Jan has always liked guinea pigs. Many years ago they were kept in the shed, but in recent times they were included as kitchen residents. The most recent guinea pigs, two of them, were half-sisters. They were grey, which seems to be an uncommon colour. The one which was slightly older was much less tame than the other, and it died about a year ago. In the past, when we have had two g-pigs together and one has died, the other follows suit quite quickly. We expected this to happen again but thankfully it was not the case.
The surviving guinea pig (which did not have a name and was always referred to as Squeaky) was a beautiful wee beast. Its grey coat was soft and shiny and it had a rosette of hair on its head, as if some small imaginary creature had flattened out a place to nest or to sleep. Initially it lived in a large plastic tray, sold especially for guinea pigs along with a wire top, which was on the kitchen floor. The top was not required as Squeaky had no notion of coming out and running about the kitchen floor. She was content to watch us, and of course Marci the dog, as we went about our respective business in the kitchen, and I think it was this activity that prevented her becoming bored and thus saved her life after the death of her pal.
In accord with her name, she would squeak if I appeared from the garden with fresh greens, or even if Jan went to the top tray of the fridge where Squeaky’s cucumber, celery, lettuce and apples were stored. Squeaky and Marci often touched noses, and in summer sometimes shared a run on the grass (Marci was put in the run as with her being blind I didn’t want her to fall into the burn). Earlier this year my daughter Janet devised a two-tier system in the kitchen, utilising a spare coffee table on which to place the g-pig tray, and under which Marci’s bed, the ‘wee waltzer’, was put.
We knew that, at six, Squeaky was getting old, but she loved her food and, for a vegetarian, was pretty fat! It was very strange, therefore, that the day after the vet had visited to put down our beloved wee Marci (see recent post), Squeaky went off her food. She ate hardly anything and within a couple of days completely stopped eating, despite her favourite nibbles being put in front of her nose. When I came down to the kitchen on Tuesday morning she was dead. She was still sitting on all four feet and could easily have passed as being alive. It looked as if her heart has just stopped beating while she was asleep. She is now buried alongside Marci.
So was this coincidence or had she pined for the loss of her canine kitchen companion. We’ll never know for sure.
Though we love having pets in the house, things aren’t always plain sailing. I was working in the office at the computer one day a couple of years back when there was an almighty clatter in the kitchen, followed by low moaning, reminiscent of a cow at the calving. We don’t keep cattle in the kitchen, but of course we had the two grey guinea pigs in their large and shallow plastic tray. It was this six inch high barrier that had become the problem. As Jan passed – or nearly passed – the guinea pigs, her foot caught on the corner of the tray. It spun round with her foot, spilling the guinea pigs’ bowl of dry food, their bowl of greens and, worst of all, their bowl of water. The guinea pigs were normally relaxed and snoozy wee creatures but this mini earthquake gave them a rude awakening.
When I rushed through to the kitchen to see what had happened, Jan was on the floor nursing an extremely sore left arm. I was able then to verify that there was not a calving cow in the kitchen, and the pain was not related to the extreme stretching of bovine nether regions but rather to the sudden stop after homo erectus became homo supinus. The guinea pigs were packed tightly into the furthest corner of the tray, each trying in vain to scramble under the other. Their tranquil world had been turned (almost literally) upside down and they looked terrified. In addition, the opposite corner of their tray had propelled the dogs’ water bowl, which normally sat beside the tray, halfway over the kitchen floor. It must have resembled a curling stone in its skite over the tiles. ‘Skite’ is an interesting word, and leads on to ‘skitter’, which is exactly what the bowl did with its liquid contents on its sojourn over the floor. Lastly, an ornamental wooden duck, which its apparently dyslexic manufacturer had labelled a dcuk, was now minus its beak.
The pets are Jan’s nemesis. It’s only three years since she fell over one of the dogs as she was coming downstairs, and finished up with a broken right arm and dislocated shoulder. This latest fall could have been worse and she could easily have hit her head on the table. In a perverse way I suppose she was lucky. I didn’t tell her that!