Most people don’t consider guinea pigs to be working animals, but Daphne and Sienna are out to change all of that.
At a little more than a year old and weighing less than two pounds each, the two guinea pigs are the newest companion animals for Central Wyoming Hospice and Transitions Program.
“It’s really fun to see the different reactions I’ve gotten,” said owner and volunteer Erin Maggard. “People think it’s either the coolest thing ever or they look at me like I’ve got three heads.”
Maggard herself wasn’t so sure at first.
A longtime hospice supporter, Maggard has spent many hours visiting hospice patients she knows, though not as a formal volunteer. One of her friends who stayed in the Kloefkorn Home loved having the volunteer dogs visit, but as her illnees progressed, it became more and more difficult to pet the dogs.
Maggard asked the friend’s daughter if she would enjoy a visit from the guinea pigs and the daughter agreed. The guinea pigs visited the Kloefkorn Home two or three times a week for about a month and they were on hand when Maggard’s friend died.
“They are so light so we could set them on her stomach,” Maggard said. “(My friend) appeared to be unconscious, but every once in awhile, you’d see her fingers moving in their fur.”
CWHTP Bereavement Coordinator Amy Fitzpatrick said that with illness, people lose not only the ability to take care of themselves, but also their pets.
“These little critters are able to provide that connection to animals,” she said.
Maggard is looking forward to the many trips she will be making to the hospice homes with the guinea pigs in their “working” basket.
“I am really confident in our girls,” Maggard said. “These two are so gentle and lovable.”