Long Covid – 6 Months Later

One day in March 2020 I got on a bus to go to work and although I was aware that a pandemic was looming, my government assured me that we were still safe in the community unless we had travelled. This turned out to not only be false, but this bus journey was to be the last I would make this year.

I’ve already written a post on my journey through covid but I never expected to still be on the sofa in September.

I have my post embolism recovery (those clots are still there), and my post covid recovery and between the two I feel pretty well battered. Writing on the website takes longer, and more brain power than it did before. Organising tasks ahead of time is nigh on impossible and absolutely everything has to be written down or it’s simply forgotten. I feel angry, sad, lost and isolated at times but also still have moments of happiness and that happiness is in my family, hamsters and dogs.

Breeding wise, the hamstery faces an uncertain future. Whilst I’m hoping to still be able to help out my club and the National Hamster Council in my role as treasurer, my breeding is a different issue. The exertion involved means my husband is already shouldering most of the work for me when it comes to feeding and cleaning. Should my condition become more permanent, I will review burdening him with my hobby when he has his own work to do.

I’m told there are naysayers on social media who claim covid simply does not exist. Perhaps instead of spreading falsehoods online they should count themselves lucky. Lucky that they themselves, their family or friends have not been touched by this illness. Perhaps it’s too much to hope for but I assure the country that I do exist!

Pacing is my friend. If you are in the same position as me, pacing is honestly the way forward for the physical exertion. Mentally it’s more difficult. It’s hard to pace this when, like me, you are used to multitasking three or four jobs at once while on the phone and answering emails. This has, hands down, been the most difficult part of this debilitating condition. Losing my mind, quite literally. I have to remember that even ‘just’ writing this blog will mean I need to rest my brain. It’s not just about pacing what you perceive as a job like building a shopping list or answering emails etc. It’s the fun stuff that you like to do too. If it’s brain heavy then pace it. Rest, nap, be present in the moment, do something that you can switch off to like listening to music.

What happens next is uncertain. Investigations are still ongoing and results are still pending. I’m in limbo for now but there’s hope that full recovery is still attainable, it just feels very far away! In the meantime the hamsters will carry on breeding so I can keep my lines running and have something positive to focus on.


If you’ve been touched by any of the issues in this blog and feel like you need to reach out, there should be support groups in your local area. If you are a member of the hamster fancy consider reaching out to your club. Write your experiences into the journal to help other members.

My Journey Through Corona Virus – A Breeder’s Story

It was January 2020 and the best time for planning the first season’s litters. I had a couple of pairs I needed to put together straight away as my girls are getting closer to a year old. There’s never a guarantee they’ll have a litter straight away and it’s not a good idea to breed them over a year old for the first time so if they are 9 months old then you’d better get a move on! Later in January I got some amazing and important hamsters from Bradford Champs and some of those needed breeding in short order. It was exciting! 2018 was a very dry year for litters, 2019 saw me desperately trying to salvage lines and losing some despite my efforts. I had to keep everything I bred until the end of 2019 so I had recouped hardly any of my costs at all. 2020 was going to be my year!

February 2020 saw 9 pairs in total introduced to each other. I had at least two months to make the boxes I needed for these litters, assuming they were all successful. Despite some problems with my asthma, due to my pet rats, the hamsters were cheering me up.

Towards the end of February a few of the January pairs had their first litters, bang on time and were even giving what I’d hoped for! Astounding. And, to be honest, a sense of foreboding should have occurred, I never usually get what I’m after on the first try.

March saw me starting to prep for splitting up a couple of pairs although with a couple I did want a second litter if possible. I do this in a very controlled way normally and certainly don’t go for repeated back to back litters as this takes it out of mum too much and pups get too small for me to keep and breed on. By now, every pair but two had their litters.

Lockdown kicked in the middle of March. Yes they had talked about corona virus but there was allegedly no community transmission in the UK. I hadn’t travelled and knew no one who had. I decided to split everyone would be a good idea because rehoming would be difficult under lockdown conditions.

Then I got ill.

I thought it was bad hayfever, then I thought it was an asthma flare up as I’d been having issues with the rats. As the week progressed to the end of March I got a high temperature, a cough and thought I had a cold. It wasn’t a continuous cough afterall…and I hadn’t travelled anywhere. There was still no community transmission in my area apparently, although my friend had been ill with corona virus, we hadn’t seen each other in weeks. We were looking after her dog for her while she was ill, he came over in the week I was already feeling a bit off.

The first week of April saw me confined to bed with pneumonia. I was lucky in a way, I didn’t need hospital, but I was in a big grey area. Clinically my GP thought I had corona, which does lead to pneumonia, but I couldn’t get tested unless I went to hospital. If they sent me to hospital and I didn’t have it, I would certainly pick it up and was in no state to fight it off. So I received a special brand of home care that involved taking lots of steroids and antibiotics (as I was at huge risk of a chest infection on top) and daily phone call check ups from the GP. I don’t remember that Monday at all, I had a very low temperature and couldn’t get warm, I couldn’t breathe properly and getting out of bed caused my heart rate to rocket up and my oxygen sats to drop all the way to 89-90%.

This carried on all week. I ate just soup. We had beautiful volunteers from a local facebook group deliver more soup as we couldn’t get any food shopping at all. I vaguely remember a discussion about running out of toilet roll and how it was all gone in the shops. I still have no idea why people went panic buying for loo roll…..

On the Wednesday my husband called the paramedics. Again they said they were wary of taking me in. It felt surreal to be asked repeatedly if I wanted to go to hospital? I wasn’t well enough to make that decision. After nearly an hour of keeping me sat on the stairs all I wanted to do was sleep. I knew I needed help but help was not forthcoming. The paramedic told us it was so risky taking me in that unless I needed intensive care I should stay at home.

By the end of the week I started to feel better. I didn’t need supervision to go to the toilet and started eating solid food. I felt lucky. The relief from my GP was palpable.

I didn’t know that I was busy brewing the third stage of corona virus. Blood clots.

On the next Monday morning I had spoken the GP about my daughter’s ear infection. They were glad I sounded so good. I was still ill but miles better than the week before.

I started to think about the hamsters, I remember not really being able to grasp the enormity of my situation.

After lunch I got up to the bathroom, and when I got back to bed I felt….weird. I called my son in and found I couldn’t breathe properly. My heart rate went up really fast. I’d had this briefly the night before but it went after 10 minutes. This time it didn’t go away. I couldn’t expand my lungs without pain in my chest.

My husband called the GP and after he listened to me for just 10 seconds, he advised to call the ambulance and insist on hospital. This time the paramedic was lovely, he was a first responder so had to call in an actual ambulance and he stayed with me all the way to hospital. The only thing I remember is the pain and him holding my hand. I wish I could remember his name.

I went straight to resus and stayed there for what must have been at least a couple of hours. They were lovely, I was swabbed, poked, nebulised, injected and monitored to try to stabilise my heart and breathing. I remember only one doctor suggesting a possible blood clot and it is purely thanks to her (I firmly believe) that I didn’t die that night or the following night. Because of her I got my blood thinning injections started that night.

The following day I got my CT scan which showed two large clots in the arteries around my lungs. I had an echo which showed my heart was under strain.

Throughout my week in hospital I saw different wards and different doctors. I was told I should be in respiratory high care but that it was now intensive care for people needing ventilators. Over and over I was told I was lucky.

During a particularly bad night I messaged my close friend and my husband about the hamsters. I didn’t think about the breeding, I was thinking about not coming home. I didn’t want my husband having to deal with them.

The following day, things were starting to get better and I managed to organise the breeding pairs going to my friend. She also breeds and I knew that she could split them all up properly.

It wasn’t until I got home I realised my predicament in it’s glory. A total of 9 breeding pairs had produced nearly 50 hamster pups across two litters and a couple who had three. I mean, it could have been worse if they’d all had six pups each. It took the whole month of May to sort them all out with them coming back to me in two batches, girls and then boys.

Both my friend and I were, and are still, recovering and are both on the clinically vulnerable list now. We both experience severe fatigue so while I wanted to lower her workload, I had to be able to deal with them here too. My thoughts turned to rehoming. I had a total of 109 roborovski in my house, double my normal numbers. Most of these were in same sex groups of siblings but it doesn’t take long for them to start needing to live by themselves.

Every roborovski needed to be coded (I give four letter, the year and a number for a unique identifier on all of my hamster pups), logged into my breeding record, given a pedigree, fed, cleaned out and my keepers chosen. The prospect of photographing each one for sale was so daunting I opted for videos on request. Rehoming could be done socially distanced with a little thought. Videos replaced choosing in person. Photos of whole litters for the website instead of each hamster all helped. Each hamster who leaves goes in their own box and payment is electronic so I don’t have to touch anything belonging to someone else.

Skip to today and I have managed to rehome a lot of the older pups born in February and March. The April and early May litters are ready to go and are up on the website. The upshot is that I still have to breed or I lose the lines I spent the whole of 2019 struggling to keep going. I risk 2021 being a year of keeping everything again and I cannot do that. So I breed or I close. I keep males where I can so I don’t have to breed those until next year.

Private rehoming is more stressful than homing via shows where you can talk to people face to face. A lot of enquiries don’t go anywhere but need to be replied to. A lot of people assume that as I’m shielding I have nothing to do all day so why can’t I provide a hamster by tomorrow? I’m not a back yard breeder or a pet shop so I need to know where the hamsters are going and if homes are suitable or not. I spend 1-2 hours a day just answering emails.

Apologies for the super long blog post!

My experience has brought it home to me that I’m not invulnerable. I never considered myself ‘weak’ before and this is a term the media uses to describe people like me. I’m definitely weak now I guess. What would happen to the hamstery if I did die? I’m only 40 so didn’t think I needed to answer that in terms of an out of the blue illness like this was. I know who all my hamsters are, I know their breeding history like the back of my hand. I know all their names and who many pups they’ve had or why I wouldn’t breed them.

Somebody coming in to take them en mass won’t know these things. This was proven by a member of the hamster fancy who sadly passed away. There were many problems arising from taking her hamsters. Her husband, like mine, helped with the hamsters but didn’t ‘do’ hamsters. So there was a big information gap.

From May onwards I have been improving my existing paper records, my existing spreadsheets and now moving towards improving my labelling.

Having corona virus and surviving is one thing. Doing it while being responsible for a large amount of animals is entirely a different issue. No one can come in to help you do it, especially if you live alone. Responsible rehoming absolutely has to happen for both your own and the animal’s welfare.

I’m still undergoing testing and monitoring to see why my lungs and heart are still not 100%. I hope to achieve some sense of normality soon. I also hope that other survivors reading this know that they are not alone. If you are in the hamster fancy particularly, reach out to your local club for support. If you aren’t a member already, do join up. You’ll get a monthly journal that you can write in to if you would like.

Club information as follows:-

Southern Hamster Club
Midland Hamster Club
Northern Hamster Club
National Hamster Council

Extras – A Hamster’s Balanced Diet

It’s important for any hamster to eat outside of it’s basic packet muesli. Muesli (or pellets) is not complete although it does come close and many hamsters do well being given nothing else. Imagine if you had to eat the same breakfast muesli everyday, or worse…a monotonous diet of shreddies. Yes, I have strong opinions about a pelleted diet, hamsters are not rabbits.

An easy way to provide variety, and therefore balance, is to mix more into your dry food. Mixed wild bird seed is an easy one. Your vet may tell you to be careful of whole oats, due to pouch perforation. Well. I’m sceptical that this is as common an issue as the distributors of science selective pellets may lead you to believe. Some hamster do well on this type of food, more do not. Think of the breakfast analogy above and think about which you’d rather feed.

It’s nice to provide something extra on top of their dry diet. It’s vital to remember that every mouthful of a treat or an extra means one less mouthful of their (mostly complete) dry diet. Extras should not be overfed. An easy rule of thumb is to dry feed a small bowl full every 2-3 days and on the day you put the new food in, add in something fresh or wet. Keep it separate from your dry, there’s nothing worse than soggy muesli. Your hamster will prefer the fresh on the day and store the dry for eating on days 2 and 3. This is the best way, in my opinion, of stopping selective eating. Hamsters naturally horde their food so take advantage of this to make sure they can still have a varied and balanced diet.

Your choices are fresh veg, fresh fruit, protein like wet dog or cat food, leftover human food and other food items such as porridge. The foods to avoid are citrus fruits, human chocolate, onions, garlic in some hamsters, spicy food, salty food and very sticky food that might get stuck in a pouch. A little bit of sugar and fat is fine unless your hamster can’t tolerate it or is diabetic (remember that sugar does not make a hamster diabetic).

I recently asked fans of the Facebook page what they like to feed. Broccoli, kale and carrots were top of the list. Bell peppers, cauliflower, sweetcorn, corn on the cob, green beans, cabbage, brussel sprouts, watercress, rocket, peas, spinach, sugar snap peas, fennel and parsnip were all suggested. Apple, courgette and cucumber too.  It’s lovely to hear so many owners feed such a wide range. I’ve been a bit stuck on feeding kale recently, and kalettes are a cute veg to feed (look like tiny kale).

Broccoli.jpg

Wet food wise I have fed a lot of different brands of dog and cat food. I find that although Applaws is taken readily because of the texture, I prefer food that is fortified wherever possible. My guys have a preference for pate as well as flaked meat and I use puppy mousse, kitten pate or similar. I tend to mix this with Ready Brek made up using water (not the sachets, too much sugar), as disgusting as it sounds it makes it go further and the hams love it. To this I might add EMP, a supplement often used for birds. If I’m giving extras to a new mum though, I tend to feed meat and porridge separately. This may be a better option for those of you with only one hamster. Just bear in mind that you will want to ease off extra protein when your hamster is older as it can stress the kidneys.

Other extras include dried mealworms, dried crickets, dried sprats, pumpkin seeds, dog biscuits and dried fish skins. Ancol hedgehogs and dried pigs ears can be fed but I’d take these out periodically as otherwise the hamster will eat only these (they are quite big).

A good regime might be:-

Monday – Dry food plus a spoon of fresh veg. Less for a dwarf.

Tuesday – No food today

Wednesday – Cup cake case with a small spoon of wet dog food. Less for a dwarf.

Thursday – Dry food.

Friday – Treat with human leftovers or a shop bought treat of an appropriate size. Or fresh veg/fruit again if you’d prefer. If you have a young hamster, this could be a day for mealworms or similar.

Saturday – Half portion of dry food and a small dog biscuit. Puppy bones are ideal for dwarfs.

Sunday – No food today.

If your hamster has lots of left over food in the cage, just decrease the portions. Keep decreasing portion sizes until your hamster is eating everything. Keep an eye on your hamster’s waste and waist! Runny poo means stop everything except the dry food, see your vet and add in extras slowly once they have recovered. If your hamster feels too chubby, cut back. If you can feel your hamster is boney or skinny, add more assuming they are finishing it. If there is a lot of food left and your hamster is still skinny then chat with your vet.

As an aside – if your hamster is diabetic, it’s very difficult to control this with diet. In humans, carbs and fat all contribute to glucose levels too. Keep the sugar low by all means, your hamster still needs a balanced diet and medication if appropriate. Information on medication can be found on Vectis Hamstery’s website vectishams.webs.com

Despite the best variety, you still need to make sure they have plenty of vitamins and minerals. Particularly D3. Use a vitamin paste in wet food or a powder supplement. You can also use a supplement in the water.

Variety. Your hamster will thank you for it 🙂

Zhou Liang Mar 2017 a

Show Pen Maintenance: A Necessary Evil?

It’s time! I think I lost out on a first place in Roborovski class at a recent show because of a neglected show pen. Any points removed were well deserved I have to say. I’ve not repainted my pens since I started showing Syrians in 2013 *shame*

Syrian Pen 1

So I’ve finally gone out, bought the paint, set up the work table and found all my pens. For good measure I’ll also do my pen carriers. It’s worth pointing out that for new members who hire pens, your pens don’t get penalised for condition as it’s accepted that it’s the club’s issue/owner of the pen to look after hire pens rather than the member who hired it.

Before I went to B and Q there was a scrabble to find the various bits of info provided by show pen guru, Mark, on what paint to use. Black gloss and white gloss for the Syrian pens (Dulux is favoured) and Ronseal Deep Mahogany for the dwarf pens. It’s worth noting that members have previously mistakenly used something like ‘cotton white’ rather than ‘pure white’ gloss and have also mistakenly varnished dwarf pens. It’s just woodstain for those and you can tell the difference between the shades of white on the show bench so be careful.

First job is cleaning. All my pens are getting a full clean rather than their usual quick wipe. I’m hoping not to have to paint all of them if they are just a little stained.

Syrian Pen 2

Then sanding any chew marks out. Sanding also provides a better surface to paint the new gloss onto I’m told. After sanding, I managed to remember to wipe the pen out again. Look at this black paint dust.

Syrian Pen 3

Due to the application of masking tape, I preferred to paint the inside first and freehand the black. I’m quite good at my edges, you might like to mask both. I’m more likely to need to re do the interiors of all the pens whereas I reckon only two of mine need the black redone. We’ll see!

Syrian Pen 4

Looks like more than one coat will be needed. On my second one I realised that you need to paint the inside front lip first and the top outward facing edge last. I got a bit covered in paint this go haha
Syrian Pen 5

Look at the difference!

Syrian Pen 6.jpg

This is the paint I used for the black on the other show pen. The white dried in a couple of hours, the black needs to be left overnight between coats and a good day/night to completely lose the tackiness I’m told.

Syrian Pen 7.jpg

The pen I’m painting was chewed by a naughty boy on the way home from a show because I forgot my divider (see further down) meaning the pens didn’t sit right in the top of the carrier.

Syrian Pen 8

I’ve sanded the chew marks down as much as I can. and then painted.

Syrian Pen 9

Looking good!!  After it’s second coat I’ll redo the mark on the bottom (for identification you mark the bottom of your pens so the judge can’t see). For the pen carriers I bought a Valspar satin paint called ‘wine cask’. I’m really hoping it dries more red than that! I had to get the chap to mix it up for me. The divider is place on top of the bottom row of pens in the carrier to give a space between rows. This gives extra ventilation, makes the top row more secure and stable as well as helping to stop the hamsters underneath being able to chew the pen above!

That’s my progress so far. Hopefully I’ll have some more photos later this week. It’s definitely worth the work to avoid losing marks in the future 🙂

 

On Spanners And All That

Just as things were getting going my hamster go and get old! Sadly I’ve now lost Boffo and Atlanta’s line as Nebbiolo refused to breed and is now too old to risk it. As she never looked pregnant I highly doubt she’d take anyway. Grenouille is on the edge and is going for her last try, with anybody at this point! Both fantastic looking girls and the result of a lot of hard work.
I’ve got a lot of them getting nearer to that dreaded cut off point. So I’m starting to breed almost round the clock to make sure they ‘take’ and I don’t lose the effort of several generations.
The Roborovski are just as bad with my agouti line now gone with Evie and my pieds gone with George and Ursula. I’ve had to bring in some youngsters but these now carry husky too so I’ll have to be careful.
The Chinese are following suit with the loss of Astere, Arty and nothing here from Jock thats breedable anymore. No more Not or Wullie either.
The Pallids time here has been short lived with Nut now being too old and them having to be split for fighting. She does look good now though!

However there is some good news. Wigley’s coming up for breeding (in the Syrian queue!) and I do have plenty of husky Robos here. Bardane the Chinese lives on in Luzerne, Safran and Frenee who gave me two boys as it turns out. I’ve got a little white boy here and Froggy from Vectis has two girlfriends lined up. Jock’s son Oats has been busy and his son James looks amazing.

I embark upon new lines in Chocolate and establishing my Ivories/black eyed whites in Syrians. I now start to roll up my sleeves for the blues as well. The blacks are not gone by a long shot as I bred so many lines so I have options there. Just not the ones I wanted. I’m hopeful, in time, that I can put that back on track.

I have some normal winter whites here that I’m going to pair up from tomorrow too.

Surely things will start to look up…..

One of the frustrating aspects of breeding is….

Breeding! It’s harder than you think. I honestly skeptically question anyone who has ‘accidental litters’  because breeding is actually not that easy.

At the moment I’ve female Syrians who won’t stand, female Chinese hamsters that won’t take, male Roborovskis that want to only hold hands. What’s going on??

Autumn. That’s the short answer. The shift to the colder nights and shorter days means I’m playing catch up with my daylight bulb and heating to make sure the hams don’t just decide to stop breeding altogether for the winter.

What is the best virtue that a breeder can have? Patience. What is it that I most lack?…yup.

Hopefully, I’ll have some babies coming soon.

H

Hopefully I’ll have some babies on the

Welcome to my world!

I started breeding in 2013 and joined the Southern and Midland hamster clubs in 2012. I joined the National Mouse Club in 2014. With this blog I intend to shed light on how difficult it is to breed ‘properly’ or ethically, the hurdles and joys of doing what I do. Not all breeders are evil and all that jazz. With my background in rescue and my current work as a vet nurse, I hope that my idealogies will help to educate people.