Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Rodents

After a heavy snow storm started to melt recently, I noticed a squirrel that kept visiting our back deck. He'd climb the posts, run the lengths of the rails, check out the floor and then jump off. Several minutes later, he'd repeat that. And he kept looking in the house.

I knew what he wanted.

We've fed "Uncle Gabe" (as Landon affectionately refers to him as) ever since we moved here. Finally, there's a good use for stale bread and crackers. But, with all the snow piling the deck, I hated going out there barefoot like I had done all summer. Unfortunately on most days, Uncle Gabe had been left to find his own buried nuts, which we all know for a squirrel is hard to do when they can never remember where they put them.

Ignoring my guilty conscience no longer, I barged through the bombarding melting snow that was dripping off the eaves, and set out a stack of stale crackers. Within minutes, Uncle Gabe jumped on the deck, grabbed most of the crackers in his mouth and then ran off with his meal. He knew it was for him.

After those crackers were gone, he came back and took the last two.
Had he been a dog or a cat, I probably wouldn't have left food out there for him. Who wants a dog frequenting your deck? I'll take a squirrel any day.
I'm not a big dog or cat fan.

Horses are neat but too expensive.

I don't really care for house birds.

Fish are... too boring.

I despise insects and spiders.

Exotic or unique creatures are interesting but definitely don't appeal to me.

But, lately I've realized a fascinating truth about myself: I like rodents.

Not, mice-in-your-house type rodents but caged ones. You know, the ones that you intentionally feed; they don't steal food from you.

When I was young, my grandma had a couple of pet rats. I think my rodent infatuation began then. She didn't have them long but it was long enough for me to realize that I thought rats were intelligent creatures.

No, I didn't like the tails but the personality and friendliness of the rat itself made up for the sleazy tail.

My parents raised guinea pigs when I was really young. I remember all the babies, all the smells, all the play times, all the cages and all the names. And guinea pigs didn't have naked tails so they did have that going for them too. Actually, they had no tails, now that I think of it.

When I got a little older, I raised rabbits. For at least 10 years, I had rabbits. I knew just about everything there was to know about rabbits and I loved everything about them.

I built their cages. I cleaned their cages. I stocked hundreds of bales of hay for their cages. I even hauled hundreds of pounds of rabbit feed every year. That's saying a lot for someone who can hardly haul a bag of groceries now.

I studied rabbits endlessly.

I knew the best breeds, the weight size of each breed and the life expectancy of each breed. I even knew how to tell a young male rabbit from a female rabbit and the best time to make that evaluation. Believe me, if you know anything about rabbits, you'll know how hard it is to tell young rabbits apart.
The one thing I never did do with rabbits was eat them. They tell me the meat is good. But, when you've invested over half of your childhood into the health and well being of a certain group of living beings, it is quite difficult to contemplate the purpose of condoning something that was everything you tried to avoid. It was never a good thing to find a dead rabbit then, why would I want to eat a dead one now? Yuck.

Now that I have kids and my husband has these kids as well, we started to discuss the possibility of getting a pet for them. I guess since we're an all-American family -- dad, mom, 2 kids and a mini-van, the only thing that lacked was a pet.

While pondering the importance of getting a pet for our growing children, we considered a dog. Definitely not a good idea with our house and yard set-up. We already had two children to potty train, why would we want to add a dog to that project too? "Okay kids, get the dog, it's time for everyone to go potty."

A cat. We hardly have room to store extra toilet paper; where would we ever put a litter box?

Fish then. No potty training or litter box but, I thought we wanted a "pet" for our kids; not just something to look at. Plus, I hate cleaning fish tanks.

Birds were out of the question and so were horses. I think a horse would be against the zoning of our trailer park. I could ask the land lady though. The kids would enjoy a horse I suppose.

We were getting to the end of our options.
Before Toby brought up his life-long dream of owning a tarantula, I quickly suggested a guinea pig. You don't have to worry about fangs going into your hand when you reach in their cage to feed them. Unlike a tarantula. Plus, the kids could pet it, we had a place to put the cage and guinea pigs are friendly.

He thought it was a good idea.

So, before he reconsidered that dreadful spider, I ran and picked up our new pet.

Unbeknown to me, when we discussed the possibility of a guinea pig, Toby told his wife that if they got one, she would have to clean the cage. I assume that since I am his wife, I would've been the wife he told such things to. But, as I vividly recall, no such mention of cage cleaning was ever brought up in the topic of guinea pigs.

The only other possibility is that there's another wife somewhere... which couldn't be. It took him 28 years to find me; just think how long it would take him to find 2 wives.

Regardless, I guess if he says it now, it makes it valid: wife cleans cage. Not a big deal to me anyway -- I do change the diapers around, empty the potty chair and scrub the toilet. While we're already in the business, what's a little more?
So, Alice (as Landon dubbed her) has officially become our pet. In the evenings when we have our family time together, we get her little towel and bring her to the couch and Landon and Janae take turns holding her carrot. When it's Landon's turn to hold the carrot, Janae enjoys sticking her finger in front of Alice's mouth. I think she'd like to see what it would be like to have her finger bitten. (Janae has a thing about biting: just ask Landon.)
But, unlike a tarantula, Alice never bites, which is unfortunate for Janae because I think it would be good for her to know what a bite feels like. (You can ask Landon about that too.) Instead, Alice purrs when we scratch her back and she looks intently for that carrot every time we get her out. She nibbles gently on Janae's finger tip, which makes Janae squeal with delight.

Landon, being a bit more cautious around anything with teeth (including his own dear sister), tends to enjoy when Alice burrows under his petting hand. He's always surprised at how fast the guinea pig will shove his hand in the air. And he makes sure to keep away from those teeth.
It's been a good experience for the kids to have this little house pet. They're learning to be gentle, caring and quiet around her. Plus, it's a good learning experience for them before the new baby comes. I figure it's better to use a real guinea pig as a "guinea pig" to teach them gentleness rather than use a live and fragile baby as the guinea pig.
But, I'm not sure how well the kids will make the distinction between the two "pets." Because even now if you ask Landon what his baby brother's name will be, he confidently responds with, "Alice."

I think he takes after his mother's heart and is enjoying this rodent pet. Maybe someday Toby and Janae can get that biting pet tarantula. But, Landon and I will keep the guinea pig and the baby. Who would want a pet that bites anyway? Especially when you already have a sister with sharp teeth.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hooray! for the new pet and all the accompaning fun and responsibilities. Your kids will love her. Can Mom tell the difference in the genger of guinea pigs? Or is Alice a unisex name?

This Mom grew up without pets and figured her children could too. Didin't work that way. #1 was a beagle puppy donated to Dad by one of his students - not house broken or potty trained -ug! After four days experiment the poor puppy had to go hame to it's original owner. Our four year old really squeezed it with love. # 2 when the oldest child was probably about 8 and the second about 5, the third was a baby there came a gerbil into the family - since it could live in a cage Mom didn't have so much trouble about it. Gerbils do have a way of getting lost and/or sucked up in the vacum cleaner - they are very poor swimmers if they fall in a bucket of water. I really don't remember how many Mark ever had but several. Then came the guinea pig, fish, frog all when mark was old enough to take care of them. Last came a grown up, house broke beagle - which Mom learned to love and still has. Even though Mark is married and has his own home & family - the beagle stayed with us.
She is old a feeble now.

Lots of luck with your rodent. Teach the kids early how to clean the cage and may be it won't have to be Mom's job for too long.

A. Jean 'n Wpg.

Anonymous said...

Hooray! for the new pet and all the accompaning fun and responsibilities. Your kids will love her. Can Mom tell the difference in the genger of guinea pigs? Or is Alice a unisex name?

This Mom grew up without pets and figured her children could too. Didin't work that way. #1 was a beagle puppy donated to Dad by one of his students - not house broken or potty trained -ug! After four days experiment the poor puppy had to go hame to it's original owner. Our four year old really squeezed it with love. # 2 when the oldest child was probably about 8 and the second about 5, the third was a baby there came a gerbil into the family - since it could live in a cage Mom didn't have so much trouble about it. Gerbils do have a way of getting lost and/or sucked up in the vacum cleaner - they are very poor swimmers if they fall in a bucket of water. I really don't remember how many Mark ever had but several. Then came the guinea pig, fish, frog all when mark was old enough to take care of them. Last came a grown up, house broke beagle - which Mom learned to love and still has. Even though Mark is married and has his own home & family - the beagle stayed with us.
She is old a feeble now.

Lots of luck with your rodent. Teach the kids early how to clean the cage and may be it won't have to be Mom's job for too long.

A. Jean 'n Wpg.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, didn't mean to post the previous comment twice. A. J.

BrittLeigh said...

Awww, I miss Gabe. ;)

Elizabeth Ellen Moore said...

I love squirrels! I think it is funny that Landon named him after his uncle. Have fun with the new guinea pig!

Valerie said...

:) Very cute. As you may know from Matthew and Sarah, we always had gerbils growing up. I loved them. They were so soft and curious, and they solved the tail dilemma delightfully- furry! We had Brownie 1, Brownie 2, Noodle (he was black), Chippie Charlie Seedy Van Essen, Zipper Doodle and Peddle. You can tell when I started naming them instead of my brothers. To Matthew's credit, he named "Noodle". After I was married we had Pippin the Gerbil. Right now we aren't allowed any pets in our apartment, but I don't think our landlady realizes that the pet would be cleaner than the two little rugrats that I have nibbling on crackers in the living room.

Looks like you'll have lots of fun with Alice. How often do you have to clean a guinea pig cage, and how big is the cage?

Anonymous said...

hows work going
da fred