Posts tagged anniversary
2018 Wrap Up

Happy December everyone!


For the month of November four (4) chinchillas were surrendered and four (4) chinchillas were adopted, including the poster boys from our Pumpkin Spice Chinchillas picture. We currently have about 16 chinchillas waiting for their furever home. We’ve practically given up on trying to keep the website current with regards to the specific chinchillas available. The numbers change so often! Plus, we really hate the thought of those who are “color shopping”. We prefer instead that the chinchilla be a good fit with the family when it comes to personality, temperament and activity level. Onwards!

The year 2018 has been a year of many changes. We moved to our new home. The chinchillas and webstore related “werk” got an upgrade with a building all its own. We’ve had a major mind shift from working out of the dining room to actually going to a separate, no kidding, office. (Even though the commute is only about 550 feet.) Keeping office hours seems to have made a big difference in productivity.

Another change we’ve seen this year has been the sad goodbyes of the two special education teachers with whom we have worked so closely. We have spent nearly a decade as Partners in Education with the local high school where the students help us craft our chew toys, cage accessories and other supplies. This year not one, but both head instructors have retired and passed their classes on to the next generation of educators. We’re still working out kinks with scheduling, but hope to be back in full swing with our student helpers soon! In the meantime Whimsy’s clan has been busy building the necessary parts and pieces to make our goodies. Ziggy, Whimsy’s son with autism, is happy to take up the slack where our student helpers would normally fill the store. He even has his very own office and assembly room!


Changes are in progress to grow and expand our orchard. We’ve been slowly claiming some of our new land to make room for our apple, pear, mulberry and pecan trees. There is a natural watershed between the house and office that slopes on three sides. The hilled terrain would be perfect for growing our delicious heirloom apples and pears. Whimsy’s oldest daughter jokingly named our proposed plot, “The Fruit Bowl.”

As we work to thin that area it is providing us with plenty of firewood with which to heat the rescue building. We’re still struggling with the HVAC system and spent nearly $1000 over the summer just to get the air conditioning working for the chinchillas. Once again the system has failed us and we’ve come to grips with the fact that we should stop paying outrageous prices for temporary patches. The system is original to the building and is 18 years old. There is a woodstove in the workshop that pumps out enough heat to keep the building a cozy 54-65 degrees. The chins are loving it! Having the woodstove will give us several months to save up for a new heat/air system before we need it again for cooling.


So as I look out my office window and admire the 12+ inches of snow, I think back over the year and consider how far we’ve come. November 1st marked the 10 year anniversary of Whimsy’s Menagerie. It’s been an unexpectedly amazing life path that no one could have possibly predicted. Operating a home based rescue has been a wild ride, not to mention an odd lifestyle. Many times it has been a rapidly shifting existence full of frustration and grief, success and joy. Even still, I have no regrets. So, many thanks to you, my chinchilla friends, for your support and good favor. My prayer is that I may be good enough to earn and keep it. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and have a blessed and happy New Year.

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…


…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.


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.


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….


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.

Happy November! And an Essay.

Happy November Everyone!

For the month of October, five (5) chinchillas were surrendered and six (6) chinchillas were adopted.
The year has absolutely zoomed by and the beginning of the month, and our anniversary, passed once again without fanfare.

Chinchillas have literally become my life and I can't imagine not continuing with Whimsy's. And since it's the day after Thanksgiving, it's only appropriate that I thank you everyone for the excellent, encouraging words and continued support with your orders. Thank you so much all for spreading the word about our rescue and store and thank you personal watchdogs on the forums who have confronted those who have tried to copy our designs! Thank you to those of you who round up your invoice total and thank you to those who have the special blessing to submit donations above and beyond. (You know who you are). Thank you to the countless wonderful families and individuals who have sought to provide a home for one of our rescues. With all these blessings it's much easier to deal with last year's loss of our dream. We very nearly won a 35 acre farm. Whimsy's essay was chosen as a finalist among thousands, but the essay contest was canceled right along the home stretch. It was a crushing piece of news to know we were so close. Now, as promised last month,  here is the essay we submitted.

My life operates as a series of ironies and clichés. I was born with an intense love for animals, but am allergic to them. I also have allergy-induced asthma that reacts to animal dander, dust and pollen. Yet I operate a home-based small animal rescue and work diligently to make my organic garden into something resembling a Thomas Kinkade painting.

As a child I would never leave home without my rescue inhaler and wad of tissues. My constant presence at the neighborhood horse stables earned me the friendship of the owner's daughter. There she gave me literal crash courses in horseback riding and fence mending. By the time I was 14 years old, I bought my first horse with money I earned delivering newspapers. Sir Ashleigh, Tenderfoot of Hamburg, didn't mind my constantly runny nose. Often we would sneeze and blow in tandem.

Ever a statistical outlier, when I was 19 years old I went looking for a new home with greener pastures. I left one coast for another with my horse and pet chinchilla when we moved from California to Virginia. Here I also found a nursing degree and a husband. We started our family immediately and my career as stay-at-home mom began. Sadly, my children never met my horse. Like a foreshadowing of marital events, Sir Ashleigh passed away unexpectedly when I was pregnant with our first child. It was an accident, but one that never lost its sting.

Persisting in the "despite all odds" saga, in 2003, I became a single mother of four small children. When the judge questioned my ability to survive, my divorce lawyer explained that I was a woman who could make five meals out of one chicken. "Just do it" was my mantra to go back to college while continuing my commitment to homeschool the little ones. I managed to graduate Magna Cum Laude and earned multiple degrees in Speech/Language Pathology, Special Education and Psychology. My two oldest daughters followed closely in my academic footsteps when they enrolled precociously in college at ages 13 and 14, and continue to maintain perfect 4.0 grade point averages. My youngest daughter also began college at age 13 and earns straight A's just like her sisters. I like to believe my family would fit in well in Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon stories: "Where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking and all the children are above average."

A country girl at heart, for years I would dream aloud with the kids about one day having our own farm with horses again. We talked of cultivating orchards and growing our own hay, of having some quirky fainting goats, a guard donkey, perhaps a llama or two, and of course a peacock. As proud supporters of the backyard hens movement, we collectively lament that the Virginia Beach city council refuses to permit its residents a few chickens. So while the city ordinances don't allow for farm animals in our neighborhood, we had to be content with dogs, cats, birds, fish, a flying squirrel, a hedgehog, ferrets and 100 chinchillas.

The chinchilla "thing" began as a homeschool project. We had the time, experience, space and heart to fill an unusual but overlooked need. We began our operation as a chinchilla specific rescue in November of 2008 and have grown to be one of the largest and most successful of our kind. During this time a few local and national magazines have written articles that spotlighted our shelter. The positive regard has been both rewarding and humbling.

The chinchillas reside in our converted garage that opens directly into our kitchen. To make more room for triple stacked cages we gave up the adjoining laundry room three years ago. To make even more space, we also traded our giant water heater for a tankless external unit. On occasion we have to hold temporary cages in the dining room. But that is reserved for short term boarders or emergency transfers from other shelter facilities.
I have since learned that other people's unwanted pets pose a never-ending influx. My greatest task now is to keep the ratio of surrenders to adoptions relatively equal and the cages out of the primary living area. We are operating at full capacity and have a waiting list for incoming animals as I struggle to reclaim enough space to have a washer and dryer again. It's a constant battle to keep their bath dust and pine shavings out of our home. What was once plenty of room has become crowded, and the chinchilla "thing" has become a full-time job.

To support the career that chose me, and by popular demand, we began making cage accessories and chew toys from select fruit and nut woods. An aspiring Master Gardener, I provide tree pruning as a free service. In return we get to keep the branches to cut, process and fashion into chinchilla chew toys. Together with help from the special needs students at a local high school, we assemble our original pet chews.
Volunteering with the students is undeniably a win-win situation. We began this mutually beneficial relationship during a required practicum for one of my Special Education courses in college. When the teacher lamented that she didn't have enough community jobs for her students to fulfill their work experience requirements, I told her about how handling all the different shapes and textures and following the patterns of our chew toy designs helps my son, who also has special needs. We've been volunteering with the students now for about as many years as we've been operating the rescue, and plan to keep our bimonthly visits indefinitely. We've seen many of the students who age out of the school system and are left with very limited opportunities to be contributing members of society. A dream I have fostered is to ultimately open an adult home and working farm for individuals with cognitive disabilities. The number of students and chinchillas we serve has steadily risen over the years and sometimes, especially during the hottest and coldest months of the year, it's a challenge to cut and process enough materials to keep the students and critters busy.

Out of necessity, I've become a successful craftsperson and have acquired an impressive array of tools. Not only do we make chew toys, we also create signature designed cage accessories. Environmental enrichment is something I strongly advocate when it comes to keeping a healthy and happy pet. We built a tidy little backyard workshop that is jam-packed with wheeled bins of parts and pieces that we bring with us when we have student work days. It also holds boxes of cut lumber ready to assemble into ledges, hidey houses, and chinchilla-sized bridges and swings. Large, pre-decorated cages that we offer for sale with chinchilla adoptions fill the center of the shop. I have to shift everything around like a game of Tetris to get to my supplies. Admittedly, my workshop is now too cramped for more than operating the tabletop drill press or router. I do most of the big cutting and especially dusty work outside, weather permitting.

As our little homeschool endeavor has grown, so has the demand on our modest space. The chinchillas have two rooms devoted to their cages, and the dining area is the showroom for the products we offer in our online store. My master bedroom and the majority of the upstairs and reclaimed attic are storage for boxes, packing supplies, hay, dried herbs and whole loofah in bulk, emergency travel carriers, a few hundred pounds of pumice stones and processed wood, and other raw materials. Like wearing "skinny pants" after a big meal, or home is nearly bursting at the seams and uncomfortably full.

Man plans, God laughs. My "5 year plan" included paying off the house and saving for a larger home with elbow room and land enough to have horses again. Last summer as I scrolled through the local Craigslist for garden supplies, I found my dream horse. Things just fell into place and by the end of the week I had my heart's desire. I managed to find a pasture board facility a half hour's drive away and three months later we added our second gaited mare. Sharing two horses among a family of five has been an interesting challenge, so this summer I found the perfect little confidence building Paso Fino gelding. He and my youngest daughter bonded immediately. Horses are a lot like potato chips (it's hard to have just one or two), and we are undoubtedly making up for lost equine time. It does concern me that the collective boarding fee for our growing herd is nearly as much as a mortgage payment-- minus the equity. We visit the horses daily as I insist on a self-care arrangement. But the daily drive to the stables itself is a time-stealing, joy-sucking demon of necessity.

For my son with autism, riding and grooming the horses is therapeutic. My oldest daughter is a natural born equestrian. She and our green broke Rocky Mountain mare are learning together and are quite a remarkable team. My second daughter is too timid to ride my very forward moving Spotted Saddle horse. She has expressed that a mini would be just her size and speed. My youngest daughter has pseudoseizures and also feels safer closer to the ground. Horse-drawn carriages are something we considered, but never thought the opportunity could be a viable one here in the suburbs.

I hope that this essay has proven and shown that I am a good steward of all that is entrusted to my care. I am debt-free and have excellent credit, but ironically, am unable to get approval for a loan of the necessary amount to meet our growing needs. I have always maximized the use of what I have, and dream within the realm of possibilities. Rock Spring Farm would afford an almost limitless canvas to paint those dreams into reality; whether it would be for a chinchilla shelter, group home, orphaned foal rescue, horse motel, day camp for children with special needs, or a respite for those in mental anguish. I have confidence that our history demonstrates we are capable, responsible, high-energy and ultimately portable as we are eager and ready to expand. Even so, if my children and I were fortunate enough to win the farm, my biggest hope would be that people say it couldn't have happened to a nicer family.

Happy November!

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 November!

Happy November everyone!

And Happy Anniversary to us!!!

Whimsy's Menagerie & Chinchilla rescue started on this day in 2008. 

What began as a homeschool project has now become a serious full time job!

Operating the only chinchilla-specific small animal rescue in almost a 500 mile radius means we serve those who are willing to drive several hours to adopt, or surrender chinchillas. We've had people come as far as Richmond, Washington DC, Maryland, Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania and as far south as North Carolina, South Carolina and even Tennessee! We have found homes for more than 200 fuzzbutts to date. We take pride in the fact that we are able to help chinchillas and their owners by offering such specialized care. 

For the month of October, 13 chinchillas were surrendered and 8 were adopted. On any given month it is not unusual to have an average of 10 chinchillas in and 10 adopted. We've even received and found homes for mass surrenders from various animal control facilities, breeders who have decided to call it quits, and many, many "oops" litters. 

Our work here is fully funded by adoption fees, cage and supplies sales, and donations.  We were giddy with delight by the fact that folks literally started begging us to make our cage accessories and chew toys available for their chins. It's been a wonderful creative outlet working to determine the BEST and safest combinations and designs for the little critters. And as always, we couldn't have done it without the support from all of you who have found your way to our humble little website. So from the bottom of our hearts (humans and chinchillas alike) we say thank you. :)