- Little Jo Wheek
Yup, that's me in Oroville. I've lived here for more than 20 years (almost my entire life).
I have not accepted private surrenders for several years. I closed my doors to more pigs due to work and returning to school to pursue my BS and maybe more. I'm hoping to slowly reduce my numbers so that things will be more managable when I move next year. As it is, finding housing to rent with 3 dogs and 17 guinea pigs will be a challenge. The dogs probably more than the cavies, even though the dogs are trained seniors (all over 10 years old).
Teresa (if she has time) is very good with pdf stuff and forms. I'm sure she could knock it off in no time. Someone mainly has to hand copy the text.
I had a hard time reading some of the words from her pic/photo. Hope they are more or less correct.
This prints out okay for me:
- Little Jo Wheek
DMV should be DVM (the veterinarian who saw the animal--helpful for me since I see many referral vets)
Ectoparasitic should be Ectoparasite
It's been said that doing rescue is rewarding. Yes, there are many times when it is a rewarding experience. There is the interaction with the animals themselves, saving or bettering a life. That alone is awesome and powerful. There is the happy family after a successful adoption that you pray lasts over the long-haul. Yet even some of the homes that you think will be the BEST adoptees, can come back to you in 6 months. Even more rewarding to me is the education ripple effect. Every family that takes two pigs home to a 2x4 grid C&C cage becomes the model of cavy care and responsibility for their circle of family and friends. And when you hear about 2nd and 3rd-hand good stories as result of that first one, that's really great. An added bonus for me on the rewarding side is the education and awareness I'm able to dispense via my websites. It's good to get the positive feedback.
Of course, in dealing with the rewarding experiences, you get the other end of the spectrum as well. Just yesterday, got this post on the Your Thoughts page on my Cavy Spirit website:
Stupid is as stupid does. (I should post that as my public reply.)my opinion on this site is that its a sorry sorry site one of the worst ones i have ever been to and as for breeding pigs its no one else business what you do with them as long as they are cared for you ppl are complete morons and i have no respect for you at all as for peta "drink milk" Have a great day!!!!
But, more than rewarding, I've found the rescue experience to be life-altering. I've changed in complex ways as a result of doing rescue. Some of the changes are good, some maybe not so good. I'm not going to go into those details, but when you have the rose-colored glasses that most of us wear regarding some issues about animals and related things stripped away, and you must face and deal with these issues on a regular basis, it is mentally and emotionally painful. I suppose I've hit more crap than the average rescue person because I've taken on so much in trying to change things with the websites and the legislation and the pet stores and the shelters, etc. But to me, it's a natural thing to want to do, because it doesn't take long doing rescue to realize that you are fighting a tide that can't be stopped. So to be truly effective, one must attack the source.
I'm in my 5th year of rescue. It has bankrupted me financially. The only way I might have survived would have been if the economy had continued on it's breakneck growth pace. Then I might have been able to keep up with the burden of the expenses. I'm in the middle of financially regrouping. I hope I survive with my house. I may not. I don't know yet.
I haven't taken in any new surrenders in months. And I don't intend to until I get virtually all my currently adoptable guinea pigs adopted out. Then I will have a few cages in one room for adoptables and that will be it. I no longer take in private surrenders at all. I will only take guinea pigs from the shelters. I'm going to be making some website changes to facilitate the exposure of guinea pigs at the shelters and encourage direct adoptions from the shelters.
So, bottom line, my advice on taking it to the next level: think long and hard about how much time, money, physical energy and emotional energy you have to commit. Because the numbers will creep up on you. A pregnancy here, a pregnancy there, a slow adoption time for a few months, a few more surrenders and before you know it, you've got 40-50+ pigs on average. It costs me hundreds of dollars a week on bedding and food and thousands a year on vet bills. Not to mention the many other rescue-related expenses I have.
The guinea pigs will be better served if you focus on quality rather than quantity. But to me, that means jumping in strong or stronger on the education and awareness side of the house. LEVERAGE what you are doing for MORE animals. That is the BEST advice I can give you.
And of course, I'll add J's document to the downloadable documents on the rescue site.
It is difficult to read how hard this has all been on you, Teresa. You've bitten off alot and done many positive and admirable things.
Rescue work can be really tough. Maybe some of us who choose not to rescue, can turn to education.
- * Average length of stay at a rescue: 6 months. A few will be with you forever. A few might get adopted out immediately after quarantine.
* 20 is a SIGNIFICANT INCREASE in all aspects of rescue over 12. And you can go from 12 to 20 in a heartbeat by taking in a pair with a pregnant female.
* Rescue of more than just a few guinea pigs is a 2-person job (assuming you don't do only this full-time because you are either being supported by someone else or are independently wealthy).
* Don't count on volunteers. That said, I count my blessings every day for Leah (Leebee) and Jackie (Pigpal), my stalwarts rain or shine. Without them, don't know what I'd do, especially now that I'm back to being one person running my rescue.
* Prioritize your acceptance of surrenders. I agree with Josephine about staying at or less than 20. Depending on the homeless situation in your geographic area, lesson learned: DON'T ACCEPT PRIVATE SURRENDERS. You will fill up immediately with guinea pigs from bored kids from impulse buys. Stick to taking pigs off of death row at the shelters--even if that means extending your reach to other shelters in other areas. And for pete's sake, don't get sucked into so-called pet store rescues, like some people do.
* Help the people looking for an easy way out to 'get rid of' their guinea pigs to find a home on their own. Use the cavy classifieds. It's designed FOR RESCUERS to create a listing on the fly while you are on the phone with the standard dump call: "the guinea pigs deserve to get more attention..." blah, blah, blah. Then PROMOTE the cavy classifieds.
* MARKETING! If you aren't able to spend a VERY SIGNIFICANT amount of time promoting adoptions and education because you are too busy taking care of your guinea pigs, you have too many guinea pigs. Also, opening your home to doing adoptions on the weekend (most typical) is very time-consuming. Most of the time, my Saturdays are spent doing screenings, adoptions and education. Sometimes, Sundays too. Cages have to get cleaned on the weekend, too (usually and hopefully with the help of a volunteer or two).
It's so easy to get in over your head. Right now, I've got so many sick ones, and not enough room. I don't have time for cuddling. I don't have room for floor time. I can't make it to adoption days. I don't get to talk to the public. So that's the difference between helping 25 guinea pigs and 100.
Teresa is so right about marketing. Advertise on the Cavy Classifieds--one ad for EVERY pig, with pictures. Same thing with PetFinder and GPAN. USe the Recycler--online and print form--for a running ad. Contact your local newspaper to see what free advertising you can get (Once a month, the Orange County Register gives their "Pet of The Week" spot to The Bunny Bunch). Make flyers with a picture of your cutest pig and take them to your local feed store, vet, shelter, and pet store. Put up a website and submit it to search engines.
This way, at least if you get in a situation like mine, your information is still out there.
- I GAVE, dammit!
But I think that your perspective might be a little cynical. Please don't take offense at that - I just think that your position is so far beyond someone like me who ONLY has 20 pigs, and is just getting started that it's hard to consider things in the same light.
For example, I could never do what you do. I don't have the wherewithal or knowledge to go out and actually try to change laws regarding animal rights, or petstore abuse. My "front" is here at home - trying to get the local guinea pigs I can find out of terrible situations: Owner or pet store abuse, or the sick, injured and neglected ones. Adopting ONLY from shelters completely discounts all the pigs out there that are living in terrible conditions, too. I admit dying is pretty bad, but what about the pigs that are living day-to-day, miserable and half-mad with fright or pain? That seems just as important to me.
Any owner-surrenders that come in have to pay me for the privelege (I thank your website for its informative page regarding owner-surrender). I also work very hard with owners who wish to surrender their animals and require that they 1) take the pig to a vet to make sure there's no underlying medical problem causing the pig to act-out, 2) build a bigger cage or increase the amount of floor time, and 3) PROMISE to work on socializing their pet EVERY DAY for a minimum of 30 minutes. If the owner comes back to me after a month of this and STILL has a problem with their pig, then they can pay me $75 and I'll take it. So far, I've managed to 'reform' three local area pig caretakers. If the owner doesn't want to go through with this arrangement, the up-front surrender fee is $150 and they have to endure a LOT of chastising.
I am not independently wealthy by any stretch of the imagination. I am lucky to have a good job that pays me far beyond what I need to live on as a weekly amount. I realize that not everyone is so lucky, and am crossing my fingers that the situation continues. While I don't think I could ever grow my little rinky-dink operation here to the size of what you have done, I still think that the work I do is every bit as important. Every life that we improve and/or save is just as important as those animals lives that YOU help out by changing laws and trying to improve the conditions inside pet stores. It might be putting a Band-Aid on the huge overlying problem, but if ENOUGH people whipped out a Band-Aid and pitched in, the cumulative effect could be tremendous. All of us 20-pig people are there put together do count for something, even if it's a drop in the bucket.
Don't get me wrong, I am not in any way trying to insult you or demean what you're doing - Quite the opposite. It just occurs to me that after everything you've seen you might be just a tad cynical. I can't turn away an owner-surrender any more than I could turn away a shelter pig. I know that I'm biting off a big mouthful here, but with any luck and the support of people like you and other rescuers, as well as the support of people who just like animals in general, it's possible to do this and do it well. I have absolutely no idea how to do things on the scale that you do, and it makes me sad to see you obviously so downtrodden about the efforts you've made. You have made a world of difference in the animal-rescue arena and I would never think that it was all for nothing. I applaud you and everyone that works with you and would like you to know that anything you ever need... If I could help in any way, just ask.
Atlanta Guinea Pig Rescue
So I'll take that critique as my own and say, I think it's wonderful what you're doing. Obviously, you are making a difference far beyond what a mere "collector" would be doing. Your education efforts are commendable.
I don't think Teresa, or I, or any rescuer for that matter, would object to you rescuing pigs from private homes if there is neglect and/or cruelty involved. I think what she meant is that it is better to save pigs from death in the shelter than to relieve bored children of last year's Christmas present just because they don't want it anymore.
I don't take private rescues either. That is because there are so many shelter pigs that need me that these are the first priority. And if you visit a lot of shelters, you will find that the conditions therein are far worse than in an indifferent home where the guinea pig at least has adequate care. Sometimes I go down to the shelters and find animals half-dead already.
And I have to also interject on the cynicism issue, although I'm sure Teresa doesn't want (or need) me to defend her. What I'm going to defend instead is the idea of cynicism, at least its place in animal-rights endeavors.
You need cynicism to battle the gross indifference, neglect, and crassness out there in the pet industry. You need cynicism when pet store managers are feeding you a line of B.S. about how they always hand out care sheets, and how their animals are all inspected by a veterinarian. You need cynicism when a potential adopter tells you that their new guinea pig will be all right in their child's bedroom. Cynicism is what happens when experience opens your eyes. You can't pelt your enemies with rose petals and expect to knock them down.
Para, honestly, I respect your endeavor and wish you all the best and am certainly here to help you. But please stop for a minute and seriously consider what other rescuers are trying to tell you. It is easy for things to get out of hand, and you can lose everything--so it's a big risk. We're just trying to make sure that you are prepared.
- Get on your bike.
I also created the cavy rescue site. If you take a look at the Closed Rescues page ( http://www.cavyrescue.com/rescuesclosed.htm ), you'll find a dozen good rescues that have closed their doors (and I have at least one more to add to the list). All for the same reason: Rescuer burnout--money, energy, time, emotion. All of them. Personally, I think the 5-year mark is the make or break timeframe. It remains to be seen on whether or not I'll survive my 5-year anniversary in rescue.
That's how I started out, not that long ago. We all start somewhere.I just think that your position is so far beyond someone like me who ONLY has 20 pigs, and is just getting started that it's hard to consider things in the same light.
I sure as heck didn't know what I was doing. I just got extremely fed up with the situation and decided my energy would better invested in trying to make that change. I felt I would help myself and others more in the long run by doing that rather than not doing that. If you had told me a few years ago I'd be testifying at State Senate subcommittees and lobbying State Senators and Assembly Reps, I would have said you are nuts.For example, I could never do what you do. I don't have the wherewithal or knowledge to go out and actually try to change laws regarding animal rights, or petstore abuse.
Getting owner-surrenders to pay is good when you can get it, but there will be far more hard-luck and heart-wrenching situations where they won't be able to pay. I can absolutely guarantee that. So do you say no them? Probably not. I'm not telling you what to do. I'm just saying that based on 5 years of experience, like the other large rescues that I know who have been doing rescue that long, most don't take owner surrenders. I thought that was pretty harsh. Now I don't. Now I understand why. But it's taken me 5 years to finally figure it out.
What about when you are absolutely full? What do you do about the phone call from the shelter. The one where they are going to put down the guinea pig. That after you've just taken in an owner-surrender. Those are the tough times. Facing that dilemma is where part of the cynism comes from.I can't turn away an owner-surrender any more than I could turn away a shelter pig.
Goodness, I'm not trying to discourage you at all. Of course you count for more than something. I love anyone who rescues animals. I have a rock-solid appreciation of what it takes. I'm just happy to have a chance to talk about some tough rescue issues in the hopes of keeping anyone off the closed list in 5 years.All of us 20-pig people are there put together do count for something, even if it's a drop in the bucket.
Also, I don't really consider myself downtrodden, just broke and burned out. And I'm not quitting, just downsizing and regrouping so I can keep going . . .
- I GAVE, dammit!
I guess what is bothering me the most is that someone I really respect (Teresa) seems very out-of-sorts lately. I've spent a large part of the day today wondering how I could help her save her house. I don't know, I suppose my long post was a misguided attempt to try and make her see that it isn't all not worth it. I don't think I can do that, though.
I *do* understand what you guys are telling me. I am personally scared to death about all of this. We've spent the last several hours rearranging our rescue room, installing shelves, making more room, and we're getting ready to make 3 C&C cages for these 7 new pigs, two of which (at least) are already pregnant.
Believe me - I am scared to death. I want to do this right. I'm not trying to argue with ANYONE here, certainly not the people I respect the most. I'm just really bothered by some of the comments people have made (sorry if I seemed to pick on you, Teresa - I was reacting to this entire thread). Is that what I have to look forward to? Bankruptcy and burnout? Because I think I'm like a lot of the people here, a lot of the stories I've heard. I'm going to try and try and try and then end up with too many animals - Despite what people say, and despite all the efforts I can make. Because there's ALWAYS going to be "just one more." Whether it's a shelter pig or a surrender pig, there's always going to be that ONE more that you think, "Ah, I can handle it.. It's just ONE pig, right?" I can already see the hole I'm digging for myself.
The only thing I can do is try to remain positive about it all. I know that Teresa seems to be facing several serious issues right now, and it's breaking my heart. Teresa, if I could send you a big fat check and it would ease your mind and solve your problems, just say the word. It'll be in the mail. Actually, I think ALL of us should send you a big fat check. You've done more than anyone else I know in this arena and you don't deserve to lose your house because of your very kindness. Whoever's reading this thread, SEND CAVYSPIRIT SOME MONEY, DARNIT.
I guess you guys can all point and laugh at me in six months when I'm up to my ears in pigs and full of despair, and say "I told you so." And I'll know you're right. But I am trying SO HARD to do this, and to do this the right way.. And I'm worried. I'm worried for all of you, and I'm worried for myself. I *am* taking your advice into consideration, and I don't really disagree specifically with any of the things you say.. I just get disheartened by the spirit.
Forgive my impulsive reaction, and I'm sorry if I offended anyone. I don't want to be on the closed list in 5 years. I don't want to go bankrupt, either. I hear what all of you are saying and I will seriously take it to heart.
When I said I wanted to rehome Rachel, the cat person got very antsy since she wanted Rachel to live free range. She offered the same deal we had had with Zag, which removed the primary obstacle to adding another pig - vet bills.
Beaches had to wait for 6 or 9 months before she came to live with us. A friend with a neighbour who had a pig wanted the pig to have company after her buddy died but wasn't willing to adopt another pig since the kids had left home. Through attrition, a space for Beaches became available and she moved in.
Ferdinand was a definite exception. He won me over before he could be sent away, because it took 2 months to get him healthy enough for neutering. By then he belonged here. Other exceptions would be pigs who aren't socialized or suffered mental trauma. Our home is ideal for them since they can be with a herd in as natural a situation as possible and the humans will leave them the hell alone except for health checks.
Vet bills are daunting. Especially when you have more seniors than young ones. I don't get any deals from my vet since I'm not a rescue but she does trust me with a supply of antibiotics which saves a lot on vet visits. Dental vet bills are high since we use a specialist. But in the long run it's cheaper paying for experience first rather than paying for cheaper and calling in experience later. It was desperation at the thought of facing an additional $90 a month in dental bills with Willie that prompted me to invent the Chin-Sling.
Placing isn't that easy. I always know people who want to unload their pigs but only once had a call from someone looking for a pig. Wouldn't make a difference for us anyway, once they are here for more than 2 weeks they are permanent. Which means we have to be realistic as to how many pigs we can afford to be responsible for.
Para - the best advice I can give you is to develop a hard heart early so you can be there for the long haul. Set priorities as to which pigs get saved and which pigs don't. It's harsh but the simple truth is you can't save them all. Recognize a large proportion of the rescue pigs will be permanent and set limits so you can manage them and your life. If your life starts taking a back seat, burnout will happen sooner rather than later.
I get the feeling it's in your nature to throw yourself into projects wholeheartedly but for your own sake and the sake of the pigs it's best to go slow and set limits early so you'll be left standing when the dust settles.
And anyone who helps support Cavy Spirit is also supporting this forum, since Teresa is providing the web space.
- Get on your bike.
- I GAVE, dammit!
People like Teresa and the other rescuers here (myself not included at the moment - I'm doing ok financially right now) DO need the money.
I think ANY amount, no matter how small, would mean a great deal if enough people thought about it for a moment and chipped in.
Send your donations to Teresa, pig supporters!! I know a lot of you people out there, and I know none of us is rich, but surely you can cough up a little for a worthy cause? My check is going out Monday. I too am willing to send something every month. Thanks, Holly!! And thanks to anyone else who sees this and realizes that they can help.
In this case, for me, just taking in some pigs here and there just isn't enough. I can do more.