Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Room At the Rescue

So, this has been coming up more as of late, so I wanted to mention it.  Regarding there being room at the rescue for people to bring in animals. 

So, people have been calling and setting up an appointment to bring in their animal, and then no-call, no-show-ing on the appointment.  When that happens, I do reach out and send an email / text / call (depending on how the person had initially contacted me) and if I don't get a live person, I leave a message basically saying, hey, didn't see you today for the animal dropoff, did they want to reschedule?  About 95% of the time, I don't receive a call back.

If that was the end of it, no problem... but what's been happening lately is that that person will contact me a couple of weeks in the future, they'll basically tell me that something came up last time, but now they are ready to surrender their animals.  Just assuming, basically, that I have room.  The one person who sort of triggered the writing of this post wanted to drop off some guinea pigs, and when they called, I had only two guinea pigs here, and I had room for more.  When they called back, a couple of weeks later, I had 8, and that's full FULL of guinea pigs (no room for more).  So I told this person, sorry but now we are full.  She asked for a referral, and I told her to check out another place that I thought of. 

I haven't heard back from her... but some people absolutely lose their minds when you tell them that the rescue is full and their current option (other than to go somewhere else, of course) is to get on the waiting list.  Just because I have room today, doesn't mean that I will have room tomorrow.  I've gotten in large batches of animals before, or even just a lot of animals in a short period of time, and things change in an instant.  Same goes for adoptions.  I've had animals sit around for months waiting for that perfect home, and then all of a sudden, 5 people want to adopt them.  If you've heard me lately, I've been talking about how great it is that we had so many adoptions this spring.  Don't worry though -- that'll be off-set by how many surrenders we get here in the summer.  It's all give and take, and us having room here is always relative.  It can change at any time.  That's why people would do well to know that just because we have room right this moment, does not mean we will have room at some random day in the future, and of course, there is no way to predict that.  That is all.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Chins Coming Into the Rescue

So, I suppose not everyone is familiar with this, so I wanted to touch on this again.  How it works when chins and other animals come into the rescue. 

When animals come in, they are put into a cage, labeled with their name and surrender date (if they are an owner surrender) and weighed.  Rescues / owner surrenders are kept a minimum of 30 days.  In this 30 days, we get up their name / age / etc on the website under the "under evaluation" section, and mainly, the chins just get fed, watered, and cared for during that period of time.  They are also weighed around the time they come in, so we have a baseline.

Wait!  You say, I've seen some chins materialize on the website and be available within a day or two.  Sometimes this is because we haven't gotten them listed in the "under evaluation" section, and by the time we get to that, they are available.  This is more common when we are way beyond full and have chins coming out our ears.  Right now when we have less chins, you can probably bet almost every single one is listed.  Anyway, in that case, they would magically appear available from the first day.  The other option is that they're not rescues.  If I bring chinchillas from my herd in Ohio, here to Hammond, they don't need the full 30 days.  This is because I know where they are coming from and how they are cared for.  Similarly, they are weighed when they come in.

The purpose of weighing the animals when they come in is to have a baseline.  It can often be difficult to tell if, or how much, a chinchilla is eating, due to the fact that some of them dump their food or dig through their food.  Others with cagemates, well... are they both eating?  Is one being a pig?  Who knows.  So, we weigh them.  For rescues, they're usually weighed at least once, but preferably two times, before they are listed (and then periodically afterwards as well).  The second time is usually right around the 30 day mark, to see how they have progressed.  For younger chinchillas like the typical ones we bring from my herd, they typically should be gaining weight.  For adults, they should be maintaining their weight.  Depending on their previous diet, it may or may not be surprising if we see a weight loss.  We had one chinchilla, years ago, come in eating snack-size snickers bars.  I am NOT even kidding.  Not even a little.  One in the morning, one at noon, and one at night.  It was not at all surprising that he lost some weight.  By weighing them, we were able to monitor this, and once he leveled out, he was put up for adoption.

That's the thing... when I say that they stay here a minimum of 30 days, it's just that... a minimum.  Within the 30 days, if they are sick or not doing well, this will show up, as will if they are not settling in well, or a variety of other things.  But 30 days isn't some magic number.  Sometimes 30 days comes and goes, and we're still not sure if that chinchilla should be put up for adoption.  If there's doubt, the chinchilla stays under evaluation, and will be ready at some future time.  In the end, we don't want to send home a possibly sick or non-well-adjusted chinchilla. 

Assuming the 30 days is up, the weight of the chin has been maintained, and the chin has a personality that is good for adoption purposes (as in, the chin doesn't need to go to a foster home to help work on making them more personable), around 30+ days is when we start taking pictures and start interacting with the chinchilla more.

Why don't we interact more sooner?  To let the chinchilla settle in.  People have occasionally told me how the chinchilla they got was more friendly and outgoing here, and then at home, not as much.  It took time to warm up.  It wasn't as outgoing.  We all need to remember, these animals are prey animals.  A lot out there wants to eat them (so they think) and they need to be cautious.  One thing I've learned in these 16 years of doing this is that if I give them time to settle in, I have a better end result.  When you compare this to the people who take a chin into their home (new people / new other pets / new environment / new cage / new everything) and then try to interact with the chin on day 1, often they are surprised when the chin isn't jumping into their arms like their long-lost-best-friend... but usually there is a reason for this. 

I may have told this story before, but I had a couple take home two chins.  I got a call that night, the chins weren't as friendly at their place as they were here.  So I asked, what had they been doing with the chins since they'd gotten home?  Turns out, they'd been home about 5 hours, and had the chins out of the cage for the majority of the time.  That can be sort of like sensory overload for the chins, not to mention, they might have been getting a little warm as well, depending on temp and whatnot.  So I nicely told them, put the chins in the cage and let them settle in for a bit.  I explained my 30 days.  Of course, I don't expect everyone to do that, but I explained why I do it, and said to leave them alone for a couple days minimum.  Their response was that they would try to leave the chins alone for the night.  Get a text the next day, more of the same, the chins are barking and kacking and not acting happy.  Told them, just feed them and water them and let them settle in.  A week would be good, now that they're acting actually unhappy.  They respond, well maybe we can manage a full day.  Third day, more of the same.  I admit, I was starting to get irritated, because I don't understand why people ask for advice and then don't listen to that advice... so when they repeated the same thing over, and clearly hadn't left the chins alone, at all, my response back was literally, "you're supposed to be leaving them alone."  I sent that text.  I didn't hear from them for a few days, and I really thought I'd pissed them off, but I mean... the chins did need to settle in, and forcing themselves on the chins was not going to be helpful.  A few days later, I get a text.  In so many words, it said something like... you know, since what we were doing wasn't working, we thought we'd give what you said to do a try, and they're doing much better now!  They're back to how they were at your place! ---  Imagine that.  Haha.

It really does make a difference.

So, when they are ready, that is when we start interacting more, and that's also when we start taking pics and writing up a description for them.  Depending on what their personality is like, some of these chins may go to foster homes, and this is when they can go (after the 30 days), but most will stay here and we'll get a listing up, so that people can find their info, apply to adopt them, and bring home their new furball.

Friday, June 14, 2019

No-Kill Shelters

Sort of going along with the other day's post about what we are and what we are not...  one thing that we ARE is no-kill.  

Now, because we are transparent... I will explain to you that no-kill does not mean that animals are never put down.  It simply means they are never put down due to space or behavioral issues.  We rarely put down animals.  I can only think of twice in the last couple of years where we have had to put down a chinchilla, and both instances were due to severe malocclusion, which is incurable and super painful for the chinchilla.  Other than severe health issues that basically result in no quality of life, that chin will chill here til it gets adopted.

Some rescues are no-kill, some aren't.  Some rescues that we would THINK are no-kill, are NOT.  Have you ever heard of Whimsy's Menagerie, the chinchilla rescue on the east coast?  Did you know that they're NOT no-kill?  No?  I didn't either!  We were talking with one of our previous adopters the other day, and she mentioned that she would no longer buy from or support Whimsy's, so of course I asked why.  She said that they weren't no-kill, and that they euthanize for behavioral issues, such as biting and spraying.  Not that I didn't believe her, but I had to look it up for myself:

Well... there you have it.  I will be honest, that absolutely floored me.  Sure, you may have heard me joke about eating a chinchilla for dinner when they make me mad or whatever, but it's just that... a joke.  Sprayers and biters are FULLY adoptable, to the right home.

Let me tell you a quick story.  We got a chinchilla in here from a small breeder who was moving out of his parents' house and wanted to reduce his breeding numbers (I think we got in 7 of his chins).  One of the chinchillas that came into our rescue from him was a black velvet female.  She didn't have a name, so Jennifer (our worker) named her Onyx.  Onyx came in fully matted and icky.  I let her settle in for a week, during which she would bark at me, but nothing overly obnoxious.  About a week later, over a couple of days span of time, I spent all sorts of time pulling out mats and grooming her so that she would be more comfortable.  She was NOT happy.  Time unfortunately didn't help this, and the longer she was here, the more pissed off she was.  I couldn't even feed her without her acting like an obnoxious brat.  If I was filling the feeder (which is outside the cage, a J-feeder) she would spray me.  If I cleaned the cage, she would spray me.  God forbid I tried to take her out of the cage, she would spray me AND try to bite me.  She acted similarly with Jennifer, though not with quite so much menace... but still a crabby furball.

Because she was an adult, she was cheap ($100 adoption fee) and everyone wanted her, with her being an unusual color (black velvet).  It didn't matter that she was listed as "under evaluation" (because of the spraying / biting / etc), everyone asked about her.  Once I would mention her attitude, everyone was (understandably) like "ehhh...nevermind."  So, I finally took her down from the website.  Nothing happened to her, I just removed her listing.  I figured, when she was ready, I would list her again.  In the meantime, I set out to find a foster who wanted a difficult chin to work with... and I almost had one lined up... when one of our previous adoptive homes messaged me asking if I had any chins that might pair with one of theirs (the cagemate had passed), and problem-chins were ok with her.  So you know who I thought of.  

The family came over to meet Onyx.  I got a wonderful pee-shower and some chomps on my hands getting her out of the cage... but magically... she got along with their chin just swimmingly, and they took her home.  She now lives in a big cage with their white mosaic chin, Peanut (also from the rescue... as are all but one of their 8 chins).  I got the chance to go over to their place in Chicago last week and see the chins.  Onyx, now re-named Cookie, actually let me pet her!  She's super happy there.  She does occasionally bark at her new family, but she's no longer spraying or biting.  She loves getting neck scratches!

Here's Cookie with her new human mom, Claire:

...and sprayers and biters are un-adoptable?  No.  The just need the right home.

So to me, to cull (aka put down / euthanize / kill / pick-your-word) them is just... unbelievable.  We only ever put down chins for major, incurable, no-qualify-of-life-health-issues, NOT culling / biting / behavioral issues... and that is how it will remain.  

So, going back to the previous post.  You may think our cages are not the greatest, some are small and not chin-mansions... but sometimes, the reason other rescues have room for chins and can manage to use only big fancy cages is due to the fact that they are putting down the less-than-perfect chins... which we would never do.  We might use smaller cages for some of them... but they all get a chance at a forever home.... regardless of how much they might be little furry turds at times.  That is all.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Cages Here at The Rescue

So, we've had a lot of people lately coming by that mention they would like to see the place before they drop off their chin.  In talking with a friend, she suggested that maybe these people are thinking of dropping off their chin here as more of dropping off the chin in a home, as opposed to a rescue.  I suppose, since this is a home-based rescue (and we have foster homes as well), I can understand that.  And of course, I have nothing to hide, so everyone is welcome to come see the place, before you entrust your baby to me.

We do have some general pics of our setup on the Chin Room page of our website -- click here.  Do we have more cages than that?  You bet!  Are some of the cages smaller than that?  Of course.  The cages pictured (the ferret nations, critter nations, etc) are the cages we typically use to house the rescue chinchillas / owner surrenders (the ones that don't come with a cage).  For people who bring in opposite-sex pairs, we separate those, and the female will go in a baby-safe cage until they have cleared pregnancy watch.  We have less of those (pregnancy safe cages), so sometimes that chin will get the short end of the stick, and will end up in a smaller cage.  We have typical guinea pig type cages... which we usually use for guinea pigs, but also chinchillas, depending on room, and we also have some smaller chinchilla cages with built in dusters, to help with any stress the chins might feel.  Are these cages all chinchilla mansions, similar to how a chinchilla might live in a pet home?  No.  Am I ashamed of that?  Heck no.  This is a rescue.  These chins are NOT meant to live here forever.  This is meant to be a temporary home, while they find their forever homes.  Would I like for them to all have huge cages?  Of course!  Thing is, there's only so many hours in the day, and I am only one person.  I have one person who works for me, and some months it's a struggle to pay the bills, pay her, and feed / care for all the animals.  Big cages would be great!  But they would require more work, more people to do the work... and that's just not something we have here.  For some people, I realize, the answer may be, take in less chins.  Here's the funny part about that.  We have expanded, and I have moved my breeders to Ohio... so that I can take in more rescues and have more time for the rescues... because there's already not enough chin rescues around.  If we take in less, which sure, we could do... where do those other chins end up?  That's what I worry about.  We already get in quite a few chins from homes that mention they got one and it wasn't what they expected, or it was too much work, or what have you.  If these people who are surrendering their chinchillas to us, now start re-homing them to the first person with $50... I'm not sure we wouldn't end up with the chin anyway... just from someone else down the line.

Want to see some of the other cages?  We had a video made partly here awhile back, you can find it here -- starting at 3:06, there's a pan that shows about half of the rescue.  In the video, on the far left, far right, and all the way back, you can see cages that look like this (with some variation), all those were breeder cages that are now gone, to make way for more pet cages to hold more rescues.  Note, in the view the camera has, you can't even see our wall of FN's (6 along the back, plus guinea pig cages), which are the main big cages in the rescue.  We also now have another FN on the front wall, which is our cage that was dedicated to Bonnie Reinhardt (see blog post here), and we usually have another pet cage up there next to it as well. 

All the chins here have food and water, dust baths as needed, chew toys.  Unfortunately, I can't always say the same about some of the chinchillas in their previous homes, before they came to us.  That's a post for another day, but I'm often amazed how people don't give their chins some of the basic necessities.... and oddly enough, sometimes those chins will have huge cages... but nothing to chew on, and the person ran out of food a week ago, and finally decided to surrender, rather than go get another bag of food.  But I digress.

At the end of the day, I do my absolute best for these furballs.  Do I wish I had a million dollars and could do things better?  Sure.  In reality though, doing rescue doesn't make anyone rich, and we make do with what we have.

Do you have questions?  I'm happy to answer them.  Feel free to ask.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Fungus in Chinchillas

So, if you've ever heard me talk about fungus, you basically know that it's sort of like the common cold for chinchillas.  It's basically always around, just waiting for the right moment.  It's nothing overly serious, as long as it's treated of course. 

If we have chinchillas with fungus, they are treated and are fungus-free before leaving for their new homes.  But... not everyone, and especially not pet stores, are the same way.  Here's a chin I saw at a pet store awhile back:

See how the nose is bald and kind of flaky?  That is fungus.

Fungus, in chinchillas, is a ringworm infection.  It is about the ONLY thing that we can catch from our fluffy furballs.  So, when we have a chinchilla with fungus here, we make sure to wash out hands after touching the chinchilla, and before we touch other chinchillas, or really, anything else.  To keep it from spreading, fungus needs to be dried out.  It usually starts around the nose / eyes, because it is, well, fungus... and requires some moisture, at least to start out. 

It is a misconception that chinchillas get fungus JUST from being wet.  Sure, if you drench a chin and don't dry it properly, they can get fungus.  But not because they're wet, per se.  It's because their fur is so thick that it can hold the moisture close to their skin, which can cause the fungus to take hold.  Otherwise, all the chins that like to sit under the dripping water bottle would all have fungus too, and let me share a secret with you... they don't.  Chins get wet (here and there... not like drenched) all the time, and they're just fine.

Fungus is easily treatable!  No need for a vet visit even, you can buy athlete's foot powder such as desenex or tinactin.  Sprinkle it in the dust, like you'd sprinkle powdered sugar over a pastry, and give the dust (with powder sprinkles) once a day for 1-2 weeks.  You should see fur stubble within a week or two.  Usually this will take care of it. 

Fungus isn't harmful, per se... think of it like chicken pox.  It itches... but it's more of an irritation than anything else.  That's how fungus is.  It doesn't look pretty, but the chin isn't actually in pain or anything.  Just a minor skin infection that can easily be cleared up.  That is all.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Chins With Good Hiding Places

Ever had a chin you couldn't find?  I have! 

This was from a couple of weeks ago, but one of our chins got loose upstairs, after bringing her home from an expo.  Searched and searched... left out food and water.  Finally on the second day, I heard a noise and determined she must have been in the living room.  So I blocked off the doorway and set out to look.  There's some more well-liked hiding spots in there (cause believe me, this is not the first time a chin has been loose in there), and she wasn't hiding in any of those.

Kept going back and forth, looking and looking... couldn't find the little stinker! 

Finally I got down to the floor and looked at floor level, since I figured she must have been somewhere I couldn't see from above.


Little turd!  Having now located her, I did finally catch her.  But that was a pretty good hiding spot!

Monday, June 3, 2019

Chins Getting Along

So I know it's been awhile since I wrote one of these, and I apologize... but we've been busy!  Did you see how few chins we have right now???

... of course, that's good, since the summer influx will likely be insane, as it always is. 

But anyway... onto the blog.

I have had a lot, and I mean a LOT of people asking lately about wanting a chin as a buddy for their chin.  That itself is pretty common, but lately people are basically wanting me to guarantee that the chins will get along, forever.  I can't guarantee that.  In fact, no one can. 

Most chins here, we don't know if they get along with others.  Why?  Because I'm not willy-nilly pairing them just for the heck of it.  No sense to stress them out, or even bond them with another, and then someone just wants to take one of them home.  Nope, they tend to stay by themselves unless someone asks about two chins being paired.  So, as a result, unless the chin either came in with another, had a sibling, or otherwise had interactions with another chin in the past, very simply... we just don't know if it gets along with others.

But here's the thing... even if we HAVE some thoughts on that.  Let's say that one chin is really popular and people keep coming by and seeing if that chin gets along with theirs, and hypothetically, let's say it does... but they all pass on that chin to get a different one.  In a situation like that, I may change the listing to reflect that the chin has gotten along with other chins in the past, so that would suggest (note, suggest) that the chin could get along with other chins in the future.  But even then... that chin could get along with every chin here... and not the one chin that the person owns, that they want it to get along with.

I mean, think about it.  With people.  We all have that one friendly person that we know that likes and gets along with almost everyone.  Note what I said.  Almost everyone.  You can always find someone that that person is not crazy about.  So why is it that we think, oh, cause that chin got along with those 3 chins, it will automatically get along with all chins?  I'm really not sure.

The thing is... you never know how they will get along until you try the chins together.  Some people bring their chins here to try them together here.  The real test, though, is when those two chins get to the home and are put together there, in the territory of the original chin.  They could get along swimmingly here... and then go home, and the original chin could literally decide, "NOPE!  This is MY cage!  DEATH TO ALL INTRUDERS!!!" and what can we do?  Sure, we can re-arrange the cage, and we can give dust baths, and we can do certain things that can help (note, help), but if that first chin is hell-bent on not having a buddy... well, we can't make them have a buddy.

I know of someone right now who started with a couple chins, then added one to that, then another.  When the most recent one was added, one of the original chins started acting aggressively, to the point where the owner had to separate that chin from the other three.  I've since heard how this person has tried multiple different ways to get the chins living together again, even to the point of ordering a new cage so they can put them all back together and hope that they all get along (when the cage arrives).  It may work... it may not.  This person has mentioned even surrendering the "problem chin" and getting another one, cause they want all these colors... living together.  I reminded them, even if they do this, they may have this same problem with another chin, as there's just no knowing how everything will work out.  Because it all comes back to this:  no matter whether the chin gets along with other chins or not, you never know how it will go with one specific chin.

One more little anecdote before I go back to organizing the rescue -- we had a chin in the rescue that was adopted out, and later I found out, the new home has her and a buddy living happily together.  No problems, they're doing wonderfully together.  I find this interesting, because when this chin was surrendered, the owner told us that she barbered the fur of the chin she was with (and they brought that chin with to surrender as well, so we did verify this).  Why that chin didn't get along with the buddy at the first home... who knows?  But she got along with a buddy at another home!  Logical, I know.