My favorite "you know you are a cavy slave when" story is when I was sitting at my desk eating some M&M´s that I had put into my jean shirt pocket (I was hiding the fact that I was eating them from Robert!). I popped one in my mouth and thought, yuk, this tastes like a pill or something (that´s what it felt like with my tongue). I took it out of my mouth, and YOU GUESSED IT! It was a piggie poop! eeeeyuk. But, with the number of little piggie treasures undoubtedly buried all over our house, it actually didn´t seem like a big deal.
Do we do this full-time?
Goodness, no. I wish it were possible. We both work very full time and spend the rest of our time on the rescue. Gone are the days of actually having a life! I work in technology and Robert sells cars at a Lexus dealership. We need to have full time jobs to support the rescue. We get a few donations from some wonderful people, but the vast majority of the expenses are paid directly by us.
How did we get started?
We didn´t start out as breeders or cavy fanciers or anything special. We are just both saps who fell in love with cavies. Actually, it´s Robert´s fault. He had a guinea pig when I met him. We were both in ´start over´ phases of our lives. Someone needed to find a home for a piggie and he took her in 1996. He had Babe in his bachelor pad and she lived on a diet of carrots and pellets. She was getting neglected as our dating got more involved, so she moved in before he did! I continued her diet, but she seemed kind of ´mopey,´ so I went to the pet store and bought a book. That´s how I learned a little bit more and discovered that they are social animals.
So, I decided she needed a pal. Not knowing any better, I checked the yellow pages and called all the pet stores looking for guinea pigs. We looked at some. Robert fell in love with one while I was away on a business trip. This guinea pig was in the back room and was pregnant. She looked a lot like Rodney in Dr. Doolittle. She actually wheeked when the store owner opened the refrigerator door and rattled a plastic bag with lettuce. Well, poor Babe had never wheeked a day in her life, so Robert thought, this was really great! Of course, the store owner didn´t want to sell his "breeder." But once I got back from my trip and took a look, I was determined. He sold her and said we could bring back any babies we didn´t want (if only I knew then what I know now!).
She sure was pregnant! She later delivered five healthy pups. We were torn, but decided to keep two--that would give us a total of four guinea pigs. We thought we were keeping two girls. We regretfully and stupidly took the three young males to the pet store to be sold. The runt of the litter, Rose, turned out to be a Ralphy. Well, I knew I needed to take him in to get neutered. The book I read said 6-8 weeks for sexual maturity. And I let it slide a couple of more weeks, being very stupid. Well, Ralphy managed to get his sister pregnant and his mother pregnant again.
Now I needed to start doing some serious research. I hit the internet with a vengeance. Found all kinds of things, including a lot of heartbreaking stories. I finally realized I should have gone to the shelter in the first place. I thought, well, I´m going to go check out our local shelter, just for the heck of it.
Got there and discovered quite a few cavies needing homes. There was one in particular that I liked, a black crested female American who had been there a couple of months already. I thought and thought about it. Then I thought, "What the heck am I doing here? I´ve got four guinea pigs at home, and two are pregnant!" So, I went to leave the small animal adoption room, and as I had my hand on the door knob, the female, who hadn´t said much of anything while I was next to her, wheeked very loudly. I swear she was saying, "Come back, come back!" and begging me to take her home. That was it! I said to her, "You are coming home with me!"
So now I have 5 guinea pigs, was getting one neutered, and two are pregnant! The two delivered within 24 hours of each other. The births are another story altogether. The sister (Little Lucy) delivered 4 healthy babies just fine. The next night (I was traveling home from Chicago), Big Lucy (her mother) had delivered 4 healthy pups but was still in labor with the fifth. She required emergency vet care at 1am to manually extract the last and overly large baby. You could hear her screams outdoors in the parking lot when they got that baby out. She has never been a friendly pig to this day. All my fault, of course, for being a stupid, irresponsible pet owner.
Anyway, now we are up to 13 guinea pigs! Our cage experimentations and concoctions are growing and evolving. Some time goes by with more involvement with cavies and pet stores and the internet. Now I start to think about maybe doing rescue. I clearly remember thinking, "What´s one or two more?" So, we did a little more homework and decided to do it. I gave the Peninsula Humane Society our name. The entire Bay Area had Sharlene listed as the only rescue. No wonder she has so many.
The first call we got from PHS (Peninsula Humane Society) said they had 8 pigs in pretty bad shape. They were "unadoptable" and would likely be put down. They were found abandoned in a box in a Safeway parking lot. When we went to look at them, it was a truly pathetic site. In fact, there were 10 and one was pregnant. They all had mites. One female abby we named Chalupa because she looked like the Taco Bell dog. No hair anywhere except her head. So we went from 13 to 23 overnight. Shortly thereafter, the pregnant sow delivered 5 healthy pups. So the count went up to 28! In fact, the mother was later paired up with Big Ralphy (our original boar). She was the last pig of that original group to be adopted out. She was a sweetie. She was with us for over a year and half!
We still have Big Lucy, Little Lucy, and Little Ralphy (look-a-like son of Big Ralphy). While we consider Buddy and Tina (for Tina Turner!) to be our permanent residents (we will never allow them to be voted off the island), we also have a number of other piggies that will probably be with us for their entire lives.
Mistakes along the way
We´ve made our share of mistakes along the way. We always try to learn from them. We try as much as possible to help educate others about important issues as well as the finer points of care and responsibilities of owning guinea pigs. Hopefully, others will learn from our mistakes and won´t need to repeat them.
Some days are hard
Some nights you can´t sleep for worry of a pig or a situation that you have no control over. Some days you feel like you aren´t even making a dent in anything, that what you are doing is useless. Some days I hate that these animals are in cages at all, despite my efforts to get all piggies in bigger cages. Some days I wonder if I´m sacrificing our future for the here and now of these piggies.
Some days are wondrous
Some days, everything clicks with you and your piggies and they provide such joy and fulfillment. Clean cages, lots of green hay, fresh yummy vegetables, cool crisp water bottles, piggies running and popping everywhere. It doesn´t get much better than that! Seeing a piggie going to a new home that you know is totally wonderful is also a happy relief. Getting positive feedback on the work you do helps keep the sad days and sad times to a minimum.
Ain´t it the truth? Teresa´s always ready to put her money (or her credit card) where her mouth is!