Last April, the rescue was thrown a curveball when Cindy had to step away on medical leave. We suspended surrender intakes for several months, canceled vacation boarding for the remainder of the year (resulting in a loss of much-needed funds), and continued caring for the sanctuary and remaining adoptable pigs.
Since then, all the emails coming into the rescue have been routed to my inbox. I field care questions every night after work, and field surrender requests. For the families who could continue housing their guinea pigs until new homes were found, I screened adoption applications and made many successful matches. I also fielded adoption inquiries that proved to be wholly unsuitable for pet stewardship in general, and guinea pig stewardship in particular. There's been a lot of emails, a lot of phone calls, a lot of paths crossing that would not have happened for me if I hadn't stepped in for Cindy.
Last fall, we reshuffled the board positions that had been in place since 2005. Cindy founded the rescue in April 2004. I joined her a year later. I remember well the challenges she faced when she started the rescue. I remember the newbie questions we got from people who visited our events and came for their adoption appointments. I remember the reasons we heard from the people who wanted to surrender their pigs to us. I remember how many potential adopters came to us wholly uninformed about the scope of responsibilities that come with pet stewardship. I remember what we saw, heard, learned, experienced, and struggled through in the beginning...as well as all the years since.
What has struck me and frustrated me over the last 9 months is how little has changed for pets in general, and guinea pigs in particular.
Last year I participated in a couple of online courses through the Humane Society University. I approached the courses through the lenses of The Guinea Pig Cause and The Exotics Cause, and my homework for those courses drove home the scope of effort required to improve things for guinea pigs, for their counterparts in the category of "small & furry exotics," and for all the other exotics who have feathers, scales, shells, webbed feet, and so on.
In October, I took an online course through the Institute for Humane Education, which proved to be even more intensely reflective than I'd already anticipated. Again approached through the lenses of The Guinea Pig Cause and The Exotics Cause, the coursework rocked me to my core.
I am frustrated by how little has changed for guinea pigs and the other exotics. More to the point, I am frustrated that there are still so many members of the human species who have not evolved into kindness, compassion, responsibility, and accountability.
And so 2014 will be a year of renewed focus and determination. All the care questions and all the lessons learned will be pulled from archived emails, adoption applications, screening phone calls, adoption appointments, exhibits and events -- and will find their way onto this blog and our main website. There are so many animals who need our help, and so many guinea pigs who have been helped in this rescue whose experiences and stories can't be forgotten.
I hope you'll stick with us in this new effort, and invite your friends to come visit us as well. The animals need as many champions in the human species as they can get -- and they need us more than ever.