SILVERDALE, Wash. — Esmerelda is a rescue guinea pig.
She is one of 30 that came to Kitsap Humane Society in early March 2021.
Before these guinea pigs or any small animal goes up for adoption, they go into foster care.
“I think a lot of people when they think of fostering think of kittens, adult cats, puppies and dogs, and while we have a high need for those animals to be in foster, we also have a lot of small animals that need foster,” said Holly Faccenda, the foster care coordinator for Kitsap Humane Society in Silverdale.
Since small rescue animals are sometimes traumatized, foster homes help them heal more quickly than a shelter environment would.
Small animal foster parents supply a cage, food, bedding, and love for one to four weeks. In return they get cuteness overload.
Anna Richter has fostered 88 animals for Kitsap Humane. She's a guinea pig whisperer who knows exactly what kind of scratches elicit squeaks.
“Most guinea pigs if you do right there, above where their leg bends they giggle a lot that way,” she said as she scratched Esmerelda in the joint of her hind leg, and Esmerelda squeaked contentedly. But Anna’s not just in it for the squeaks.
"It's rewarding taking an animal that's been neglected or isn't as social and getting them to trust you,” she said.
Folks who are interested in adopting or fostering should know that caring for small animals is just as complex as caring for dogs and cats. “A lot of people don't think about veterinary care for small animals, they require more work than I think people usually originally think they do,” said Faccenda, who recommends finding a vet who specializes in small animals before adopting one.
For example, Ginger, a hamster that came to the shelter, died of childbirth complications even after the vets at Kitsap Humane made a valiant effort to save her. Anna fostered Ginger's babies, keeping them alive by bottle feeding them every two hours, then weaning them to solid food. And once she raised this litter of happy healthy hamsters, they all went to permanent homes.
The hardest thing about fostering is saying goodbye: “There are some times when people fall in love with their foster - we like to endearingly call it foster failing, although it's really not a fail,” laughed Faccenda.
Anna has some foster fails of her own. But…
“You can't keep them all and I focus more on the fact that I'm saving a life,” she said.
Esmerelda went to her ‘Forever Home’ right after we did this story. Anna Richter confessed she’ll miss the squeaking, curly haired guinea pig, but now she has room for the next foster that needs her care. Small critters can inspire big love – and the folks who foster them are happy to share.
See all animals up for adoption at Kitsap Humane Society on their website -- as of this writing, that includes guinea pigs Bagel, Muffin and Scone.