Rescue benefits from PetSmart contest
At 10 months old, Papua had already lost two companions despite the vet’s best efforts and was showing signs of stress and withdraw. He fell ill, was on antibiotics, and being fed Critical Care daily. He would have to get better before a new companion could be found for him but he had his stuffed toy guinea pig friend, Decoy, to keep him company in the meantime. His lack of grooming made his fur sticky and his skin was starting to appear irritated. That meant it was time for a bath. We consulted with a vet and Papua’s first bath went well. A warm towel and a ducky bathrobe made it that much more fun. Certainly this photo could work in the contest. You can see the rest of the photos from Papua’s bath on Flickr.Our goal, however, wasn’t on the grand prize. One lucky grand prize winner was going to be in a PetSmart commercial. However, each week, a prize was awarded for the most votes. The five weekly winners would each be awarded $500 and their photo would be PetSmart’s profile picture for the week. This was a great opportunity to help homeless pets and get the word out about animals in need. We weren’t sure what organization we would make the donation to but there were plenty in the area that needed support. The ducky robe photo was posted and we set out to make posters for our local internet cafes encouraging others to vote and raising awareness for homeless pets.
At the same time, our 16 year old cat, Seamus, was taking a turn for the worse. Seamus was a special kitty, having belonged to our Mother-in-law and had come to live with us after she passed away in an unfortunate accident. After a few trips to the vet, we knew it was Seamus’ time. It was difficult to say goodbye. We lost him on October 7, 2010. We decided we were going to donate the money to the shelter Seamus came from, in his name, if we won the PetSmart contest.
To our surprise, just a week later, we won the weekly prize from the Halloween contest. In PetSmart’s official letter to us, they encouraged us to keep going. It was possible we could win an additional $1,000 for homeless pets. We made a video to encourage our friends to continue voting and spread the word about pets in need. We didn’t win in the final round, but we considered it a big win nonetheless. We made a lot of friends who wanted to support the cause in caring for animals. It was such a gift!On the downside, we began to receive hate mail. People were angry that a guinea pig won where they felt their dog or cat should have. They said horrible things about our cat that had just passed away while the pain of losing him was still fresh. They accused us of cheating or manipulating the contest. Some folks thought Papua fresh from a bath was actually a mistreated guinea pig showing signs of abuse and poor grooming. They called us horrible names and flung accusations. They threatened to find where we lived. On Facebook where anyone can make a second or third account, blocking them was nearly impossible. It was a difficult time. PetSmart sent us the $500 prize as a gift card and we let them know we were donating it to homeless pets. PetSmart officials were happy to hear this and passed the story along to their media outlets. Unfortunately the shelter that Seamus had been adopted from 16 years ago was now run by Animal Control and they had strict rules on where they could get donations from. Sadly, we could not give them our prize. But during the contest we made connections with the volunteers of Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue. This turned out to be a wonderful opportunity.
Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue cares for guinea pigs in the Maryland, Virginia, and DC area and is supported entirely by volunteers, many of whom pay for the care of their foster pigs out of pocket. Papua presented them with his gift card which they were happy to accept. It would be put to great use caring for some many cavies that were abandoned or neglected on their way to finding forever homes. We presented them with our winning $500 gift card and continue to volunteer and support Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue to this day.It’s now that time of year again. We had second thoughts on entering the contest a second time. Could we win twice? Should we give someone else a chance? Could we handle more hate mail? Our heads were full of contradictions. Although Papua’s fans and friends were full of love and support. They were looking forward to us getting back in there and winning another one for homeless pets. We attended BlogPaws and met PetSmart officials who remembered Papua’s win from the previous year. They encouraged us as well. We couldn’t let everyone down.
Today, PetSmart kicked off their 2011 Monster Cute Photo Contest. We posted a photo of Papua taken on Halloween last year dressed as the most handsome guinea pig vampire you’ll see today. You can see the rest of the photos in this “Count Papua” series on his Flickr page. Perhaps we could get another weekly win? Only time will tell but you can help.
A vote for Papua is a vote for homeless guinea pigs. Vote once each day between now and Halloween. You don’t need to join PetSmart’s Facebook page or even have a Facebook account. If you would like to vote for Papua, please visit his voting page here. Click vote and leave a comment if you like. It’s as easy as that. Thank you!
But don’t let the story end here. There are so many opportunities for you to help and support homeless pets right from the comfort of your living room. Connect with shelters on Facebook and Twitter. Help them apply for grants, sponsorship, and enter contests. Even if you don’t have any money, you can start a movement that has a wide impact. The opportunities are everywhere.
If you have a great idea for an article about guinea pigs, please let us know. Guinea Pig Today is a network of guinea pig lovers and we’re always looking for the next great story. View our submissions page for more information on how to submit your idea.