Pied Piper of Pacifica

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 26, 2015 in Rat Answers | Subscribe

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A day in the life of a rodent rescuer is anything but boring.

One day, dozens of guinea pigs had to be removed from Delores Park. Another day, a hoarder’s home was full of rats that had to be captured and removed. Families who can no longer care for a chinchilla or a hamster sometimes bring them to parks and release them.

Jennifer Paz has seen it all. As the director of North Star Rescue, she answers those calls all over the Bay Area and knows just what to do to capture the animals and tend to their needs.

Last summer, she opened Dandelion Dreams, a pet supply store at 1610 Francisco Blvd, where she brings the animals she rescued. The shop is so named because that is one of the favorite greens for guinea pigs. There a family looking for a new pet can not only find guinea pigs, chinchillas, hamsters, mice and rats, but also a new pet cage with hand-sewn hammocks and interior walls that can be changed to give the pet the most intellectually changing experiences. Pet environments in the shop are changed every week. Many of the accessories are hand made by Paz.

“It has all the things you need when you adopt these animals,” she said. “We even let people bring their cages back if they want to upgrade.”

Paz knows personally how important intellectual stimulation can be for animals as well as humans. She went to school in England where she earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology, a master’s in psychology and a PhD in biology. She worked with sea turtles, bats and is published in the field of pollination biology.

Returning to the states, she soon settled in Pacifica after coming here to create ceramics and teach ceramics at Clay Creations.

It was the sight of pregnant guinea pigs kept in a recycling bin outside a major chain pet store that inspired her to get involved with the rescue of these animals.

She picks up animals from shelters where they would have otherwise been euthanized.

“We are the only one doing rodents,” she said.

When a small colony of guinea pigs needed to be removed from Dolores Park, she captured them by luring them in boxes that contained vegetables. Next she addressed their medical issues and nursed them back from malnutrition. She lets visitors to the shop feed them cilantro and romaine. She introduces each one by name and by their roles in the colony, which are similar to the jobs and hierarchies in human communities.

“Guinea pigs do better when they are in at least pairs,” she said.

She rescued 89 rats in one apartment in San Francisco and brought them back to Dandelion Dreams. There are 25 of them left. She made sure every one got spayed or neutered and received necessary veterinary care.

“It’s harder to herd rats,” she said. “They are more clever and smaller.”

She looks after a colony of rats in San Francisco’s Dungeon, an historical attraction at Fisherman’s Wharf. The Dungeon adopted a colony of rats from North Star Rescue. Paz looks after them three times a week to make sure they are well fed and in good health.

She works with two local vets, All Care and Pacifica Pet Hospital.

“Without them, it would be impossible to do rescue,” she said. She also relies on the help of volunteers.

She said her dual role of director of rescue and pet supply shop proprietor is a dream come true. It’s a good use of her skills.

“We doubled the income of North Star Rescue since August. It’s creative, because we are making our own rat hammocks and cages for guinea pigs. It’s intellectually stimulating because we deal with a lot of animals who are not in the best situations. I wanted to be able to make a living doing the right thing. Hopefully, we can build it up to make a living,” she said.

She loves keeping in touch with families who adopted pets through her. One family adopted a high-strung rat last year and just sent her a picture of that same rat, relaxed and happy in his hand-made hammock.

Dandelion dreams proceeds go to supporting North Star Rescue and Coastside Cavy Guinea Pig Rescue, organizations that merged last August,

North Star Rescue is in the middle of a fundraising campaign right now with a goal of raising $5,000 so they can better coordinate with one particular shelter, do more rescues and hire another person to look after the animals. The fundraising is open until April 7.

Click on the fundraising site to donate or for more information —


Jane Northrop can be reached at jnorthrop@bayareanewsgroup.com

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