Yesterday I was sitting in my house, typing away at emails and waiting to meet with Hannah from Chwarae Plant. She’d parked the car on my street and I was expecting a call to say that she’d found a coffee shop nearby. Instead, she said the following.
“I’ve found a chinchilla!”
Assuming I’d heard wrong, I said, “you’re at Cafe Chinchilla?”
“No,” she said. “A real chinchilla, hiding under a car. Come down here and take a look.”
So I went to where she was huddled with the little animal, and we called the RSPCA hotline, the local vets, everyone we could think of. No one had reported one missing, and no one was quite sure what to do with the one that we’d found.
“You don’t want to bring him here,” one of the rescue groups said. “We’ve got hundreds of dogs, the little guy would have a heart attack.”
After asking around the street, it seemed likeliest that he’d been abandoned. He doesn’t seem the adventurous type, and was huddled outside the front door of a student house that had been vacated that day. Without any better ideas, I took him into my house while we figured out next steps.
I try and make these posts related to play or playwork somehow, and it’s true that so far the process of gaining his trust is not entirely unfamiliar. Take it slow, follow his cues. Set out den-making equipment and cardboard toilet rolls. After getting things wrong early on and frightening him, I was reminded of Marc Bekoff‘s Rules of Fair Play* and quickly changed tactics accordingly. Now he scurries behind my furniture, occasionally taking experimental nibbles of my slipper. (The chinchilla, that is. Not Marc Bekoff. Though, if you’re reading this Marc, hi! I loved your presentation at IPA.)
However, when we went to the pet store to pick up some supplies to tide the little guy over, I found the perfect thing to make this post hang together neatly. We’ve discussed parenting methods that treat children like animals – now we have equipment for animals that treats them like children.
I bring you, the Adventure Playground for Gerbils.
* Bekoff’s Rules are based on years of observation of animal behaviour, and are as follows:
- Ask first (such as by a dog’s bowing posture, etc)
- Be honest
- Mind your manners
- Admit when you’re wrong