Ready to move to the next level..

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I GAVE, dammit!

Post   » Wed Jan 15, 2003 5:47 pm

Thanks to everyone for their support of our rescue here in Atlanta.
We've hovered around the 10-12 pig mark for a little while now and are ready and willing to take it to the next level.

We're going to pick up around 7 more pigs this Friday, and will keep them (some might be on pregnancy watch) for a little while. I'm hoping we can get some adopted out almost immediately, because I've got some people on a waiting list.

However, almost doubling our animal count has me a little concerned because I'm not sure yet how much of the 'consumable' supplies I should keep on hand for that many pigs. Foster in Knoxville is helping with some Coroplast at a great price (and supplying the pigs!!) and Charybdis has kindly sent along some donated water bottles, food dishes, and pigloos.

Does anyone know of a formula or anything you can use to calculate things like how much bedding and food (pellets and hay) I could expect to go through in a month, with roughly 20 pigs on hand, or 30, or 40? Is there an easy way to figure that out, or do I just go with whatever happens? I'd like to have a revolving ordering system whereby I place a feed order once a month, or once a quarter... and never run out of anything.

I've also gotten suggestions from others on this board regarding the best places to buy things like water bottles, etc. but I want to know what I would have to have to be considered by those vendors a 'rescue'. Do you get discounts as a rescue, or can you ask for donations? Are there forms to fill out, letters to write, or recommendations from other legit rescues I need to secure?

Also, I suppose if we're going to continue to grow, I need some information on possibly going legally legit: non profit. Chary has mentioned some perks of being non-profit (rescues get free UPS shipping, and some online stores like The Ferret Store apparently donate supplies)... And I'd like to learn how to handle those sorts of things on my own rather than having to always piggyback on others' generosity. I know I could probably call a lawyer or something and find out, but does anyone else have hands-on experience with becoming Non Profit that they could share? (ie: it costs a lot, but you get these perks, etc.)

I am only a little leery about the number of my animals rising since money is (so far) not really an issue. The time involved is more so, because there's only two of us here. Do some of you other rescuers have hired help? How do you go about finding help in that way? If we really do grow, we might need to hire someone to come in and help with cages and socialization a few times a week. I've already thought, with only 12 animals here, how nice it would be to have an extra body who's only task was holding each pig for 30 minutes or so, or who came in and just did cages. How much would someone like that expect to make for an income? Or are people willing to do that for free? I admit that sometimes, we just don't seem to have enough time to spend with each animal and that really bothers me.

Anyway, if any of you have any suggestions for me I would sure appreciate it. We are probably going to move into a larger house around April, with even more space. I would love to see this operation really grow into something special.


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Post   » Wed Jan 15, 2003 9:47 pm

Not sure about the food issue...but as for an extra hand, are there kids in the neighborhood that you would trust to teach how to help you? Kids like that are always willing to do something to make a few bucks an hour...minimum wage, maybe? They need to know up front that if they screw up, they're gone, no questions asked. Or what about high school kids that are interested in animals? Either way, it would be a way for you to get help, and a way for you to pass on good, reliable guinea pig information. It would go from you to them, to their parents, to their's something to think about.


Post   » Wed Jan 15, 2003 10:30 pm

If given two choices for these animals, would you prefer doing okay, or doing great?

If doing great is the goal for them, draw the line on limit.

Keep things managable for YOU. Hired help leaves, volunteers can have other things keeping them from being able to come, etc etc etc.

In a perfect world, saving them all would be feasible, but here on Earth, you do what only YOU can do, and only what you can easily manage.


Post   » Wed Jan 15, 2003 10:34 pm

Hi Paravati! We are looking forward to you all coming up in a couple of days and really appreciate your willingness to take on these babies! We are SO full right now and with many sick and in quarantine. We had 12 pigs on a waiting list to come into rescue until you offered to help. I have a huge box of water bottles, food bowls, etc. that you are welcome to go through and take whatever you need. I also have MANY pet store type cages that we use for transport quarantine etc. that you can pick through too. I have never really kept track of how much food, bedding, hay we go through at the 20 pig level but I will try to give you an idea when you come. When we get low we just go get more. As far as help, my kids friends sometimes come and volunteer. I had an adopters daughters coming to help once a week over the summer and I was contacted by a Girl Scout troop once that wanted to volunteer but it never worked out. See you Friday (if it doesn't snow too much)!


Post   » Wed Jan 15, 2003 10:45 pm

I totally agree, set your limit and stick to it. It can become overwhelming if you have too many. Not only will you sacrifice excellent care but you won't be enjoying it anymore. It then becomes too heavy a burden physically, financially and emotionally.

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I GAVE, dammit!

Post   » Thu Jan 16, 2003 12:01 am

Well, I can't rightly say what it will be like having 20 pigs, because that's a milestone we haven't yet crossed.

I can't imagine it's that much worse than 12, though, right?

This seems to be a constantly shifting paradigm... Try this, and see if it saves time. No? Okay, then try that. Does this work? Christ, no. Ok, let's try that.

We went to Costco tonight, looking at wire shelving racks ($85, can you believe it?) and I actually found myself talking about getting rid of my beat up old living room sectional sofa. Because, after all, if we get rid of THAT, there's plenty more room for cages. :)

I know I have to draw the line somewhere so I don't compromise my level of care just to save one or two more. But at the same time, I think of little piggies somewhere (other than my home) starving, freezing, sick, abused or injured.. And I think, surely they'd do better off here!

I suppose we will see. If I get too many pigs, and it's more than I can handle, I *will* draw that line in the dirt and start saying, "I'm full!" I just hope against hope that it doesn't happen very soon. I feel like I've hardly gotten off the ground, here.

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I GAVE, dammit!

Post   » Thu Jan 16, 2003 12:02 am

Oh, and Foster... Thanks for letting us come up and visit you. Anything you have in the way of supplies would be most appreciated. If you need anything, also, just let us know and we'll bring it up on Friday.

Little Jo Wheek

Post   » Thu Jan 16, 2003 12:32 am

Dump the couch.

I agree with Nuts. You have to set a limit. Otherwise, it is too easy to get overwhelmed and not do well/right by the pigs. There is a line between helping pigs and collecting more than you can handle so that more and more things slip through the cracks. And they will.

I was one of those who doubled my herd in one fell swoop. I had 10 or 11 pigs in 2000 and took in 10 pigs from several big rescues on one day after the drive and a very memorable weekend of my life. The pigs were in fair condition--better than most, but filthy, mitey, and malnourished. A few were on the serious list as far as health concerns, but we didn't lose any right away.

In retrospect, I do wish I hadn't. 7 were boars. 3 were sows. The sows were bonded. No problem. The boars were a single and two trios. The trios eventually had to be split up, one by one due to fighting. That changed my housing from 4 additional cages to 8. Big difference. Spacewise a crunch. The grooming and weighing takes time as well. My bedding, feed, and time doubled. Veterinary bills more than doubled. Just think, one sick pig can set you back $500-$1000 EVEN WITH DISCOUNTS. I've been there. Can you imagine even $5,000 of vet bills with animals you hopefully won't have very long if they are adopted out within a couple months? Realistically, it takes me at least 6 months of rehab and waiting to place a pig.

It now takes me at least 10 hours weekly to clean cages, an hour daily to feed/water/treat pigs, and countless other hours in ill pig care and other upkeep. I now at least have a streamlined medical sheet that I can start the day the animal comes in. Good records are a must, in my opinion. My bedding bills are about $150 a month (shavings and hay), pellets are $25 (Cavy Cuisine), hay and veggies about $75, and veterinary fees on top of that monthly. The ones on special meds cost probably $25 a month to maintain, which isn't bad since I get some good discounts and do more work myself than most.

It seems like I am constantly doing pigs (and dogs). I have no help other than in rare emergencies when my parents (usually mom) will pitch in. It does have its rewards, but it is easy to wear out, burn out, and become penniless. My numbers have fluctuated a bit but have stayed about at the 20 mark. Right now, I have closed my doors and have 17 pigs that will remain with me most likely until they die since they are 3-6 years old (unless some VERY special cavy slaves contact me).

I don't encourage too many to become heavily involved quickly. I prefer to have other prospective rescuers start small, adopt a good number out and get organized with their procedures, then slowly accept a few more here and there. For one person, I think 20 is about the highest really manageable limit (from what I've observed and others have told me with their pigs in rescue and solely as pets).

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I GAVE, dammit!

Post   » Thu Jan 16, 2003 1:52 am

Do you have that medical sheet you could maybe lend me for ideas? We have a very large chart posted in the two pig rooms where we write weights and/or med dispensing amounts and dates... But you are right. Now that I think about it, an actual "file" on each pig makes more sense.

I think we're going to dump the couch.

We have two living rooms anyway. What does a person really NEED with two living rooms? We can put CAGES in there. ;)

I don't really want to get involved over my head. I've spent close to $6000 since November. The money isn't that big of a deal, because all the little wheekers are well worth it. But just getting started has taken a lot of planning, time, and money. Once we get the new pigs in, and get everything organized (I need to spend about $400 getting the rescue room organized and stocked, plus I have to buy a separate refrigerator so we can have ours back) I think it will all go fairly smoothly. I think I will cut it off there, though, and give it a month or so to see how we handle the new additions.

I have a great vet who more often than not doesn't charge me for all procedures. She lets me run a tab and I make sure that I begin every week with a zero balance. She's my best friend right now and I can't screw that up. Our vet bills so far haven't been that bad... It's the supply bills that are killing me. Until I met Kleenmama here to buy feed, and people like Chary and Foster who are willing to donate supplies, we were buying everything from PetCo, making two runs a week. Our Whole Foods veggie bill is close to $100 a week. But the pigs LOVE their veggies - I can't bear the thought of cutting back on anything. I've managed to save a ton of money though, with the Fleece idea for bedding. I'm about to order a few hundred yards of fleece and that should take me into the next part of forever with no extra bedding expense.

I have been contacted by several people who ask how they can help. I'm thinking of starting a 'socialization' program, where new adopters are encouraged to come hang out a few times and hold pigs, help do toenails, etc... So they can get used to pig personalities. And I could use the socialization help. I've been wondering if such a program would work, and would help me weed out those people that aren't seriously committed. After all, if you were required to come to your rescuer's house three times to make sure you got the pig that most clearly fit your personality, I should think you'd be pretty committed by that point. Plus, you could learn a lot.

I'm really excited about doing all this. It already seems like we're constantly doing pigs (and dogs) here, too. But I stay at home all day, since I don't work off location. I don't know what I'd do with myself without all the pigs to take care of. I sleep 4 hours a day, spend all my time here.. I think I'd go absolutely crazy with nothing to do. And Alex helps out A TON. I think we'll be ok.

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Post   » Thu Jan 16, 2003 7:47 am

One of the problems you will have with volunteers in a situation like this is that they will take up alot of your time -- perhaps more than you can spare. Plan on making the time they are there pig time for you also so you don't feel like you are actually behind in your work for having involved them.

You may find a few gems. I think in terms of teenage girls who adore animals and really get involved with them. Some volunteers need alot of strokes.

Ideally, you would have some volunteers who fall for their animals and even adopt them!

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Me, too!

Post   » Thu Jan 16, 2003 9:51 am

When we went from 7 to 25 in one fell swoop, it caused a bit of ruckus. I can tell you for 25 pigs in 12 2x4 coroplast cages, we went through 2 bales of shavings or 4 bags or carefresh a week, 2 heads of romaine a day, a 25# bale of hay lasted about 2 months, and 10# of pellet food lasted about 10 days.

We borrowed several neighborhood children and teens who were already familiar with our pigs or had pigs of their own to help socialize the new crew, and I paid $2 per cage for cleaning.

We were very fortunate in that our entire new crew was healthy and no one needed vet care.


Post   » Thu Jan 16, 2003 9:53 am

I can't imagine it's that much worse than 12, though, right?
Oh, Para.

20 is not much worse than 12 if they are all healthy and adoptable. But, as Josephine shows, 20 adoptable pigs can easily turn into 20 permanent residents for various reasons.

Right now, I have 25 pigs and no help. This was ok as long as they were fairly healthy. But now, I have virtually no adoptable pigs. 7 have scurvy. 6 of those have mites. 3 of those are pregnant. 1 has malocclusion. 1 has a cyst possibly needing surgery. That makes him and his buddy unavailable.

2 are feral. 6 more are possibly pregnant. 1 has a bad biting problem, so his roommate is also here for a while. 2 are obese. And one poor unfortunate pig has mites, scurvy, and pneumonia. 3 have bumblefoot.

So now my day goes like this: 3 hours in the a.m. taking care of illnesses, dispensing liquid C and antibiotics, then giving veggies, fresh hay, water, and pellets. Then I start on the ones with bumblefoot, soaking their feet and changing their blankets. Nixie needs a hot compress 2x a day for his lump. Then, just as I sit down to lunch, the alarm rings that tells me to give probiotics.

The afternoon is reserved for doing pet laundry, making trips to the feed store, and usually a trip to the vet. This morning I am up at 6 am to take Sam in to get his teeth filed. I will have to go back in the afternoon and get him.

Suddenly it's dark out. I need to start cutting veggies and go through the whole process again. Lately, I have been finishing with pig stuff (and in between walking & feeding my dog) around 11 or 12 at night. Then I lie down on the floor (because I got rid of my couch to fit more cavies), choose the neediest few pigs (usually the under-socialized), and hold them while I watch TV.

Now, I am not complaining. I love these pigs and certainly none of them are suffering from lack of care. But things look different when you have a house full of sick ones. I just want you to consider that possibility. As time goes on, more and more get added to the permanent herd. And it's not so easy to draw the line when, like you said, there are needy pigs out there.

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I GAVE, dammit!

Post   » Thu Jan 16, 2003 10:19 am

Well, I don't guess that I've completely discounted the possibility that 20 can turn into 20 unadoptable pigs.

I've been looking online at various houses for rent in our area. Where we live now is 'trendy' and expensive but you don't get as much house for the money. I'm hoping that when we move in April, we can get a four or five bedroom place. We need two or three bedrooms for the kids, one for us, and one for my office. Then, I'd like to have a basement or just all around more room so I can space out my rescue cages and my permanent resident cages. Right now the permanent residents are in my office, which I don't mind, but if any more become permanent, we'll need more room.

We're already talking about getting rid of our couch. We don't ever have the time to watch TV anyway. And there's a closet in the other living room that I walk past all the time and never open the door to get anything out of. I think we're going to throw all that crap in the attic and take the door off the wall and make it another pig cage. I think I can fit a 5x2.5 grid cage size in there.

So far, though, we've been pretty lucky as far as sick pigs go. Right now we have 2 on Bactrim for mild URI and 2 on Baytril (one prepping for a spay and Emily's Bear, who nobody can figure out what's wrong with him). Everybody else seems to be doing well: Blaze's broken leg is no longer troubling her, and her pneumonia has gone away (for now). We are worried she has a heart problem though, so that might come into play in the next few months. Rebecca is getting spayed next week. Tigger is finally healed up from his latest catastrophe and is playing Mr. Humpsalot in the girl's cage. He's pretty happy. Mister E who has a heart murmur is still balls-to-the-wall active with no problems yet. The only one we really have to watch constantly is Bear, who gets probiotic twice a day and breathing treatments whenever his breathing gets bad. And you have to walk by and "thump" him a few times a day.

Cleaning cages right now takes 15 minutes a day (spot vaccuuming, which Alex does) and 1 hour a week (changing out all the liners, we both do it together). The hay boxes get changed out and/or refreshed every two days which maybe takes a total of 5 minutes, and it's 'as needed'. Veggie time takes about 45 minutes every two days (We make up three huge salad bowls at a time, and that lasts us about 2.5 days). We have a constantly growing pile of white shop towels and fleece bedding in front of the laundry that gets done once a week or so. We have so many of them that it's possible to let three or four loads' worth pile up before we get motivated to do anything about it. Then there's the time we spend sitting on the couch with one pig or another in our lap, feeding them treats and loving on them. Pigs also sit in my lap while I work all night long.

So so FAR, the time isn't all that terrible yet. Certainly nothing like what you're going through right now, Chary. I can only thank the powers that be that we've been so lucky up until now, and hope that we continue to be so lucky. I don't think I would mind having to spend more time, though... Not if it saved pigs.

Little Jo Wheek

Post   » Thu Jan 16, 2003 12:30 pm

Re: The med sheet. I'd be more than happy to post it if I can figure out how. I need to do some more digging.

I keep a large (3") binder with current animal records. Each pet has a tabbed section and tons of clear sheet protectors. I use the sheet protectors for everything. It makes it easy to save receipts, labwork, licensing, etc. Each cavy gets a med sheet, surrender form (if applicable), and "mug shots," at the least. I don't usually put down weekly weights on healthy pigs, but I note monthly changes in the hard copy. Ill pigs always go down in the hard copy and my form has separate areas for general info, vet care, weights, and ectoparasite treatment (ivermectin and Advantage). Some pigs have several sheets due to their extensive histories.

Once an animal is deceased or adopted out, I pull the entire file and transfer it to another one for such animals. That way, if the house is burning down I have all the most recent and important stuff in one book to grab and it is easy for family members or pet sitters to grab it if needed for emergency vet care. My dogs are similarly arranged (with a dog form) so that I know at a glance when their vaccines and licensing are due and could show to an animal control officer immediately should it be necessary (like they've ever come over to MY house, LOL).


Post   » Thu Jan 16, 2003 3:09 pm

Josephine, that's a great idea. Right now I'm just using a Mead notebook with a page for every pig and a whiteboard on the fridge for current meds.

Para, I'm quite sure you will do fine, especially since you work from home and have help.

Strange, after I replied to this thread I took Sam down to the vet. I was pretty tired and went back to bed when I returned. I started dreaming about the pigs. I dreamed that the males were climbing over the cubes and assaulting the females. I kept grabbing them to put them back in their cages but I got all the cavies mixed up and couldn't figure out who was who and went where. Then Meg (the white Monterrey sow) gave birth to a tiny, tiny baby smaller than my little finger. It seemed fine and active but was too small to nurse. So I was thinking that I needed to post on GL about what to do with this little baby.

Can you imagine if I walked in my sleep and posted that?

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Post   » Thu Jan 16, 2003 4:19 pm

It looks like a useful form. If Josephine thinks it is a good idea, maybe someone could put a general form in pdf format and I could make it available to download.


Post   » Thu Jan 16, 2003 4:44 pm

I like that form too. It would help me to be more organized and "official". Well Para, I'm happy to report that your new babies are here! The irresponsible owner that allowed them all to breed brought them all, including the parent pigs (which she kept), so I could look at them and asses their health. I tried to get her to leave without the intact boar but she wouldn't. She did buy a C+C cage for one of them so they will live separately now and promised to have him neutered. There wasn't anything else I could do : ( They all *look* very healthy and CUTE too! No hair loss, no sores, or scales. Noses and eyes look healthy too. THANK GOODNESS!! On the down side, the two sows from the first litter (four months old) are obviously pregnant. The 3 baby sows (8 weeks old) are very small so hopefully we got them in time. The two boars, one from each litter, are living together in their own cage now. All will get Ivermectin and nail trims today. I will keep anyone you want me to. I don't want to send you too many considering you are looking at at least two litters soon.

Little Jo Wheek

Post   » Thu Jan 16, 2003 5:03 pm

How do you do that, Lynx? I would be O.K. if someone wanted to repost it sans my contact info at the top. If it helps any owner with managing better records, it is a bonus to me.


Post   » Thu Jan 16, 2003 7:36 pm

Josephine, I had no idea that was you in Oroville. Someone called me a few months ago from way up in the NE corner of CA and I referred her to Celeste Cavy Rescue as the closest. Didn't know that you had closed your doors.

What you say about setting limits is crucial. Paravati is lucky to have another rescue near her, and will probably not run into the problem I have--no other GP rescue within 100 miles.

Maybe Teresa could add your document to the downloadable files on Cavy Rescue--with the applications, surrender forms, contracts, etc.

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