How the Red Cross came to help Gertrude the guinea pig

By Michelle Palansky

Every three hours, the Canadian Red Cross responds to disasters big and small across the country. This is the story of a small guinea pig named Gertrude Rose who escaped a devastating house fire with her human. They are now slowly recovering thanks to the efforts of local fire and paramedics, the comfort they give each other and the support of the Canadian Red Cross.

Last November, in a small town in eastern Manitoba, Gertrude’s human was taking a nap. She woke up to a room filled with black smoke. She heard a sharp, crackling sound, and saw flames reaching to the ceiling. Acting purely on instinct, the woman fled her home wearing nothing but a housecoat and a pair of slippers.

Gertrude the guinea pig with her Canadian Red Cross teddy bearFire and paramedics responded quickly, but as she received oxygen all she could think was, “Gertrude. My little guinea pig. I left her.”

Fortunately, a firefighter was able to rescue Gertrude from the fire. But it was a close call. Her ears were singed because the fire came so close, and her coat was covered in dark ash.

Gertrude was given air through a tiny oxygen mask in order to combat the effects of prolonged smoke inhalation. There seems to be no permanent damage.

Following an investigation, it was determined that the cause of the fire was electrical. A frayed cord sparked, which led to a full scale conflagration. The ceiling in the living room collapsed, and everything was destroyed. Gertrude and her human lost everything. Everything but each other.

“I miss my house. I miss what I had, but that’s just material stuff. You can’t replace a life.”

After the fire, the Canadian Red Cross provided vouchers for support, and a comfort blanket and a teddy bear.

“I use the Red Cross blanket as my pillow right now, and Gertrude likes the teddy bear. She tosses it around in her carrier.”

When personal disasters strike, the Canadian Red Cross provides food, shelter, clothing and essential supplies for up to 72 hours. Learn more.

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