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Pigs and rotas

Fulltime Foster Carer - Harriet author of: A Less Ordinary Family

Pigs and rotas

Alice – Fostering Blog


I am not sure why I thought getting pets for the children was a good idea – I guess I thought it would teach them about responsibility of looking after something. A couple of years ago I thought it would be a great idea to get the girls guinea pigs for Christmas. On Christmas day, we surprised them with a hutch as a gift and then took them the day after Boxing Day to go choose a guinea pig each. They were super excited about their new pets, but the the novelty soon wore off and Lauren was the only one who really took an interest.

This wasn’t too much of a shock – as it had been Lauren who had been asking for a pet for years.

We set up a rota for Lauren and Annie to clean them out each week – but as you can guess, I was left to sort them out the majority of the time. One of the errors I made was to let them each have their “own” guinea pig. That meant when Lauren’s got sick last year and eventually passed away, she was left without a pet. Despite this she has still loved and cared for the other two.

Today we found Annie’s little pig stiff as a board at the bottom of the hutch. There had been no sign that she had been sick – and they had only been cleaned out yesterday. We broke the news to the girls. I was surprised how sad Annie actually was about it. Lauren, who had already experienced the grieving when hers passed away last year, was very kind to Annie and told her she knew how she was feeling. Alice – who was now the one left a guinea pig she did not care for by any stretches of the imagination, went into complete meltdown. She wailed and cried and said how sad she was because she missed Annie’s guinea pig so much. She was inconsolable.

I’m pretty sure she was not that sad about the guinea pig. I can’t even remember the last time she even took the slightest interest in them. I don’t mean to be cynical, but it definitely felt like she didn’t want Annie getting any of the attention over this. I am sure there are also some attachment issues going on around loss too – so we tried to be sensitive. After Charlie did a little ‘funeral’ for the pig, we buried her and planted some bulbs. I then took Annie and Lauren out for a hot chocolate. I thought it would be good to let them have a bit of time away from the drama Alice was creating – to give them a chance to say how they felt and process it all. I also thought Charlie could spend some one to one time with Alice and try to help her be a little bit more empathetic toward Annie.

Empathy is not something that comes naturally to Alice – so we try to teach her by modelling it. Modelling behaviour is one of the strategies our fostering agency advocate. It can sometimes feel a bit fake and over the top but we have seen some positive results of using this over the years. When I returned home with the girls, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Alice offering genuine comfort to Annie. This was a huge turnaround from when we left the house just over an hour earlier. Charlie definitely earned his brownie points today!!

A Less Ordinary Fostering Family Blog.

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