Happy December!

Happy December everyone!

For the month of November, zero (0) chinchillas were surrendered and zero (0) chinchillas were adopted. This is actually a good thing as giving pets for Christmas is generally a bad idea and the numbers of dumped pets each holiday season is notoriously common.  In our particular instance, as long as our adoption numbers remain low, we simply cannot take in more surrenders. For those of you who consider adoption instead of purchasing chinchillas from a breeder or pet store, thank you!

December has a been a busy one for Christmas orders. It's fun to see people who want to spoil their fur babies this time of year. Many individuals have chosen the Ultimate Chew ToyBundle. We're thrilled! The bundle has so many favorites and a fantastic variety. Depending on the number of chins one owns and how "destructive" they are, this bundle can last for many months. Which reminds me...we had someone write with concern that their chinchilla was suddenly destroying all his new cage accessories. Folks, this is a good thing! A chin with a hearty chewing habit is one that is less prone to malocclusion. It's a mistake to choose toys that aren't ones the chin demolishes quickly. Did you hear that? Sometimes I feel like a broken record. After having been immersed in all things chinchilla for nearly a decade, I find myself making the same statements over...and over...and over again.

I hope our long time followers don't become frustrated by the repetition as Whimsy is tempted to be. Unfortunately, some of our long time followers are the ones who are guilty. Case in point: we heard from someone recently who purchased a 50lb bag of feed for a single chinchilla. Thinking they could save lots of money, they would have done just as well feeding their chinchilla cardboard. The nutritional value depleted long ago.

Another instance of broken record syndrome this year was hearing from another young chin owner who wanted to let a father/daughter pair share a cage. Her rationale was that the chins would somehow know they were related and not mate with each other. (I'm so glad y'all can't see my eye roll over here.)

And other hall of shame instances this year are otherwise intelligent people who can't accurately tell the gender of their pet or who feed their chins fresh vegetables, fruits and nuts and wonder why they suddenly have unplanned babies, pass away or have other health issues. So when people contact us saying they've "done the research", please forgive me if I'm skeptical.

Ok, enough pessimism for one post. On a much more positive light, we've received some beautiful, wonderfully uplifting emails regarding the essay in last month's post. We have also experienced some extremely generous individuals who have donated to our cause. When we began the chinchilla rescue it was to fill a need. Whimsy absorbed all the upfront costs with no expectation of assistance. We are thankful that the webstore has grown to the point where the rescue has support with no struggle. We routinely have enough funds to cover the cost of operation and have even managed to set aside the humble beginnings of a down payment for that elusive farm. Please know that when you place an order through our store and round up the payment amount, the donation portion is counted separately. We hope to have an actual total figure to post about after this year's tax filings. Until then have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and a Happy New Year.

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 September!

Happy (late) September everyone!

For the month of August, zero (0) chinchillas were surrendered and one (1) chinchilla was adopted. We're having a much better September for adoptions, but that news will have to wait for next post. ;)

Updates! Updates! Updates!

Thanks to y'all, we've grown and grown and grown. You've read all about our laments regarding space issues and know that a larger home is on the agenda. Whimsy has big plans for a larger workshop, warehouse, chinchilla rescue building (not just a room in our home). We're also making plans to grow our own hay and nurture an orchard with which to grow and "branch out" our need for safe, organic fruit and nut woods. Sorry, pun intended.

The lender's requirements for a loan on a new property hasbecome much more rigid, however. The current news is that we would need a loan of between 500-600 thousand dollars with a down payment of at least 20%. (choke) We could take growth one step at a time. Whimsy actually has two orchards under consideration right now. Although we would strongly prefer to have all of our necessary "things" on the same property. So...once again we're seeking ways to expand while we save our pennies.

We have converted attic space for storage and finally broke down and got two storage units to rent. (I told you we need a warehouse). We've begun purchasing certain supplies by the case and pallet load; hardware, accent beads, shipping boxes, herbs, vine products, loofah and pumice. Which reminds me...big shout out to Whimsy's friend Brian for coming through on the promise for makingarrangements for 440lbs of pumice sent from abroad.  Wait 'til y'all see what we have in mind for that! Spoiler alert!

We're also slowly, but surely working on revamping the website, logo, etc. For those of you who follow us on facebook, you've probably see this cute little design. 

We're working on a whole series in this style, including a change to our logo. Hopefully we'll have some of them ready to go in time for Christmas.

That's all the news for now, time to git back to werk. 

Happy August!

Happy August everyone!

For the month of June, zero (0) chinchillas were surrendered and zero (0) chinchillas were adopted. This time of year is typically when we get bunches of requests for boarding. Fortunately, our local chinnie friends understand the very limited space we have here now. We did manage to finally get a clothes washer and dryer. Unfortunately, that means even less room to devote to the chinchillas. We are considering some pretty radical steps to reclaim some room since the option to purchase a larger home is simply out of our financial reach.

When we began our rescue venture many years ago, we erroneously believed that the occasional mass surrenders were temporary. But alas, it's become the expected norm that we hear of large groups of chins needing homes at least a couple times each year...not to mention the dozens of singles and pairs that also become unwanted. The shocking part is how many chinchilla "breeders" go out of business, or lose interest, or experience a health or family emergency and are stuck with mass amounts of animals they need to rehome. So for all you closet breeders out there, there is NO SHORTAGE of chinchillas for pets And other, more respectable, long term breeders have already "perfected" the breed.  

On a more positive note, laws are popping up all over the country regarding shutting down puppy mills. Some pet stores are also cracking down on the purchase of certain other backyard bred animals like rabbits and guinea pigs. Hedgehog breeding requires a USDA license and ferret breeding is under a pretty strict monopoly. I sincerely wish the same goes for chinchilla breeding soon. One can only hope...

Happy July!

For the month of June, zero (0) chinchillas were surrendered and two (2) chinchillas were adopted.  Not to say we haven't had inquiries for surrender...it seems every time we advertise chins for adoption, we get more emails asking about surrender instead! Years of dealing with the same situation has made it so that we are hesitant to post about our adoptables (or surrenders for that matter). And while I'm on the subject...

...there is no other more frustrating excuse than one that claims (cue violin music) the owner "no longer has the time and attention to devote to their pet". This is nothing more than a feel good way for a person to announce they're abandoning their fur friend. Get real people. Do you really think a shelter can provide that for your beloved fur baby? Some of our surrenders are with us for months, if not YEARS before they go to their "forever" home... and then we do see a sizable number of them come back to us within a few years. *sigh*

Without a doubt, we have seen that on the occasions where the person is the most vocal, the most vehement about providing a forever home, are usually the ones who resurrender the fastest! We have seen people absolutely swear with blood, sweat and tears that they would move to a pet friendly place, give up a boyfriend/husband/wife/etc or go without food themselves before they ever considered giving up their pet. But the lame excuse that someone can't pay attention to their animal is just dumbfounding.

We all go through periods of time where we are "busy". That is NO EXCUSE to give up a friendship or responsibilities. Schedules change, suck it up and keep your promise! Don't be one who relies on the sad, tired phrase just to make yourself feel better. Giving up your pet and forcing it to make those kinds of adjustments is much worse than temporary reduced playtime. 

Now, on another note, we know sometimes people give up their chins because, frankly, their pet is just not friendly (or is downright dangerous). Please note that we are not a no-kill shelter. If incoming animals prove to be unadoptable due to behavior issues, they will be culled. Perhaps knowing this will make some reconsider their options. 

Rant over.