When I was about 7, I pet sat my friend’s guinea pig while she and her family were on vacation. I was so excited to take care of him! After he was dropped off, I immediately took him out of his cage to let him run around my room. And then, when I tried to pick him back up, he bit me. My mom, who is not a huge fan of the rodent family, had to catch him for me. She was not pleased. I wasn’t allowed to take him out of the cage for the rest of the weekend and my hopes of one day owning my very own furry little creature were dashed for the time being.
In April of 2007, a friend of my roommate was giving away a guinea pig. My roomie, knowing I had always wanted some sort of small mammal, asked if I wanted him. I said “YES” without hesitation, and the next Saturday Louis showed up at our apartment with his fancy cage, little wooden house, and super awesome furhawk.
It was not love at first sight. Yes, I thought he was cute and he was so fuzzy and hoppy, but I was afraid to touch him. Terrified, in fact. I was convinced that he was going to bite me every time I stuck my hand in his cage. Dinner was not a happy time for me.
Over time, as we got used to each other, we bonded. Although he did sometimes nip, Louis never bit. He loved to run around my room and I loved to carry him around in the pocket of my hoodie. He learned that the sound of the refrigerator crisper drawer opening meant carrots and his squeals would fill the apartment whenever it was opened. He would go on car trips with me (I swear he would get extra excited when I pulled out his travel cage) and loved to be outside- I nearly lost him a few times to the great outdoors; he was wicked fast when he wanted to be.
It was not all fun and games, though. Did you know that you have to clip guinea pigs’ toenails? Yeah, neither did I until Mr. Louis came along. Fun fact: guinea pigs DO NOT like having their nails clipped. Also, they’re not the cleanest animals and, even though you’re keeping up with the cleaning, their cages start to smell bad quickly. And so do they. Louis was not a fan of the baths I gave him in the bathroom sink, but he did like being all wrapped up in a bunch of towels when the trauma was over. He would always fall asleep after bath time while I carried him around in his cocoon, from which he always emerged a soft, much better smelling, fluffball of a pig.
People always gave me a funny look when I told them I had a guinea pig- they’re definitely not your run-of-the-mill pet for an adult. Even I was sometimes embarrassed about it. But, Louis was always excited to see me, he cuddled with me, always listened intently when I told him stories, never talked back, and squeaked when I fed him- what more can you ask for from a pet?
Mr. Louis passed away two days after Thanksgiving in 2011. It took a long time for me to get used to not having him around- no more rustles coming from the foot of my bed when I woke up, no more happy squeaks when I would walk into the room. And, although he was a lot more work than I had bargained for and did ruin a very expensive hair straightener (his favorite chew toy being any type of electrical cord), I still miss him. I swore I heard him squeaking the other day while I was sitting at my desk. I took me a minute to realize that it was a bird outside my bedroom window. I like to think that the birds remember the sound of his squeaks and want to remind me of Louis from time to time.
Song of the Day: Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd