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Why I Rescue, My Journey to Broken Oak

This is going to be a slight change of pace to the informative and educational blog posts we’ve done so far. This is the story of how I came to start a guinea pig sanctuary/rescue, this is my personal journey. The story doesn’t start with my first guinea pig, although I loved her dearly! I didn’t start a sanctuary because of the countless volunteer hours I put in at Crazy Cavies, a guinea pig rescue on the east coast. And I didn’t start a sanctuary because it’s easy. It’s incredibly challenging, but after one particular pig came into my life and I had to live through the challenges of her small and short existence, I knew I wanted to help the less fortunate piggies, the ones who may not get adopted, the ones who had medical issues, or defects. This is the story of a little piggie named Yoo Yoo…

Yoo Yoo, also called Baby Yoo, came into my life April of 2017.Zec bought her off a Craigslist ad because I LOVE black and white piggies and she reminded him of my first pig Margaux. From the moment I held Yoo Yoo, she just became MY piggie.For any of you that have close bonds with your pets, you will understand what I mean. Yoo Yoo just LOVED me. And I loved her back. Love with our pets is so different from love with people…it’s without expectations or demands. It’s constant and they need us in a way, well, people don’t. Yoo Yoo became my “neck pig”, always crawling up to snuggle against my neck whenever I held her. And she always “talked” while I held her. I used to say she was telling me the secrets of the universe! Yoo Yoo was perfect! Except she wasn’t…

Yoo Yoo hadn’t been properly separated from male pigs when she was very young and unknown to us, came to us already pregnant at 3 weeks of age. This is too young and very hard on a small pigs body. We had never had a pregnant pig, so we were VERY shocked and surprised when I came home from work one day to find a BABY PIG in the main piggie cage! And all of a sudden, Yoo Yoo went from being super round, to…not! Yoo Yoo was the best mommy to her baby, who was a boy and we named him Poe. But this would be the beginning of challenges poor Yoo Yoo would have to face in her life.

Yoo Yoo stayed smaller than the other pigs we had. She was probably inbred, coming to us from a private, in-home breeder. She was pregnant at a very young age. And then, in January of 2018 she became very sick - respiratory issues. In a guinea pig, respiratory issues should be taken VERY seriously. We had never had a sick pig before Yoo Yoo. We sought out an exotic vet for her, as regular cat/dog vets are not equipped to treat guinea pigs the way an exotic vet is trained to do. This began the relationship that we still have with Medlin Exotic Animal Services today. Baby Yoo had pneumonia…this is such a serious illness for a small piggie. We did everything Dr. Medlin suggested we do: antibiotics, vitamin C, nebulizer treatments and keeping her calm and in a very clean cage, free of debris that may affect her lungs. But Baby Yoo did not seem to get better, instead she got worse. She lost weight, had labored breathing and just seemed to be fading before my eyes. I was beside myself! She wasn’t even a year old! How could this happen?? We brought her in repeatedly to see Dr. Medlin. We ran every test and even tried medicines that a compound pharmacist had to mix. Yoo Yoo spent weekends under emergency care at Dr. Medlin’s office. I would visit her on Saturday and Sundays and just held her. We fed her special foods to put weight on her, I hand fed her critical care and did the nebulizer treatments three times a day. I put my heart and soul into getting Yoo Yoo better, but nothing was working…

Dr. Medlin eventually said he felt Yoo Yoo had developed an abscess on her lungs and the amount of energy her body was putting into trying to heal her, was actually sucking the life out of her, causing her weight loss. And unfortunately there was nothing more we could do. I felt like all the air had been sucked out of my lungs. I didn’t understand…Dr. Medlin said euthanasia was our only option left, as she would only continue to degrade. He said, I would know when the time was right, because I didn’t want her to suffer.

I took my sweet pig home and cried the entire drive. How could this happen to her? The pig I loved the most! We did everything! She didn’t deserve this. She wasn’t even a year old, I kept thinking…this was too unfair and cruel. But when you love an animal enough, you have to make the hard decisions to not let them suffer. I kept up with Yoo Yoo’s meds and treatments and special feedings and kept her by my side as I worked…

But I saw her fading…and just after Yoo Yoo’s one year with me, I made the decision to euthanize her. She had fought as hard as her tiny body would allow, but her breathing had become so labored, she couldn’t move around much, it was just too much effort. And I loved her so much, I couldn’t allow her to suffer, just to stay alive for me. I let her spend her last day outdoors with me…

And I decided to be with her for the entire time while she was being humanely and peacefully put to sleep. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, since bringing guinea pigs into my life. I will never forget April 16th, 2018.

Yoo Yoo was a special pig. We spent thousands of dollars to try and heal her. And I would do it again if I thought it would even give her or another pig in her situation, even moments more here. Through this – I realized not everyone wants to do as much, not everyone can do as much, not everyone values the lives of animals as much as I do and not everyone would provide the living situation that we provide in our home. I didn’t want guinea pigs who needed more attention, had medical needs, or simply needed a place to live their last days out, to not have that chance. So…we decided to start the process of beginning our own guinea pig sanctuary. It would take until 2021 to get this off the ground, but it was in honor of Yoo Yoo and her journey, that led us to where we are today, trying to make a difference in the life of every piggie we can.

We honor Yoo Yoo’s memory and life with us, every time we provide sanctuary or rescue a piggie, offer resources and refer people to our exotic vet or give advice that helps them in some way. Broken Oak Santuary - for Yoo Yoo, in loving memory, always.

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