GUINEA PIG SAVIOURS:  Iffy and her husband Graham have dedicated their lives to improving the lives of 'pocket pets'.
GUINEA PIG SAVIOURS: Iffy and her husband Graham have dedicated their lives to improving the lives of 'pocket pets'. Melanie Keyte

Q&A: Life as a 'pocket pet' rescuer

Occupation: University student and manager of Alittlebitiffy guinea pig rescue.

Age: 24.

Marital Status: Married.

What have you enjoyed most about running the rescue?

In all honesty, rescue work is fairly gloomy. We see the worst cases of neglect and abuse, and often deal with the heartbreak of knowing there's nothing more we can do. But we also get to see piggies who come from a horrible past show you incredible trust and determination to get better. There's nothing better than seeing a sick piggy become completely healthy and finding their forever home.

Oh, and piggy kisses are pretty good too!

Why did you decide to get involved with guinea pigs?

We used to do a fair bit of volunteer work with other rescues and we noticed that there wasn't much local support out there for the smaller animals.

While dogs and cats had readily available vets, consultants, behaviourists, groomers and other knowledgeable professionals, there were very few sources of reliable and accurate information for guinea pig owners wanting to know how to best care for their piggies. This sanctuary was created to provide a support network for guinea pigs and their human families, and to abolish the misconception that the smaller pets are less important or easier to keep than other domestic animals.

Have you met anyone famous, who and when?

I once caught a glimpse of David Attenborough at the airport when he visited North Queensland, though that doesn't count as meeting him I was still pretty stoked to be able to see my idol in person.

What is your greatest accomplishment in life?

Starting the rescue. We may not be changing the world, but we're changing the world that the piggies in our care get to experience. That means a great deal to me.

What's the best advice you've ever received?

Don't ruin a good day by thinking about a bad yesterday.

In the rescue world we sometimes have horrible days. A sick guinea pig in our care might get worse or stop responding to treatment, or they may pass away. We have days when (and) we go to bed absolutely emotionally drained. But if we held onto those feelings come the next day, not only would we keep feeling horrible but our guinea pigs wouldn't be getting the best care they could be getting. We have to remember that every day is a new day, and that our piggies deserve us at our best. So don't let a bad yesterday ruin your today.

What is the one thing you would like to change in the world?

I'd like people to have greater understanding of how important animals are to us and how important we are to them.

Notwithstanding the number, how old do you feel and why?

I feel older than what I am! I see friends my age making plans to go out and I think, "I would much prefer to go home, have a cup of tea, get some guinea pig cages cleaned and then take a nap". You know you're older than your peers when sleep is a bigger priority than partying.

What is your favourite hobby or recreation, and why?

I play the piano, it's very relaxing and something I can do to clear my mind. I also have two Siberian huskies and greatly enjoy going for long walks with them.

What is your happiest childhood memory?

My parents liked to travel a lot, so rather than one memory I treasure all the family holidays we had. One particularly memorable trip was to Cradle Mountain in Tasmania. I got to see an albino peacock for the first time, and as a child I thought that was the coolest thing ever.

What is your favourite place to visit in the district?

Apex Park in Gatton is a beautiful place for an afternoon stroll, and the restaurant in the library does incredible food. Picnic Point in Toowoomba is another favourite, it gives a great view of the valley.

What would you do if you won the lotto?

The responsible side of me would make investments and start a term deposit. The animal advocate in me would buy a house solely with the rescue in mind, featuring huge indoor and outdoor areas for our piggies to safely play and explore.

Who are the people you most admire - dead or living?

It's cliched, I know, but I admire my parents.

Growing up in a third-world country and moving to a foreign country when I was just two years old to start their lives again couldn't have been an easy task. They started with two suitcases of clothes and a lot of determination, they had to learn English and resit their medical exams, and every day it inspires me how far they've come from the days when dad worked three part time jobs just to make ends meet.

Now they're highly respected members of their community and they run their own medical surgery. It makes me feel like if they can achieve all that, there's nothing that I can't do too.


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