We have two adorable guinea pigs. The first is an albino escape artist we acquired by accident. Our relatively large garden was used for outside activities during an Earth Day Festival in 2015 held at the neighboring church.
A woman who owns a small farm brought a dozen guinea pigs and created a mini petting zoo that Saturday. Three or four days later, my husband was looking out the window and a little blur of white caught his eye among the lush green of the garden.
“We have a rat in the garden,” he erroneously concluded. Our garden is the pooping ground of local neighborhood cats and visible from the sky should a bird of prey be flying overhead. Yet one little guinea pig had somehow survived all by herself in our garden for three days.
When we informed the farmer of the little Houdini in our garden, she asked if we wanted to keep her.
Our first reaction was “no,” but my son, who had spent most of Earth Day petting these lovable little creatures, had other plans.
He turned into a regular little salesman, promising the world to us if we would only keep the guinea pig. We explained all of the responsibilities that come with owning a pet. My husband made it clear he would not be taking on any of said responsibilities. My son listened to all of it and then looked us in the eye, as he stated his vows of guinea ownership.
“I promise I will feed it, clean the cage, pet her daily and love her.”
We shook on it.
At first, he took his oath seriously. He fed her, helped with cleaning the cage, petted her regularly, named her.
Oitje (pronounced O-Chee) made it into school “share and tell” reports, was a recurring subject in the stream of digital photos and those first few months, he only needed to be reminded once in a while to feed her.
But guineas aren’t exactly the most ideal house pet for a kid. They don’t greet you at the door in a rush of excitement, like a dog, or beg you for attention. They don’t jump on your lap like a cat and chase their tales. That would be a tall order, considering guineas don’t have tails.
In other words, all of the attention is a bit one-sided. You have to reach into that cage as they cower at your outstretched hand and swoop them up. You have to conduct mini guinea pig therapy sessions to calm them down. Eventually, they purr like a cat, and they are cute and cuddly, but . . . .her life seemed a bit sad.
We went online to see if our guinea might be depressed. Research indicated that guinea pigs are social creatures and live much longer, happier and healthier lives if they are in the company of other guineas.
A trip to the same farm resulted in guinea pig number two. In contrast to Oitje’s smooth, straight and white fur, and bulging red eyes, Coco was a black and tan with luscious wet black eyes you might encounter in a Disney movie. The pads of her feet even had a dark color.
Unlike Oitje, Coco was a nervous wreck. She didn’t like to be held nearly as much, would run like you were a hawk with talons if you even got near the cage. But she had her own winning qualities. Coco was a verbal little creature. She squeaked in the morning to remind you that she and her cage mate also needed a square meal to start off the day.
Two guineas meant investment in a larger cage, which dominated our tiny living room. It also meant twice the amount of pooping and peeing, more frequent cage cleaning, more food.
After the initial excitement wore off, I seemed to have inherited most of the responsibilities. I know the drill from my own childhood. You beg your parents for a pet, promise them the world. You get the pet and you are so excited! But as all the responsibilities set in, you realize these creatures require a lot more of your time then you had initially thought.
Wouldn’t it be better for them to be with a family who was more interested in them? This debate went on for a good six months. Finally, we came to a conclusion. Yes, Coco and Oitje deserved a more exciting life, with people who were willing to put in the time. And, we wanted that rectangle of prime living room real estate back!
We listed them in a Facebook for-sale group and within a few days, we had our first appointment.
Last night, a lovely young couple who had just purchased their first home came by our house to see them.
“We want an animal presence in our home,” the young man explained. Not a cat or a dog, but a starter animal to go along with the starter home, I interpreted.
The young woman held each guinea pig and I saw instant love on her face that was so familiar. My son had looked at them that way when he first held them.
“Yes. We’d love to have them.”
While my husband packed up the food and bedding supplies, my son started explaining what they liked for breakfast, when they get their dry food, that they like their hay in the late afternoon.
We secretly watched through the window as the taxi came to pick up the young couple with cage, food, and two lovely guinea pigs packed in a perforated cardboard box for their trip to their new home.
“Good night guineas.”
This morning, when I was slicing apples for my son’s lunch, there was something missing. I didn’t hear that high pitched fluting of Coco: “Breakfast! Breakfast! Don’t forget about me!”
Tears streaked down my cheeks. My son came to me and asked what was wrong.
“No Coco whistling.”
He gave me a comforting hug and stood there with me in the new silence. There are far greater challenges over which to shed tears, but saying goodbye is never easy.
“They’ll be happy in their new home,” he consoled.
Wishing you a happy stage in your next journey little ones.