Thursday, January 28, 2010

Originally published by the Kern Valley Sun

This humorous peice is part of my "cavy collection." I got a lot of positive comments from people in my town when this was put in the paper.

A Guinea Pig Narrative

Since my husband and I became married four years ago, I have been fighting the maternal-you-must-have-a-baby-right-now-or-you-will-explode urges that many newly married women feel once they are established in their new home with a caring husband. For many logical, personal reasons, we have been putting off having children for the time being. However, no matter how many persuasive, factual logical arguments I can make to myself for waiting to have a child, that doesn’t change the fact that my body and my hormones most certainly want to reproduce.

So, I have adopted animals instead. About nine months after our wedding, (coincidence? I think not!) I started becoming pre-occupied with the idea of adopting Guinea Pigs. Guinea Pigs…they were small enough to keep inside, but not as tiny as hamsters or mice. My husband had had a very nice pet rat as a child, but I guess I am rat-prejudiced…because I had no desire to bring a rat into our home because they poo wherever they feel like it. Being used to hamsters, I assumed Guinea Pigs would find a corner to poop in, and would be relatively clean animals (Boy was I wrong.)

I began frequenting Guinea Pig websites. I found a wealth of information about the proper care and feeding of these little animals, known as “cavies,” to true Guinea-Pig enthusiasts. “Cavies are delightful, social animals,” the Cavy-lovers would gush. They would post pictures of their guinea pigs doing fun, interesting looking things, like playing with rabbits, running laps in their cages, and tunneling through little obstacle courses their owners had made for them. Many of these people claimed that their cavies missed them while they were gone, and would squeal with delight when they returned.

With more internet research, I discovered that there is (really, this exists) an organization called the Bakersfield Guinea Pig Rescue (BGPR). It is like an orphanage for sad, abandoned Guinea Pigs whose previous owners dumped them. I found a beautiful looking pair of pigs called Donner and Macie and my husband and I applied to adopt them.

A representative from the BGPR actually drove from Bakersfield to Lake Isabella to make sure that we were a “suitable” family for the cavies. After we and our home passed their initial inspection, they informed that they would allow us to adopt Donner and Macie. We felt very proud.

After a few more weeks of adoption proceedings, we were the proud parents of two piggies. That was when we found out the truth about cavies. The truth is, they poo. They poo a lot. They also urinate a lot. And they poo and urinate wherever and whenever their little colons and bladders desire. They also squeak constantly. They certainly squealed to welcome us home everyday, but it was more of a “Give-us-food-now-or-we-will-pee-across-the-room-at-you” sort of a squeal. Though we cleaned their cage at least once a week, the smell grew to take over the entire room they were in. It was no longer the computer room, or the study, or even the spare bedroom. It became “The Cavy-room.”

At first, I tried to imagine that they were bonding with us. I would raid PetCo and PetsMart for any toys or treats that I thought they might respond to. I talked to them; I sang to them, I spent hours trying to “socialize” them. I let them run free in an enclosure on the floor. I wrote an entire 13 chapter children’s book about Donner and Macie’s adventures. I imagined that they had far more depth than I could actually see.

Unfortunately, after a year, I realized that if they were going to bond with us, they would have done so already. Instead, they still ran and hid every time we entered The Cavy Room. They still wouldn’t let us pick them up. They still chewed every surface in their gigantic two-story enclosure. Now, I have met cavy-lovers who claim their cavies are quite charming. Maybe I failed mine. Maybe they were messed up to begin with. In any case, we were stuck with them after that. The internet said that a healthy cavy could live to be anywhere from 4 to 8 years old. They were 2 when we got them, and I was very afraid that we were stuck with them for 6 more years.

We tried to meet their needs. I bathed them, clipped their nails so that they would not get in-grown toenails, and even blow-dried them so that they would not get colds. But they never really seemed happy. Donner finally died about a year and half ago, and Macie joined him about 6 months later. I loved them with the love of someone who has an obligation to care because they made a commitment, but I guiltily admit that I felt relieved when we buried their tiny bodies. I was disturbed later, though, when a pack of wild dogs dug up Macie and ate her.

So our first foray into parenthood wasn’t too successful. But I think it was a learning experience, and helped pave the way for our future experiences with my other irritating adopted animals, the cat and the dog. So unless you don’t mind cleaning piles and piles of cavy poo and having your home smell like a barnyard, I wouldn’t recommend adopting the poor darlings. But then again, you might have better luck than we did, and at least we gave them a home, which was more than they had before.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Sandy,
    We have not met, but my name is Ann Beman, and I am a WINGs member (in fact, I hatched the acronym). More important, I am a writer. I wrote for the Sun for seven years. Recently, I earned my MFA in creaive nonfiction from the Whidbey Writers Workshop, a program that allowed me to live in Kernville and still write and study for the MFA. Here's what I learned:
    1] I didn't need an MFA to be a writer. I already was one. If you are submitting and blogging, you are a writer, too. Not *trying to be a*, but a Writer with a capital W.
    2] Submit. If I'm not submitting my work, then I have no chance of being published. The world's not coming to me. You already know this. You are already submitting and colelcting rejections. This is a defining characteristic of a Writer, capital W. Every writer gets rejections. I have friends who have papered the walls of their offices with rejections. Some, of course, are better than others. Some rejections even indicate that the editor has actually read your work and may have even personalized his or her response to you rather than just sending you a form letter. I know this from both sides of the exchange, as I am an editor for a literary journal (see below). The trick is to learn from the personalized responses. There may be suggestions worth following.
    3] Write. Every day. Whatever. Seems like you already do this, too. I like to write notes encouraging other writers. Hence, this post.
    4] Don't write in a vacuum. Become a literary citizen. Surround yourself with literature and with other authors. Join a writers group to improve your own writing and to learn from others' writing. Volunteer at literary events. I am the nonfiction editor for The Los Angeles Review literary journal. There's no salary involved, but the experience is precious. I get to contact my favorite writers and invite them to submit to LAR, or simply to tell them I appreciate their work. It's awesome!
    Okie doke, I just wanted you to know that you are not alone -- not in your writing endeavors nor in the Kern River Valley. If you ever want to talk writing, let me know. My email: My blog: