If you’re reading this, there’s a big chance that you’re a guinea pig lover like me. Before we dive into me, (who I am, what I do, and what makes me qualified to write about guinea pigs) I want to tell you the story of how I became Small Pet Select’s new guinea pig spokesperson.
I met Bill (aka Billy Gordon, the CEO of Small Pet Select) when he visited Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue on a cold, rainy Saturday some years ago. He was supposed to just come by and say “hi,” but he stuck around the whole day and volunteered. I was impressed by his humility and willingness to get down and dirty with the rest of us. He was a sweet man with a genuine love and care for our work.
When all of the animals were fed and tucked in for the night, Bill and I enjoyed a well-deserved coffee in front of the fire place and chatted for a while. About lots of things, really. (And lots of guinea pig talk, of course.) I liked him, and my husband and I were sad to see him go. We really had a lovely time.
Fast forward to now.
Bill recently asked me if I would be interested to write blogs, create guinea pig care videos, and produce care guides for Small Pet Select. How awesome. I didn’t hesitate to say yes; I’m super excited about this opportunity and was extremely honored to be asked.
And that’s how I became Small Pet Select’s guinea pig spokesperson. A pretty simple story, but one that’s lead to something really cool.
Now, a little bit about me. I’m Saskia, founder of the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue.
About Me, Saskia
I love guinea pigs. I really, really love guinea pigs! I love guinea pigs so much that when I moved to LA (from my native Holland 20 years ago), I started the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue. LAGPR has since grown into the world’s largest guinea pig welfare organization. Pretty crazy, right?!
Ten years ago, after scrimping and saving for a long time, my husband Gabe and I were able to purchase a small two acre ranch in Chatsworth (near Los Angeles). We’re tucked right in the far northwest corner of the San Fernando Valley. Living on a small ranch had long been my biggest dream because I would be able to help more guinea pigs. That really was my biggest dream. And now my biggest dream is a reality.
About Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue
On average, we rescue, rehabilitate, and re-home about 2,000 piggies each year. The guinea pigs we rescue come from LA area shelters, from families that need to surrender their animals, and sometimes from tips we get from the public about locations where guinea pigs were left to fend for themselves. Parks and hiking trails are popular locations for that.
Guinea pigs are left in front of pet stores, abandoned in empty apartments, found in trash containers by apartment building managers, left at our gate… you name it, it happens.
Meet Our Other Animals
Aside from guinea pigs, we also rescue and re-home thoroughbred horses and are home to three pigs. Two darling potbellies named Betty and Panchito, and a 600 pound hog, who goes by the name of Pepe. (He’s the gentlest and friendliest giant I’ve ever met.)
We have two groups of rescued chickens. (All of our chickens are free range, and I maintain a little garden with grass and other greens just for them.)
One of the chickens (her name is Margie) thinks she’s human and walks inside whenever she pleases. She’s not house trained, and we often forget to close the screen doors. Oh well.
She insists on sleeping in the house, too, so when dusk comes around she starts to peck at the door to be let in. She’ll march right in (because we always open the door) and jump into her night cage for her evening snack and sleep. So spoiled. But so loveable.
Then we have a gangster named Weed Wacker. Fans of my Youtube channel are very familiar with him… he’s a loud mouth with tons of personality and a lot of things to say. I rescued him seven years ago when he was a wee little yellow fluff puff after he was found abandoned and wandering around an LA neighborhood. He doesn’t like many people but adores me and my friend Scotty. His antics make me laugh so hard and I have a lot of fun with him.
We have a turkey, Angel, who doesn’t like anyone other than his caretaker and a feral pony mule (Manolito) we rescued at a livestock auction. He’s a cheeky little bugger and thinks he’s a giant draft horse.
We have two dogs, Johanna (aka Jojo) who is a St. Bernard mix, and Finnegan (aka Booty) who is a small terrier type cross. We used to have 4 giant dogs at one point. Three Irish Wolfhounds and a huge Alaskan Malamute. Every animal at our ranch was rescued and every single one, big and small, is totally loved.
Why Do I Do What I Do?
Back to the guinea pigs. I properly met guinea pigs when I was around 18 years old. I was at a pet store. I asked to hold one and I was sold. So beautiful and sweet. I knew I was hooked. It was a very special moment because until then, I hadn’t thought much about guinea pigs as pets. As a child I had bunnies. In fact, everyone in my small town (Krimpen aan de IJssel) had bunnies. I remember being twelve, nail clippers in hand, visiting every family that had a rabbit to make sure his or her nails got trimmed regularly. Yes, I was the rabbit nail trimming girl.
So back to the pet store. (Sorry, I had to tell the rabbit nail trimming girl story.)
I fell in love with a little Agouti Abyssinian girl I named Montana. She came home with me that day. That was also the day I decided I wanted to learn everything I could about these adorable critters. Since guinea pigs are like potato chips (true story), she was soon joined by others of her kind and I was completely smitten. I had no idea how much personality guinea pigs had. I learned they had very distinct likes and dislikes. I learned how tame they could become if handled correctly and how there were so many different coat colors and hair styles. I was very happy every day to just sit and watch them interact.
At that time, I was also busy building a career as a fashion model and travelled quite a bit. My best friend would come and house sit to take care of my piggies; he remembers them fondly to this day. Eventually I moved to London and had guinea pigs there as well. It was in London that I had a chance encounter with Peter Gurney.
I was in the London Underground and noticed a man sitting close to me with a shopping basket on his lap. When I looked closer, I noticed that there was a beautiful, well-groomed Peruvian guinea pig in that basket. I asked him what on earth he was doing in the subway with a guinea pig in a basket. He told me that he had just returned from his weekly visit to the Great Ormond Children’s Hospital and that he shared his studio flat in South London with 100 rescued guinea pigs. It turned out that he was one of the foremost guinea pig experts in the world and author of several books on the proper care of guinea pigs. He became a good friend of mine whom I would visit regularly throughout my years in London and it was at his feet I learned everything he knew about guinea pigs.
He was my friend and my guru. Thinking back now, I realize that there are no chance meetings. I mean, what are the odds that I, of all people, would meet him… the master. We stayed in touch and when I started the rescue after moving to LA he was my go-to for questions and advice until his passing in 2006. He is sorely missed; his passing was a huge blow to the guinea pig community.
So, here I was in 1999. I had all my cages set up and was ready to open for business. I went to visit the local Santa Monica animal shelter to introduce myself and leave my card when twenty guinea pigs were being surrendered. The animal control officer said that it was a great timing for me to show up and that they would come visit my place within the hour to inspect and bring the guinea pigs. And just like that I was in business.
Over the next twenty years I learned more and more. There are no better teachers than the animals themselves and living with them day in day out. No amount of study can replace hands on experience.
Today, our organization is changing the way guinea pigs are kept and cared for throughout the world. I make informational videos and post constantly in social media. My channel is one of the very few that focuses mainly on the proper care of guinea pigs, health issues and home treatments of common health problems. I freely share my years of experience with those interested in learning more about these precious creatures.
My channel is growing fast, and features videos on specific health, care and behavior issues as well as the stories of some of our more dramatic rescues.
I have many stories and experiences to share and will likely be doing just that in the coming months.
I’ve always wanted to grow my rescue and go beyond making a difference on the local level, and in accepting Small Pet Select’s offer of coming on board as their guinea pig spokesperson, I believe I can make a positive contribution and hopefully make a difference in the lives of guinea pigs and their caretakers on a national level.
I really very much look forward to all of you getting to know me better. I’m excited to get to know you!
Much Love and Wheeking,