For months we talked about getting a dog, we trawled the internet tirelessly until finally we came across Smartie. The morning of April 3rd 2013 we set off to pick up Smartie and take him to his forever home. Everything went accordingly – paperwork signed, new collar and lead bought for Smartie and we walked him over to the car. He jumped in the back seat and shuffled over to the middle seat to get a clear view out of the windscreen. He sat perfectly still, I’d never seen anything like it. He pushed his nose to the window as we passed the fields of sheep and cows. Due to the shortness of the drive, that’s all he saw until we pulled up outside the house.
We walked him to the door, let him in and then off the lead to explore. He ran through the living room, through the kitchen, had a nose about the conservatory (completely ignoring Eddie several times) I was ecstatic. My life felt suddenly fulfilled. The tension stopped for a few short minutes then appeared again – Smartie stopped still in front of Eddie’s cage.
I panicked. There was only flimsy metal between my tiny little man and Smartie. He walked slowly closer and we all stared. My dad shouted from a far “NO!” and that was all I heard for the rest of that afternoon… and the rest of the week.
It was, as a said in post one – soul destroying.
Smartie wandered over to the cage and pushed his nose playfully towards it. He was absolutely fascinated by this creature running around the cage. He spent 90% of the day watching him and being chased away by one of us. I was torn – thankful Smartie was showing no signs of aggression but, worried of how much more Eddie could take. He seemed to not care about this new, long legged thing in the house, just annoyed at his constant attempt to play.
The days that passed were long and painfully similar. Smartie walks over to the cage, we shout no, he wanders off until he regains his interest in Eddie. It soon became a game. If Smartie left Eddie alone then he got a treat (a small bit of carrot). So, he would go to Eddie, be shooed away, run around the couch, get a treat, back through the gap and in front of the cage again.
It was infuriating and had to stop. We decided to reward him for being relatively close to the cahe if he was relaxed and not guarding him. This upped our spirits for a few days but, wasn’t going to work long term. We were all tense, wondering where he was, if he was too close, if Eddie was okay. It was exhausting.
One weekend, Smartie was heading out for his afternoon walk – me and my mam had an ‘everyone’s a winner’ idea. Eddie was moved upstairs in my room alongside my four girls. It was a fantastic idea and we wondered why it was never thought of beforehand. Degu specialists promote communication between the degus who you want to integrate and to have the cages as close as possible. The five of them were squeaking away to each other all afternoon. It was a wonderfully promising first step in the introduction process and Smartie returned from his walk, sniffed about the empty space where Eddie once was and bounded away to his toys. Like nothing was ever there.
I don’t see it as us giving up on them two living happily together, I see it as a much better opportunity for Eddie and that is very important to me. Smartie continued to relax more and more to this very day.
He has since encountered all five degus at once! (I left my door open and Smartie ran upstairs and popped in for a look about). He jumped on my bed and had a little look at all the Gu’s before being shooed out. Still, no aggression – how promising!