RIP little Ash

IMG_0611We’re mourning little Ash our chinchilla.

Chinchillas are unusual pets, I’d never seen one let alone held and played with one before I met Richard. He has had chinchillas for years, including rescue chinchillas like Ash. They are delightful animals, literally bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, with mischevious sweet natures, and amazingly soft fur.

Ash came to Richard indirectly. An older couple had bought him on impulse in a pet shop, but then found that they could not look after him, particularly as they had two boisterous spaniels. Their vet knew Richard was a bit of a chinchilla expert, and put him in touch. Rich was happy to give their pet (then called ‘Basil’) a new home and a new
name.

When Richard moved in with me, Ash came too; the spare room became officially Richard’s study, but effectively Ash’s room, with the largest chin cage money could buy. It’s sad to see it empty now.

IMG_0600 Although Ash was originally Richard’s pet, I loved him too. Working from home meant I could spend time with him in the day, when Percy the cat (we kept them firmly apart) was asleep downstairs or out in the garden.

Ash was always full of personality and very lively – and would chew anything in sight. My watch strap still has the toothmarks as evidence! He loved fruit and nuts, especially whole almonds, as treats, and demolished the cardboard tubes from kitchen roll. A favourite plaything was a shoelace tied from the top of the cage, tough enough for him to enjoy chewing for days on end. A regular treat was a dust bath, in special super-fine sand. He would sit in the sandbox and then suddenly spin around at great speed, a furry blur sending the dust flying; we enjoyed watching him almost as much as he enjoyed his dustbath.

We knew Ash was poorly when he suddenly lost his desire to play. Rich suspected tooth problems; the vet confirmed it. Chinchillas, like all rodents, have constantly growing teeth that they need to erode: hence all the chewing. If the teeth grow straight, they wear each other down. But if the teeth grow out of line – or get looser with age – then you get problems.

Ash’s back teeth were causing him pain, putting him off food and play. He had a dental operation, under general anaesthetic, which treated his teeth. But Ash never recovered his spirits or his appetite. Towards the end, we were syringe feeding him baby food and special nutrients. It gave me very mixed feelings. On the one hand it was a sweet bonding experience to hold him and feed him; but on the other it was very sad to see him so frail and dependent. He wasn’t thriving and he began to lose his beautiful fur.

In the end the vet advised us that there was no prospect of recovery, although we could keep Ash alive longer on a drip feed – no life for such a lively animal. So Richard took the sad but brave decision to let him go.

We will miss the ‘wee fellow’ very much. RIP little Ash.

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