Calendars featuring attractive folks or cuddly pets have been around a long time. But Second Chance Cavy Rescue puts a whole new spin on the idea with its 2020 calendar, “A Piggy & A Gentleman.”
The unique calendar features 12 San Antonio gents, from a former NFL player to a bench-pressing champ, a military surgeon and a firefighter, each cuddling a cute little cavy — which is another name for a guinea pig.
The quirky project is a first-time fundraiser for the nonprofit, which is the only guinea pig rescue and adoption agency in South Central Texas.
The idea for the project was born when the organization’s founder and director, Diane Sandlin, snapped a picture of a big, muscular military man — a volunteer —cradling a cavy on the rescue center’s “cuddle couch.”
“Just looking at that photo, you could feel the love,” Sandlin said. “We have such wonderful volunteers from all walks of life, and it was really inspiring that some of these (military) men were volunteering. I thought it would be cool if we could pair them with piggies in a calendar.”
Fundraising and outreach are particularly important now, since Second Chance must find a new home soon. The organization, which was housing 100 rescued guinea pigs for adoption in mid-December, must move from its current home at Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, 1354 Basse Road, by mid-February.
As the Christmas holiday approached, the rescue had stopped accepting new “surrenders” for the time. Much energy was going into seeking more adopters and long-term foster parents for the piggies, while searching for an adequate space to house them, with public access for adoption and education.
According to staffers, the attention-grabbing calendar couldn’t have come at a better time.
Sandlin credits much of the project’s success to Jill Ferguson, who she said “took the ball and ran with it.”
Ferguson is a passionate and talented supporter. With a doctorate in neurobiology, she has ghostwritten and edited scientific research papers and articles while raising children with her husband, a former military plastic surgeon now in private practice. She has owned guinea pigs with her daughters, now 12 and 15, since the siblings’ early days.
Two of Ferguson’s piggies, Marmalade and Bear, are featured in the calendar.
“They are so huge as pets in a lot of places, and recently there’s a big trend to use them as support animals,” Ferguson said. “I had never heard of Second Chance Cavy Rescue until a couple of years ago, and when I got involved I thought if people just knew about it, they could do much more.”
She has revamped the website and thrown herself into public relations and marketing efforts for the center.
To shoot the calendar portraits, she enlisted the help of widely traveled nature photographer Nancy Norman.
“It was a completely new experience,” Norman said. “I had never even touched a guinea pig or known anybody that had one. I had no idea they were so varied and interesting. The pigs, the people, the photography… it was all so new and interesting to me.”
Norman said it was especially challenging since the pictures were set outdoors, and to get the calendar ready before Christmas the photos had to be done in August and September. Guinea pigs don’t tolerate summer heat well.
“We had to completely set the photos up, and then hand the men the guinea pigs at the last minute, so we could get back indoors,” she said.
The “gentlemen” of the calendar enjoyed the experience, too.
“It was fun,” said Mr. September, Capt. Ivan Hernandez of the Shavano Park Fire Department, who was photographed holding Sophia in a fire helmet. “I’m a huge animal advocate. I’ve been with the Fire Department 24 years, and I never thought I would be on a calendar. The other firefighters were excited — they thought maybe somebody was going to adopt me, not the guinea pig.”
Mr. October, Eric Fowler, is a former NFL wide receiver who played with the Rams, Steelers and the Detroit Lions before his current work for a medical nonprofit. He is pictured cradling a glossy black cavy named Coal.
“My wife loves it, too. She knows what a good cause this is,” Fowler said. “The reach of this calendar since it came out really surprised me. People who knew me personally and professionally have found it, and friends I haven’t talked to in months saw it on social-media feeds. It touches people’s sense of humor, too…everybody has a little joke. It’s great.”
He added, “So I think what they wanted to do — spreading the word about the rescue and reaching high-end users who can help — is working.”
San Antonio Zoo CEO Tim Morrow, aka Mr. November, is pictured with the zoo’s guinea pig ambassador, Peppa, one of a pair of cavies adopted from Second Chance last year for zoo education programs.
To order the calendar or for more information, go to https://secondchancecavy.com.