In a moment of inexplicable weakness, Kathy and I relented on our “No Pets” policy. Admittedly, Rachel wore us down, week after week and month after month, wailing about how much she wanted a kitten. When I saw that Kathy was starting to weaken, I knew I needed to act.
Don’t get me wrong. I like kittens … indeed, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t (even my neighbor, who pretends to hate them). The problem with kittens is that they grow up to be cats. Some would say that about children, with a few notable exceptions. Let’s face it … a full-grown cat (or human) is substantially less charming than its younger counterpart.
But actually, I like cats. I’ve never been owned by one, but I enjoy their simple-minded ferocity and unabashed selfishness. I know how to handle cats and they usually enjoy my company, if only because I once worked at a seafood retailer. Many people aspire to be like cats … taking what the world offers without concern for anyone else’s rights and giving only when it suits them.
My wife is a bit on the jumpy side. I am constantly startling her by simply walking into a room. I knew from the outset that a small prowling feline in the house was a bad idea. With the stress of five young children and a rather weird husband, I often worry that Kathy is ‘on the edge’. I really don’t think we need a cat around the house to push her over that edge and into residence at the “Whispering Pines Home for Nervous Moms”.
Rachel loves all animals, almost without exception. As neighbor after neighbor capitulated to the onslaught of pet acquisition, I knew we needed to take some kind of action. “I’d even take an Ant Farm!” cried Rachel in a pitiful, quavering tone.
One of the things I dread is the long period of time after the novelty of a pet has worn off but before the pet moves on to their eternal reward. For many pets, this period occupies 98% of their lives; I was determined to find an animal which would be short-lived. Cats, I am told, can live to be more than 14 years old (although not, I later heard, on the Duckabush). The prospect of buying a kitten for Rachel was overshadowed by the likely ten-year period in which the cat was no longer appreciated by the children yet hung around the house, shedding fur and expecting a free handout.
Enter Martin. Here he stands, a juvenile Guinea Pig with a life expectancy of 3-8 years (considerably less, if he bites Daniel again).
We picked him up at the Pet Smart store in Silverdale, along with $130 in accessories (who knew a Guinea Pig needed accessories?). He is installed in a cage in the living room and seems content as long as he gets out from time to time. He likes watermelon and most leafy greens … he’ll eat as many clover stalks as the kids can harvest.
Given the opportunity, he will hide under or behind furniture (not surprising in a rodent). He is surprisingly timid with respect to strange surfaces … he will often remain completely still when placed on something with unusual texture. He won’t jump down from anything higher than about 5″ — not much of a mountaineer, our Martin. Lately I have taken to putting him on the Jungle Climber … being plastic, it is easy to clean if he decides to relieve himself. We have learned not to let him burrow into my shoes — it is very hard to get him out!
He seems to enjoy being held and is particularly fond of Rachel … they both know how to wrinkle their noses in a similar manner. Martin and I have an understanding: he doesn’t bite me and I don’t stake him in the forest as bait for cougars. This is a hardship for Martin, since Guinea Pigs experience the world in terms of Moh’s scale of hardness, as measured against their teeth. I suspect that in Guinea Pig society, a gentle nip is like a handshake; I’m sure he feels regularly snubbed by our failure to bite him.
Already it seems as though his novelty is wearing off (although Sarah still squeals with delight whenever we take him out). Within a few more weeks, Kathy will have become the proud owner of a Guinea Pig, as the attention of the children moves on. Strangely, though, I am quite fond of him … he has grown into his name and into being, in a small rodent-ish way, a member of the family. Each morning when I leave, he is the only one awake to see me off; in the evenings, he is usually still bustling around his cage when I go to bed.
Truth is, I always wanted a Guinea Pig. I like the idea of a docile, contented rodent affectionately nosing about the corners of the room. Admittedly, now that I own the house, I’m a little more worried about pets being house-broken than I was when I was growing up. But there is something amazing about rubbing shoulders (or ankles) with an animal … it must have been very cool to live in the Garden of Eden.
I’ve always suspected that the references in the Scripture to the “lion lying down with the lamb” are more than allegorical. I guess we’ll have to go there to find out … as I often say, “This would be a GREAT day for Jesus to return!”