Me at 5 years old handling my first guinea pig
I have always had a great love of animals from as early as I can remember.
We always had family pets when I lived at home with my parents and then when I married I had loads more. I have had many dogs, mainly bearded collies but also beardie crosses, Airedales and at the moment a cute little dog from Serbia which looks like a cross between a dachshund and a miniature pinscher. Lots of rabbits, budgies, guinea pigs, cats, horses. There would have been more if it wasn’t for my husband saying perhaps we had enough. As far as I am concerned there is never enough animals in my life as long as I have the time and money to look after them properly.
I am often asked how the Wheek & Squeak started and on thinking about it, it evolved over many years to get to where I am today.
In the late 1980’s I started showing my bearded collies and eventually achieving Best of Breed at Crufts in 1997 with my beautiful bitch Emma. At that point I retired from showing but still continue to judge at open shows. There is a lot more to showing dogs than just having a dog and taking it to a show. Nutrition is very important as is exercise and, especially with a bearded collie, preparation and maintaining their beautiful long coats. All this gave me more of an insight into all the aspects into looking after animals.
When I retired from showing I could not walk away from bearded collies so I became a Rescue Co-ordinator for the Bearded Collie Club. I did this for 6 years but as my area became larger and larger ie from Cornwall to Kent and up to the Midlands I found the pressure too much and after much thought retired from this position. I still help with homechecks, assessing dogs etc. These six years gave me so much experience and knowledge about animal rescue. I also became very involved in dog behaviour at this time trying to help dogs that had behaviour problems so I could find them a loving home. I adopted 3 beardies that had serious behaviour problems and found it so interesting that my interest widened to all animal behaviour. All 3 dogs turned around from wanting to bite me to being very loving and well behaved dogs.
During the time I was doing beardie rescue I had some rescue guinea pigs. Word then got around I had them and I kept being offered guinea pigs that children had lost interest in. I then had to learn carpentry so I could build hutches to accommodate all these poor little pigs who needed a home. This all started in 1998 and my small guinea pig sanctuary was getting larger by the month. So much so I had to have an extension put on my shed.
We financed this sanctuary ourselves and I had much enjoyment from these wonderful little animals. I could never stop watching them and trying to understand their body language, just as I had done with my difficult dogs.
Around 2006 my husband came home from work one day and said Im retiring in a years time. I went into a panic as I had no idea how I was going to finance the keep of these guinea pigs and no way was I going to get rid of them. After lots of thought The Wheek & Squeak Guinea Pig Rescue and Boarding was born. I thought if I did boarding this could go a long way to financing the Rescue. There is still a sanctuary here where the elderly and sick guinea pigs will live their life out. There is the Rescue where healthy guinea pigs are put up for adoption to suitable homes and then there is the Boarding which finances the above, every penny we take goes straight into the rescue fund.
With my great interest in animal behaviour I have been very successful in pairing up adult boars for people when they have lost one guinea pig and the other has been left on its own. I find pairing up so interesting and so very rewarding when it works. When a little boar comes in, who is pining for his lost cage mate, it is lovely when we have been able to find him a new friend and he starts enjoying life again. I don’t take a penny for my work at the rescue, that little pig with his new friend is my reward.
Stef, Anna and Nina 2013