HEIDI Rintoull is a girl with a big heart for small things.
The 16-year-old, from Wolvi, near Kin Kin, runs a resort and refuge for guinea pigs whose owners are either going away or cannot, for whatever reason, keep them any longer.
At the moment, she has 26 guinea pigs in her care, about 15 of which are hers.
"I love the little critters," Heidi said.
"I got my first pair when I was about five and on and off through the years, I've had just a couple of guinea pigs."
Heidi began to consider guinea pigs on a wider scale about three years ago, when a friend who was moving asked her to take in her two guinea pigs or she would have to send them to a pet shop.
"I thought, 'Yeah, I'll take them' and after that I thought that for other people who were maybe in a similar situation, I could make a refuge," she said.
Heidi said guinea pigs were generally surrendered when people did not want them any more or had too many.
"The majority of the times I've seen, the people who get them usually get them if they have young children and after while, the young kids aren't interested any more or they don't look after them properly and the parents can't give them the time," she said.
"The other problem is that males and females together breed quite quickly."
Heidi reinvests any money she makes from minding guinea pigs and re-homing surrendered guinea pigs into her resort and refuge operation, but she also bought some guinea pigs from a woman who planned to feed them to snakes.
But although guinea pigs are small, they are not free. Heidi spends money on worming products,a lucerne mix, and vet bills.
She has been doing it pretty much on her own, with the help of her single dad, who is on a pension, but would appreciate donations, even if just a few of $5, or even food scraps, minus potatoes and mushrooms, which are poisonous to guinea pigs.
Her ultimate goal is to become a vet which would give her the money and knowledge to provide everything the guinea pigs needs.
For information, go to thecavyrefuge.weebly.com or find The Cavy Refuge on Facebook.
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