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Jessi shares some of her experiences with animals getting above average care and seeing the animals thrive and exhibit more exciting natural behaviors. Whether it's a lizard, guinea pigs, or a beaver they all deserve the best life possible.

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Last night as the sun went down, I was turning off the remaining lights and I noticed Daisy, our red-tailed boa, curled up on the top branch and hanging plant.  She's been in her new enclosure for a few weeks now, but I'm still getting used to seeing her doing new behaviors.  She was housed in a flat enclosure for many years and as she grew bigger, so did her space.  We were giving her the home that was recommended by so many, and she surely would have survived in that flat enclosure, but she wasn't doing many of her natural behaviors.

Now that she has a taller space with branches to climb on, it's so good to see her not just surviving, but thriving.  Over the years, we've gotten to experience the difference between animals that are surviving and those that are thriving and it's a big difference.  So many times I've heard people say that it didn't matter what the experts said, the care they were providing for their animal must be okay, because they were still alive.  It's hard to convince someone to change the way they care for their animal if they don't see a reason to do so.   For example, sugar gliders will live for a while with an improper diet.  Their owners might not see a reason to do all the extra work making a complex meal, but after a few years of this sub-par care, they will eventually die too young from organ failure.  Another example: bearded dragons are quite hardy and can survive without the proper lighting for years, but just because they're hardy, doesn't mean they don't deserve to thrive under proper care.  Eventually, the symptoms of poor care will surface in the form of metabolic bone disease, organ failure, and paralysis, keeping them from every truly thriving.

When you provide the proper diet, space, and environment and then just do one step above that, the animals will show you so many more amazing behaviors than you'll ever see when they're just surviving.  I'd like to share a few animals that we've seen thrive when we provided just a step above adequate care.  We'll start with the guinea pig herd.  These guys are so much fun to watch and I've seen plenty of guinea pigs kept alone or in pairs, housed in a wire playpen, and while the ones who were living alone were often quiet and secluded, the pairs seemed fairly content.

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I never got to see their true colors until we ended up with a small herd.  These guys' interactions and communications are so dynamic that it's hard to keep up with who's saying what and why.  It's just incredible to see them doing what they naturally do, and by naturally, I just mean their natural social structure, not actually having to survive in nature.  Their alarm calls are triggered by a thump in the next room instead of a hawk diving down to catch them and their biggest complaint is that they want more apples, not having to play host to a myriad of parasites.  Look at these guys.  They are truly thriving.  

While we're here, we should say hello to Chili Pepper the Patagonian cavy.  He's a great example of how providing a more naturally stimulating environment really benefits the animal.  He received this expansion filled with dirt and branches and he immediately started digging and even gave a few popcorn jumps when he first came out here.  Chili Pepper has been outside regularly on a harness and long leash his whole life, and he really enjoyed digging in the dirt on his walks, but this space allowed him to access dirt and fulfill his natural desire to dig whenever he wanted.

Something that's been a happy side effect of providing him with dirt to dig in is that we no longer have to trim his nails.  He keeps them short on his own and it's great.

Okay, let's head over to the reptile room.  This is Yucca, the red-footed tortoise and this is Titus, also a red-footed tortoise.  We saw a big increase in Yucca's natural behaviors when we rescued Titus a couple years ago.  Red-footed tortoises are known to be fairly social tortoises and Yucca has always really enjoyed our attention and affection.  After many years of being housed alone, we were asked to take in another red-footed tortoise.  Since Yucca always seemed to want more attention that we could provide, we made the decision to take Titus in and I'm so glad we did.  Yucca and Titus interact multiple times every day and it's been so good to see Yucca connecting with another source of stimulation.  

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She still comes over for attention from us, but she's thriving and she's much more content now that she has another social outlet.  While Yucca and Titus are cruising around the reptile room floor, they're being closely watched by Loki the water dragon.  

Loki is probably around a year old, we're not quite sure.  He was living in a smaller enclosure and while he was surviving, I wouldn't say he was thriving.  Since he's been moved to his taller and overall larger enclosure, he's showing a lot more natural behaviors, including jumping off branches into his water dish, using his long toes and nails to quickly climb up the branches and back wall, and diving after crickets to catch them as they jump away.  His go-to thing is to balance gracefully on one of the tallest branches and pose like he's just so pleased to be so up high.  It's just been incredible to see him more active and using his whole space.

Every time I take the time to reassess one of the animals' homes and I make an improvement to help bring out natural behaviors, I'm never disappointed.  If you have a pet, I'd love to encourage you to try and make the effort to help them not just survive, but thrive in your care.  Go that extra step and give them everything they need and more.  It's incredibly rewarding to give an animal a truly happy life.

Okay, let's head over to visit with our last animal today, Huckleberry the baby beaver.  We want Huck to thrive in our care, which is why we're working hard to raise the funds needed to build him a pool that he can learn to swim and dive in.  We also want to have a large space where he can chew on large branches and build whatever structures he wants.  You can see he's been practicing and trying his hand at making some interesting structures with these smaller branches.  He also loves to become a bulldozer and move all the dirt and bark around and into piles.  I'm not really sure what he's trying to build but he's definitely determined.  If you'd like to help us give Huck the home he needs in order to thrive, you can donate to his campaign.  The link is in the description.

I hope you've been inspired to give an animal you care about a new burst of love and help them not just survive but thrive and live a happy and healthy life.  Thanks guys, and we'll see you next week.


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