Haley Del Valle is trying to save the cavy world, 30 guinea pigs at a time.
What’s up with that?
Haley, 21, is the founder of Bigfoot’s Guinea Pig Rescue.
The nonprofit rescue she runs with her husband, Javier, in a spare bedroom of their Everett home takes in about 300 castoff guinea pigs a year.
People get them as pets and no longer want them. Or they get two and wind up with babies. Or it gets ill and needs costly medical care.
“They are so innocent. They deserve better. That’s how we see them,” she said.
In late December the rescue got a call to collect 30 guinea pigs from a studio apartment in Seattle.
“They were breeding and it got out of hand,” Haley said. “It was horrendous. Some were kept in boxes and some in closets. We loaded the car with so many and they kept bringing guinea pigs out.”
The couple had to make two trips from their Everett home. It later took a dozen more trips to farm out the piglets to foster homes.
Six of the Seattle 30 were pregnant, so it will be closer to the Seattle 50.
The rescue provides the cage, bedding and grub, plus will deliver anywhere between Bellingham and Puyallup for those wanting to foster the pigs. The Bigfoot’s Guinea Pig Rescue Facebook page offers updates and photos.
Adoption is $25 or $40 for two.
During these times when people are stuck at home, some are eager to take on a furry social critter for company.
“We need to make sure they are going to take care of them after COVID,” Haley said. “If we get a weird feeling we tell them no. We want the best.”
The rescue offers free nail clips, grooming and baths. It also does matchmaking of lonely singles, for a mate but not mating purposes. Guinea pigs are herd animals and are happiest with another of their own kind.
It’s guinea pigs only — no mice, hamsters, gerbils or rabbits. Another rescue in Everett, Best Friend Rodent Rescue, specializes in rats.
Guinea pigs are rodents in the cavy family. They are not native to Guinea, rather one story goes that sailors brought the animals from South America and sold them for a guinea, an old English coin. The pig part comes from the squeal they make, known as a “wheek.”
Guinea pigs were used as lab rats over the centuries. In parts of Peru, they are dinner.
Haley started the guinea pig rescue when she was 15 in her Marysville bedroom. She was a teen when her family moved here from Texas after Hurricane Katrina.
“I adopted two from a rescue. I saw more that needed help,” she said. “I had like 30 at my parents’ house. I was going on Craigslist and seeing all the bad situations and my mom would take me to pick them up.”
That’s one understanding mom.
She named the rescue after a guinea pig named Bigfoot.
“He is the first guinea pig I ever felt like I really rescued,” she said. “He was 9 years old and he passed away with me.”
Javier didn’t know much about guinea pigs before he met Haley.
“I thought they were just like hamsters,” he said.
Guinea pigs are bigger, social and sleep at night. As The Daily Herald has reported, you can dress them in clothes, if you are so inclined.
The couple have three resident guinea pig gals, and Molly is the ringleader.
“She’s pretty much like a small dog. She’s so friendly,” Haley said. “She likes to lay in her bed and eat right next to her food bowl. She’ll even pull her bed right next to her water so she doesn’t have to move when she drinks water.”
Who doesn’t like a glass of water by their bed?
She takes the trio on outings to the pet store or the park.
“I have a little sling. I feel like if I take one I have to have to take all of them out,” she said.
The home has a dedicated guinea pig room but they have been known to take over the house. Play areas allow the pigs to run. Their big dog and two cats pal around with them.
The couple own P&W Cleaning, a residential cleaning service.
Which is messier, people or guineas?
Let’s just say, people are the pigs in this case.
Want a pig?
Learn more at www.bigfootsguineapigrescue.com.