A little over four years ago, we decided to bring home a pair of degus.
Except, when we went to fetch them, we discovered it was a group of four, and they didn’t really want to separate them if they could avoid doing so. Of course, we did the only thing we could think to do: we brought home all four.
We quickly learned why they hadn’t wanted to separate them, since the boys were very attached to one another. Sure, they’d fight at least once a day, but when it was all over, you could guarantee you’d find them in a degu pile: fast asleep, and so close to one another they were literally lying on top of each other.
We also quickly learned that, despite being a sibling group, all four boys had totally different personalities. Jacob was our quiet and affectionate one, Jasper was our most sensitive and most easily upset one, Jenks was our boisterous and rough one, and Joshua was the patient follower who was eager to go along with whatever everyone else was doing (whether that was sitting quietly with Jacob, joining Jasper in a squealing session, or wrestling with Jenks).
A degu, if you don’t know, is a type of rodent. They’re closely related to guinea pigs, have similar care needs to chinchillas, and look a bit like furry-tailed rats. Their life spans are similar to those of their guinea pig relatives: on average about six years, but they have been known to live a little longer.
The time between April 2016 and March 2017 was rough for us. We lost seven of our rodent gang in that time. Three of those losses were three of our four degus, leaving Joshua all alone.
When Joshua became our only degu we were worried about how he’d cope being on his own. We figured he’d be depressed. What we didn’t figure on, however, was the fact he appeared to blame us for the loss of his siblings, and the bond of trust we’d built up in the three and a half years we’d had him breaking. Just our approaching the cage would send him in to a panic, and any attempts to pick him up would have him squealing as if he was being tortured. It broke my heart to see him like it, and I vowed I’d teach him to trust me again.
What followed were several months of me patiently working with Joshua to remind him I was someone he could trust. It was all worth it in the end too, since he now rushes eagerly to the cage door to greet me when I approach the cage. “How To Trust Your Human” is the story of how we got to this point, told from Joshua’s point of view. Although, he’s known as “Buddy” in the story, since I decided against using his real name in order to avoid confusion, since I have a duology about all four boys, with Jenks as narrator, and I decided against making this book an addition to that series. Buddy is a name I used for all four boys when I wasn’t sure which I was interacting with (despite their different personalities, they were difficult to tell apart sometimes, especially for someone like me who is blind).
I wrote the book to share Joshua’s story with the world, to remind people that animals have feelings too, and maybe give other pet owners hope that things will improve, should they find themselves in a similar situation. Of course, if you also read it and find it to be a good read in general, I’m fine with that too.
Find the book on:
Available in paperback soon!
Victoria Zigler is a blind poet and children’s author who was born and raised in the Black Mountains of Wales, UK, and is now living on the South-East coast of England, UK.
Victoria – or Tori, if you prefer – has been writing since she knew how, has a very vivid imagination, and spends a lot of time in fictional worlds; some created by her, others created by other authors.
When she remembers to spend some time in the real world, it’s mostly to spend time with her hubby and pets, though sometimes to indulge in other interests that capture her attention from time to time, such as doing crafts, listening to music, watching movies, playing the odd figure game or roleplaying game, and doing a little cooking and baking.
To date she has published 8 poetry books and more than 40 children’s books, with more planned for the near future.
She’s also contributed a story to the sci-fi and fantasy anthology Wyrd Worlds II.