockage if your bun ingested the material.)

- Are absorbent (Rabbits can develop urine scald from sitting in wet litterboxes. Imagine diaper rash… but through fur! No, thanks!)

- Are free of scents, powders, and other ‘special’ ingredients (Pooping and peeing are natural activities, so why not keep it simple?)

great safe super soft bedding

Litter companies sometimes add artificial scents and colors to products so that humans find them more pleasant or think they are “better” somehow. Rabbits don’t want that stuff. Paper pulp, recycled newspaper, or coconut husk litter keeps us the most comfy, clean, dry, and not stinky… assuming you change our litterboxes regularly, which I am sure you do!

Rabbits and other small animals also don’t want the ‘natural’ stuff of pine chips and cedar shavings. While those may smell lovely to you, they are dangerous to rabbits. Softwood gives off phenols. Phenols are organic compounds. Without going too deeply into the chemistry, you should know most simply that phenols vaporize into the air and they are toxic. When phenols have entered the body, the liver tries to get them out. The rabbit’s liver makes more and more enzymes as the exposure to phenols continues. Now, suppose your rabbit needs medication for some unrelated issue. The liver is not on the top of its game, so the medication will not be processed as it normally would. It won’t be as effective. Plus, the phenol exposure might put your rabbit/s at risk for liver disease or cancer. Fortunately, since so many alternatives to softwood shavings exist, it is easy to avoid them.

As I like to say, when you provide a good litter your rabbits will be relieved! (We do love a pun!)

Click the bedding below to see ​our super soft, safe, economical paper bedding!

safe bedding for rabbits and guinea pigs

Neener is a columnist with a rabbit’s point of view. Neener frequently answers questions for the Wisconsin House Rabbit Society with the help of HRS Educator Amy Free.

Charlie Cake’s Miracle

guinea pig rescue love story

Oakhurst Guinea Pig Rescue turns Charlie Cake's life around!

Charlie gets getter

Charlie Cake came to Oakhurst after an accident.  She had lost the use of her back legs, and was dragging herself around.  This was causing her toes to become swollen and painful.  Her family was trying to care for her, but was worried that she needed more.  Enter Oakhurst.

injured feet

Oakhurst got busy getting Charlie Cake diagnostic care at the University of Georgia, and pinpointed a spinal fracture as the reason for the back leg paralysis.  Since guinea pigs are high risk surgery patients, Oakhurst and the veterinary team decided to go with managing the injury medically rather than surgically.  Charlie Cake had to be still and quiet for four weeks, with special foot treatments as well to heal her toes.  (See her getting her daily treatment below).

feet healing

Those toes started looking better.

toes looking better

And it was time to give Charlie Cake the chance to spend some time with other piggies.  Oakhurst introduced Charlie Cakes to the rescue's special guinea pig wheelchair, and she took right to it!

charlie in sheelchair

One day, the Oakhurst team noticed that while this little piggy was in the wheelchair, she was using one of her back legs a bit to help push herself around!  Charlie Cake started to try to use her legs while she was being dried off after her foot care treatments.  

healthy charlie

At her last checkup with Georgia State, Charlie Cake had regained 90% use of her back legs.

Miracles do happen...with dedication, lots of attention, and tender care, there can be amazing recoveries.  Once thought of as "throw-away" pets, our society now (hopefully!) knows better - these little loves deserve the chance, and we are finally learning how to give it to them.

Big thanks to Oakhurst Guinea Pig Rescue for sharing this story with us.  We love you guys!

charlie's timeline

Keeping your bunny inside the ex-pen

pen covers

You've got a tiny little rabbit, and a 36" ex-pen.  You don't have to worry, right?  Hah! 

Rabbits can jump at least 2 feet, and often up to 4 feet!  They also can use those back feet to "push off", much like a cat making a big leap, and get even more distance.  Amazing little athletes!

So what is a poor human to do?  We worry about them escaping and getting in to trouble - maybe even danger - when we are not around to watch out for our little buddies.  There are a few things you can try to keep your Houdini safe and in that ex-pen.​

First, the home remedy:  you can take an old sheet, stretch it taut of the top, and use clothes pins or binder clips to attach it to the top of the ex-pen walls.  ​You'll have to use a good number of pins or clips - the little devils know if there is a weak spot in the defenses, and will still make it over the top.

If you'd like to get a little fancier, or you aren't having success with the sheet solution, you might want to try an "official" cover - one made specifically to use as a cover for ex-pens.  When searching for them, try using the terms "shade" or "UV", as these covers are often used to keep sun off dogs in ex-pens outdoors.  Here are some examples from online retailers:​

guinea pig and rabbit supplies
rabbit and guinea pig supplies

Notice these covers have all kinds of loops along the edges to help you secure them to the pen - it looks like the orange ones have even more loops, so would be preferable. 

​You may end up with a disapproving bun for a bit, once those escapes are thwarted, but better mad than hurt!

Good luck, and let us know if you've found any great solutions to this problem, so we can share!​