This is a story of miracles and heartbreak, joy and sadness. This is the story of the Weavers and the Weaver critters, who rode out one of the fierce Alabama tornadoes that touched down on April 27.
The Weavers lived in a pretty house in Alabama, a single-story home with enough room for a family of four, a dog, ten guinea pigs, ten rats, and a variety of critters who were lucky enough to be fostered by the Weavers while waiting for the right forever home.
Marsha Weaver, a skilled craftswoman who dedicated her abilities to creating beautiful beds and hidey places for little critters, shared her sewing room with her guinea pigs and rats. Marsha sewed products for her shop, The Cozy Cavy, while the Weaver Pigs and the Weaver Ratties kept her company.
There was almost no warning. The April 27 storm moved in to the Weaver neighborhood almost before it was reported. As the skies grew frighteningly dark and the rain pounded the roof, Marsha ushered her children and Shelby, the family dog, into the hallway. Her husband, Doug, skirted through the front door moments later. Before she could decide what to do about the littlest family members, the house began to shake. The house fell in, then pieces flew in the air. The Weavers felt the pull of the storm. Shelby, hovering off the floor, was anchored to her humans by her collar. It lasted for only moments; it lasted forever.
During a brief lull in the storm, they rose out of the wreckage and fled. Injured. Barefoot. Scared.
As reported in Friday’s post, Marsha, her daughter, and Shelby the dog suffered the greatest injuries. Marsha and her daughter were admitted to a nearby hospital. Shelby, whose face was severely injured by flying debris, endured four layers of stitches, administered by a vet working by flashlight.
Despite having their own injuries to tend to, the Weavers were heartsick over their littlest critters. Maybe, just maybe, some of them might have survived. Doug, the healthiest of the bunch, made his first search of the debris field that was once their home.
He found Emma, alive, hiding under a piece of Marsha’s fleece fabric.
Finding Emma alive brought the entire Weaver family hope. The members of the GuineaLynx community cheered. Thank God, we all said collectively. If there is one, there might be more. This sweet little sow who bossed the other girls around had beaten the odds.
When daylight broke, Doug got his first good look at the rubble that was once their home.
Pieces of their home and pieces of their lives were scattered all over the neighborhood. Marsha’s extensive collection of fabric hung from tree branches like the tattered flags. He had found one pet alive. There might be more. He began to search.
By now, thousands of people, many of whom had never heard of the Weavers before, were following their story. Fingers crossed, prayers said, tears shed, well-wishers worried over the Weavers and their pets. The situation was made all the more agonizing as communication was delayed by spotty phone service and dying cell phone batteries.
The search continued as the Weavers and fellow rescuers sifting through the detritus.
Three more guinea pigs and three rats were found alive and relatively healthy, though scared and hungry. These little critters had taken shelter wherever they could find it, even in the branches and under the roots of fallen trees.
Holly, one of the newest Weaver Pigs, was so pleased to be found that she wheeked and wheeked hard enough to make her ears flap. Also found were the adorable but naughty little Allie-Belle, and Jasmine, a sweet little girl who found her way to the Weaver home through the Atlanta Metro Guinea Pig Rescue.
Three of Marsha’s ratties, LuLu, Samantha, and Makayla, were also found, hungry and scared, but otherwise in good condition.
Seven of the Weaver Pigs and Rats were healthy and accounted for, but the day was not without heartbreak. Hopkins, a senior at six years old, was critically injured. He was rushed to a vet, who humanely helped the poor old guinea pig earn his wings. Natasha, the Weavers’ nine-year-old granny pig, had also succumbed to the storm, as had seven-year-old Sherman and fun little Rose. Three rats – Annie, Devon, and Victoria – perished. The remains of two other pets – one guinea pig, one rat – could not be identified. One guinea pig and four rats were still missing.
Then another miracle: Wesley, an elderly three-year-old rat, was found, but traumatized and injured. He was not expected to make it through the night, but surprised everyone as he continued to fight for his life.
Marsha was released from the hospital and joined her husband in the careful search. Meanwhile, news of the Weavers’ tragedy rippled through the communities of guinea pig owners, Cozy Cavy customers, and numerous small animal rescue organizations. Contributions poured in through the Sponsor a Guinea Pig web site, reaching $8,000 Saturday morning. Jubilation over the miracles was tempered by grief for the losses. Yet, the Weavers’ vet was so hopeful, she joined the search for the remaining missing animals.
Saturday morning, another miracle was announced. Another rattie, Olivia, had been found, scared and thirsty, but healthy.
As the Weavers sorted through the remnants of their home, the mailman came. He noted the missing mailbox, then the missing house, then hand-delivered the mail to the Weavers. Another miracle.
One guinea pig and two of the Weaver Rats were still unaccounted for. All five of the foster rats were also missing, with no signs of them or their cage.
Marsha’s daughter, whose shoulder was broken and lung was punctured, was released from the hospital. Another miracle.
Throughout the entire ordeal, the GuineaLynx community remained glued to their computers and phones and iPads. The very few text messages that could work their way through the spotty cellular coverage offered Marsha and her family everyone’s love and support. We were so happy she had so many little critters left to cuddle, and glad that she at least knew others were at peace. We cried for those lost, we cried for those still missing.
Deep down, we knew such tragedy could have happened to any of us. We cuddled our own critters extra tight.
Unfortunately, the Weavers’ story is not unique. Many, many people across the south, and especially in Alabama, were devastated by the tornadoes on April 27. Many pets are out there, injured and scared, looking for owners; many owners are out there, injured and scared, looking for pets. Many rescues and organizations are posting information about lost and found pets and ways to give or receive assistance through a special facebook page.
And while there wasn’t enough time for the Weavers to fully engage in an emergency plan, their story made the rest of us pet owners realize how important it is to have one. FEMA offers some basic ideas for how to develop one.
For the Weavers, the story is just beginning. And as I posted on Friday, despite the horrible loss, there is hope. There are amazing people in the world who will reach out and help others in need. And there are little miracles.
Special thanks to Marsha’s sister, Marie, who joined the GuineaLynx community to keep Marsha’s GL friends updated on the search and recovery process. This post would not have been possible without her.
Please note: information in this blog may be adjusted for accuracy as information becomes available.