Less than six weeks after their arrival my two gorgeous guinea pigs are happy as clams—well, almost. A lot has happened since I last wrote of them.

For starters, Orange had a crisis. This pig never acted quite right and a week after living in our home she began to lose her balance, her eyes started to seek two separate points low down and away from one another (ventrolateral strabismus), and she seemed disoriented most of the time.

Were she a dog or cat I’d have been begging for a CT and spinal tap at the specialists’ place. But in a guinea pig? I called around, researched online and resolved to take Orange in to my favorite exotic vet the next day (he seemed the only one really interested in taking on the case, though he admitted that small rodents are not common patients in South Florida, despite their popularity).

But by the next day, the course of treatment I’d initiated on day one of her strange behavior seemed to be taking effect—Baytril and dexamethasone. Though she was still off balance and disoriented, she had definitely improved.

Frankly, I’d only had this girl a week and my impression was that whenever guinea pigs get really sick they either die quickly or get better quickly. Though I hate to admit it, I wasn’t ready to commit to hundreds of dollars of care at the exotic vet’s. (Otherwise I would’ve been there immediately and wouldn’t have subjected her to my own half a$$ed shotgun-therapy.)

Two weeks later she was doing even better. While she was still tipsy, she’d started eating and drinking normally. She’d even started to “wheek” more energetically. But there was still trouble in pig-ville.

While Orange was sick I’d had to separate her from Apfel. In so doing, it became clear that their housing situation was as woefully inadequate as I’d originally suspected. Not only was there not enough room, there was no way to separate them in the event of illness (we vets are really big on quarantining our patients—especially when we have no idea what else to do).

In comes Martin's Cages, a really nice company that (quickly!) shipped the best-looking, most basically functional large rodent cage I’d ever seen. Though bare bones in its appearance, it’s clear someone has contemplated safety and functionality in every aspect of this cage’s design.

What I liked best is that for $145 (shipping included), I basically got two large cages—one for quarantine at the top and another for basic living at the bottom. Normally, ramps lead from one level to another via two ramps that intersect at a mezzanine level, but the ramps can be easily dismantled if necessary.

Problem is, now that the pigs have so much room they’re a little cowed by all the freedom (not to mention the ramps). But they’re getting there. I’m not sure Orange will ever learn to use the ramps (she’s always gonna be a little “special,” I think), but she’s happy enough and wheeking merrily already. Apfel, my intrepid girl, is surprisingly more ill at ease. But it’s only been a couple of days. In two weeks, I’ll bet everyone will be wheeking up a storm at all hours.

Now all I need is a good space to put their behemoth playpen in.

In many ways this super-cage reminds me of the Barbie Dream House my sister once got for Christmas. Though I claimed to hate Barbies with a passion, envy consumed me as I watched her put Barbie through her paces in the elevator (I coveted that damned pink atrocity). Well, here’s my revenge—a beautiful house with real creatures worth loving. Too bad that, like the Dream House, it has to take up so much space.