First stop was to a restaurant around the corner to try to recharge my computer, blackberry and wireless hotspot, all drained from the trip, but there wasn’t enough power in the outlets there to charge everything. Temps were near 100 degrees. That night it wasn’t too bad, though a bit on the miserable side — even though I tried taking a cold shower, the humidity it added made the house worse afterward. The next day, I tried a stop at Wal-Mart to root through the remnants of the flashlight aisle, and found a few. I found a couple tiny battery-powered fans, and one cooler left — but there wasn’t any ice to be found at any of the stores. I came back to get the puppacita from the increasingly sweltering apartment and hustled her over to the mall, where the guys at the AT&T store kindly agreed to charge some of my devices. We sat in the middle of the mall at a random outlet for an hour or two, enjoying the cool air as shoppers shared their outage experiences and came to visit with the puppacita. We stopped at a PetSmart to get single-serving pet food cans, or as close to it as we could, since any leftovers would spoil.
Poor Chi-Chi just wanted some sleep (and was probably cursing me for taking her away from 74-degree L.A. with its perfectly plush manicured grass). I’d easily smuggled her into the movies before, so now was as good a time as any. We went to see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and she slept in my arms the whole time. Outside temps were easing a bit as the sun went down, but it was oppressive in the house by the time we got back.
I was most worried about the chinchilla. These furry Andes mountain critters can die if exposed to temps over 80 degrees, and by now the thermostat said 89 degrees. She’s the reason I keep the house at 69 degrees and keep her in a room with a ceiling fan in case the A/C. was out. Chinderella has a granite slab on which to sit and cool herself off, but I knew that wouldn’t be enough. I moved her cage into the darkened bathroom, the coolest room, and watched her carefully for signs of overheating. I tried to get the pets hotel at the PetSmart to take her in her travel cage, but they would only take cats and dogs. So last resort — I went to the first aid aisle at Wal-Mart and bought boxes of those instant ice packs that you pop for the cooling effect. I kept putting those in her cage, where she was sitting on the granite slab. It’s a miracle she made it through — if she had shown any symptoms of overheating other than cozying up to cool things, like reddened ears or laying on her side, next stop would have been the emergency exotics vet. But she’s quite the resilient type — after I was freaked out by articles saying that chinchillas were too sensitive to travel and could die during a move, she turned out to be the best cross-country traveler out of the bunch in the move to D.C. four years ago.
The next night was awful. The puppacita was determined to take her favorite place on the bed, but even with the windows open she started panting again. I was continuously taking her to the sink to pour cool water over her. Finally, we settled onto the floor, as close to the window as possible, for an uncomfortable night of tossing and turning. Awoken by the sun the next morning, I was dejectedly staring up at the ceiling, planning to take Chi-Chi and my laptop back to the mall to get some work done in center court, when the bedroom light came on with a pop-and-fizzle and the ceiling fan turned on — the pet-sitter must have left them on. It was over, but not for all in the D.C. area. I threw out all of the food in the fridge and freezer, and started working on the laundry from my trip. Puppacita just wanted to take a long nap. Her allergies were insane by this point from not being able to cover her sensitive skin with anything, due to the heat, when I took her outside.
Nearly a week after the power came back, my rat Red passed away. I don’t attribute it to the heat, as he was old and handled the outage quite well. But I’m glad he waited until after I returned to go.