February 16, 2008 / Brooklyn news / Park Slope / PS … I Love You

What to do with hated hamster?

for The Brooklyn Paper
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What do you do with an unwanted small pet in Park Slope? I’ll admit that I have a vested interest in exploring this topic, aside from being a reporter. I am the owner, or really the parent of the owner, of two severely under-utilized hamster-sized guinea pigs.

Olive and Sweetie were adorable when they first arrived two years ago — their purchase spurred on by months of begging from my then-10-year-old daughter.

Cute little fluff balls of fur are irresistible in almost any species. It became quickly apparent, however, that those same balls of fur were making me sneeze in a big way. They had to go.

My boyfriend began to make jokes about taking them for walks in the park and — oops — losing them along the way.

Out of curiosity I called Eugene Patron, the press spokesman for the park: “Do people dump small animals in the park?”

Cats and dogs do get left in the park, in hopes that someone will come along and rescue them. And there’s always the odd case of a snake or rabbit being abandoned in the park by owners who (hmm, like me) thought they’d love the pet, but ended up not being able (or, like me, wanting) to care for it.

The pet plot thickened in my house when we got another adorable fluff ball, Bella, the tiny poodle (who did not make me sneeze). Now the guinea pigs were demoted to even less than nothing. Now their care began to fall more and more on me — the one who can’t even breathe around them.

A friend of mine commented that she used to go to an Ecuadorian restaurant on Fifth Avenue that served guinea pig. I discovered that the place is now closed — darn it. We had hoped to take my daughter there for dinner one evening just to see if she would get the hint. I did find a New York Times article about the place. It turns out that guinea pig — served whole — is a holiday treat amongst Ecuadorians. I won’t go into the bone-crunching details of how a “cuy” is eaten.

(By the way, some people like to eat iguana too. In Costa Rica they call them “chicken of the trees,” although they are now an endangered species and it is illegal to capture them, no matter how hungry you are.)

Desperation aside, I would not seriously consider abandoning Olive and Sweetie in the park or selling them to a restaurant as food. But what should one do?

“Finding a private home for the animal is the best course of action,” says Jude Lassow-Sunden of Muffin’s Pet Connection, a not-for-profit animal adoption group. “Scope out all your friends, family and co-workers.” This way you can be sure the new owner is going to be good to your pet.

And, believe it or not, there are rescue groups for just about every type of animal — even guinea pigs. Have-a Heart Guinea Pig Rescue in New Jersey is one example. In Allentown, Penn., I found Give a Chance Hamster Rescue.

My daughter has finally seen reason about our guinea pigs. I have to admit, though, that none of my attempts of convince her of the ultimate kindness we would be doing to them by finding them a new home did a thing to convince her. The conversation went more like this:

Daughter: “Mom, can we get another poodle?”

Me: “OK, but only if you agree to get rid of the guinea pigs.”

Daughter: “Really? I can get another dog? It’s a deal!”

Wendy Ponte is a writer who lives in Park Slope.

The Kitchen Sink

Park Slope: Our own front-page cover girl — chalk graffiti artist Natalie Shea — was interviewed for an upcoming episode of “The Colbert Report” the other day at her 10th Street home. If Stephen Colbert wants to thank us personally for breaking the story, we’ll take four VIP seats to an upcoming taping, please. …

Our pal Mo Willems celebrated his 40th birthday on Monday night and was toasted by a veritable library of Brooklyn-based kid’s book authors, including Jon “Stinky Cheese Man” Scieszka and Ted Lewin, whose picture book on Gleason’s Gym comes out next month. … Don’t forget the free “Photoshop master classes” at the Mac Support store on Feb. 23 and March 8. David Biedny, who literally wrote the book on the famed photo-editing software, will lead the 3 pm sessions. Did we mention that they’re free? …

Bay Ridge: It’s time again for the Bay Ridge Community Council’s annual photo contest. Adult and student photographers (ages 5–12) should send their entry — a single photo per person — to McLaughlin & Sons, 8225 Third Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11209 by March 3. …

Also, our friends at the Bay Ridge Lions honored past president Marilyn Mannino at Hunters Steak House on Fourth Avenue last week. Peter Killen, a Lions Club member in good standing, vouched for the steak. …

Now he’s a sweet Sweet 16 story. Our pal Stavroula Kafkis donated $500 to Lutheran Medical Center last week — money that she had originally set aside for treats and party favors at her January “Sweet 16” party. The 11th grader at Fort Hamilton HS says she hopes to be a pharmacist one day. …

Congrats to 68th Precinct C.O. Eric Rodriguez, who just got promoted to deputy inspector.

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Reader Feedback

Craig says:
I don't think it's right to just uproot a Guinea Pig from their home just because it's a cosmetic whim to do. These animals have a lot of personality just as much as cats and dogs once you earn their trust. I don't think its the best behavior to re-enforce to a young one to disregard one animals life and friendship for another.
Feb. 25, 2008, 2:34 pm
Kal from New York says:
David Biedney believes in aliens and has a show about them!!!! check out FREAK
July 29, 2009, 1:04 am
Susan from NYC says:
Are you trying to be sarcastic or witty? Because epic fail.
June 21, 2011, 1:07 pm
VM from Brooklyn says:
What an irresponsible person you are. The whole tone and nature of this article is offensive. Shame on you and to this paper for publishing it. I hope you find a good home for your pets because I bet they are in a crappy pet store cage and completely neglected.

Please check out sites like or to learn how to properly care for your pet.
June 21, 2011, 1:23 pm
katie from NYC says:
What a disgusting story of irresponsible pet ownership. It's a shame that poor pet owners like this one will burden nonprofits with their "unwanted" animals and then go out and buy a puppy. This teaches children an awful lesson about responsibility -- when something is boring and dull you should abandon it.

I like to think that when parents like this become old and difficult to care for, their children will remember these lessons and devote them the same amount of attention.
June 21, 2011, 1:24 pm
Judi from Virginia says:
I totally agree with Katie. This article is not tongue-in-cheek, if you intended it that way. And I suppose once you find the dogs a real pain, you will try to dump them in a park or eat them or give them away, also? People like you should not own animals. This article is disgusting in so many ways, and you should be ashamed.
June 21, 2011, 2:10 pm
Danni from South Jersey says:
I run a small animal rescue and I am absolutely appalled by this article. The rescue community works very hard to educate the public that small animals ARE NOT disposable. Guinea pigs are wonderful pets with amazing little personalities.

Did the writer consider that maybe the allergies were due to the bedding being used? Maybe the hay being used?
I am terribly allergic to Timothy Hay but when I switched to a different type of hay my allergy symptoms subsided.

Did the writer stop and consider that people may actually take the dumping in the park joke seriously?? I have taken in quite a few piggies that were dumped in the streets, garbage cans, parks etc and I really don't look forward to that happening more often
June 21, 2011, 2:11 pm
DL from NYC says:
Absolutely disgusting. I am speechless. What a sad, sad example to give to your children. If you tried to be funny here, you absolutely did not succeed at it. This kind of nonsense is not amusing -- it's careless and at worst, harmful.
June 21, 2011, 2:24 pm
Kate from PA says:
You are an awful person and I think that they lack of comapssion and morality you are passing on to your children is neglect. God forbid one of them gets disfigured or disabled, maybe you will toss them in a dumpster somewhere. I pray for your children.
June 21, 2011, 2:30 pm
Lauri from UT says:
This article literally made me feel ill. I can't believe anyone would have such a callous attitude toward a living, breathing thing. You may have just been trying to be entertaining, but this is just as bad as joking about murder or hate crimes. I really hope no one takes this seriously and thinks it's ok to dump animals in the park or the street, or even decides they are curious enough to see what the animal tastes like. I feel so sorry for your dog, and any other animal that is "welcomed" into your home.
June 21, 2011, 2:45 pm
Ashley from MO says:
The fact that you are teaching your child that it is acceptable to dump an animal once you are bored is horrifying.

It doesn't matter if it is a dog or cat or guinea pig. This is a living being that you initially agreed to take care of and you have completely failed. Even more, you have failed to teach your child how to be a responsible and caring human being.

June 21, 2011, 2:46 pm
Christine from UK says:
You disgust me. Ok so you are allergic to your guinea pigs, but you should explain that to your daughter not give her the irresponsible view that trading them in for another pet is acceptable as soon as you are bored with the current one.
June 21, 2011, 2:57 pm
JH from NH says:
This is repulsive. I can't believe a "reputable" publication would allow an article like this.

No animal should be treated as disposable, whether they are small or large. I'm sure the writer would be shocked & appalled by someone doing this to a dog or cat, but they are "just" guinea pigs so that must make it ok. Ridiculous. Like many others who have posted, I have worked in small animal rescue. People like this pathetic excuse for a human being, dump their small animal pets everyday for idiotic reasons. Your article should have been more about educating the public on the existence of small animal rescue rather then showing the world how repugnant you are.

I hope your child does not grow up to have the same disrespect for animals as you do.
June 21, 2011, 5:05 pm
ES from Canada says:
When I read this I felt sick, physically sick. I agree, I am appalled that a so called "reputable" publication would allow an article as irresponsible as this to be published.

NO animal, be it dog, cat, hamster, rat or even mouse should be "traded". You make me sick dear writer, and the fact that your passing this on to your child, disgraceful! What kind of parent teaches their child that pets are nothing more than an object?

There are many small animal rescues around the world and tons in the USA. I agree with other people, or

I myself have spent hours making in hopes of educating people on how to properly care for guinea pigs because they are amazing little creatures.

Bottom line, shame on you the writer and shame on your the publisher.
June 21, 2011, 5:23 pm
melissa from indianapolis says:
Wendy Ponte, what an idiot. If you are a reporter, then you FAIL miserably for not doing proper research before buying a pet for your child. You shouldn't have bought an irresponsible child a pet that you yourself wouldn't want to take care of. That makes you just as irresponsible as a 10 yr old.
Also, you need to know exactly what you have in order to take proper care of it. Are they hamsters, or guinea pigs? There is couple of pounds difference between the two.

Again, seriously, you fail as a parent and a reporter.
June 21, 2011, 5:42 pm
FL from Baltimore says:
You are heartless and setting a terrible example for your daughter. Letting most domestic animals loose anywhere is a death sentence: by starvation, dehydration, heat or cold, predators, parasites, illness, or getting hit by a car. Giving your daughter the impression that any animal--a living, breathing creature capable of feeling pain and pleasure and totally at your mercy--is disposable or OK to "trade up" is disgusting. You should instead be showing her and the animals some respect by having a serious discussion about responsibility and the fact that you are allergic, and if the animals must leave, then she should be involved in finding them a safe new home.

Your mention of "none of my attempts of convince her of the ultimate kindness we would be doing to them by finding them a new home" comes across as an afterthought.

And you know what? You're the mom, and she is the child. You don't need her permission or a poodle bribe to find a new home for those guinea pigs if you think it's the "ultimate kindness." You just do it. And if she cries? Well, there's an opportunity for a lesson there.

If you both had the opportunity to visit some rescues or shelters I'm sure you would see firsthand some examples of the miserable, often terrified creatures they take in and try to save after they've been neglected and/or dumped outside. Then you could imagine that it was your beloved poodle. Because guess what? It happens to dogs too. Or why not read some of the sad stories on those rescues' web sites to find out what happens when people think like you.

Gosh, you discovered that--shock!--there are rescues for hamsters and guinea pigs? Did you actually speak to those people about the situation with your own pets, or just joke about them in your article because it seemed so funny or "wacky but true" that anyone would be so to care enough to do that?

Shame on you. I hope the next person recognizes your name and refuses to sell you a puppy.
June 21, 2011, 7:12 pm
Emily from Seattle says:
This is a terribly written article that is not informative, nor is it "funny" or in any way "satirical." You joke about cruel things people do to animals on a daily basis. The info you halfheartedly provided about rescues does not make up for your callous attitude and unfortunately also associates hard working rescuers and volunteers with this awful article as though they endorse your behavior.

You are a pitiful person completely lacking any sense of empathy. How sad for you and for all the people and animals you come across.
June 21, 2011, 8:13 pm
Lisa from PA says:
I hope this journalist is covering war torn Iraq now where maybe the Taliban may appreciate her horrific and backwards attempt at humor!!!

This article is old but as long as it is archived and people can see it, it is as good as new!!!!

Absolutely irresponsible and not remotely amusing! The writer could have contacted a genuine Guinea Pig rescue, recieved help and written a classy article explaining that guinea pigs arent childrens pets. They are family pets with adults taking care of them and kids helping as well as learning responsible pet ownership!

Just unbeleivable!!!!!
June 21, 2011, 11:02 pm
Cathy from California says:
What's the point of this article? To convey the message that a cavalier attitude toward pet ownership is acceptable by modern standards? Well it's not!

Since this was written three years ago I can only imagine two poodles locked up in a garage or basement with matted fur and fleas (if she still has them).

I think sometimes it is necessary for people to realize that animals are not right for them. And more importantly that they are not right for animals.
June 21, 2011, 11:53 pm
Ashley from Iowa says:
You are positively disgusting. This article is the most shameful and repulsive thing I have ever read, and that's saying something.

People like you are the reason the world is in the sad state it is... you are irresponsible and should never own a pet, or likely have a child. You are teaching that child that living things are disposable, which she already obviously has picked up on since she's ready to dump the GP's for another dog.

You are cruel and mean, and I pity any animal (or child) in your care.
June 22, 2011, 2:38 pm
Beth from Pa says:
You are a waste and it is heartbreaking you are teaching a child such a horrible thing as to abandon a animal. Your a mother you are to guide your children in the right direction! I pity the poor poodle or any animal for that matter. Are you going to get rid of your child when you tire of her too? "Come on honey let's go to the park!". Your pathetic I hope you never own another animal in your life you don't deserve one. Please don't have anymore children as well as you are an unfit mother.
June 22, 2011, 8:19 pm
Carla from Maryland says:
Someone already said this but I'll second it: you are an idiot.
1)Don't get any pet for a child unless you want the pet-really want it, because you will be the caretaker
2)Research proper care from a reputable rescue-if you had done that in the first place, you wouldn't have these guinea pigs in the first place
3)Allergies are not an absolute "get rid of the pet". I suspect you didn't look into any solutions.
4)If after all, a new home is to be found, get help from a rescue on how to find a home, or bring them to a shelter-that way if they don't find a new home, at least they aren't eaten by a predator or starve to death because-oh yeah- they are not wild in a park in NY and would have no way to take care of themselves!!!!!
5)Finally-pets are not disposable! They are living, breathing beings with personalities and needs and you are teaching your children that it's ok to throw them away like trash.
Shame on you and the paper for publishing this horrendous article.
June 24, 2011, 11:44 am
Shanachie from Massachusetts says:
Wow. All I can say is... Wow.
Does this mean, you will be having poodle for dinner, too? Once you kill and serve the guinea pigs because they aren't cute like they were two years ago, you can eat the dogs, too. Because a cultural reference apparently gives you permission to somehow dispose of an unwanted animal you originally intended to care for as a pet. I dare not use the term "family member" here, as you obviously can't begin to understand that most animal lovers perceive their animal companions as part of a family.
I honor all cultures and I do NOT condemn the practices of any culture. Such trends provide identity and value to individual as they carry forth traditions their ancestors and family members have honored for centuries. But just because the such-and-so's do it doesn't mean you can, too. It is offensive that you borrow their tradition to alleviate your own guilt.
When an animal loses it's shiny newness, do you really think its okay to find an excuse to eat it, dump it, kill it, "accidently" lose it? Do you think that this doesn't really happen? That people don't do these things? Because they do.
I foster many animals, every year. I see the effects people like you have on animals, and my job as a foster is to help heal the damage people like you have caused.
Do you think a guinea pig, cat, or dog that has been dumped, threatened or abandoned doesn't suffer, feel pain, feel fear, and get hurt, starved, dehydrated or killed because of the attitude you put forth in this article?
I have stories like you wouldn't believe. Many people in rescue do.
Wendy Ponte- If and When you decide to evolve and teach some true values to yourself and your child, set aside your ego and start looking at what you said in that article. Think about this:
When you aren't shiny and new anymore, and your daughter has a new life partner, you'll be awful lonely in the nursing home she ships you off to because she's sick of changing your water bottle and pine shavings. Because it starts with animals. And the same values you teach with animals extends to people. Just because people can talk doesn't mean they can communicate. We all are animals here on God's Green Earth.
June 26, 2011, 8:10 pm

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