Volunteers race against the seasons to catch an abandoned guinea pig

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CP Illustration: Lucy Chen

In May of this year, Alicia Wentzel saw a Facebook post alerting people to a guinea pig apparently living in the wild along the Monongahela River. As a lover of small animals, she was immediately concerned.

“[Guinea pigs] not built for the outdoors. They are no longer in the wild,” says Wenzel Pittsburgh City Paper in a telephone interview.

After seeing these reports, Wenzel, who lives in Mount Oliver and volunteers with a local guinea pig rescue group Wheek Caredecided to catch a cute creature and find him a safe home.

Wenzel says she went down to the river on the south side and walked the trail, asking people if they had seen the guinea pig. A couple of hours later, she said, she came across a couple walking a dog that looked just like hers when she was a puppy, and stopped to talk to them.

“After we’ve been talking for about 15 minutes, I say, ‘You guys haven’t seen a guinea pig by any chance, have you?’ And they say, “Oh, yes, we did down there.” And I’m like, “Oh my god, you did!?” and they point and they say, ‘Yeah, but he’s dead,'” she says.

She rushed to where the pair pointed and found a recently deceased guinea pig lying on the path. The dead pig had long fur and matched the animal described in the first Facebook post.

“We missed it by maybe an hour … it turns out the dog took it out,” she says. “We were absolutely devastated.”

But a few weeks later, on the Friday before Memorial Day, another Facebook post appeared showing the same location, but with a different guinea pig. “And I’m like, ‘Oh my God, you’ve got to be kidding me,'” she says.

“So I go down and there he is, just hanging out and eating clover,” she says, referring to the second guinea pig, grayish and looking like it was less than six months old, which is now the target of a rescue campaign Wenzel.

She says it was clear the guinea pig was living in brush about six feet deep and 30 feet wide on the banks of the Monongahela River.

“It’s rough terrain,” Wentzel says of the terrain. She says there are “tons of dead leaves, debris and dead branches” and rat tunnels under the bushes.

Wentzel borrowed a humane small animal trap from a friend and “loaded it with fruits and vegetables and cilantro,” she says, and at first things looked good.

“He gets trapped and we retrieve him,” Wentzel says. But “there is a half-inch gap under the hatch. And he runs away.

“It was the very first night, so we’re devastated, but we’re hoping we can get him again,” she says.

Wentzel says she spent at least 40 hours that weekend trying to save the guinea pig. A few days later, on Memorial Day, she set the trap again with fresh produce. “He’s wandering around… just grazing very casually. And I’m just waiting very patiently for him to accidentally get trapped. And then he put his head down three inches under the trap, and they opened a 21-gun salute from the Point.’

The pig ran away and “I burst into tears,” she says.

At that point, she said, she realized she couldn’t catch on her own and recruited volunteers from Wheek Care, which rescues guinea pigs from a basement in New Kensington, to take turns monitoring with a trap. .

In mid-July, Wenzel says they stopped seeing him, but continued to fill the water bowl and stop by to check on where he was hiding.

Then, after nearly 30 days without a sighting, someone texted Wentzel that he had been spotted. And then she got another message with the same message.

“That’s why I’m coming down [there]. I’m talking to this girl on Facebook Messenger. I said, “It’s a little gray, right?” She said, “No, it’s brown, light brown.” And I think, well, maybe she just doesn’t know colors.”

Still, she went down to the river and began to wait. nothing. “Suddenly,” she says, “that groundhog jumps out.”

While one or more people reporting a brown guinea pig may have actually seen a groundhog, Wenzel says some river regulars are adamant they saw a “chocolate brown” guinea pig. Wentzel asks anyone who reports a guinea pig sighting to include a photo to avoid misunderstandings in the future.

Wentzel recently returned to the site and received quite a shock. “I go there two weekends ago, and I just sit in the car on Saturday morning and listen to an audiobook. And wouldn’t you know it, this little hole pops out from under those bushes,” she says, “and it gives me goosebumps. I said, “Oh my God, he’s still alive.” I can’t believe it!”

Given the reports of the brown guinea pig, it may not be the only one of its kind living down by the river. Wentzel says a man by the river told her that college students often dump small pets in the area at the end of the semester, coinciding with the first sighting of the guinea pig.

“I don’t think this is the first time this has happened,” she says. “We will continue. We’ll keep on puffing.”

Once the temperature drops, Wentzel says the guinea pig is unlikely to live long.

“We have to get it before winter. We must or he will die. The temperature drops on the first night, you know?”

Although his living situation is far from sustainable, Wentzel says the guinea pig seems to be doing well so far. But her attempts to catch him are becoming increasingly difficult.

“The longer he’s down there, the wilder he gets … now it’s to the point where if you get within five feet of him, he takes off,” Wenzel says.

They don’t know exactly how the pig ended up in the wild, but Wenzel and the volunteers suspect that the guinea pigs were abandoned by someone who was no longer willing or able to care for them.

“There are millions of people who belong to Wheek Care who would take these pigs instead of this person abandoning them,” she says. “I lost hours lying in bed worrying about that pig. I’m really surprised he’s still alive.’


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