The Things We Do for Love: I Started a Guinea Pig Get-Together
Caroline Golon, author of the popular blog Crayons & Collars, shares the stories of pet owners who go the extra mile for their pets in this series, The Things We Do for Love.
There’s nothing quite like being with a group of people who are passionate about the same things you are. Tammy Raabe of Alexandria, Va., loves guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus, also known as cavies) so much that she helped create a guinea pig get-together to share her passion with others.
In 2003, Raabe was already connected with guinea pig lovers worldwide through her educational website, Cavy Madness. But she wanted to meet other cavy owners and their pets in person. Her own posse of pigs, like most of their species, were social and would enjoy the interaction with other guinea pigs.
While guinea pig meetups, known affectionately as “Guinea Pignics,” had already started taking place, they were focused on the breeding and showing aspect of cavy ownership. Raabe, her friend Sally Hurley, and several other local enthusiasts near her then-home in Boston wanted to create something nearby that was pet-friendly and had a rescue and educational element to it. So the Boston-area Guinea Pignic began.
More Than Just a Party
Guinea Pignics aren’t as simple as getting a bunch of owners and their friendly guinea pigs together. The events take careful planning and special precautions to keep the animals safe and owners stress-free.
Raabe says as organizers, they must find an appropriate park, one with grass that has not been chemically fertilized, and that will give them a permit to hold their event there.
At the Boston Pignic, a small group of experienced guinea pig owners volunteer to be the “Pig Patrol” and are available to answer questions, watch over the furry festivities and even offer free pig nail trims. “It’s a day in the park meets community meets classroom,” Raabe explains.
People and their pigs must check in when they arrive. Each guinea pig is inspected for signs of illness before they are permitted into the community pens. And pignics have a strict “no dating” policy for the guinea pigs. Boys and girls must frolic with their same-sex pals in separate pens.
To avoid tripping accidents, human attendees are asked to kneel when next to the pens, and no other pets, such as dogs, are permitted at the events. Of course, throughout the day, the pigs are offered food, water and shade.
In addition to being a fun, social get-together, area rescues are largely involved and often bring adoptable guinea pigs to meet potential new owners.
Over the last decade, the popularity of Guinea Pignics has increased, with events now held all over the world. Raabe says the biggest reason people attend is for the community aspect of it. “Imagine many, many guinea pigs cavorting in common pens in a park. The visual spectacle is both cute and educational,” she says. “People come to learn, to meet other people, or to simply enjoy a day in the park with pigs.”
Raabe left her original Guinea Pignic group when she moved from Boston to Virginia, but she regularly takes part in D.C.-area pignics and even gets together with her old pignic pals up north when she can. “Since I helped start the Boston Pignic, it holds a special place in my heart. I flew back for the June 2013 pignic!”
While people who’ve never spent time with guinea pigs can certainly appreciate their adorable physical attributes, there is much more to guinea pigs than meets the eye. “They’re just affable eggplant-shaped little animals,” says Raabe. “They’re open and giving and loving.”
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