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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.

Get To Know: Mittenmaus

MITTENMAUS [my love] AKA Mitty, Mittybae, Mitts, and any other adorable version!

Pure Standard, Born 07/03/2013, approximately 800 grams

Mitty Toy

Role in Playtime Kingdom? Top Dog and engineer – Mitty’s the king of his playtime! He utilizes his time out to jump, surf, investigate, measure, climb, and stretch those adorable paws.

Favorite Hiding Place? Under the couch, but near the edge so he can catch action and wall jump around it at any given point.

Mitty Couchy

Physical Capability? Super strong and a high jumper! Watch his epic jumps below!

 

 

Vocal? Sometimes, but this is one mature chin. He doesn’t like to make a ruckus! Mitty has been known to purr or sing from time to time, but never in excess.

Human Cuddle Status? Not a huge fan. 75% of the time will not accept cuddles, although if you catch him on a rare day, he will turn all the way around for scratches! Other than that, puh-leeease! This is a chin that is nearly human! He demands freedom and respect. Eskimo kisses during playtime are a 50/50 shot – take it human, it’s better than nothing.

Loaf

Favorite Way to Be Picked Up? While Mitty doesn’t like feeling small enough to be picked up, he will accept daily and necessary pick-ups with ease. He enjoys being held gingerly by the torso and base of the tail, although he will sometimes rest like a fluffy loaf in my arms (it’s part of the dance before he pounces off and announces cessation from the herd).

Intelligence? Soaring. Super. Very high. Potentially smarter than me. Watch him communicate his needs below!

 

Is He Compatible with Other Chinchillas? He likes to flirt with Lulu, but has a rocky history with the rest of the group. Muffton was his best bud until they lost their bond – now, they are mortal enemies as they chirp competitively at the ladies. Fifi was once amicable with him until she decided to go berserk and partially sever one of his fingers; needless to say, they don’t talk anymore. Koko is not very interesting to him. So, he spends most of his time alone or with his mom (that’s me!). On rare occasions, he’ll be given supervised playtime with miss Lulu until she starts getting annoyed.

Ready for a Photo Shoot? Nope! He’s no object to be paraded around, and he knows it. He likes to be known for more than just his good looks, and will jet off set as soon as he’s placed on it. Multiple attempts are needed to get a still shot (tips on chinchilla photography here)!

Mitts Mailbox

Love to Dust? Yes! Mitty favors dusting and has no dry skin issues, but he won’t go crazy – he knows how many full body turns he likes to do at bath time (4-5) and after that, he’s all set for the day. He’s all about maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle. He’ll do a quick dust every day, as supervised by mom.

Three Words/Phrases to Sum Up His Personality? Smarty-Pants, Freedom Fighter, King of the Castle

Mitty Wicker Chair 2

Next Week… Mufftoneous!

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Custom Chinchilla Cages

This week has been busy! I’ve been all around the city, catching up with old friends, meeting with clients, and planning for the holidays with the fam. Needless to say, it’s been full of fun and festivity. One major thing I’ve set out to accomplish prior to the new year is to re-customize our custom chinchilla cage.

Chinchillas love change! To encourage mind and body stimulation, I love to move around parts of their cage from time to time – and that’s the best part of having a custom built cage. Everything can be modified simply with new pieces of kiln-dried pine (or other chinchilla safe woods) and just a couple of screws! Since each chin is different, getting to know your chinchilla is critical when it comes to modifying their cages and allowing them the safest & funnest habitat possible.

Cage 2013 2014

Last year, my boyfriend and I custom-built a cage based on the size and preferences of our chinchillas. For most of 2013 into 2014, we had only four chins, so the single custom armoire cage made perfect sense. When Koko came along in the latter half of 2014, we modified and combined two smaller wire-based cages to create a spacious multilevel loft for Mufftoneous (it was best at that point to separate the boys from the same cage complex). Prior to that point, we had a few wire cages in storage and the other as a playtime wheel for the kids, containing a water bottle and wheel for free use. Now, we keep the wheel with Muff because he has been deemed the unstoppable athlete – everyone else gets their energy out at playtime, but Muff just keeps going like the Energizer Chinchilla.

Below, you can see the most recent updates to our cages:

Over the course of the year, there were many small changes and modifications to all cages. But the desire to switch it up even further has officially arrived. So, onward! The process we use to make changes to the cage involves taking the chins out one by one for playtime and modifying cages one at a time. Typically, I start with the oldest chin’s space and work my way to the youngest, although there are always slight aberrations to that selection method. Since I constantly observe my chins in their environment, I have noticed their changes and preferences as they get older, bigger, and more curious. Their cages have always been able to be a reflection of their personality, and I’m happy to be able to be hands-on with it.

Since Mitty [located in the bottom left tripartition] loves organization, he received a few large shelves, VIP bedding area, and a custom house (not pictured). He was also given Muff’s hammock, since Muff used it more as a platform than a relaxation tool. Muff [located in multilevel wire cage] had that hammock replaced with sturdy pine shelving in large and small sizes to keep him entertained. Since I know Muff loves wall climbing and tight spaces, he received a long pine wall to scale and squeeze himself up and down (don’t worry, it’s not too tight). Lulu and Fifi [located in the bottom right tripartition] received a spacious 3-way aluminum tube so they could snuggle together and new platforms to stretch their legs on. Finally, Koko [located in the top tripartition] received Mitty’s old hut and the girls’ smaller tube. She also got a few small ledges to prance around on – she’s not a jumper, so height has never been her preference.

We had a great time modifying our kids’ cages this time around, and it’s always an exhausting pleasure being put to work by the chinchillas! I know they’ll be happy for a few weeks to come. Remember, a chinchilla owner’s job is never truly done – it’s onward, and upward, always!

Stay tuned for our weekly Wednesday blog posts by following via email. Also, subscribe to us on YouTube and visit us on Facebook! We leave you with a sweet video and we hope you all have a great holiday, and spread that furry chinchilla love to your friends and family. Cheers!

 

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Chinchilla Holiday Cheer!

As the chestnut praline lattes spiral gloved hands and Christmas tree shops begin to adorn every corner, it’s inevitable to fight it – Holiday Cheer is headed our way! As soon as the Thanksgiving bird is carved, Christmas sparkle starts to infiltrate our spiced cinnamon veins, trickling slowly to our pulsing glitterati hearts. We love this season!

LY Chinchillas Holiday S

The city has been absolutely glimmering. With the bittersweet entrance of winter, we start bundling up in hats and scarves – and we can’t help reminiscing about yesteryear and futurescape. The falling leaves, the harsh wind’s kiss, the soft flutter of snowflakes. It’s important to remember: yes, while this time of year is tough and frigid, it’s romantic as well. This time is as important as any other in our lives. After all, we’re together for now, aren’t we?

City Holidays LYCs

While we’ve had a barrage of family visiting from nearby states and overseas alike, we’ve found a way to incorporate chin-love into the center of the holidays. Sure, we traipse the incredibly shimmery streets of New York City during the day while the chins are snoozing, but upon our return, we shower them with holiday cheer and endless love! That’s what the holidays are all about – forcible cuddling (just kidding!), delicious treats (sparingly!), and family.

And yes, of course – I conducted a full-on holiday photo shoot. No shame, only props and sweet misbehaving chinchillas! Photos will be released on our Facebook Page throughout this lovely month! I’m also thinking of doing another shoot with snowflakes and drums (think snowy little drummer boy scene) – but we’ll have to wait til the excitement of this week’s shoot has calmed a bit. Luckily, this shoot required no treats and that is a great thing – it means more shoots and more obedient, healthy chins.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the lucky babies don’t get any treaties! We all need a special little something from time to time in order to ensure our ongoing sanity. That, my friends, is how I spent my Black Friday weekend – buying family gifts and getting myself a little something as well. 🙂

 

Anyhow, as things are regulating lately, I’ll be posting every Wednesday here on the blog! There will be daily postings on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, weekly on YouTube (be sure to subscribe!). The whole family wishes you a great start to your December!

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Chinchilla Thanksgiving

After spending a lovely evening on Fifth Ave with my adorable sister, we sit down for a slice of cake and a spot of tea. The lights shimmer on the streets outside, heavy with a festive sparkle. The window displays drip with gaudy exuberance, enticing tourists and shoppers alike. Year after year, the decor outdoes itself, the budgets double, and the holiday mania ensues in the same deliberate fashion. This is the center of commerce, New York City – encapsulating the dreams, hopes, and desires of each and every generation. We try our best to avoid it, but every year the glitz of ‘Christmas before Thanksgiving’ jolts us into the holiday spirit, regardless of its true monetary intentions.

NYC Xmas

We find a place in the plaza, settling in with our 20-layer crepe cake and strawberry tea. She’s so bright, and the conversation follows suit. We discuss the upcoming holidays, the changing weather, and the state of the union. During our chit-chat, the soft blur of Thanksgiving appears like a warm veil over my eyes. I hug her, and tell her I love her.

Sis and Me

In honor of this year’s Thanksgiving, I’ll be sharing a little bit of what I’m thankful for. And as a preface, it won’t be the city lights, the bustling crowds, and the freezing temperatures – although, sure, that’s all a part of it. It’s about my babies – the five little souls that fill mine with such thanks and appreciation for the present moments; the inevitable ‘growing up’ of it all, and the ‘do your best’ attitude that has become increasingly more profound as the years pass.

Koko bear – As the youngest and darkest ball of fluff in our ‘Haus of Maus’, I’m thankful that Koko is sweet. She’s incredible – bouncing about from corner to corner, accepting our scratches, and smiling happily with her little overbite. Definitely functioning with a glaze over her little teddybear eyes, Koko is a warm, fluffy cuddle monster! The only chinchilla I know that will allow true cuddles and sleep right in my arms.

Fifi – I’m thankful that Fifi is a wildchild. She’s uncontrollable and inconsolable at nearly all times – darting around and constantly speeding through life. It’s as if in every situation, Fifi truly believes she is constantly escaping death. She keeps us balanced, patient, and forces us to slow down and appreciate the calmer moments in life.

Lulu – Lulu is an adorable sweetheart. Keeping her sister Fifi in check, she has a cool head and a curious, lovely demeanor. With her eyes close together and a fat butt, watching Lulu is a smile waiting to happen! When times get tough, I look to Lulu for a quick pick-me-up – and for that, I’m thankful.

Mufftoneous – I’m so thankful for Muff! What a gumdrop jelly bean teardrop! How much jolliness and joy can one confused chinchilla bring a person? INFINITE! He is such a vocal, silly, adorable little guy! He is not a brilliant chinchilla so to say, but he always gives us a big laugh!

Mittenmaus – As the firstborn, Mitty has a special place in our hearts. He opened the door for all the other babies, and we couldn’t be more thankful. On top of the happy change he has led to, he remains the most intelligent chinchilla we have. Known as ‘the engineer’, he’s always searching for a way into the ‘real world’ – I swear, if it were up to him, he’d rock a suit and tie and sit at the head of our dinner table, nibbling a shredded wheatie, directing conversations and speaking on politics.

Thanks for stopping by today and we’re all wishing you a VERY Happy Thanksgiving! 😀

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How To: Chinchilla Photography

As a professional photographer in New York City, I’ve had my share of dramatic clients – fussing over hair and makeup, complaining about angles, and throwing out last-minute conceptual changes. Yeah, sometimes high fashion and editorial work can be extremely particular, but if great minds come together to accomplish the task, beautiful imagery can result.

Chinchillas, on the other hand – well, where to begin? They are inherently adorable (to me, they are the cutest animals on this planet) and can do no wrong visually. However, they won’t come together with you on a photo shoot. They won’t say – oh sure, I’ll swipe my tail 45 degrees to the left and wink at you while holding up an apple stick with my right paw. If only! Chins are hard to get ahold of, and even if you have a non-reactive chinchilla (like my Koko), photographing them can be tough. They’re drama queens in their own right!

Flash photography is the easiest and most practical type of photography to use when snapping an image of a high-speed, high-energy animal. It freezes them in frame instantly, and most of the time won’t have blur. That means you can capture them jumping, twirling, turning, or performing any onslaught of energetic feats – but the image won’t be soft or cuddly, like we know our chinchillas to be. Along with diminishing their furry details and barraging their colors with an unsightly whitewash, flash photography will likely cause you to put in some post-processing time; you should expect to use a photo-editing program to get those tiny red eyes out of your photo.

Chins look best when photographed without flash, as most standard non-diffused flash units will be too harsh on their fluffy details. The problem with studio photography is that it typically requires more setup time, careful planning, and safe treats on hand! As far as camera settings go, you’ll need a slower shutter speed (or a super-bright lighting system). I like to maintain a low ISO on all my photographs to keep images less noisy, meaning my settings will slow down overall processing speeds even more.

As far as personal photographic tastes go, I’m ALL about natural lighting. Give me the morning sun, sulking half-light, or a heavy sunset. I love it all: the emotive depth, the searing contrast, the daring illusory effects. For all my clients, I suggest going natural. It’s more challenging (so to say, more interesting) than a studio shoot and lends a level of professionalism that supersedes the senseless ‘pro ideal’ of a $20,000 camera set and a 3,000 square ft NYC studio (although wouldn’t we all love to bathe in such fanciness ~ as the chins love to bathe in dust). I believe strongly in natural lighting, it shows in my work.

As far as chinchilla photography goes, I’m ALL about just surviving the shoot! Natural light is still the best for beautiful images, but studio photography accomplishes what natural lighting can’t – being able to be done at any time of the day. I’ll still grab my Nikon for the playtime sessions with the kids, but if I’m looking for some high-quality commercial-level imagery, I’ll overwhelmingly choose a studio set.  That means I’m gonna put in 20 minutes to get the lighting right but only end up shooting for a minute or two. Sets should be simple and clean, allowing the focus to be on the chins – adding in a colorful fleece background or sprinkling marigolds can brighten up the scene without detracting from the furry spectacle.

It’s imperative to prepare for the skittishness of the babies. Since chinchillas are nocturnal, their eyes perform better in low light, so I’m sure the brightness of the set becomes irritating very quickly. Chins have such little patience when it comes to waiting for human error to correct itself, so it’s best to be ready with a tripod and set your camera to high-speed continuous shooting mode, and give it your best!

Remember, patience and effort are the main components to great chinchilla photos. It doesn’t hurt to have a photo assistant to collect escaping chins or a chinchilla-safe treat on set to coax them into staying still – if only for a moment! 😀

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