Smokey the guinea pig loves Men at Work. When she’s a little fussy, my neighbors play that 80’s band’s hit song, “Down Under,” for her, and their new pet instantly calms down. You remember the song:
On the nights when I’m overwhelmed by carpools, laundry and my family’s insistance that our kitchen chairs are cold…
…I think of Smokey and how happy I am that she’s not mine.
It’s not that I’m anti pet. I had a cat for 14 years, and I loved him like a, well, like a cat. We were all sad when he passed away, as illustrated (literally) by my son Nicholas, then 8:
I had to put poor Kifli down when cancer made him so sick, he could barely walk. In his final days, he still managed to drag himself into the backyard to peek down the chipmunk holes, while birds swooped down at his weak little body. The day I said goodbye to him, Pete took the boys to the carnival in town while I brought Kifli to the vet for the last time. Just as the vet told me to say goodbye to the cat I’d had since my first Christmas as a Mrs., dark clouds rolled in outside accompanied by rain, lightning and thunder. Kifli went out with a dramatic show.
Plus, I was a raccoon mom. When I was 15, I raised two baby raccoons whose mother had been chased out of someone’s chimney, leaving them behind. (I just searched for photos of them in my attic, but I came up empty. My mother would probably have some (filed under “R” for raccoon), but she doesn’t have a scanner and she lives a half-hour away.) I taught them how to climb trees, and I fed them apples I’d pureed in the Cuisinart. As a result, I had to clean schmooshed apples out of my ears all summer long.
What’s more, I had to run out in the middle of the night and cover their cage, all the while feeling very, very guilty because I could hear their cries in the pouring rain while I sat in my dry and comfortable room. Raising baby raccoons in high school was better than anything Planned Parenthood could have drummed up.
So, I don’t want the responsibility of something that lives in a cage. Not now. Not since we passed my kids’ cling-to-my-leg stage. Not now that I finally have a little bit of freedom because the kids are old enough to let themselves into the house and play the Wii without noticing or caring whether or not I’m home. It’s a nice stage. It’s an easy stage. It’s a stage that doesn’t involve cleaning up poop. Why ruin that now?
At the school bus this morning, Smokey’s owner, Jacob, 8, asked me, “Do you think that Smokey would like to get dressed up for Halloween?”
“Oh, I know for a fact that guinea pigs love when you put them in little outfits,” I answered, smirking at his mother. “How about dressing her up like Smokey the Bear? You know, ‘Don’t start forest fires, kids,” I said in my Smokey the Bear voice.
Or perhaps they’ll give her a tiny saxophone and let her go as Men at Work.