If any pet store was equipped to endure a heat wave, you’d think it’d be a place called the Reptile Room.
But record-breaking temperatures last weekend proved that notion incorrect, with hundreds of animals dying at the Chilliwack business. It could have been far worse, however, if not for Brian Goldstone and his crew at Griffin Security.
While many animals perished, because of them, many more of the Reptile Room’s creatures are alive and well.
Reptile Room owner Amber Quiring said the disaster was actually set in motion well before the heat wave.
“Our air conditioning broke a few weeks ago,” she explained. “We had an air conditioning contractor in a few times, but they couldn’t fix it without ordering in a new part.”
With the new part still on its way, not due to arrive for several more days, and install not booked for several days beyond that, the Reptile Room was in a bad spot when temperatures started nudging into the 30s.
On Friday, when the thermometer shot up into the mid 30s, Quiring started losing animals.
“We lost hundreds in the first 24 hours,” she said. “At least 140 mice, five Guinea pigs or so, three bunnies, likely 40 or more African soft fur rats, 30 hamsters, four gerbils and close to 100 rats. Only two snakes and eight geckos have died on the rodent side.
“We spent a significant amount of money on portable air conditioners and fans, but it didn’t help.”
Quiring and her husband, Kody DeGans, were at the store on Young Road 24 hours a day doing everything they could to keep animals alive. Cooling devices from the side of the store that housed reptiles were moved over to the side containing rodents, but Quiring said the heat was too much.
“On day two (June 26) we knew it was out of our control and reached out to the community for help, relocating as many as we could,” she said. “Special thanks from us for all of the individuals who took home a few cages of critters.”
On Sunday night, more drastic action was required.
Amber and Kody took every single enclosure from inside the store, and brought them outside.
And that’s where Goldstone and Griffin come in.
The sight of animals and enclosures on the sidewalk constituted “odd behaviour,” and a security truck showed up to investigate. Quiring explained the situation, and by Monday morning Goldstone had offered up Griffin’s air-conditioned classroom at the office on Nowell Street.
“Which is huge and big enough to fit all our rodents into,” Quiring said, with a big sigh of relief.
The relief is short-lived though as she begins assessing the damage. She doesn’t have a solid count on how many animals survived because so many were sent out to people’s homes, but she knows the overall loss will be devastating.
Financially, so many animals were lost and so much money was spent trying to save them, she expects to struggle for at least the next 12 months.
Even worse though is the emotional pain.
“Though the Earth’s global temps are obviously out of my control, from a pet owner’s stand point I am responsible for their well-being and to fail to provide that is crushing,” Quiring said. “We will continue to be here 24 hours a day to maintain the best opportunity for the reptiles still on site.
“The community support and the support of our staff and junior volunteers has been inspirational and emotional. We do our best to help out in the community and supply a safe location for animals in need. It’s amazing to see that support given back during our most desperate time. Special thanks to all the individual families who raced to our rescue Sunday. The weight lifted is indescribable.”