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An exotic kind of love

Belinda Rempelakis with “Diesel” and “Bandit.” Photo/Belinda Rempelakis

By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor

Belinda Rempelakis’s first foray into the world of animal rescue came, as it so often does, at the behest of her daughter. But although Rempelakis does have a much-loved rescue dog, 14-year-old Peanut, it is another group that she is most passionate about rescuing – so-called exotics – mice, rats and ferrets.

Her work as a rescuer of this unique group started when her daughter, Andrea, was working at a local pet store while in high school. A little mouse, who was missing an eye, was deemed unsellable and therefore available for employees to adopt.

“She called me up and asked,” Rempelakis recalled with a laugh, “and I said, ‘why not?’”

When Andrea and then her sister Emily moved onto college, Rempelakis, who was then also working from home, had a desire to fill her empty nest. With the total support of her husband, Mike, she decided to go to the local MSPCA to adopt more mice and then rats, of which she had when she was younger. Ferrets were then later added into the family. Currently she has four rats, six mice, and six ferrets.

Much of what she has learned about caring for these exotics has been by “trial and error,” she said. She is also diligent about getting them proper medical care, of which she readily admits, is an “expense.” At least three hours a day are devoted to care, feeding, cleaning and playtime. Vacations with Mike are hard to come by as exotics cannot just be left to the care of just anyone – it requires someone with the knowledge needed.

Not only that, many of the exotics she adopt tend to be “seniors or ones with special needs, the ones who no one else is interested in.”

All of this is worth it, she stressed.

“These are our babies and this is their forever home,” she added.

It is gratifying, she noted, when the love and care she gives her rescues comes back to her.

“There’s a level of trust that has to be earned depending on what situation they were in,” she said. “But when they do trust, it’s beautiful.”

Rempelakis acknowledges that while her situation may seem unusual, the inherent need to feel fulfilled and help others is not.

“If you find yourself at loose ends, maybe like I was, an empty nester, then find someone to help,” she said. “There are plenty of animals, kids or others who need your help. Volunteer and help someone.”

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