Acts of Impact

How 'Austin Guinea Pig Rescue' Has Saved Over 1300 Guinea Pigs, Chinchillas, Hamsters, and More!

March 20, 2022 Nicholas Hill Season 1 Episode 6
Acts of Impact
How 'Austin Guinea Pig Rescue' Has Saved Over 1300 Guinea Pigs, Chinchillas, Hamsters, and More!
Show Notes Transcript

Today we interview Kim Meyer and Lucia Summers about Austin Guinea Pig Rescue and their successful efforts to save, care for, and rehome over 1300 animals to date. We’ll talk about things you may not know about guinea pigs, as well as a few important things to consider before getting one as a pet, and some of the interesting stories Kim and Lucia have encountered along the way.

To support Austin Guinea Pig Rescue and discover more ways to help, visit:

To learn more about the show, view transcripts, and more visit:

Special thanks to Kim, Lucia and the AGPR team. Music by Alex Grohls.

Unknown Speaker  0:00  
You're listening to acts of impact the show where we focus on positive contribution to the individuals and communities around us. In each episode, we'll hear from both the helpers and the helped and learn new ways to face the challenges around us. On today's show, we interview with Austin guinea pig rescue about their successful efforts to save care for and rehome over 1300 animals to date. We'll talk about things you may not know about guinea pigs. A few important things to consider before getting one as a pet. And some of the interesting stories Kim and Lucia have encountered along the way. Today's guests are guinea big deals, let us get started.

Unknown Speaker  0:57  
Hello, and welcome to acts of impact. I'm your host, Nicholas Hill. And we're here with today's guests, Kim Meyer and Lucia Summers, who both sit on the board of directors for Austin guinea pig rescue, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to rehome and guinea pigs chinchillas hamsters, gerbils, mice and hedgehogs in the Austin Texas area. Kim Lucia. Thank you both for joining us.

Unknown Speaker  1:25  
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for having us.

Unknown Speaker  1:29  
Absolutely. So can we see it? You know, the first thing I think I want to talk about today. And really the first thing I noticed when I met the two of you, is really just how passionate the both of you are and how much you really love these animals. I'd love to hear how did you both become involved in Austin guinea pig rescue, and can maybe I'll start with you.

Unknown Speaker  1:52  
Okay, yeah, there was previously a rescue for guinea pigs in the Austin area. And the person who was running it became very ill and had to quit working with guinea pigs. So I took it over that was in 2005. And then I previously also worked with the rabbit rescue. So rabbits, guinea pigs, they eat the same day. They take the same medicines, they see the same exotic that they're just louder than rabbits.

Unknown Speaker  2:27  
So back in 2005, previously working with rabbits, and were you kind of running the organization yourself at that time?

Unknown Speaker  2:36  
Yeah, in 2005. I was the founder and the only member and I did everything by myself. I rescued them from the animal shelters, I took them to the vets. I took care of them if they were ill or needed surgery. I coordinated all the adoptions. So I was doing everything in addition to my full time job.

Unknown Speaker  2:59  
Well, that just sounds super easy. Yes. No, no trouble.

Unknown Speaker  3:04  
Yeah. And I'm a bit I'm a bit newer to this. So I kind of joined came I moved to I'm originally from Spain, I was in England for for 16 years. And in 2012, I moved to the US. And I've done some bits and pieces, helping with different rescue operations and so on. But when I moved here from England, I was looking for a rescue organization will adopt a guinea pig from this I had one that I was going to bring with me. But fortunately, she passed just a few months before the move. So I thought okay, well, I'll just wait. And I adopt one. And I did as soon as I got here. But then I I kept in touch with Kim and I wanted to be involved and maybe helped, you know, just help a bit with with the work that she was doing. Because I was I just thought she was just trying to do all this by herself. So I was just trying to see if I could help her a little bit. And he was later on. I thought well, maybe we can try to apply to become a nonprofit 501 C three, right. So that's when we kind of became more organized and applied to get that status and that was in 2013 But yeah, I have also a full time job. And Kelsey who is the other board member also has a full time job but all totally unrelated Kelsey is a nurse practitioner I'm in academia chemists in it so we we all try to do is in a spare time you know we don't have a facility so I think that's something that you know that maybe people don't don't realize about the organization about Austin give up rescue.

Unknown Speaker  4:54  
Yeah, it almost seems as though you've you three have just been kind of united by This passion, you've got different jobs? How is it that you come to care for these animals? So I kind of want to know, on the one side, how do you find, you know, how do the animals come to Austin guinea pig rescue? And then also on the other side? How do people find you who want to adopt these animals? And just kind of everything in between, you know, what are what are some of the ways that that your team operates?

Unknown Speaker  5:26  
We're contacted by local shelters all the way from clean down to pretty much San Marcus. And they will contact us and say, Hey, we have this guinea pig are these guinea pigs? Can you take them from us, because most of the shelters are not set up to take care of guinea pigs. So we don't do owner surrenders. If we did owner surrenders, we would need to have a huge building to do that. We will take back from our adopters. And in fact, we have two pairs right now that were adoption returns. And those are for various reasons. The one the person's husband is very allergic another the kids just lost interest.

Unknown Speaker  6:08  
And why is it that the shelters are not set up to just kind of take take the guinea pigs in? Why? Why are they kind of partnering with your organization,

Unknown Speaker  6:19  
um, most shelters are set up just for dogs and cats. And there's such an overwhelming need for places for dogs and cats, that they just don't really have the space for the guinea pigs or the other exotic animals. So they rely on rescue organizations such as ours, to take those in and foster them and find them new homes.

Unknown Speaker  6:40  
And he's just, you know, because it's a scheme size, the vast majority of them is what most people have, is either a dog or a or a cat. So that's what they're dealing with most of the time. So that's what they know, as well. And even the vets as well. That's what they're familiar with. And so So there might not be as able in a way to to look after these these animals, you know, always sold, you know, sometimes they they're not even able to the vets even to tell what sex the beginning papers, because they have the sexual ordered organs they hidden, so you have to know how to how to do it. And it's happened before that we've been in this at all, we've got this, this female guinea pig and the bear has seen them and yeah, the female definitely will. Okay. And, and there was that case, he was seeing this one of the local shelters and, and he was so cute because and I felt there, you know, the workers, they're there. They're so wonderful. And you know, they're not used to dealing with the animals, but they want to, to make it so nice for them. So that even decorated the whole cage, it was all nice or princess theme. And it's like we named a princess Kelly. And she's so cute. And they are all this stuff. And they put their name on the side of the cage. And, and also god, she's really big. And I just picked her up. And I was like, Oh, well, you see these things. And Francis college is not really a boy to rename. And, I mean, it's just, you know, you can't fault them, because they're not, they're very different types of animals. And and this is why we always insist, when when you're adopting a guinea pig, or another type of small animal, we always say to our doctors, you need to find out that that specializes in exotic animals, because they're very different. And they require very different type of care.

Unknown Speaker  8:44  
Yeah, so So it sounds like it's not so much that they don't want to help. It's more that they're just not as equipped. They're used to cats and dogs, whereas your organization has a bit more expertise and in working with guinea pigs and other animals of that type. And you also mentioned the vet and making sure that you're going to a vet that understands how to work with guinea pigs. How then do you take care of the animals while they're waiting on a home? Do you do each of you just have 60 guinea pigs in your houses or

Unknown Speaker  9:21  
we used to have more than 60 guinea pigs in my house, but now we have gone to foster based so that we have a network of fosters, who will take care of the guinea pigs socialize the ones that need socialization. We try not to take in any that have severe health issues because most of our fosters are not set up to deal with that. Then we socialize them and then we get them ready to be adopted.

Unknown Speaker  9:51  
Gotcha. Okay, so you have thought you have a foster network that helps you to take care of them. How do those that are wanting to adopt guinea pig or rescue a guinea pig? How do they find you?

Unknown Speaker  10:03  
Um, primarily, they find us on We have our guinea pigs posted up there. We also get word of mouth from previous adopters. Also, occasionally our vets will recommend it say if somebody lost a guinea pig, and they're looking for a new friend for their remaining guinea pig.

Unknown Speaker  10:22  
Gotcha. And then I know that you know what, not not so much anymore with the the COVID 19 pandemic, but I know that previous to that, I would see adoption booths in stores, like a like a Petco or PetSmart. Has, does your team do adoption days? Or have you found that to be useful?

Unknown Speaker  10:44  
Um, we used to do that what we found with that was kids would come up and want to pet the guinea pig and the adults wouldn't come up and actually ask questions. So it really wasn't useful for us as a method of advertising, especially if say, the pet store, we were at actually sold the guinea pigs and forgot to tell us about that.

Unknown Speaker  11:06  
Oh. So now Yeah, it's like, well, my competition is in the lobby right now.

Unknown Speaker  11:12  
Sometimes we'll sometimes we'll do like information events, or we'll go without the animals, because it's that kind of stressful for them as well. So we'll just hand out information. And we'll have a board with pictures of all our adoptable guinea pigs and managers handout information just to spread the word because sometimes I think people don't realize that it is possible to adopt a guinea pig, you know, like the, I think pet stores have gone, they've gotten better about not selling, and dogs and cats and so on. And there's this culture about you, you know, you adopt a cat or a dog, but I don't think people really realize that you can adopt a guinea pig or, you know, a hamster, and so on. And we'll make an effort to try to do that to spread the word that there is an awesome guinea pig rescue and put out, you know, little posters or flyers in local community boards, or coffee shops, that type of thing.

Unknown Speaker  12:08  
You know, that's actually a really good point. And the the three of us haven't talked about that yet is that I think there is a lack of awareness about that. Because when I think about, especially here in Austin, where we are, there's definitely a culture of well, you need to get a rescue you need to adopt when it comes to cats and dogs. And I haven't really heard of that with other types of animals, you mentioned that you sometimes do these information sessions. And that leads really well into my next question, which is, if I'm considering a pet, for my home for myself, for my family, what are some of the great things about adopting and owning a guinea pig that I should consider, and on the other side of that, what are some of the things that I might, you know, need to be prepared for,

Unknown Speaker  12:54  
if you're going to get guinea pigs, we tell, especially people with younger children, they love to watch TV with you, they love to do their homework with you, then we tell the parents, you can't depend on the kids to do all of the daily care of them, you need to be prepared for the vet bills, you need to be prepared for the amount of food they will eat that sort of thing. And they you can't put them in a pet store cage, they're way too small. For an adult guinea pig or especially two guinea pigs, we suggest they can build a CNC cage which you can find pictures of it guinea pig cages calm or maybe if they're going to buy a cage locally, they could buy a rabbit cage, which tends to be larger

Unknown Speaker  13:39  
than need space to to move around. So those cages that you see in the in the in the stores that just way too small for them, sometimes you get these starter kits for a guinea pig, and it's just way too small for them. Like if you imagine, you know, just kind of imagine yourself to scale and you're living in a place like by just believing in, in a room in a bedroom. Right. And, you know, for their health is going to promote their health further down the line to be able to move around a little bit. And you know, we've kind of ties on to what Kim was saying the biggest expense you're going to have is going to be affair because at some point even if it's just the annual checkups, but at some point, you know they might get sick and if they get sick, it can get expensive. And there's this thing that we always say I kind of remember came with this is from that phrase about if you can afford the vet you can't afford the pet.

Unknown Speaker  14:38  
Um, I think it was a campaign by some rescue several years ago, and they had T shirts and posters and signs made up of that. But it's true it especially with exotic animals they can get to be very expensive,

Unknown Speaker  14:52  
you know, and, and, and yeah, and those cages if they're really big they store with a plastic base and so on, they can get expensive too. But, you know, you can build one. But yeah, you need to, you need to give them this space that they need. Because otherwise it's going to loop down, you know, it's going to lead to some health issues in the past, and it's just not nice for them. And usually, the other thing I will say is that guinea pigs, they're very social animals. So we always advise, get to get a list too, that really reinforces that because, you know, if you're going to have two guinea pigs, you need to have enough room for two guinea pigs, right for too little igloos for them to have their own space, and to be able to move around, and so on. And that's the other advantage with the rescue, like, if you have a guinea pig, already, a rescue will take the time to find a good match for your guinea pig, you know, we will do the pairing to make sure that they're going to get on because guinea pigs are just like, normal people, you know, you some of them get on and some of them don't get on, like us. So you know, if all of a sudden, then you, you know, you're presented with someone and this person is going to live with you like, oh, hang on a minute, you know, it might be a good match, it might not be so you know, sometimes people do that they have one and then they get another from the from the pet store. And you know, sometimes they have to be separated in the end their social on the better in curse, which means you need to give them the space, base good to see them together. It's really nice to see them interacting with each other, and they'll interact with you. But they are prey animals. So they are going to hide. So you want to give them highly spaces for them to feel safe and comfortable. They will interact with you, but you need to allow them the space and allow them that time to build that relationship with you. And I think that's something as well that people need to be reminded about that that's something that you need to work on.

Unknown Speaker  17:11  
I would imagine if you have children in the house as well, that might be a little bit too, like up front with a with a new guinea pig. Like, I'm going to write it right up in your face that that can make a guinea pig feel a little timid.

Unknown Speaker  17:26  
Yeah. So you have to be gentle with them. And some and you know, we kind of tried to match them as well, you know, we look at the applications for adoption. And then we were like, okay, these guinea pig is going to work with this family. But they saw the one might not work as well, you know, some of the guinea pigs are more confident and some of them you know, so they're the they're all have different, different personalities. But the other thing that the reason I really like guinea pigs as compared to other small animals, like, you know, hamsters or chinchillas is that they are not nocturnal. So if you have a hamster, usually they're going to be asleep for most of the day, and then at night, like having, you know, just going at that oil and but then during the day, you want to hang out with them and play with them, but they're asleep and then you wake them up and they get really annoyed and, and guinea pigs, guinea pig just go along with if there's activity than almost nothing, you know, and they kind of join in. So I think the wonderful thing the there's such beautiful animals and

Unknown Speaker  18:35  
yeah, I seem to remember growing up, we had a class pet that was a hamster, they wouldn't want to play during the day, but at three in the morning, you'd hear their little wheel. And you just hear that over and over and over again. And so hearing that guinea pigs are not nocturnal, um, could potentially make them a better fit for someone that wants to play with their animal during the day. So

Unknown Speaker  19:01  
yeah, hamsters, gerbils, hedgehogs chinchillas. They're all nocturnal animals. If you get we have to tell adopters, if you're getting this animal realize they are not going to be awake during the day. They are going to be awake all night. They may keep you up. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker  19:19  
I wouldn't want a hamster in my bedroom. I'll tell you that. Lovely. No.

Unknown Speaker  19:27  
Yeah. Because some people do keep the head the hamsters in the children's bedroom, and then the children complain that they're being woken up all night.

Unknown Speaker  19:35  
Well, I think these are some really good points. So to kind of summarize some of the things that we've said, you want to look for a larger cage than what's being offered in most of the stores, right, you said a normal guinea pig cage, not really large enough. A few things that you noted. Lucia, they're naturally prey animals. So they can be a little shy, you know, might take a little bit of warming up, and they're very social animals. So if you Who can get to, they want to socialize with each other. And the benefit of a rescue is that your team has kind of done some matchmaking for them to figure out who might be who's getting along already.

Unknown Speaker  20:13  
And also, if you have one already, you can come and find the match for your own guinea pig, but you already have.

Unknown Speaker  20:21  
And then my favorite I, you know, I really like the phrase, if you can't afford the vet, you can't afford the pet, I think that really should apply to all animal lovers. And, you know, for any pet that you're thinking of bringing into your home. I'd love to talk a little bit, Kim and Lucia about some of the success that you've had, you know, both at a high level and then maybe also just some some personal success stories. Can you tell me how many, you know just kind of roughly how many animals you've honed? And then also, is there a moment or story in your careers with Austin guinea pig rescue, that you might be able to share with us?

Unknown Speaker  21:01  
Um, we have rescued? And this is a current number since 2005 13 109 animals from local shelters.

Unknown Speaker  21:11  
That is a very specific number.

Unknown Speaker  21:14  
I have. I have spreadsheets with all of that information. I can tell you when they came in. I can tell you if they are adopted. Yeah, we

Unknown Speaker  21:24  
I'm curious on this spreadsheet, and I didn't pre plan this question. But now I'm wondering, are they all named? Do you have a name for all? 109?

Unknown Speaker  21:34  
Yes. And some of them do repeat. For example, we've had a number of Sam's. Yep. And, you know, common names that repeat.

Unknown Speaker  21:44  
We usually give them people names, and whoever picks them up from the shelter gets to name them. That's it. That's it.

Unknown Speaker  21:52  
It's done. You say that I adopted a cat several years ago, and the shelter had given him the name Dale. And I remember him I remember getting this cat and saying, Dale, it's such a strange name for a cat. I ended up naming him Winston. Okay, which I really liked. I'm curious, any personal success stories, or maybe something that sticks out to you as, as, you know, something that that was really interesting, or maybe that you're really proud

Unknown Speaker  22:23  
of? Um, we have several repeat adopters. The one who is the longest Her name is Margaret. She has adopted from us since 2007. I think she's on like her 10th and 11th, guinea pig, but I may be wrong about that. So the guinea pig winter, well, she gets the MS Babies usually, and they live out their life with their friends. And then when they pass away, she contacts us and says, Hey, we're looking for more guinea pigs.

Unknown Speaker  22:56  
And that's the thing of the lift to lower lifespan is about five to seven years. So that's how long again, a pig will live on average. But

Unknown Speaker  23:07  
how does that compare to other small animals like hamster or a chinchilla or a hedgehog

Unknown Speaker  23:13  
to hamsters are generally about two years. Rats two to three years chinchillas can live up to 20 years, which a lot of people don't realize they can live that long.

Unknown Speaker  23:26  
That's amazing. So we've got chinchillas out there that are almost old enough to drink.

Unknown Speaker  23:32  
Definitely old enough to vote Yeah, they're

Unknown Speaker  23:34  
old enough to vote. That's great. Oh, so that's something interesting that I didn't know so so a guinea pig, maybe we should also kind of know that this is not a short term commitment as as an animal. This is an animal that lives you said, you know, five to eight years old. And so that's something to consider before you before you adopt.

Unknown Speaker  23:56  
Yeah. And there's the timing, you know, so if you if you're getting a guinea pig, when you're a teenager, and you're like 1415, and you get a baby, then what happens is, you know, just a few years later, you're going to go off to college, then it's like, well, what's going to happen then, and you know, it's going to live longer than the 10 you're going to be at home. And so it just, you know, often you're not thinking that far ahead. So it's important and sometimes you need to get guinea pigs, I fight them but I've lived to nine years who knows that sometimes they really surprise you and, and that happens. They just they just keep going but but we have lots of success stories. I was thinking as well about this guinea pig we have I have my house. She's called Angelica. I often take in the ones that have in my home my mostly the sanctuary ones, and those are the ones that are either too old or too sick to be at it. So, um, I take care of them and they just stay in my house until, until they pass. And so go Angelica, we've, we've taken her and and she, she's been adopted, but then she came back after, after a long one, I think it's about a year she was out. But she came back and she had all these health issues she was, you know, she had kind of gastric issues. But, you know, we, we took Angelica to the vet, and at that point, they were saying, you know, she's, she's terminal, she doesn't have that long to live probably four months, maybe maybe five months. And, and he really helped her with his blood problems that she has, if she could move around as much as she could. So I thought, Okay, let me let me take her, you find her for a while. So I'll just take her and I'll set her up on the CNC cage. So that half an is an on the, on the floor level. And I'll I'll set it up. So she's got around, and she can go in and out. So I thought, you know, like, I've got this laminate floor, and it's not that good anyway, and so she's only for four or five months to leave, she can walk around, I don't lie, I just felt really bad for her. So you know, she loved her. And she was just like running around. And she got a little den before, you know, just behind the hay bin and just running around. And, and that was over two years ago. So you know, I know she didn't have any vegetables at that point, because of all these problems and slowly introduced all these vegetables, and she can, she has a normal diet. Now. She's off most of the medication. She just keeps going. But she's still running around, because I just feel like I can't look her up now.

Unknown Speaker  27:01  
You must have really liked those laminate floors. The floor

Unknown Speaker  27:10  
is fine, she's happy. And I'm just, you know, I'm just so good. She's just her personality has just really come out. And she's doing all these tricks. And she keeps following me around the house. And you know, she's she's just such a wonderful period, she makes me so happy. She's

Unknown Speaker  27:27  
just imagining someone visiting your home and opening opening the door and having you say, Oh, don't mind her. She's cool door.

Unknown Speaker  27:37  
People are like, Oh my God. And then she walks up to them. And she does random circles to say she'll give them something. So you know, she's she's filled that story because of all their health issues she has, you know, within those limitations, she's, you know, we've given her the, you know, the best on that we're able to give her and she's happy and she's got the run of the house. And

Unknown Speaker  28:02  
well, I think that's wonderful. So not only, you know, over 1300 animals rescued, but you have Margaret, who continues to work with your organization. You have Angelica, who has beaten all the odds. And, you know, I guess my last question for you both is, now that we've heard a little bit about maybe a few things we didn't know about guinea pigs, also how your organization is able to help. What are some things that we could maybe do or some ways that a listener could help with with your mission.

Unknown Speaker  28:40  
Spread the word, we have a website, it has information on it, let people know there are guinea pig rescues out there. There are lots of guinea pig rescues out there. Some of them actually do videos every week, like guinea pig rescue has four or five hour video every week. They have a lot of guinea pigs. There's guinea pig rescues in England, just various countries around the world. So there's guinea pigs everywhere that need homes.

Unknown Speaker  29:10  
Such as Yeah, spread the word. You know, just talk to people. If you hear about anyone who's thinking about getting a guinea pig, just tell them you know, did you know you can adopt a guinea pig we have a website like Kim said we have a Facebook page as well on Instagram and we post information there you can donate towards the care of our guinea pigs. We have a donation button on our page and sometimes people do maybe for their birthday, they might do a fundraiser through Facebook or through other means as well. So but the main thing I'll say just raising awareness and and education and just encouraging just your family your friends, other people you know to to adopt rather than than shop you know and also to be a responsible pet owner and think about all the factors before you take that commitment.

Unknown Speaker  30:08  
Yeah, absolutely. So a lot of things that listeners can do to help, I would encourage you to take a look at the Austin guinea pig rescue organization, especially if you're here in the Austin area. And Kim Lucia, I want to just thank you both for volunteering your time to talk with us and really just for everything that awesome guinea pig rescue is doing. I know that there are 1306 animals out there that are very thankful for the two of you, and for the impact that you make. So I really appreciate your time today. Thank you.

Unknown Speaker  30:46  
Thank you so much. Thank you so much for helping us spread the message on for happiness, we really appreciate it thanks.

Unknown Speaker  31:08  
Today's show was directed and produced by me with music from Alex Grohl special thanks to our guests for their time and insight. If you like today's episode, please follow us wherever you listen to podcasts, and consider leaving a review, as it will help us to spread the word about the show. You can view more information about today's episode online at acts of Thank you for listening