Surprise! Guinea pigs… (the end of an era)

Almost 7 years ago (August 18, 2007), I returned from a business trip to find a guinea pig in my living room. My significant other at the time, Kay, had wanted to rescue a guinea pig or three. We had talked about it and I was willing, but wanted to talk about it more. She figured why wait. So upon returning home… surprise! Guinea pig. This turned into a steady stream of adoptions that led me to have a herd. This is an important distinction in the guinea pig world. One or two pigs can bond with their human if given a lot of attention. They will happily sit in their human’s lap and look forward to it every night. When you have more than two though, especially a lot more, they will revert to their more natural herd mentality. This is considered to be healthier by many people, but is not favorable to many owners. Why? Because pigs are prey animals, and you are perceived as a threat to them. You don’t get to bond with them and they do not enjoy being picked up. But, if healthier for the pigs, that is important so we had a herd. A few years later, Kay and I split and I decided to take the pigs. While they were her idea, it was clear that I was a better and more consistent provider for them. Even when given the opportunity to come over and help with cage cleaning, or even keep me company while I did it, she rarely showed. Eventually, she became a completely absentee parent, leaving me to care for the pigs. The following is a list of the guinea pigs adopted, in the order that they moved on. While I cared for all of them equally and to the best of my ability, two of the nine were ‘mine’ in some fashion.

The first was ‘Snickers’, aka A156576, a female Abyssinian adopted from the Boulder Valley Humane Society. One of my hesitations on adopting is because I had not taken the time to read up on them, but Kay had. Our first pig ended up not being the typical adoption. Only four years old, she had serious hair loss and complications due to a life of poor nutrition. Snickers reminded us that guinea pigs are frequently not cared for properly. I wrote a brief summary of her adoption and what was going through my head at the time. While she was not with us long, she opened the gates for more adoptions.

‘Pringle’, originally named Cerra aka A253868), a female American shorthair adopted from the Larimer Humane Society on March 9, 2008. Estimated to be around 4 years old, she was picked up and found to be extremely skinny (660 grams). She was surrendered to the shelter with no history other than “good with kids”. Based on her weight and appetite the first night, we’d guess she was not given hay or veggies very often. Once home, she took to most veggies instantly and slept by the hay bowl half of the night. By the next day she was energetic, standing on her rear feet wheeking happily for veggies and sleeping all over the cage. Better, she was already up to 730 grams. Her first vet appointment confirmed that she had mammary tumors which were removed successfully during surgery with a very fast recovery. After the surgery, she proved she was the perfect pig in temperament and demonstrated how pigs can recover from the worst of environments. Pringle passed on April 15, 2009 due to masses on several internal organs. She was also experiencing very minor weight loss and potentially had neurological issues (serious spasms when she slept sometimes). She went peacefully in her sleep, head on a pillow.

JuineaPig, originally Ginny aka A419947, was a female Abyssinian adopted from the Denver Dumb Friends League on December 29, 2007. When we went in, she was described as “problematic” and it took over 30 minutes for the staff to catch her because “she bites”. Given up for adoption for “recently starting to bite”, despite being almost two years old, once securely held she seemed to do fine. Due to her behavior, the DDFL had decided to pull her adoption information down and were going to declare her unsuitable for adoption. Once we gave the rundown of our current herd and ability to properly take care of her, they agreed that we could provide a good home for her. In the months after adoption, the only time she would bite is if she felt directly threatened, and even then, only warning nips. It was immediately clear that her previous owners had not given her any veggies as it took several months to get her to eat a wide variety. Since adoption, she was nothing but a sweet pig and clearly not a biter. JuineaPig passed on May 20, 2009 due to many internal complications including cancerous tumor, kidney issues, bladder stone, GI obstruction, and more. Her last two days were not very happy, but she fought as best she could.

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Figlet, originally Willow aka A762196, was a female Abyssinian (likely with a peruvian mix) adopted from the Humane Society of the Pike’s Peak Region on June 20, 2008. Originally down there to adopt another ‘female’, we found two large males with health problems. Despite correcting the shelter on the gender of the pigs, they didn’t appear to care or update the web page days later. Figlet was in a large cage by herself (good), but with half of it covered in water-soaked litter and no water in her bottle. Almost unable to hold her, we managed to get her in the carrier and bring her to the pig mansion. She integrated into the herd within hours (after quarantine) and did great. Clearly younger than advertised, Figlet was the most energetic and spastic pig we had. Even six months after adoption, she was almost impossible to hold for more than a few seconds as she tried to escape and find her own footing. Fearless doesn’t begin to describe her. Figlet passed on Oct 15, 2009 due to complications during surgery to remove a mass causing Hyperthyroidism, a rare condition in guinea pigs. A full write-up of diagnosing and treating her was created to share information about this rare condition in pigs. Figlet was ‘my’ pig and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was wrong, and went to great lengths to try to help her live a happy life. After losing her, that convinced me that I was not going to rescue any more pigs myself; rather, I would continue to support shelters and rescues.

Nugget, originally Nibbles, was a female American shorthair adopted from the Denver Dumb Friends League on November 2, 2007. They believed her to be about four years old but we suspected she was a bit younger. She was our first shorthair guinea pig with a great personality and strong love for hay and veggies. The DDFL said she was “surrendered because the previous owners couldn’t afford to maintain her” which is sad, as a pig is relatively cheap to house and feed. Nugget was hands-down the most mellow guinea pig and frequently ends up being a vet buddy when one of the other pigs needs to see the doc. Nugget passed on Oct 31, 2010 from natural causes. She was a senior piggy and lived a glorious three years with me. While I can accept that logically she had already moved on and was not aware of her surroundings or had any real mental faculty, the last 45 minutes of her life were spent in my lap at 3AM having spasms. That is very hard to deal with.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAnugget

Zesty, unnamed aka A089150, was a female Abyssinian adopted from the Denver Municipal Animal Shelter (DAS) by Kay on September 7, 2007, one of three guinea pigs brought in that were apparently found near an auto repair shop, left to fend for themselves. The only female of the bunch, she was described by the staff as an ‘escape artist’ and estimated to be approximately one year old. We feared she was pregnant due to being housed with the two males she was found with, which was another reminder that despite the good intentions of shelters, guinea pigs simply aren’t well known. We soon learned that she was indeed an escape artist but fortunately not pregnant. She became the queen of the herd, and was certainly the most feisty guinea pig we had. Zesty passed on June 3, 2012 from natural causes. Based on her life history, she lived a long time all things considered.

Biscuit was a female Abyssinian adopted the same day as Zesty to provide companionship to the feisty beast. Oh, and she was ridiculously cute and mangled. Our third guinea pig at the time and first baby, adopted at only 5 weeks old, Biscuit knew no fear since she grew up in a happy home full of daily vegetable platters, endless hay, and a huge play pen to run around in. She was definitely the most tranquil pig, and knew absolutely no hardship in her life like the rest had. Biscuit passed on September 28, 2012. Sweetest of the herd, she lived a wonderful life.

zestybiscuit

Waffle was a female Abyssinian personal adoption taken in on November 16, 2007. She was ‘my’ second pig, adopted selfishly. Part of regrets that we got her from a pet store, but I wanted one guinea pig that we knew the absolute history on and who should have no health problems as compared to the hit-or-miss you get with shelter rescues. Despite that desire, she lived her life with some respiratory issues. It never affected her, but hearing her ‘hoot’ as if congested was a constant reminder of her being in the herd. Ultimately, she lived over 6 years and her frequent breathing issues had nothing to do with her passing. Waffle was the most distinct color we had seen, a great blend of white, grey, and black, giving a ‘peppered’ appearance. Her black feet were also quite distinct and made her stand out in the herd (and a pain to trim the black nails as we couldn’t see the quick). Approximately five weeks old when adopted, she seemed to live for fresh hay more than anything else. When she wasn’t bouncing around her home she would lay in one of the hay lofts for easy access to her precious hay. Waffle reached end of life on May 9, 2014 (today) due to an intestinal tumor.

At this point, it left me with a single pig (Tater) that had grown up in a herd and knew nothing else. When Biscuit passed, Tater did not handle it well. That point moved from three pigs to two, which is decidedly not a herd. After three weeks, Tater finally settled down and accepted the situation and fell back into a happy routine with Waffle. With Waffle’s passing today, I fear for the worst; that Tater will realize Waffle is gone (she hasn’t as of writing this blog) and freak out. Today, she has gotten a series of extra veggies, a cob of corn, and fresh hay. I have checked on her periodically to ensure she is doing alright. In the morning, I will be taking her to Cavy Care, the only all-guinea pig rescue in Colorado. I have visited the sanctuary several times over the years and love what they do. They treat their guinea pigs exceptionally well and screen adoptions to ensure it will work. Unlike pet stores who will sell pigs to anyone, even if it is not ideal for the animal, Cavy Care will make sure the would-be owners understand what they are getting into. Tater will be given a new friend, also a senior female piggy, to live with. While it isn’t the herd, she will have companionship like she has had for the last two years. As a now senior pig, it is hard to tell when she will move on. In the last few months, she has lost over 100 grams which is considerable for a pig, and a sign that health issues are happening. I hate to take a pig to a rescue that is already over-burdened, but they understand my choice, and Tater will come with a donation and all of my supplies to help the shelter. So more about Tater…

Tater is a female Peruvian Abyssinian Silky (longhair) personal adoption taken in on April 11, 2008. The runt of a five-pig litter, she was taken from a family that had pigs living in poor conditions and mostly neglected as they “didn’t have time for them any more”. If left in those conditions, she certainly would have been housed with mom, dad, and any brothers in her litter leading to a very early pregnancy. Said to be four weeks old, we believe she was much closer to two weeks old when we got her. It only took her a few days to become extremely lively, eat any veggie she was given, and develop a great personality. She integrated faster than any other pig had, likely due to being around many other pigs early on. She received hair cuts every couple of months as her coat was too long and bulky, dragging the cage and getting mucked up. While she whines during the trimming, she becomes considerably more energetic and seems much happier afterwards.

waffletater

For the last four to five years, I have been the only provider for my pigs. While Kay started the adoption spree, they lived a majority of their lives under my care. In that time I learned a lot about them. Everything from behavior quirks, to proper care, to treating odd conditions. I drove hours to ensure they received the best care possible. Every week for five years, I bought $20 – $40 of vegetables for them, special ordered Timothy Gold hay, and gave them a steady stream of chewable houses and items to keep them stimulated. I cleaned their cages every week when the herd was big, using bleach and vinegar to scrub down the ‘trays‘, washed their bedding, rotated their hay, and more. I adjusted my lifestyle and social availability to guarantee they got their vegetables about the same time every night. When traveling, they had in-home sitting most of the time, or twice-daily visits if not. When the air conditioning went out, I made sure someone was here to fix it within hours, as pigs can overheat easily. The temperature in my place very rarely crossed 76 degrees for their benefit. Every month or three, they got weighed to better determine they were healthy, as significant weight change is one of two ways to diagnose problems (the other being behavioral changes). I learned of common pig problems like cysts and little growths that can be removed, as well as common problems with senior female piggies like tumors, ovarian cysts, and unknown masses. When someone in a herd wheeks, I can identify it generally as it reflects on their emotional state. I have had to separate Zesty from the herd from going on a three-hour dominance mounting spree, ‘terrorizing’ the other pigs in her way. I have almost gotten kicked out of pet stores when I overheard a sales person spewing bullshit about guinea pigs. I have sighed casually and spouted back more disturbing facts than “you know some people eat guinea pigs?” to assholes trying to shock me (they were a lot more shocked than I was). Yes, I have read more books about guinea pigs than you have, about their history and indigenous lifestyle.

This is an end of an era in my life. Not having a huge guinea pig mansion in my living room, a few feet from where I spend a considerable amount of my life. Not hearing the happy wheeking, the frenzied wheeking as a pig tries to mount another, and the general chatter of guinea pigs day in and day out. Quarantining a newly adopted pig for 30 days before integrating into the herd. Bathing a guinea pig in some cases, no easy feat. No more setting up a play pen in the living room so they could run full speed, at least while they were young. No more watching Zesty jump over the guinea pig fence, and then laughing as Nugget observed Zesty and followed suit. I remember having to buy a new set of fences that were much taller to thwart the escape artists. Biscuit running in circles in the living room, entirely too fast for my camera to capture. The many nights I would take Figlet out of the cage and put her on the kitchen counter as I prepared veggies, giving her first shot to enjoy them without contest. The elaborate veggie platters I would make for the herd. Buying wheat grass for them to enjoy, because that was like crack to them. Cutting Tater’s hair, leaving a little sprout on her forehead because it amused me.

Despite the emotional turmoil in taking care of these critters, they were definitely worth it. If you have a bad day, you can look in the habitat and see the adorable guinea pig living their life. They have their own drama and dynamics, but ultimately it gives you perspective on your own drama. Picking up a guinea pig and getting nothing but an abject reaction reminds you they keep it real.

herd

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Squirrel Art Bonanza!

When it rains, it pours. Or so goes the old saying. In this case, it has never rained before really. In the span of 4 weeks, I went from zero squirrel-themed art to having three unique pieces.

The first came in the form of a gift from Jane, who I am in a slow-played battle of one-upping on unique gifts. After my big box of pencils from all over the U.S., I figured she had admitted defeat. Oh no… six months later, dinner over Indian and bam. She had enlisted the help of our mutual friend Cassandra to draw this awesome squirrel, and had it printed out on canvas. Secret Squirrel has a whole new meaning.

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The second came in the form of a gift from @diami03 and @tigerbeard. This artistic representation of squirrels is both fun and a tad creepy. If you notice the squirrel sitting up on the left, he has sizable testicles. He also has an awesome look of “WTF, look how awesome I am!”

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The third came in the form of an interesting medium; a samurai squirrel on the page of an old dictionary, from Andrea Matwyshyn. This one was printed on the page beginning with ‘Printing Press’ which is happily coincidental.

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Long story short, squirrel art galore! Thanks everyone =)

10 Greatest Squirrel Attacks of All Time

In the wake of the ‘Squirrel Power‘ article by Jon Mooallem who boldly proclaimedOH MY GOD, LOOK, I WROTE ABOUT POWER OUTAGES CAUSED BY SQUIRRELS IN THE NEW YORK TIMES“. I had to remind him that while awesome, he is not the first to warn people of this dastardly threat. In a presentation titled “Cyberwar: Not what we were expecting”, I outlined just how prevalent squirrel-based power outages are. I put forth the theory that squirrels are more of a threat than “cyberwar”.

In addition to routine power outages, squirrels are responsible for a variety of other mayhem. Here are the top 10 attacks of all time, which means the best I can find from ten minutes of Googling. Know of a good squirrel attack story? Post a comment with a link!

  1. Caused hundreds of gallons of raw sewage to be dumped into Mobile Bay, Alabama [USA Today] (thanks @isawitwritten)
  2. Squirrel responsible for Amtrak delays along Northeast corridor [NJ.com]
  3. “Kamikaze squirrel fell from the sky and detonated” a woman’s car in Bayonne, NJ [NJ.com]
  4. Caused up to 30,000 households to lose water, leading water department to issue a ‘boil water notice’ “to ensure that harmful bacteria and other microbes are destroyed.” [Star-Telegram]
  5. Took out half of Yahoo’s Santa Clara data center [Wired] [Youtube]
  6. Caused up to 560k Florida residents to live under “unprecedented 48 hour boil water notice” to “ensure the safety of their water.” [Tampa Bay Times]
  7. Burns a Romford, Essex man’s garage down, causing £20,000 worth of damage [METRO]
  8. Starts a fire that burns pastor’s home and 3 others in Florida [Huffington Post]
  9. Shut down a nuclear reactor from 100 percent power in Wolf Creek, Kansas [All Things Nuclear] (thanks @ChrisSistrunk)
  10. Broke into a truck causing $700 in damages [Anti-squirrel]

Remember, you can always follow @MylarSquirrel and @CyberSquirrel1 for more squirrel-related power outages and mayhem!

mylarsquirrel   cybersquirrel

The Popcorn Thesis

During a recent email thread, a friend and I were comparing our local squirrels. She put forth that her Chicago squirrels did not eat popcorn, to which I expressed my disbelief. I couldn’t imagine a squirrel turning their nose up at it. I said I would have to test that theory.

I’ll be curious whether yours will eat it. Maybe the consistency of popcorn is too close to foam packaging peanuts, and my squirrels know not to eat foam peanuts based on prior unfortunate digestive disturbances? Dunno…

Maybe that hippie organic crap stuff you try to pass off as popcorn is the problem I say! Give them good old-fashioned regular popcorn and see what happens. I did! First, start with some plain old microwave popcorn:

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Ensure it is nuked properly, and not burned:

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Leave some out with the usual offering of almonds and townhouse mini-club crackers before bed:

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The verdict? My squirrels are not food snobs. All three foods demolished by 9AM. Victory!

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(I called this a Thesis because said friend is an academic, and figured it would resonate better.)

My Penguin Encounter

Yesterday, I went to the Denver Zoo to attend one of the new Animal Adventures. For 90 minutes, we got a guided tour of the Bird World exhibit, as well as behind the scenes access to the kitchen, and private time with a penguin (the real reason to go). We sat down in the visitation room, and shortly after, Mattie (Matty?) walked in! She is a 5 year old penguin, and the only one the zoo staff considers suitable for in-person viewings like this, because she was raised from a chick by zoo staff. The other penguins they consider safe, but slightly unpredictable, so they don’t allow them for visitation.

Mattie the penguin

Penguins are clearly a threat to security, and they get checked for weapons frequently. OK, not really. Stupid humans like to throw shiny coins into zoo exhibits with water (e.g. penguins, seals), and don’t consider that the animals are curious or may mistake it for food. The zoo staff keeps this metal detector wand on hand to periodically check the penguins for coins in their stomach. If the penguins can’t pass the coin naturally, they have to be taken for surgery.

penguin and metal detector

Penguins are very curious creatures. Mattie did laps around the room investigating everything and everyone. It is pretty easy to get her attention with the right noises, or colorful objects like the wristbands we wore. She enjoys being scratched under her chin, and despite the menacing beak, does not bite hard at all. By this point, I was seriously considering my odds for picking her up and bolting for the exit.

me and a penguin

A larger gallery of images is available on attrition.org.

Why Squirrels…

LazloI get that question frequently, for obvious reasons. Not only is the attrition.org mascot a demented angry squirrel named Lazlo, but I seemingly have a serious fixation on squirrels if you read my Twitter stream. For over two years, I have been feeding squirrels that made their way up to my balcony, some that come from a block away across a large parking lot. As a break from work, I will go to Denver’s City Park and feed the squirrels there. While part of my obsession of squirrels is sincere, part of it is for show because it is fun.

The core of the squirrel fandom comes from reading about and observing them. While some people see them as pests, in reality they are a great animal that exhibits traits our society could use more of. Sure, some of their traits are amusing and suggest they aren’t bright animals. For example, it is sometimes reported as ‘fact’ that squirrels forget where they bury half of their nuts. For every ‘fact’ such as this, you can find research that will contradict this in both directions. Quite simply, there are too many factors at play to really gauge this (e.g. other squirrels finding a stash, re-caching, wet conditions letting smell find a cache and dry conditions forcing them to use memory, etc). There is still debate if squirrels use their memory, smell, or a combination of both to remember where their caches are. Regardless of the answer to that question, in reality, squirrels demonstrate great intelligence in many ways; enough to keep people glued to Youtube watching their cleverness.

Turning to relative experts on squirrels, we see examples that set them apart. As summarized in this NYTimes article:

In their book “Squirrels: The Animal Answer Guide,” Richard W. Thorington Jr. and Katie Ferrell of the Smithsonian Institution described the safe-pedestrian approach of a gray squirrel eager to traverse a busy avenue near the White House. The squirrel waited on the grass near a crosswalk until people began to cross the street, said the authors, “and then it crossed the street behind them.”
[..]
Reporting in the journal Animal Behaviour, the Steele team showed that when squirrels are certain that they are being watched, they will actively seek to deceive the would-be thieves. They’ll dig a hole, pretend to push an acorn in, and then cover it over, all the while keeping the prized seed hidden in their mouth. “Deceptive caching involves some pretty serious decision making,” Dr. Steele said. “It meets the criteria of tactical deception, which previously was thought to only occur in primates.”

Squirrels don’t only learn from us humans, they have demonstrated that they even learn from each other. You call it crime, they call it survival! Still think squirrels are stupid? Consider that squirrels masturbate to avoid sexually transmitted diseases. This is the tip of the iceberg! Even casual behavior can have unexpected consequences. Some 30,000 years ago, squirrels buried fruit seeds in the Siberian permafrost, that were only recently found and regenerated into flowering plants, described as “the most ancient plant material to have been brought back to life“.

Finally, in the theme of cleverness, consider what a squirrel can figure out to get to a safe and renewable food supply:

For some reason, humans will frequently consider squirrels a pest while feeding and watching boring birds. Sure, they are colorful, but yawn! In fact, some people will go to great lengths to try to keep squirrels out of the bird food. Despite that, squirrels are dedicated and tenacious, which can also be provide amusement for us because we know they will move on to another food source if needed:

Like many animals, including humans, squirrels can be extremely fierce and protective if their young are threatened, or even when predators try to descend on their fallen comrade.

In summary, squirrels are cute, fun to watch, have great tails, and are intelligent little creatures. They exhibit many great traits like cleverness and have been around as long as, if not longer than, us humans. Honestly, what’s not to like?

Would you like to know more?

Finally, if you don’t accept my reasons or like squirrels, here is some advice for you!

lazlopissed - wordpress

Not All Charities Are Created Equal

I support charities. Quite a few of them actually. Maybe it isn’t the best use of the money I donate, as dozens receive small amounts, rather than one or two receiving a sizable donation.

I know that with few exceptions, it seems like my donations are mostly wasted, and it has me questioning my support. In the past, I have taken note of charities and their cost of overhead. However, I haven’t kept up with it and I desperately need to. Before I donate another cent, It is imperative that I research each and every charity that I have donated to, and may donate to again.

If you aren’t sure why I have such a concern, let’s examine two charities that are similar, if not equal, in the eyes of most people. Let’s look at the SPCA International and the Humane Society International. To many, these are both charitable organizations that exist to help animals and prevent cruelty to them. On the surface, this is true.

If you dig deeper, you quickly learn that one of them is not like the other, and is not worthy of your donation. Using CharityNavigator, look at the results:

CharityNavigator – SPCA International
CharityNavigator – Humane Society International

Even a cursory glance shows there are serious issues with the SPCA. It displays a Donor Advisory, outlining past problems and items of interest that should influence your donation choice, as outlined by a CNN article. On the other hand, the Humane Society immediately gives you the current rating, along with important financial information such as the charity spending 79.5% of their money on program expenses (i.e. helping as advertised), 5% on administrative overhead, and 15.3% on fundraising.

Compare that with other well-known charities:

Charity Program
Expense
Admin
Overhead
Fundraising
Michael J. Fox Foundation / Parkinson’s Research 91% 2.4% 6.5%
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals 84.7% 1.3% 13.9%
American Cancer Society 71.2% 6.8% 21.8%
George Bush Presidential Library Foundation 45% 40.9% 14%
National Vietnam Veterans Foundation 9.7% 2.4% 87.8%

You can quickly see that some charities are not as efficient as others, spending as much as 87.8% on fundraising. Even though they may keep administrative overhead as low as 2.4%, that is a lot of money spent raising more money, that will only be spent to raise more. This ultimately leads to a cycle where huge amounts of money are wasted, rather than spending it on the stated purpose (program expense). In other cases, you have a charity that is only 14% fundraising, but 40.9% goes to administrative overhead, almost as much as the program expenses. This is often a sign that the charity executives are getting paid obscene amounts of money.

When picking a charity, you want to avoid any of them have either a high admin overhead, or a high fundraising cost. These charities are simply not efficient. Using these numbers, you can determine the “fundraising efficiency”, what CharityNavigator.org describes as “The amount spent to raise $1 in charitable contributions, and calculates for you. To calculate a charity’s fundraising efficiency, we divide its fundraising expenses by the total contributions it receives.

Looking at the national charities I have donated to in the last 12 months, it becomes educational:

Charity Program
Expense
Admin
Overhead
Fundraising
American Red Cross 92.2% 4.0% 3.7%
ACLU 86.0% 5.4% 8.4%
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation 81.5% 7.0% 11.4%
Dumb Friend’s League 77.8% 8.0% 14.0%
Humane Society of US 77.0% 3.7% 19.1%
World Wildlife Fund 73.0% 6.2% 20.6%
Planned Parenthood 72.8% 8.8% 18.3%
USO 72.2% 10.1% 17.5%
St Jude Children’s Research Hospital 70.3% 9.2% 20.3%
March of Dimes 65.9% 10.9% 23.1%
ASPCA 58.4% 5.2% 36.2%
Wounded Warrior Project 55.0% 8.0% 36.8%
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund 47.5% 5.5% 46.8%
Paralyzed Veterans of America 33.1% 6.8% 59.9%
National Veterans Services Fund, Inc. 21.1% 3.6% 75.2%
Natnl Cancer Research Center [1] 0.5% 1.6% 97.8%

[1] This is part of the Walker Cancer Research Institute, and has been blogged about before regarding it being a scam. This is why I should have done my due diligence.

There are a few others I have donated to as well. One is a 501(c)(3) but isn’t required to file the paperwork for Charity Navigator to perform an analysis. Several others are legitimate charities, just much smaller so they fly well under the radar of such a site. For example, Lita’s Squirrel Rescue, Ellicott Wildlife Rehab Center, and Cavy Care are such charities.

Based on the chart above, I know that I have donated to one sketchy charity, and not picked so wisely for others. I am not sure what a good ratio is to maintain, but the top percentile is a good guideline. Moving forward, I will only donate to charities that have a good return on investment.

In case you are wondering what prompted this article, it was the relentless snail mail sent by most of these charities. For a few, donating $25 one year led to what seems like solicitations that cost them $50 included pens, calendars, notepads, lapel pins, stickers, address labels, envelopes, cards, stamps, calculators, and more crap. Every time I received one, I wondered why they didn’t use my money to help their cause. Why do they mail me every 10 days asking for more money? This led me to wonder about their fundraising efforts, and as we see above, some charities specialize in it instead of actually helping people.

Brief Glimmer of Hope for the Human Race

The amount of suffering inflicted upon animals these days is utterly depressing. Every so often I read an article where humans go the extra mile to give an animal a second chance. Of course, the imbalance of one animal receiving life-changing help doesn’t begin to approach the number that are abused and mistreated. However, it does give me the brief glimmer of hope that our humanity, what sets us apart from apes, is still in tact. Here are a few fine examples of why I haven’t given up on society. Yet.

Chris P. Bacon


Backstory on Chris P. Bacon, and him without wheels.

Flipper


Flipper suffered a spinal cord injury during birth. The vet reached out to a local high school to see if they could assist Flipper in getting around, rather than giving up on the cat. Backstory.

Floaty Goldfish


There isn’t much backstory, just the Youtube comments. Here is another video of the wonderful owner hand feeding the fish.

These are but a few examples of humans stepping up to care for animals that have been displaced by the evolution of civilization. Search around you and will find more stories of cranes, parrots, rabbits, turtles, and more.


2013-05-27 Update:


Uploaded on Jun 20, 2011: Incredible Features Exclusive Story – Naki’o is the first dog to be fitted with a complete set of bionic paws that work naturally to allow him to run, jump and even swim. Nakio received the paws after his own were severely hurt from stepping into an ice puddle as a puppy. The prosthetics were designed and fitted in a pioneering procedure by Martin Kaufmann, founder of Orthopets. Read more here: http://www.incrediblefeatures.net/blog/2011/06/nakio-the-first-dog-with-four-prosthetic-paws/

Great Hay Field in the Sky

barely a week ago, Nugget scared me. i ended the post saying that sooner rather than later, her time would be here. that time was tonight.

after returning from festivities downtown, i prepared the veggie platter for the pigs. opening the bottom cage, i immediately noticed nugget laying on her side by the hay box. she was laying in a way that was not like her. Biscuit looked on, as if she was worried. Nugget spasmed a few times in a manner that was clearly not dreaming. i quickly got a towel and moved her to the couch, leaving the veggies for the other piggies.

a dying pig is distressing to the rest of the herd, so it is best if you separate them. i put nugget on the towel and pet her a few times. she was not responsive at all, to my contact or any movement around her. over the next 45 minutes, she stayed on my lap before passing on. while part of me felt bad for her, i realized there was nothing that could be done. by the time i found a 24/7 vet that would see a guinea pig (very few will) and agree to euthanasia, i knew Nugget would move on. the infrequent spasms and occasional gasps were sad, but i reminded myself that gpigs move on in their own environments in exactly the same way.

i prepared a small box for her, with fresh hay in it since that was probably her favorite thing in life. she was the first pig of mine to grow old and die of natural causes. she was the first pig i was expecting to move on. only one other had passed in the cage and it was unexpected. for Nugget, and for the first time, i didn’t cry for the little pig. i am happy for her because she was rescued from a shelter and spent a few days shy of three years with me. every single day of her life here, she enjoyed lettuce twice a day and a platter of veggies every night. she had comfortable fleece cozies or fleece pillows to sleep on and an endless supply of fresh Timothy hay. her life was great, and her passing should be a happy reminder that some animals find a glorious second chance.

Pictures of the Nugget

Dammit Nugget…

Got home from riding and proceeded to get a bag of lettuce from the fridge. The rustling of a plastic bag sets the gpiggies into a minor frenzy. Zesty, Biscuit, Waffle and Tater were all on the upper floor, eager for lettuce. I looked on the lower floor and saw nugget sleeping under the ramp. In her old age, she doesn’t always respond to the plastic bag. Sometimes it takes me putting lettuce under her nose to get her awake and eating.

I reached in and she didn’t move. Wedged under the ramp, I couldn’t see her breathing, her eyelids didn’t move. I touched her forehead and ran my finger up to her ears, nothing. Bleh. Being a senior piggy, somewhere between 6 and 7 years old, with worrying weight loss the past six months, I figured it was her time. I went to the other room to get a small box, returned to the cage and put the ramp up segregating the four pigs up top.

The ramp moving startled Nugget awake. Dammit Nugget..

Her time is coming, sooner rather than later. thinking she passed today, I wasn’t hit like i was on previous pigs. For the first time, I have a gpig that is going to pass naturally in old age. Every pig before her had health complications that cut their life short to some degree. When she goes, as long as it is quietly and peaceful, she will have lived a great life.