Help Sam Save Otter the Guinea Pig

Our friend and animal hero, Samantha, needs our help.

Sam revealed Friday on Facebook that she had been crying in her basement over an emergency medical need for her guinea pig, Otter.

Sam's basement typically is a place where incredible animal stories are born and after reading how she had been "Sitting in my basement bawling my eyes out right now", it broke my heart to imagine her crying in the same place she found her missing pink-toed tarantula or runaway hamster.

For those of you who haven't been fortunate enough to meet this incredible woman, Samantha works at an animal shelter providing extraordinary care to the shelter animals. She also is constantly called upon for her advice and keen abilities to help rescue animals in need. 

Many have suggested starting a GoFundMe and although Samantha insists against the help, we all know if anyone deserves an out pour of love and support, it's her.

Please help save Otter by either donating what you're able to give or sharing this page. Otter's surgery is URGENTLY needed so please, let's get our goal of $1,200 as quickly as we can!

Thank you for your time and love!


(A friend, previous co-worker, and eternally grateful to Sam for finding the rabbit I ended up adopting, Poppy)

From Sam's Facebook:

Sitting in my basement bawling my eyes out right now. Otter has what appears to be a bladder stone and despite pain meds is still in pain- I see her straining and she makes the most pitiful cries. The only treatment is surgery, to the tune of $1,200+ dollars.

Thanks to Xylem’s dental (her cat) and holiday spending, there is just no way I can spend that, my credit card is getting dangerously full.

We are going to do a round of antibiotics to see if there is secondary infection causing extra inflammation and discomfort, but I will most likely have to euthanize her to stop her suffering. My heart is broken 

I’m upping her pain meds and praying the antibiotics give her a little relief so we can spend some quality time together before I have to say goodbye. She’s such a nice piggie and I love her so much

Previous Basement Tails from Sam:

The Hamster
Posted 12.24.2019

I can’t sleep so let me share a story with you.

About two weeks ago we transferred in a hamster from another shelter. Upon inspection I discovered he had a dental malocclusion (misaligned teeth) that precluded his going directly onto the adoption floor. Now I’m not really a hamster person (RATS 4 LIFE) but this lil dude happened to be off-the-charts cute, so I decided to “foster” (quotes intentional) him until we figured something out.

I brought him home and set him up in a 30-gallon tank and joyfully watched him waddle around like a tiny wombat. He wasn’t super into being handled or touched so I started the interaction process slowly, trying to build a good relationship with him.

Fast forward to this past Friday, the morning after my wisdom teeth surgery. I headed down to the basement to do my a.m. animal chores and socializing and to my utter shock and amazement found a huge hole chewed in the top of Mr. Hamster’s cage  This kid had packed a bunch of bedding under one of his hidey-houses raising it up higher, climbed up onto it, stood on his very tiptoes, chewed a hole in the METAL screen, then full on muscle-upped by his finger tips through the hole then kamikazied off the table his tank was on. Never in my life!

Now my basement, which is sort of a hybrid between a full height garage and a foundation crawl space, is where I store most of my earthly belongings. It’s a maze of boxes and bags and other objects stacked on platforms above the dirt and cement. It’s the perfect place to lose a small furry animal completely and forever. I looked around in a panic, already understanding the seriousness of the issue. This was not good.

I then spent the next ELEVEN (not exaggerating) hours ripping my basement apart. I took almost everything out of the front paved half, methodically inspecting every bag, box, and container, every nook and cranny, as I went. I knew I had one chance to find him before he got too far away or got eaten by the rats who I have been battling for months. In the final hours I crawled on my belly in the mud and gravel of the back half, peering with a flashlight under the storage platforms and in the cracks between the large items I didn’t have the time/energy/strength to move. Nothing. I gave up in defeat, sick to my stomach worrying about my hammie’s likely horrible fate. It really sucked.

For a moment I contemplated trying to trap him, but was sure with the huge rat issue I would be more likely to just trap or attract more rats. I also considering setting up one of my cameras in a low spot with some bait, but shuddered at the thought of actually watching the rats that come out at night and wreck my stuff. Either way it was late and I wasn’t going to do it that night, so I just put one of his little houses out on the ground with some bedding and food and water on the off chance it might attract him, knowing full well it would just be a rat buffet, and went to bed.

The next morning of course the food was gone (you’re welcome, rats) and still no
sign of him. I had to leave for the day, but stopped into work on my way back home. With some prompting and encouragement from Kyle I ended up bringing home a live trap and setting up a camera, knowing full well my chances of success were only slightly above zero. I set everything up and went to bed, not looking forward to creepy rat videos.

About 20 mins later: “PING!” went the notification on my phone. “Event recording” it said. I nervously clicked on the video capture.

It was him!

For a moment I vacillated between going and trying to catch him, risking scaring him away from the trap and losing him in the time it took me to get down there, or stay in bed and watch the trap via my camera and hope he went in, but risk him not going in and then losing him and my chances of capture. I opted to run down there and try to catch him while he was out.

As quickly as I could I zoomed out the back door, across the deck and down the stairs and through the yard and into the basement, grabbing the flashlight as I went. Once inside I frantically searched in the darkness- he wasn’t near where the camera had seen him. Thankfully I found him fairly nearby, on a ledge near where his tank had been, right where he would have landed when he first jumped out two nights before. I think he may have been trying to return to his cage that was no longer there.

Somewhat concerned about getting bit I grabbed a glove first and then and snatched him up. He made no fuss, and as I tearfully cradled him on my arm and pet him, he completely relaxed- I think he was glad to be back. I have not been that happy or relieved in a long time.

Needless to say he got a new chew-proof home which he seems to really like. Our relationship has changed and he comes out to interact with me more and seems to appreciate attention. I love him and will be signing the adoption papers today.

Due to his crafty escape, tough-guy survival skills, and a huge badass joker-style scar extending from the right corner of his mouth, I’ve named him Jigsaw. Welcome home buddy! And thanks for my now sparkling clean and newly organized basement 

The Tarantula
Posted 8.27.2019

I just had the craziest thing happen to me, my mind is blown!

Earlier this year someone surrendered a juvenile Pink-toed Tarantula to the shelter. I brought him home and set him up in an enclosure in my basement, which is where I keep some of my reptiles and inverts because of the nice stable temperature and higher ambient humidity. Well a couple months ago I was redoing his cage and got a little careless with the temporary container he was in, and he escaped 

Now my basement, which is more like a garage with its windows and doors and what not, is not a place you’d ever find an escaped spider. It’s an endless maze of dirt and boxes and ducts and holes and piles of junk and openings to the outside and so on and so forth (see photo #1 for effect). So I pretty much wrote him off and hoped he didn’t suffer before he met some spidery fate ☹️

Fast forward to day before yesterday. I was
walking through the basement doing a few things before work when I saw something on the ground that caught my attention. It looked like a dead insect and so I didn’t worry too much about it as it can get a little messy down there and I don’t usually have time to sweep and clean up until my weekend.

Then I noticed it again yesterday. I paused for a minute, staring down at it. It was most likely a dead dubia roach, which I have a colony of in my basement that I raise to feed my reptiles. I figured it was a molt or a dead one I dropped on the way to the trash can earlier that week. I was in a hurry at that point and opted to ignore it another day.

Well tonight I’m in the basement shutting off lights for the night and I see it again and this time I realize it’s catching my eye because there is something off about it’s shape. I finally bothered to bend down and pick it up and inspect it more closely. I was right, it was a dead dubia, but not just dead- it was wrapped up partially in spider silk, and sucked dry.

I stood there staring at the wrapped up roach carcass, which had clearly been a spider’s meal. My basement is LOADED with spiders, no big deal, right? But this is huge 2.5” tropical insect, not something a little basement spider could tackle.

I look up.

Not around, not off to the side, not to any of the nearby cross-beams or hanging furnace ducts. Just straight up. Literally a shifting of my eyes from the palm of my hand to the rafters directly above me.

And there he was, Mr. Pink-toed Tarantula, just chilling on the ceiling beam directly above me. WHAT ARE THE FREAKIN CHANCES!?

I scooped him up, somewhat reluctantly as he seemed to be thriving loose in my basement, but you know, tropical non-native exotic pet and what not, he was better off back in his enclosure.

I will definitely be more careful with him now, plus I’m thinking maybe I should go buy a lottery ticket or something with this luck I’ve just had! Crazy.


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Organizer and beneficiary

April Lofgren 
Menifee, CA
Samantha Winegarner 
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