When Ashley Gajda met an owner looking to abandon pet chinchillas near a dumpster, she decided to step in, and now dedicates her free time to similar rescue efforts.
“I took them in, hoping to find them a home that could care for them, and became aware of just how many chinchillas are in similar situations where people are unsure of what to do with them,” Gajda, 28, said.
Gajda formed NWI Chinchilla Rescue in 2003, based out of her Munster home, and also welcomes guinea pigs, prairie dogs, degus, hedgehogs and rabbits, when space permits.
“A chinchilla is a medium-sized rodent found in the Andes Mountains in Peru. People comment that they look like a cross between a rabbit, a squirrel, and a mouse – rabbit body, mouse ears, squirrel tail.”
“As chinchillas live 15-20 years, people are not always aware of what will be going on in their life during the chinchilla’s lifespan and some find themselves in situations where they cannot keep pets.”
In addition to their long lifespan, Gajda said chinchillas differ from other rodents in several ways.
“While they do not have opposable thumbs, they are able to grip things in their paws. They can actually pick up food in their paws and bring the food to their mouths, and eat it that way,” she said.
“They also take dust baths. The dust has a consistency similar to baby powder, and it works as a dry shampoo – it draws the excess oils out of their fur. They cannot bathe in water, so they need these dust baths.”
Donations of bedding, toys, food and treats are welcome, and adoptable animals can be viewed at Petfinder.com or nwichinchillas.com.
Gajda is a 2007 graduate of St. Mary of the Woods College and received her law degree in 2010 from Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis. She is an associate attorney at Schlyer & Associates P.C.
She also enjoys breeding and showing pedigreed chinchillas, and is a member of the Mutation Chinchilla Breeder’s Association.