When Kris Gamayo first adopted her pit bull, Moki, she knew easing her into life with her other animals — two guinea pigs — would be a process.
At first, she’d keep Frida and Pandora, the guinea pigs, separated from Moki, before she eventually eased into letting the pittie sniff and lick them while they lie on her lap.
“Three to four months after that, I started putting the piggies down on the ground and just monitored,” she said. “Moki would just sniff and lick them and lay down with them.”
And so began what some might see as an unlikely trio, and the stars of the Instagram account @piggiesandapitty.
“I think I got lucky because Moki is just a sweetheart,” Gamayo told NBC in a phone interview.
Moki was rescued from the streets in November 2015 after she and her owner became homeless. Unable to bring the pit bull with him to a homeless shelter, the man dropped Moki off at an animal shelter.
“He told them if you can’t find someone to adopt her in a month call the shelter and I’ll leave to take her back,” Gamayo added.
Moki was there for almost a month, and the shelter was prepared to call the man to pick her up, when she arrived to adopt her in the eleventh hour.
At the time, Gamayo already had both of her guinea pigs. Frida had actually been adopted earlier the same year from San Francisco Animal Care and Control. And while she was a little anxious at first about the idea of a “bully breed” living with her tiny cavies, Moki’s sweet temperament eased her worries.
“A lot of dogs on the street with their owners are really well behaved because I think they’re with them 24/7; they have a tight bond with them,” she said, attributing Moki’s calm disposition to her time on the streets with her previous owner.
As for the guinea pigs, Gamayo said part of the reason she wanted to adopt them was because she had followed the Instagram accounts of two guinea pig owners, and thought the photos of them dressed up was “so cute.”
On adoption, Gamayo said, “I think it’s really important that you go to these shelters and you sit with them on different occasions.”
Before bringing home Pandora the guinea pig, she said she went to the shelter one day to interact with her for a while, then came back again to see her, “to make sure she wasn’t just having a good day.”
She said she did the same thing with Moki the pit bull.
And when it comes to introducing other dogs and guinea pigs, Gamayo said being conscious of their personality and behavior is key.
“I would just make sure that they are sure of their dog’s temperament with other animals, not just humans, because that’ll give them an idea of how they’ll react,” she said. “Just always monitor them and take it easy.”
That advice was echoed by Francesca Carsen, the owner of another unlikely pair — Spanky the miniature pony, and Dally the Jack Russell Terrier.
Carsen rescued 8-year-old Spanky when he was two years old. At first, the mini stallion was pretty aggressive, Carsen said, but over time he changed.
“It took a while to train him,” she said. “Anybody that rescues an animal … It’s like dogs; you want to train them to be good citizens and be good with kids and other people.”
In the meantime, Carsen had adopted a 6-month-old Jack Russell Terrier who often watched her train Spanky at her ranch in Washington state.
Tired of being a spectator, one day Dally hopped on a step stool and jumped on Spanky’s back. Carsen had never trained her to do that.
“I was actually rather worried when she first jumped up on him because I thought he might buck her off, so I wasn’t too excited,” she said.
But, instead, the incident helped bond the pair, and spawned the creation of a modern-day dog and pony show. Carsen taught Dally some commands and now she can jump onto Spanky’s back on call, and without a step stool.
Carsen takes her dog and pony show on the road, performing around the U.S., as well as Canada. They’ve also worked with charities like the Ronald McDonald House. And for those who can’t make it to one of their live shows, Carsen documents the pair’s daily activities on their Instagram account @dally_and_spanky.
They have books and there’s even a movie being made about the pair, Carsen said.
“Filming should start this fall, so we’re really, really excited about it,” she said. “I’m just excited for everyone to get to know about these amazing animals.”
The movie will be centered around Dally and Spanky’s life, she said — but the script isn’t quite done, so Carsen could not reveal any more details.
Along with Dally and Spanky, Carsen and her partner have cattle, two cattle dogs, several farm cats, 12 big horses and two miniature horses, as well as another dog, named Boots.
But Dally is protective of Spanky, and barks when even Boots gets too close. “It’s her pony,” Carsen said. “And she loves being up there.”
The dynamic duo isn’t Carsen’s only client. She also works with other horses and owners at the equine school Rother Horsemanship in Hunters, Washington.
Carsen said it’s important for people who are interested in adoption to research breeds, what they need and how that suits an owner’s lifestyle. She also emphasized the importance of learning more about an animal’s history.
“Most all animals — no matter what’s happened to them — can be changed, for sure, with proper training,” she said.
And when it comes to different species living together, Carsen said she believes most can come to get along.
“I think that these guys really show us that species [that] normally aren’t designed to hang out together, can absolutely get on together,” she added.