Father Pig Forever
By Margie Bailey Rose
The best thing about pets is that they don't live forever and you can get new ones, but we had a guinea pig that did not understand average lifespan.
Father Pig joined our family the usual way– begging children at the pet store. Guinea pigs were new to us, but the manager of the store assured me they were clean, quiet, and didn't bite. Never one to pass up a learning experience, I took the kids to the library to do research on the care and feeding of their new pet. We checked out a book and read it together. A guinea pig should live two to three years if well cared-for. Perfect!
Number 3 was the primary pet-shop beggar, so he got to choose a name. Father Pig it was, since we were told it was a male and we should get a female for breeding. "No! No breeding!" I yelled. I just wanted a pet that didn't bite. The cat had become vicious. Apparently she didn't enjoy six small children, and numerous neighborhood kids, chasing her around when she preferred to sleep all day. We made the new rodent a nice home in the fish tank (recently made available by the ill-tempered cat's dining on the tropical fish.)
At first all of the kids in the neighborhood held friendly and cuddly Father Pig and fed him treats. That lasted a few weeks. Then– if he was lucky, someone noticed his food dish was empty within a day or two. Instead of dying, like most neglected pets would have done, he learned to get our attention. He squeaked and shrieked. He banged his dishes together. His favorite treat was lettuce, and even though he lived two floors down, he could hear the fridge open and somehow knew lettuce lived there. His ear-piercing whistles were not to be ignored, and he always got his share of the lettuce.
Everyone wanted a great pet like Father Pig, so we bought a little black female (I know, I know) and eventually sold litters to pet shops. Years went by and the other guinea pigs were sold or died of old age, but Father Pig lived on. His nails grew and curled even though we tried to trim them without hurting him. He developed arthritis, and his squeaks were not quite so loud, but by then we were well trained. No one ate lettuce without taking him a leaf. We shared our tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots also. He loved an apple slice now and then, and everyone talked to him as they watched TV. He made soft chirping sounds to hold up his end of the conversation.
Father Pig was six years old when we began to pack for California. I asked him if he would be able to handle the move, and sadly, the next day he was quiet and still. Number 3 insists I killed our beloved Pig, but I believe he understood what I said and chose not to go. Father Pig was the last pet to be buried in the back-yard cemetery of our Washington house, and we brag about him still as having been the oldest guinea pig in the known world.
Let's hear it for vegetarians!