Oh, the things parents will do for the sake of their children’s pets.
We started collecting guinea pigs when Oldest was in first grade.
(Let me state here that I wanted a dog. The fact that The Husband is allergic and has acquired an
intense hatred of all canines has been The Great Sorrow of My Dog-less Life.)
But we settled for a guinea pig. First one, then another to keep it company. Then another when Middle Sister was in kindergarten. We added a fourth the next year when The Boy started school. And there was a replacement somewhere down the line after an untimely guinea pig bereavement.
Now, there’s nothing I dislike more (actually, there are probably a lot of things I dislike more but I really dislike these) than an irresponsible pet owner. We’d chosen to take on this guinea pig hostel, and it was our responsibility to give them the happiest, healthiest life possible.
•A hand-built 3’x6′ cage, which actually was a double-decker for a number of years, after we discovered we had accidentally introduced a male to our colony of females. We have a small house. Therefore a stupidly high percentage of our living space belonged to rodents.
•Hundreds and hundreds of pounds of pine bedding purchased over the years from a local tractor supply store.
•Seemingly constant purchasing of dry food and hay.
•An outdoor enclosure so the little cuties (the guinea pigs, not our kids) could run around outside and enjoy dandelions and clover. Only under supervision, of course, due to marauding neighborhood cats owned by those less responsible than us. **smugness alert***
•A late-night vet run and a $350 vet bill when one sweet little pig developed a large abscess on her neck.
•Arrangements for pig minders when we went out of town.
•The regular wrapping of uncooperative pigs in old towels in order to incapacitate them long enough to clip their yucky little toenails.
•Surreptitious research into how to euthanize a terminally ill and ancient pig after the children have gone to bed. Friends had tried putting a dying hamster into a ziplock bag and placing the bag in the freezer. My husband reported that he chose not to go that route, but I insisted on remaining ignorant as to what method he actually chose.
•The burial and funerals of 5 pig family members over the years. Including the very last one, who had suffered the indignity of being forgotten in a plastic shopping bag in the garage for a few days before her burial took place.
•Putting up with 7 years of poop, bedding dust, and hay scattered through the lower level of our house.
Yes, there was a lot of inconvenience and downright grossness involved in our guinea pig years. But there were good times, too:
•The fantastic Pavlov’s dog response our pigs acquired. The moment the kids walked in the front door from school, the pigs began their chorus of “wheek-wheek!” in anticipation of their afternoon fresh veg snack. It didn’t take long for them to begin this chorus in response to any opening of the refrigerator all day long.
•Watching the kids holding and cuddling a purring pig. Happy, happy, happy.
•Plenty of opportunity for learning responsibility and cooperation in all that cage cleaning, feeding, outdoor outing time, etc.
•Endless amusement when the little pigs had their nightly freak-out. At 9:00 pm every evening, they all had high-speed chases, racing around the perimeter of their cage.
•Their odd habit of climbing up to peer over the edging of the cage to do what looked for all the world like watching whatever was on tv. Football games, especially, always seemed to get their attention.
So it was a mixed bag, but on the whole a positive in our kids’ lives. One final note: My joyous celebration the day I reclaimed that enormous area of our basement for decorating and human living space pretty much was the highlight of my guinea pig owning experience. But don’t tell my kids that.