Happy February!

Happy February everyone!

For the month of January we have had zero (0) surrenders or adoptions. We have been laying low for the better part of the last year in anticipation of our move. As it is now, we have about 40 chinchillas we’ll need to transfer to the new place in a couple months. Our gofundme page to fund the new rescue room  is up and running again after a minor setback where the page would not accept incoming donations. Even still, the monetary help is trickling in and we are profoundly grateful to those who can help in this way.

Those of you who follow us on facebook are privy to the most immediate updates and news. Recently we’ve developed some fun ideas for some new chew toy designs. It’s been more than a year since our last new release. But the long wait  has been worth it!

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On facebook we asked our followers to help come up with a name for the new chew toy.  We thought of; Shreddy Freddy, Twig Man, Straw man, Vinny the Vineman, Heart on my Sleeve, and on and on. But the best suggestions came from facebook and actually covered both original two styles of toy. We’re going to go with the T(ch)inMan as our default design.  We’ve heard rumors that he  is related to the Wizard of Oz’s Tin Man. Our TchinMan has found a  heart and is willing to share it.  The King of Hearts (AKA Pineapple King) is by popular demand and just in time for Valentine’s day. Thank you Kelsey and Nicole for your name suggestions!

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But the inspiration continues! Our graphic designer came up with another idea for a Knight in Shining Armor, complete with a sword and strategically placed star on the “shield”. For Halloween, we foresee releasing a headless horseman. Cinco de Mayo can potentially bring in Señor Scarecrow. But for now we’re just going to focus on Valentine’s Day. With that being said, who hasn’t ever had more than one  individual vying for your attention at the same time? They are offering undying love to you and your chinchilla.

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Now, it’s getting a bit awkward as in anticipation of their popularity,  we’re finding these guys everywhere! Several are on Whimsy's desk, many more on the IKEA, one was caught overseeing the spring wood harvest this weekend and another in a photo op with one of the rescue chins. The guardadoga got hold of two others, some are in the living room in boxes ready to go as surprise gifts to some of our customers (Shhhhhh!) Personally, we feel they must be distant relatives to Elf on the Shelf or something. But don’t take our word for it. We have them available in our webstore on the Chew Toys page. You’re welcome to order your own and find out. Please, share with us on facebook of all the adventures of your TchinMan. That is…if he lasts long enough.

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Extra Happy New Year!

Happy January everyone! And welcome to 2018!

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For the month of December three (3) chinchillas were surrendered and six (6) chinchillas were adopted. We had a largish number of inquiries for adoption in December as folks considered adding new family pets before the holidays. Christmas is a great time to justify spending the necessary start up costs for chinchilla ownership. But once the big ticket items are taken care of, the rest is (usually) maintenance. For us, the fun part is post-holiday when we meet all the new chin parents who hear about our rescue and webstore. We love seeing all the different ways people use our cage accessories and chew toys to decorate cages and pamper their pets. Happy! Happy! Happy!

But now for some long awaited news. For those of you who have been following us for some time, you know that we were this --><-- close to winning the Rock Spring Farm Essay Contest two years ago. Ever since then we have looked for a suitable alternative. When the essay contest was canceled after we learned we were finalists, some of you suggested we start a gofundme page to gather donations for the purchase of a larger place. Whimsy didn’t feel comfortable asking for donations to foot the bill for a new home. That is our personal responsibility, no matter how much of it is related to operating the rescue and support store.

It’s been difficult to keep the secret. And actually, 2017 has been a frustrating one as we chased after the possibility of owning a certain property that never panned out. We did, however, find another place that is even better! And the amazing thing is, our contest essay gave us the edge this time around as ours was the “backup offer” that earned the favor of the sellers. So with this news we’d like to announce that we’ve found the future new home of Whimsy’s Menagerie!

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The new place is remarkably perfect. It has a charming home on lush acreage. There is room enough to keep the horses on our own property, and planting space to transfer and expand our young organic orchard. Best of all, it has a separate workshop/warehouse/office building that is larger than our current home! We will finally have the much needed space to work and keep the chinchillas in a building other than our living quarters. Additionally, the shop has its own septic, gas and electric system. This will allow our CPA an easier task of keeping our business and personal expenses separate. Whimsy’s Menagerie runs and operates through webstore sales and donations, but Whimsy does not take a salary. We have alternate means of income for personal expenses such as for the mortgage on the new home. We’ve got the new home covered now, but ask that those of you who would like, can contribute to the modeling and finishing of the new rescue room.

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The future “Whimsy’s Workshop” is a blank canvas. There are offices carved out of a portion of the building that are finished with insulation, drywall, lighting, heat and AC. The actual workshop area is a gigantic unfinished space where we would need to claim some for the rescue room, quarantine/isolation room, sanitation area and storage. For this we need to have interior walls constructed and insulated, a stairway built for attic storage access, floor laid, electrical, heat and AC routed. We have had a structural engineer come to assess and estimates presented. 

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Our future new home is currently under contract with a closing date of spring 2018. So we have a few months to prepare. We’re planning to make the move seamless as we shift in stages from one location to the other. But we can certainly use some help with transport, set up, cleaning, construction, etc. The following gofundme link is in place specifically for the construction and improvement of the rescue and related areas. We hope to have this project funded and started by the end of March. If you would like to contribute, we would be thrilled! Alternatively, any donations or funds “rounded up” made through paypal that do not cover regular operating costs, go into the construction fund. We’re excited to finally share with you the relief of our growing pains. Thank you everyone for making this possible! The good favor of our new and returning customers has convinced us that we're doing the right thing.

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Happy December!

Happy December everyone!

For the month of November, one  (1) chinchilla was surrendered and three (3) chinchillas were adopted. We had one person bring in a chinchilla for pairbonding and never returned to claim them. The legal requirements for going through abandonment procedure is both time consuming and frustrating. In this case, the false hope of an adoption with pairbonding was simply deceitful. I laugh when people tell me they wish they could do what I do. Rescue work is not all about taking in cute, sad animals. More often than not we receive elderly, ill-tempered or sickly chins with grossly unclean, completely inadequate cages. We are met with a variety of illnesses and medical issues that have given us hands-on experience.

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Animal rescue nearly killed me…literally. I almost died this year from zoonosis when a certain bacteria from a pair of rescue chins made its way into my lungs. As an asthmatic, pasteurellosis of the lungs is particularly life threatening. Today I would like to talk about cross-species disease transmission.

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Pathogens can and do cross between species. A chinchilla can catch a cold from their people, contract fungus from someone who has athlete’s foot, acquire Pasteurella from the house rabbit and more. On the flip side, humans can contract certain diseases from their pets. These can translate as eye infections, skin infections, parasitic infestations, respiratory issues of a bacterial nature, etc.

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Handwashing before and after handling your pet seems like a common sense procedure, no? But seriously, how many people really do that? How easy is it to walk by a cage, give a quick scritch or treat and move on to other tasks or pets? At home we generally have a good feel for the health of our pets and environment. In a shelter or rescue situation, there is more opportunity for disease transmission. One time we had a wildlife rehabber come visit who had ringworm patches exposed on her arms. Yup. For the next few months we struggled to contain and eradicate ringworm from the herd.

At home, letting your interspecies pets “play” together can be a deadly combination. Many rabbits carry the Pasteurella bacteria and show no signs or symptoms. In chinchillas that same bacteria is deadly. Unvaccinated horses can pass on strangles, which is also deadly to chins. Rodents can leave behind droppings full of listeria which can be found in hay and hay based products. It is this very reason why we advise against purchasing hay from your local farmer as most are stored where wild rodents can freely roam. So even the cleanest of homes with the most reliable quality supplies is still subject to contamination.

With this in mind, one of the ways you can keep your pet healthy is to watch for signs and symptoms of anything that may be “off”. As pet guardians, we generally have a good idea what normal behavior is for our individual animals. Pet forums are a great place to compare notes and learn from those who have experienced and treated specific issues. Armed with information we can be better advocates when it comes to partnering with our veterinarians. The hard part is being bold enough to resist deferring to someone based on education rather than experience.

It is our sincerest wish that yours and our chinchillas remain healthy and happy.

Merry Christmas and Happy New year to all.

It's our anniversary!

Happy November everyone!

For the month of October, two (2) chinchillas were surrendered and two (2) chinchillas were adopted. We’ve had quite a number of folks contact us regarding pairbonding but fewer individuals looking to adopt for the  first time. Even still, it amazes me that people can be obtuse enough to try contacting a shelter looking for chins to breed. It...just…never…ends. I can say this with the backing of experience as we are…

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…now in our 10th year! November 1st 2008 was our official start date of Whimsy’s Menagerie. It’s been quite a ride! In that time we’ve stretched and grown, tried and failed, kicked and screamed and laughed a whole lot. What started as a homeschool project has become a lifestyle. We’ve settled in to a beautiful routine. Over the past decade we’ve managed to fine tune our operation. We have an easily recognizable signature for our cage accessories and chew toys and are always so thrilled when people tell us how well made everything is. We and our special needs student helpers thank you. Here is the original video of our early years.

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We’re to the point now where some of our supplies and raw materials come by the pallet load. For the past two years we’ve been looking to move to a place that would allow for this expansion. We may have finally found that future home, but have been working out the details for the better part of this year. This is the cryptic news Whimsy has mentioned in past posts. Fact is, it’s been a very slow, laborious process with many, MANY closed doors, road blocks and issues. BUT, we seem to be on the fast track now. Time will tell. And speaking of time, during the nearly 10 years of operation, half of Whimsy’s children have graduated from college and moved on to pursue their life paths.

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One funny story goes that when our webmistress (sassy looking first born on the right) graduated this past spring with her graphic arts degree, during one job interview the person nearly jumped out of her chair at the mention of Whimsy’s Menagerie. Apparently she’s a follower of ours. (If you’re reading this, thank you for the fun reaction.) Another time our hardware supplier had to actually contact Whimsy by phone (a highly restricted task!), he gushed that he felt like he was talking to a celebrity. How curious. In all honesty folks, I have no idea what I’m doing, but am sure getting good at it!

Being a single mom who works with power tools is somewhat of  an oddity. Our home is on a corner lot with full view of Whimsy’s shop area. On more than one occasion we’ve actually had men approach Whimsy to say that she should let her husband do the tool work. Uh….

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But we do like to have fun in that regard. Once, we picked up an especially large load from the lumber yard. Standing in line to check out a couple of men walked  by with quizzical expressions on their faces. I jumped at the chance to have some fun and asked my daughter if she thought the lumber would fit in her hatchback. Another time the cashier made a comment about the big, beautiful stack of well grained lumber and our plans for it. I innocently said, "it’s for the firepit. We’re just going to burn it." He nearly cried. We had to console him. Another time at a woodwork shop our friend (who works there) commented to his co-worker about my woodworking skill. At which point I whipped out a raw apple wood wedge that just happened to be in my pocket and proudly displayed my “craftsmanship”. *cough* The confused look on the guy’s face was priceless.

And then there are the chinchillas. We’ve met all shapes, sizes, temperaments, conditions and colors. We’ve been peed on, bitten, groomed and snuggled. We’ve helped chins through medical conditions and eased some over the rainbow bridge. We’ve tamed some. We’ve found homes for lots and lots, and sadly, received some back. Some we’ve taken back by legal means when an adoption contract was broken. We’ve boarded chins, bonded chins and even bought chins. Whimsy started as a pet owner, dabbled a bit with the show circuit, and finally settled into hard core rescue work. Fact is, the chinchillas deserve it. Not to be treated as objects. Not to be used to fulfill some misplaced maternal desire for a baby, and certainly not as machines to pump out living creatures for financial gain. These adorable, sentient creatures are worthy. Just ask them. They’ll tell you if you listen.

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Chinchillas & Dogs

Happy October everyone!

For the month of September two (2) chinchillas were surrendered and three (3) chinchillas were adopted. Our super secret news is stagnant. Sorry I don’t have more to share just yet. But we do have a new addition! We’ve brought in a livestock guardian puppy to the menagerie. Until we can have her guard the horses, Nova is perfectly content to guard the chinchillas. Which leads me to the following post all about how to introduce (or keep) chinchillas and dogs.

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People regularly excuse themselves from adopting chinchillas based on the fact that they have dogs, or cats, a mean parrot, etc. We have those as well, but manage to manage the zoo effectively enough. We can share some of our no-nonsense tips with you. First, be aware that there are certain breeds or species (hunting dogs, ferrets, cats)  who are predators of chinchillas. Let’s talk specifically about dogs though, shall we?

Dog that were bred as ratters (terriers, dachshunds, pinschers) are typically not chinchilla-friendly dogs. Now, everyone must graduate bottom of the class so there are some varmint killing dogs that don’t do that job well. Those are the oddities you see on YouTube that show predator and prey sharing a food bowl or snuggling together or some other such weirdness. So to be clear, I do NOT advocate intermixing species to let them “play.” But you can train your dog to respect the other furry house pets and not simply consider them house pests.

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A proper introduction is crucial. Allow the dog and chin to interact on their own terms behind the safety of cage bars or playpen. Do NOT hold a chinchilla up to a dog or other animal to sniff noses. Holding a chinchilla literally traps them in your hands and does not allow them stress relief to turn or run away. Do NOT hold a dog back from a chin. Be sure there is a safe (non-human) barrier between the two while they are learning about each other. Now here’s the training part. Praise the dog like crazy if he or she is behaving well. If the dog is calmly sniffing, that’s perfect! If the dog becomes overeager, lunges at, pokes a nose, swats or barks use your super-special tone of voice to let it know that the behavior is unacceptable. Match your tone to the level of misbehavior.

If you limit addressing a dog only when it misbehaves, then the dog may learn to seek interaction with you by “being bad.” One human/dog couple we know lives on the route we regularly ride our horses. When the owner is absent, the dog is a perfectly well behaved individual. She stays in her yard, doesn’t bark and just watches as we ride by. When the owner is present, the dog goes bat$hit crazy. The owner freaks out to the verge of an aneurism and there is a lot of noise an chaos all around. The dog has learned to behave a certain way which elicits a certain response from its owner. But back to dogs and chins.

You can use an arm extender (rolled up newspaper, flyswatter, etc.) to swat the GROUND next to the dog if it becomes too excited. Remember to praise calm behavior. Relax. Your dog knows when you’re stressed out.

If you leave the chins completely off limits then the dog will obsess over getting to the object of their desire. The key is consistency in showing the dog what is acceptable. Here’s another little side story. In a vet’s office another patron’s dog jumped up on me as I was sitting with a carrier of chins. I firmly put the dog off of my lap and proceeded to pet her as long as she had her feet on the ground. The owner apologized for the dog jumping up on me and stated that she hadn’t learned not to jump up on people yet. The very next thing this woman did was pat her lap to encourage her dog to jump up on her! I then pointed out that she just effectively taught the dog that it is, in fact, ok to jump up on people. Mystery solved.

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To date we have trained up 6 successive Menagerie dogs of various breeds to respect the chins. This makes it so that if there is ever a cage escape, we don’t fear finding a massacre. If you are lucky (or if you’re not doing your job to protect), you may have a chinchilla who helps in the training department who will defend their personal space with a nip, spray, bark or rush.

This very brief post about dog training touches on rewarding positive behavior and setting up animal/animal interactions to succeed. For a more detailed explanation of using positive and negative reinforcement and punishment, please see this link: http://www.dog-training-excellence.com/operant-conditioning.html

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