connecticut

The World is a Beautiful, Maddening Place

Hello, friends and fluffs. I know it has been a long time since my last post here, approximately 5 years since regular posts of substance. That’s a hefty hiatus, one that was filled with human activity and unrelenting busyness. Work/life balance was a tough thing to achieve while working for global companies and living in New York City. I’ll admit: I thought about updating this blog with sincerity from time to time but was unable to commit for a bevy of excuses. But those excuses have entirely dissipated. Why? Well, for a reason that can only be described as unpredictable, unbelievable, and a little bit insane.

Here we are today, surrounded by a pandemic that is infecting and affecting our global citizens in an exponential manner. Here you are now, reading about it on a chinchilla education blog. I said it in the title and I’ll say it again: the world is a beautiful, maddening place.

I know you are all having immeasurable waves of great fear, feeling, and love for life right now, so I’ll keep it brief and intimate. This post is about humanity, togetherness, and responsibility. And, chinchillas. Let’s get to it.

First, I have a few sad updates for our followers. Koko Bear, a beloved and incredibly kind rescue that many knew as the sweetest extra dark ebony they’ve ever had the pleasure of watching, sadly passed away a little over two years ago. Her passing was sudden and unforeseen. I weighed her weekly, saw no drop in weight and no change in behavior, healthy water/food consumption, and normal stools. But to be honest, I knew deep down that there has always been something a little too sweet about her. Her little head used to shiver from time to time, a symptom of possible dental protrusions into the brain. I have a feeling that the very thing that brought such joy to the world could have been the very thing that took her from it too.

I should have updated you – and I wanted to – but her passing was a shock and devastation to me. It took me the better part of a year to process her loss and embrace the spirit of joy she brought to our lives, and even still, a part of me doesn’t want to let her go. But it’s time to share that truth with you, even though I intend to continue sharing adorable photos and videos of her on our platforms. At the time of her passing, I brought her home to Connecticut and we buried her under a young fruit tree – she was my little fatty pear.

She touched the lives of all my family members, so we held a memorial for her and shared beautiful stories of our time with her alongside a meaningful slideshow. She isn’t gone, her spirit lives on in all of us. Koko reflects that part inside each one of us that shines with pure innocent love, joy, and positivity. I truly believe that.

After Koko departed the physical plane that we share, I went though quite a few life changes and personal adjustments. A year later, after extensive consideration and research, I decided to rehome Lulu and Fifi to Forever Feisty Chinchilla Rescue, where Andrea has done a beautiful job of keeping them happy, healthy, and together. I’ve always known that the mosaic ladies have each other, and in turn, always needed me a little less than the others.

I cannot stress enough the amount of consideration and research I conducted to ensure that they were placed in a safe and educated environment. There were phone calls, extensive emails, and referral research sessions. I drove to Connecticut to meet and discuss the ladies and rehoming process with Andrea in length before deciding to sign them over and donated whatever I could to see that their transition was made safe and easy. I also changed my Amazon account’s Smile function to support her nonprofit, and I encourage you to do so as well (this charity function is at no cost to account holders whatsoever, so do it now). She’s a bonafide chinchilla expert and doing amazing work with these spectacular animals, and any amount of charity helps. I’ll continue to do my part for that.

I encourage every owner going through difficult times and diminished care capacities to weigh the gravity of rehoming your loved fluffs and act responsibly when doing so. As an owner, you should already know how unique and specific these animals’ requirements are – so selling them quickly or passing them along to uneducated new owners should be considered a heinous crime.

Perhaps with these few paragraphs, you can understand why it was difficult for me to come here to post, especially when my heart was longing for the truth of the situation to be as it once was – I wanted my personal truth to be different than what the reality was.

But those desires now pale in the immense impending pain that we will be touched by. The stark reality of our current global pandemic has changed the narrative for me, as it has for millions around the world. I’m currently working from home in NYC to help slow the spread of this disease (although I’m not currently infected, we all need to be proactive to help our communities) and spending more time than ever bonding with Mittenmaus and Mufftoneous.

Mitty is my standard boy and Muff is my black velvet boy. They were the original bad boy duo of LY Chinchillas. They lived in a shared cage but experienced a broken brotherly bond when Lulu and Fifi moved in. They currently live separately, each with their own double unit Ferret Nation 182 setup, but reside together in one (very air-conditioned) room.

It is during this trying time that I am reminded of the sheer magic of chinchillas and the real power of peace that they can bring into difficult times. I am reminded why we should all take the time to reflect and cherish the relationships we have with them and with each other. I want to strongly encourage each one of you to further build your connections with your respective fluffballs, too.

Mitty and Muff have been there for me at the start of my NYC journey: I credit them for getting me through my younger years of hardship and heartbreak, life changes and paradigm shifts. Becoming an adult and functioning part of society in the greatest city in the world has been an upward grind; something I’m proud of now but has not always been easy. Of course, those growing pains dissolve in comparison to the life and death perspectives we are seeing around the world. In the face of immense hard-to-understand adversity, where can we turn?

For me, it is again to Mitty and Muff that I look to for some answers. What do I find? True resilience, beautiful individuality, and strength in independence. Chinchillas are incredibly intelligent animals with highly specific needs, but they can live for over twenty years when cared for properly. They are so hilarious and spunky, each with their very own personality that they develop out of that fun nature/nurture mix. And they are daringly independent but caring. They can live perfectly happily alone for their entire lives, as long as they have the occasional company and love of a caring human.

There is something to be learned from our chinchillas at this time in history. We may never return to life as we knew it, but we can build a future that resembles the strengths that our chinchillas carry throughout their lives and the strengths that they, in turn, bring out in each one of us. There has never been a better time to be thankful and present than right now, my friends. I look forward to seeing you and your loved ones safe and healthy on the other side of this pandemic, chinchillas in tow.

I’ll leave it here for now, but I’ll be back in the coming weeks with some helpful tips on how to stay connected to loved ones, continue your chinchilla bonding process, and all kinds of quarantine tips and games you can get into with your beloved fluffs.

Stay safe. Stay home. Sending love.

How To: Prepare Chinchilla Wood!

During apple-picking season, you may be compelled to think about your fluffs while you’re out with friends and family, gathering delicious ripe fruits by the handful. I certainly always think about my chinchillas, especially when I’m out and about in nature! As my fluffs are indoor pets, I always dream up ways to bring a taste of the outdoors to them. On occasion, one way I do that is by preparing delicious chin-safe woods with organic, pesticide-free wood. Multitasking in the orchard is always a challenge, but the chins will thank you! 🙂

Apple Orchard

Because apple wood is an absolute favorite for all my chin-babies, I love to source what I can during the season from healthy apple trees at local, untreated orchards in upstate NY or eastern CT. I’ll always ask the orchard manager if it’s okay for me to snip some branches from the trees as I’m picking my fair share of apples, and 9 times out of 10, they’ll comply with a smile. I aim mostly for twigs and sticks – the thinner, the better, as those are plentiful and easy to collect (and the chins love destroying twiggies!). Plus, smaller sticks and twigs are easier to manage when you’re preparing the wood for chewy consumption. Be sure to snip live branches, as those are the safest for your chins to chew once properly prepared.

Koko Fall

When you’ve gathered your arsenal of future treats, the first step is to break or cut them to size – delectable treat size, that is! I usually aim for 4-5″ in length, because they fit so perfectly in those adorable chinchilla paws. 😛 Place the pre-sized goods into a container of hot water, and use a clean toothbrush or scrubber to remove tannin and lichen from the sticks. You may have to rinse and repeat several times until the water runs clear over the sticks. Alternatively, you can opt to boil your pre-cut wood for 15-20 minutes, rinse, and scrub. Boiling the wood will help sanitize them better than hot water alone. It’s also fine to use a combination of these methods, as long as you fully implement one or the other.

Muff Cholla

After a final rinse, air dry the sticks over a towel. Once the sticks are completely dry to the touch, evenly space the sticks over aluminum foil or a tin pan, and place your chin-treats in the oven. Baking the wood is a matter of personal preference: some like to bake at an extended period of time on the lowest possible temperature, while others are more aggressive with the baking process. The most common range of temperatures fluctuate from 170 degrees to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lulu cute

While chinchilla owners have their own preferences, I suggest trying out a few different temperatures to determine your favorite. Keep in mind that time and temperature can – and should – vary, depending on the thickness of your wood and overall quantity. I generally like to veer in the middle, around 230 degrees for as long as possible. I constantly keep the oven light on and check for any smoking bark. I’ll rotate the sticks or coins every half hour or so. Eventually, you’ll be able to see or test whether or not the wood is done – coins may be cracked, wood will be dry to the touch, and twigs will snap crisply and easily.

Apple Stick

Finally, turn off your oven and remove your sticks to cool. Once cooled, store your wood in a cardboard box and keep your goodies handy in a cool, dry place close to your chinnies. Or, you could work on some more DIY projects, such as creating hanging toys from your delicious woods! They’ll thank you for all your hard work – or at the very least, they’ll delight you with their happiness as they’re munching away! 🙂

Mitty Hanging toy

LY Chinchillas Treat Donation

Donate healthy, delicious treats to LY Chinchillas to help keep our content going!

$5.00

Times Square and Chew Toys

Today was Saturday, and I am prolifically known by my friends and loved ones to be terribly boring and lazy on weekends. However, I had just learned that my photography had been published in a magazine sold only in Midtown Manhattan. Alright, I thought. Time to get out there and see the world! I made a phone call to the cafe, only to find they didn’t have the issue yet. Alright, that’s not gonna stop me – I’m feeling mildly inspired, so let’s bring my Nikon, go to Times Square to shoot around, and stop by the cafe just double check the issue’s release date. I gathered up my belongings, tidied up the place, and ended up spending a few hours laying on the living room floor with my mosaics running around my body like a pile of shredded wheaties.  Eventually though, I made it out the door.

After checking the cafe, I took a long walk around Midtown. The air stung, but the mood was vibrant.

NYC Times Square Logo

I walked by Bryant Park, with its bustling Christmas shops already in full swing, stopped by Rockefeller Center to take a look at the MASSIVE undecorated Norway Spruce Christmas tree, and toured around Times Square for a quick (and always annoying) galavant. The cold is seeping into the New York City streets, but it’s festive and foreboding of a much more frigid freeze to come. I was bundled, and grabbed some hot chocolate to warm my nose.

Minnie Maus NYC Logo

I saw a few middle-aged women in Times Square donning the garb of Hello Kitty and Minnie Mouse. I scoffed, thinking, you want to pass yourself off as a Maus? You’re no Mitty! It was around 8, and I was hungry. I thought about the chinchillas; I missed them so dearly. I always miss them, no matter how close I am to them. In the next room, sometimes. I definitely feel like all my motherly instincts were wrapped into one furry heart and delivered five separate ways. So, I headed home.

Then, came the more exciting part of my night – boiling apple wood branches to make chew toys for the babes! I had gone “apple-picking” a month or so ago and collected short branches from an adorable orchard in northern Connecticut. I boiled the pieces for 20 minutes and then rinsed and cleaned the logs under cool water with a bristly brush, to rid the debris. I placed them on a cookie sheet, baking at 300 degrees at 15 minute intervals until they were ready to chomp. I know chin owners have different methods for baking wood, but that was mine – and the chins loved them!

As soon as I got back, we let Muffton and Mitty out in rotations, as they are no longer compatible friends. When I first got them, they were bonded pretty well, and the fact that Muff was a little less intelligent than Mittenmaus didn’t divide them completely. Over time, they became more evidently unable to see eye to eye, despite being similar heights. Unfortunately, by the time the girls came along, they were finished with each other and squeaking to the ladies about how uneventful the other was and why they shouldn’t even sniff his way. Oh, well! C’est la vie. Sometimes bonded chins simply unbond – perhaps because of puberty, another sex entering the equation, or almost no reason at all.

In other exciting news, we’ve started a brand NEW YouTube channel, NYChinchillas! Be sure to Subscribe and stay tuned for the impeccable cuteness to follow! We’ll start uploading our arsenal of adorable videos starting today.

After an exhausting day out, I’m ready for my chin-feeding daily ritual and human bedtime! I hope you had a great Saturday and did something nice for your babies as well! 😀