Happy July everyone!
For the month of June, ten (10) chinchillas were surrendered and zero (0) chinchillas were adopted. We have a whole lot of folks interested in matchmaking, but the majority of our current chins are either already pair bonded or are too hormonal to house with another chin. What we desperately need are people who want to adopt and spoil. Please spread the word.
On a totally different note I wanted to share with y'all the appreciation we have for those of you who support our rescue through your store purchases. To help you out, here are some helpful tips we've gleaned regarding how to place a mail order to your best advantage.
How to place an order the smart way.
As a single mother of four, it became very important to learn ways to manage and save money. As an educator, I like to share that knowledge. Shipping costs are determined by the size, weight and distance the box has to travel. When we receive mail orders, sometimes a slight modification can save a lot on the cost of shipping. For example, the package deals we offer make the best use of flat rate boxes that contain heavy, dense items that are usually cheap to buy, but expensive to ship. In those boxes we’ve combined the most popular items packed in a way that would maximize the use of the space therein.
Size. Items over 12” automatically require an oversized box. This means an oversized shipping cost, which may or may not be terrible. If size is coupled with heavy weight or distance, then the shipping cost naturally rises. If the number of items ordered fills a box that is larger than 12”x12”x12”, that is also considered “oversized”.
Weight. Heavy items such as pellets, dust, supplies by the pound, etc. can add a surprising charge to the shipping cost. Again, this is especially true if coupled with size or distance. Sometimes adding on a single bag of pellets to get an order to the minimum cost makes the shipping more expensive than the actual item! We have in the past let our customers know when certain items throw an order off when it comes to making the shipping affordable. Even though our recommendation to omit an item from an order results in a net loss to us, the peace of mind sharing the knowledge is priceless.
Distance. Orders coming in within 300 miles of our facility are generally fairly inexpensive to send. Certain major cities are also a less expensive delivery option because the shipping route for the post office is short and direct.
Combined orders. Small orders placed often is actually more expensive to our customers in the long run. Monthly $30 minimum orders still carry the postal service base rate, plus the adjustments for size, weight, distance and handling. Sounds confusing, eh? Here’s an example: one customer orders a bag of pellets, rosehips, hay cubes and cookies one month, then the next month an assortment of chew toys. Instead of paying shipping twice on two very different orders, by combining the basics with the chew toys the cost of shipping could have been the same as just shipping out the first box! The cost of the chew toys added on to the heavy items wouldn’t make a substantial difference, but the cost of sending chew toys alone can nearly double the shipping price. Make more sense now?
Information ambushing. Incoming emails are sorted according to priority or difficulty. Our favorite emails are adoption inquiries, but store orders rank a very close second. When an order is cleverly disguised as a request for basic chinchilla care questions, it’s like throwing sand in Whimsy’s gears. Likewise, the assurance of sending in an order “soon” after posing a difficult question really comes across as an empty promise. Once again, our website is chock full of information. It may take a little bit of digging, but so many gems of information are found along the way. ;)
Incomplete orders. Whimsy is not a mind reader. Vague emails requesting “those red, round things” or “some” ledges are frustrating. Our website has pictures and item names, use them. We can get your package on its way much, much faster if we don’t have to play email ping-pong asking for clarification. Also, please include the zip code or shipping address. The only address we know by heart is for Grandma and Grandpa.
I hope this information is helpful. With the above tips in mind, happy shopping! And no, we really don't ship live animals in boxes. :P
Happy June everyone!
For the month of May zero (0) chinchillas were surrendered, and seven (7) chinchillas were adopted. Finally! There is space enough to bring in a clothes washer and dryer again! At least, that was the goal. Earlier this month we received two different mixed family groups of chins (including babies) as transfers from other shelter facilities. *sigh* We're full again.
At this point we are seriously hoping to win the farm with the essay contest. HOWEVER, we learned recently that the tax hit will be huge on it. Talk is flying around of fees of about $160K or more. Well....that certainly is a lot less than a 600K mortgage! But it is far from "free".
Nevertheless, a farm at that rate is still a very good deal. Please keep us in your prayers and positive thoughts as we refine our essay for submission this week. If submissions are turned in by July 1st, we're allowed an extra 1000 words in our write up. We're using that opportunity to expand our story.
If you want to help, enter the contest! It won't run unless there are close to 5000 entries. And yes! They will allow essay entries on behalf of another person or organization. *hint, hint* The contest ends in October with the winner announced around Thanksgiving time. Wouldn't winning Rock Spring Farm be something to be thankful for?
This week we received not one, but TWO requests for help from chinchilla owners with a cancer diagnosis. In both situations the owners were at a loss regarding what to do with their pets. Over the years I have known exactly one person who has put an emergency care plan in place to see to the needs of their animals. It's easy to assume family will step up to help, but are you sure they are not simply giving lip service?
We have taken in uncountable numbers of rescues of those who have gone ahead over the rainbow bridge. We have also met some incredible people who have inherited pets this way and have welcomed them into their permanent home. To those of you who are the caretakers, thank you! To those who have never considered what to do in case of an ill-timed hospital visit or hospice care plans, please take this little note as an encouragement to do so. The future of your fur baby is in question.
Any time we mention chinchilla matchmaking on our Facebook page, we inevitably receive multiple requests for pairbonding help. Folks, it would take a book to explain our process. We actually have a unique, tried and true method that relies heavily on reading the subtle signs of chinchilla body language. It has taken almost a decade to develop and refine this skill. We carefully watch and learn the individual temperaments which gives Whimsy a good idea which chinchillas would be compatible.
Our pairbonding method generally takes 3 days and we like to keep a close eye on the new friendships for a full week. This helps to establish a good foundation of trust between them. If an original pairing doesn't show signs of promise within 3 days, we start all over again with another candidate. We know that if a bond doesn't occur within a week, it's not likely to happen at all. If a pairbonding is that difficult, it won't last! The slightest stressor or change can send an uptight chin into a fit of desperate attacks. Especially if the chins "eventually" grew to accept each other.
One of the key components of matchmaking is to never allow an attack to happen in the first place. If the chins develop bad feelings towards each other, this serves as a negative, downward spiral. Urine spraying among females is normal and helps to establish boundaries. Subtle nipping during nose sniffing does the same. Dominance mounting is fine only if the one being dominated submits. Otherwise a fight for power can occur. If two chins turn into a tumbling mass of fur, do NOT push the friendship.
Also, never, never, never hold one chin up to another to sniff noses! When chins nose sniff, one has to yield. This is impossible when one or the other is held hostage in a person's hands. Trying to let them sniff noses from your hands actually forces the held one to exhibit a stance of aggression. (In this picture we actually used a mother/daughter duo who are already tightly bonded.)
Happy April everyone!
For the month of March, zero (0!) chinchillas were surrendered and two (2) chinchillas were adopted. We have put a serious damper on intakes until we can reclaim some living space. As mentioned before, priority surrenders are given to those who have adopted our rescue chins and need to re surrender them. However, all of our specifications outlined in in link regarding the surrender process applies. Those who try to withhold the cage to recoup some of the costs are frustrating in the obvious disregard for the animal.
On a more positive note, we've learned of an amazing opportunity that can only be described as a dream come true. A couple living a couple of hours north of us are offering an essay contest to essentially give away their 35 acre farm. The property consists of 10 acres of fields and the remainder consisting of mature wooded areas complete with trails! That would provide ample acreage for our little zoo to grow our own hay and plant orchards to harvest wood for the chinnies!
Would you like to join me in the rest of our dream? The house on the property has 3 levels. The ground floor/ basement would make a fantastic chinchilla shelter where we could keep the cages of boys and girls in separate rooms. Even though chins can smell a female in heat for up to a mile away, having them in different rooms would be much less provoking. Also, having the chins on their own floor would make it much easier to contain the dust and bedding apart from our living space. AND, it would provide us with enough elbow room to set up cages of the "proper" size as holding cages for the rescues. Better still, for those chinchillas who actually come with their cages, the additional space would allow us to keep the chins in their permanent cages and adopt them as "complete with cage". Which would help reduce adoption stress.
The property has an over-sized workshop complete with heat and air conditioning. That would allow the perfect year around spot for Whimsy to do her woodworking in a place other than in the dining room and kitchen. The 18th century cookhouse would make a fantastic place to process and dry the natural woods we use for our chew toys.
Since the property is relatively close, we could still continue our work with the special needs students who help assemble our toys. Could you imagine the looks on their faces when they come for the year-end field trip to Whimsy's?
Although we have our hopes set on winning the contest, it is open for everyone to try. The more people who enter, the higher the likelihood the contest will actually run. They would like to have at least 5000 contest entries. It requires an essay of no more than 1000 words (make sure to see the rubric for guidelines) and a $200 entry fee. The chances of winning are better then the lottery. ;) Get writing folks! Or at least say a little prayer for us.
Happy March everyone!
For the month of February, two (2) chinchillas were surrendered and three (3) chinchillas were adopted. We still are overrun with chinchillas needing a forever home and have actually turned away inquiries for surrender until we can reduce our numbers to a more manageable one. We do, however, offer priority to chins adopted to us who need to come back.
It is especially frustrating that when we post ads about chinchillas for adoption, we usually receive more inquiries for surrender! Call me jaded, but dealing with people is the most irksome part of rescue work. And while I'm on my high horse, we are not a government facility. We do not offer free healthcare. If your chinchilla is sick, broke a leg, etc., it is you, the owner's responsibility, to care for the animal whether you want to keep it or not. Credit cards make a wonderful resource for emergency needs. Relying on a rescue to take up the financial slack is just weak and irresponsible.
So spread the word, if you can't afford the vet, don't get the pet.
Shortest post ever, but probably the most important one.
Happy February everyone!
For the month of January, eleven (11) chinchillas were surrendered and seven (7) chinchillas were adopted. As usual, we had bunches and bunches of chins visiting for the holidays while their two-footed pets went on vacation. During this time we actually received multiple requests for matchmaking to enlarge the already happy families. New chin owners quickly discover whether or not a chinchilla is the right pet for them. Some people end up expanding their herd, while others decide to bow out and re- surrender their new pets. It’s sad, but a true fact of rescue work.
We all carry preconceived ideas about how life will be with a pet chinchilla. Someone who has owned one before assumes all chins act like their first pet. Someone who has never owned a chin may mistakenly think they are all cuddly, warm balls of delight. Chins each come with their own, individual personality and temperament, but chinchillas all share some very basic qualities. They are prey animals, so are prone to a flight (run away) response. Sensitive individuals may take this behavior personally. Please know that a chin who runs away from you is not rejecting you. They’re just doing what is natural. Some chinchillas are born with a more inquisitive nature. Those make the best pets. A chinnie who eagerly comes forward for a treat, scratch on the head, or out for playtime is a joy to have.
Another part of the joy of owning a new pet is in personalizing your relationship. Adoptive chinchilla owners often ask, “Is it ok if I change my chinchilla’s name?” For the most part, chinchillas do not respond to the sound of their name. (We have a couple of chinchillas here who would beg to differ.) In general though, your pet chinchilla is most likely to respond to certain tone of voice or to the sound of the treat bag opening!
Some chinchillas seem to absolutely bloom in the care of one person as compared to another and it doesn’t always have to do with quality of care. Remember your grade school experiments where you were instructed to provide the exact same water levels, light, food, etc. for a plant, but were instructed to sing to, love on and think happy thoughts towards one plant, and ignore the other? The atmosphere in which a pet chinchilla lives can also affect their temperament and health.
When you adopt a chinchilla, it’s the beginning of a whole new relationship. If changing the chinnie’s name helps to solidify that relationship, then we give it a thumbs up. And if your chinnie comes when called, you know you have a winner.
Stress induced fur chewing.
Yup, we see a lot of cases that involve this and we love to see the transformation from a ragged, sad little animal to a full, fluffy, thriving one.
Chinchillas will chew their own fur and the fur and whiskers of a cagemate when confronted by a stressful living environment. Some of the factors being; a cage that is too small or otherwise overcrowded, the wrong "kind" of cage, inadequate chew toys, no place to hide or an exposed cage (insecurity), lack of exercise, and general boredom.
One of the responsibilities of a good owner is to see to the needs of their pet. Providing environmental enrichment is an often overlooked need. It is for this reason that our adoption contact specifies the provision of a "Whimsy approved" cage. We have seen, and continue to see situations where well-meaning owners simply do not know what a chinchilla truly needs. We have seen chins housed in hamster cages, glass aquariums, dog kennels, guinea pig cages with no ledges, small cages with only one or two ledges, free-ranged (!) and even chins housed in solid wood boxes and rabbit hutches.
Pet stores offer chinchilla "starter cages." A starter cage is NOT supposed to be permanent housing. Starter cages are intended to hold a single, baby chinchilla. They are too constricting for a full grown adult yet we have seen as many as 5 chinchillas in a tiny cage such as that.
With chinchillas, the bigger the cage, the better. The more interesting the cage, the better. The more stimulating the cage, the better. A chinchilla housed in a wonderland will rarely, if ever, chew their fur. If your chinnie has plenty of toys and ledges, they are less likely to take out their frustration on themselves or a cagemate.
Some of our chinnie friends take cage decorating seriously! We love to see the creative designs folks come up with regarding their accessorizing (especially if those accessories come from our store ;) ). We do our best to offer safe, fun and completely thought out ledges, bridges and hiding places. Just remember, wooden accessories are safe for chewing and will eventually need replacing.
You can limit the ledge chewing and fur chewing by providing copious amounts of chew toys. A good rule of thumb for chews is to offer at least three toys at any given time: one hard (such as pumice based toys), one soft (shreddable type toys), and one mixed. Expect to rotate or replace chew toys or some of the components weekly. If your pet chinchilla isn't actively engaged in working their teeth, they can and do take it out on themselves or even the bars of their cage! Fur chewers tend to be nervous pickers. They thrive on the soft, shreddy-type toys. Even so, chinchillas' teeth grow in spurts. A chin who shuns pumice one week might destroy it in a heartbeat the next. (And yes, destroying their toys is a GOOD thing!)
A secure chinchilla is a happy chinchilla. A place to hide such as a hanging tube, hidey house or even a plain cardboard box helps. The cage placement in a room will also contribute to a feeling of security. Chins do best in a living room corner away from a doorway where they can survey the comings and goings of their human friends. This type of daily inclusion helps ease boredom and contributes to a well-socialized pet. Some chins actually enjoy watching TV! They are social creatures. Please remember to let them be a part of the family. Your life and theirs will be enriched by daily contact.
Here are Amanda and Thunder watching Animal Planet together.
We understand that no good pet owner intends to do harm to their pet. But often bad situations arise from owners who simply do not have good, solid advice to make informed decisions. We hope that we can offer that advice without demeaning or berating those who honestly don't know any better. If you know of a chin owner who can benefit from our webpage, please share. For the sake and benefit of the chinchillas first; we faithfully serve.
Well Happy January and Happy New Year everyone!
For the month of December, four (4) chinchillas were surrendered and four (4) chinchillas were adopted. For the year 2014 we had a total of 70 chinchillas adopted. This is far lower than last year's 111 adoptions. On the flip side, the number of surrenders has also decreased. We had 69 chinchillas surrendered for the year, which actually gives us a plus 1 on adoptions.
Of course the most friendly and prettiest chinnies are chosen first to go to new homes, but on occasion we do meet people with a true rescuer's heart who come looking for the underdogs. We love to meet people like that! People who want to rescue and not just "buy" a cheap exotic pet. We also have a handful of supporters who recognize that the less adoptable chins are the ones who need the most help. In the majority of cases, the adoption fees don't even come close to covering the expense of caring for the surrenders while they wait for their adoptive families. Sometimes certain chins are with us for years before finding their forever home. Our sponsors help cover the cost of necessary supplies and even some extra special treats for their chosen chinnies.
So why do we do this? A sweet write up found on a horse rescue site (Central Virginia Horse Rescue) says it all:
Happy December everyone!
For the month of November, six (6) chinchillas were surrendered and ten (10) chinchillas were adopted. It looks like the bio pages for the adoptables are working well.
Of the six chinnies surrendered, two pairs were ones that were previously adopted from us. It seems that 3 years is the average span of time a newbie chin owner keeps his or her pets before deciding whether they are the right pet for them. It is unfortunate, but even with careful consideration sometimes you just don't know if a human/pet relationship is a permanent one. It is disheartening to think about...
*shakes melancholy feeling off depressive mind-scape*
Ok, so on a more positive note, we know many, many more fantastic chin moms and dads who totally spoil their fur babies. When people submit orders to our web store, it's easy to see which people truly give their pets everything they would possibly need. Funny, but it seems that those who simply provide only the bare basic necessities are the first ones to give their chinchillas up....
G'ah! Back you depressive thought!
Ok, we're going to offer some mutual support for those who support our rescue. We like to be a part of the "pamper your pet" crowd. So in honor of Cyber Monday, with every order of $50 or more, Whimsy will include a special surprise. Now wouldn't you like to know what that is? But we'll let you in on a little secret, we do this year round, not just as a silly marketing gimmick. ;)
Happy November everyone!
For the month of October, three (3) chinchillas were surrendered and one (1) chinchilla was adopted. November is looking good though as far as a sudden upward trend in adoptions. We learned the hard way that having pictures and biographies of the adoptable chinchillas is really important.
Some months back Whimsy decided to delete all pictures and information about the available chins thinking that the extra work was worthless. Boy! Were we wrong! The adoptions plummeted. (Except for lots of local chin friends looking to add on to their personal herds). So in an effort to resurrect the bios pages, please keep in mind that we're doing our best to have the information up to date. Any available chins are shown on the website, but we usually have several others here who are either on maternity watch, still undergoing evaluation, or who represent behavior problems too drastic for the general adoptive population. Please, do not email Whimsy asking for pictures and information about unlisted chins. If we have the time to answer that email, we have the time to post them.
On a more positive note, did you know this is the anniversary of the creation of Whimsy's Menagerie? Yup! We're now in our 7th year and going strong. Our humble beginnings have led to some pretty major growing pains, but has been worth it. During the past years we have devoted a special room just for the chins, expanded that room, removed and replaced some major appliances to accommodate them, expanded again with a second room, reclaimed massive amounts of storage space in the attic, planted a small orchard, and built a workshop. And still, we're forever fighting for more space. It may be time soon to think about expanding again. Because, hauling hay to a climate controlled room upstairs is just sooooo last year.
Happy October everyone!
For the month of September, two (2) chinchillas were surrendered and two (2) chinchillas were adopted. The number of chins adopted has significantly decreased lately. Fortunately, so have the number of surrenders.
Someone asked us recently if we are a no-kill shelter. The answer: not quite. On occasion we do receive a chinchilla with severe medical issues that are not treatable. Malocclusion affecting the tooth roots is one of the more common ailments. People also bring chins to us on the verge of death. A vet visit early on could have saved those, but when an animal is lethargic and showing signs of agonal respiration, there is really nothing more that can be done to save them. But for those who are treatable, we treat.
As a rescue shelter we also take in chinchillas with varying degrees of behavioral issues. Sadly, many of the behavior issues are human induced. One chinchilla came in recently whose former owner clearly did not know how to handle the poor thing. It became so cage aggressive that it actually learned to strike out at the hand that was feeding it-- literally! With many of our potential adopters being families with children or first time chinchilla owners, we make it our policy to NOT rehome aggressive biters unless someone is specifically willing and able to take on a huge challenge.
Like toddlers, chinchillas are natural nibblers, and we understand that an exploratory nibble is not a bite. However, there are some chins that have learned to use their teeth in a way that is more than one of curiosity. We do our best to rehabilitate and allow even the most extreme cases to stay as long as we have space for them. We have, however, expanded our chin room to two rooms and long ago gave up our clothes washer and dryer to accommodate the rescues. Sending chinchillas over the rainbow bridge is not something we regularly do. Rather, it's an act of desperation. Ours and other rescues constantly battle for space and resources to care for waves of unwanted animals.
Our support store has been our primary means of operating the chinchilla rescue. Unfortunately, we have seen a rise in unscrupulous, copy-cat venders making our original products for their gain. Some have even started fake "rescues" as a false pretense. Many try, but few succeed in the long term. Know who you support and support who you know. For those of you who have remained loyal customers: Thank you! For those of you who are new to our website: Welcome! How may we serve you and your fur babies?
Happy September everyone!
For the month of August, five (5) chinchillas were surrendered and eight (8) chinchillas were adopted. We had one rescue chin here for hospice who passed over the rainbow bridge. Now her cagemate is in need of a new friend.
Our summer and now continuing autumn has kept us so busy that it looks like the new standard for posts is nearly a month behind. :s We've been harvesting and processing wood to carry us through the winter. Not only have we completed the scheduled trims, we also managed to cut, harvest and process a whole pear and mulberry tree!
We've even had to catch up on some toy making at home since the student-crafters have been on summer vacation. Fortunately, school started back up this month and our schedule for working with the special needs students making our chinchilla chew toys is back on track. We have lots of new faces, names, skills and personalities to learn. It's always exciting to see how the students grow in their chew toy making skills from the beginning of the year to the end. We are fortunate enough to have some more seasoned students to help guide the newbies.
This month we also had the pleasure of having another booth at this year's Virginia Beach Pet Expo. Since this isn't our first cakewalk, we learned a few tricks to implement this time. The arm protectors went over well to protect our delicate forearms from scratchy chinnie nails. We also kept a tally count of how many times we heard people say, "It's so soft!" (385 times) or, "It's so cute!"(101 times). It certainly helped pass time. The voluntolds (AKA Whimsy's clan, not necessarily "volunteers") were all good sports about the event. Thanks kids!
We requested a corner booth near the Mega Adoption Area. Although we did not allow adoptions at the actual event, we did bring a couple of Critter Nation cages and 4 bonded pairs of chins for outreach. Our primary goal was to let our community know we exist, serving multiple states, and that we have countless chinchillas available for adoption (always). We did get a healthy handful of individuals who expressed interest in adopting, but time will tell. We also wrapped up the event having only made one enemy. One of hundreds, that's pretty good odds. The person in question made the mistake of telling an animal rescue worker that she lets her pets breed without restraint. That's akin to admitting to a police officer that you just committed murder. This confession doesn't go over well with Whimsy.
On a more positive note, as a bonus, the people at the Pet Expo invited Whimsy to speak on stage about chinchillas! Silly Whimsy, what she thought was supposed to be a 30 second mini commercial was in actuality a 30 MINUTE allotted speech time! Piece of cake. Whimsy winged it....and nailed it. It certainly helps knowing your subject. ;)
All in all September has been quite eventful. With that being said, our apologies to those who have waited more than 24 hours for their online orders.