Reading this book about William the Conqueror and the Battle of Hastings and the Bayeux Tapestry, and there you are! Here’s what the author, Andrew Bridgeford, says about you: “The Domesday Book of 1086…..reveals that a lady jongleur (or possibly the wife of a jongleur) called Adelina held land in Hampshire under the patronage of Roger of Montgomery, the Earl of Shrewsbury.” And there’s more: “The land of Adelina Joculatrix lay in Upper Catford.” I think I am going to start calling you Adelina Joculatrix of Catford.
If I could have any supernatural wish, it would be for animals to talk in human languages, preferably the same language as the people around them. No dead languages or cats in France speaking Japanese or dogs in Canada speaking Swedish. Unless of course the French cats were part of Japanese households or the Canadian dogs lived with Swedish exchange students. Or if a linguist studying Aramaic had a parrot that spoke Aramaic, that would be ok. I would wish for that.
Tonight I looked at my pets and really, really, really wished they could talk. Matt and I tried to imagine their voices and how their vocal personalities would match what we make of their gestural personalities. Adelina the semi-shy, hyper guinea pig would sound like the girl with the low self-esteem in the fashion club in the tv show Daria. Penelope the cool, calm guinea pig would be Daria. Ivan would sound dignified, said Matt, but would say undignified things. He would be like the dwarf guy in Game of Thrones. Ivan and the dwarf guy are both hedonists, Matt explained.
Then I realized that if all animals could talk, maybe people would feel bad about eating Henrietta the kind-hearted chicken or castrating Jimmy the wise-cracking but vulnerable bull calf. Wouldn’t everyone just turn vegetarian. Matt said that there would be some real asshole animals so people would still eat animals to make them shut up.
There are two types of guinea pig poops: the normal hard ones and the soft caecotrophs. Caecotrphs have proteins and vitamins that the guinea pig takes back by eating right from its anus as it emerges, up to 150 a day.
Guinea pigs have 258 bones: 34 in the spinal cord, 43 in each front leg, 36 in each back leg, seven in their pelvis as a fused tail, and the difference in their ribs, skulls, and breast.
Female guinea pigs are sows and males are boars.
Besides the terrible kicks guinea pigs can get from rabbit companions, the bacterial infection Bordetella is another reason to keep rabbits and cavies separate.
Barbering happens among bored or hungry guinea pigs, when the dominant one begins chewing on the others’ coats. Better, more frequent food and more exercise helps relieve this.
As for the guinea pig language:
The meep-meep-meep sound indicates greeting, especially greeting the imminent arrival of food. Accompanies the fridge door opening and especially the opening of the vegetable crisper. Ears go up and down during the meep-meep-meep.
Purring happens when opposite sexes meet.
Angry purring and teeth chattering indicates an argument among guinea pigs.
General chirps indicate normal guinea pig conversations. Guinea pigs share tales of terror in this speech pattern after returning to the cage following a run-in with an overzealous, cuted-out human.
This is Paco after a good meal of cilantro. Lips dyed green, belly taut, a well-fed guinea pig is a quiet guinea pig. Getting the guinea pig to the well-fed stage is tricky, however. Guinea pigs have a bottomless pit for a stomach and they maintain a strict diet to fill this pit. As pets, they rely on human slaves for all their needs. A human enters the room and off go the guinea pig sirens, alerting the slave that the masters are hungry.
Surely it was the high-pitched squeaks of hungry guinea pigs that finally sent the Inca off the deep end and turned the hapless ur-guinea pigs into cuy, that South American delicacy.
We were warned, before we adopted our guinea pigs, that they would drive us crazy. Indeed, there were times when I consulted Andean cookbooks for a solution to the squeak problem.
Then, a few days ago, I began to notice how quiet our house was. No high-pitched whistling. No bedlam when I rustled a plastic bag. None of the cacophony associated with the opening of a fridge – the guinea pigs certainly knew where food came from.
Days went by and no sound. I began to wonder if they were ok. Since when were the guinea pigs not hungry? Were Paco and Chuy sick?
I shared my concerns with Matt. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I trained them.”
He then explained. “Whenever they squeak, I run to the cage, pick up the squeaker and cuddle him. They hate that. Now they don’t squeak.”
“So, we now have two guinea pigs that equate us with terror.”
“Yes,” said Matt. “I have conditioned them to think of us as harbingers of cuddling, not food.”
A couple days ago, I had a dream. Lucian, my handsome little hamster, was still alive, yet I realized I hadn’t been feeding him for the months I thought he was dead. I ran through the house frantically, trying to find him. Then, because I lived in a mansion in my dream, he was in the very room I never enter.
There he was. Among all the old bric-a-brac, the obsolote computers and an inordinate amount of sewing machines, was his cage. Lucian was inside. His hamster chest rose and fell. He was breathing weakly but he was alive. I promised him I would get him food and put him back on his feet. Then, in the sort of despair that comes from dreams, I could not move fast enough nor did I know my palatial house enough to find food and water to nourish this dying tiny life.
When I am awake, my responsibility is to my guinea pigs now. I must forget hamsters and concentrate on the cuteness of guinea pigs. YouTube, that internet thing I hate so much, provided me with cute guinea pigs, neatly packaged with Moldovan music:
It was cute at first, Paco’s high-pitched whee-whee-whee siren call whenever they heard a plastic bag rustling in the distance. Little bugger knew that timothy hay, carrots, cucumbers and assorted guinea pig favourites are borne forth when this noise happens. Then, when shy Chuy joined in, I was relieved he wasn’t a creepy, sullen thing any more.
Then the whee-whee-whee siren started when we opened the fridge. Ha! I thought. The guinea pigs are smart. They can put two and two together, lil’ dahlinks.
One day, the whee-whee-whee began as soon as we came into the room. Ok, starting to get annoying. But smart little buggers.
The next step was getting out of bed – on a different floor of the house! One foot out of bed and we get whee-whee-whee.
Now they just wail their sirens whenever they see me. Yes! I get it! You guys want food! Well, fuck you. Er, on second thought, here have some timothy hay. Just. Please. Be. Quiet. What? That’s not enough? More carrot sticks? And a side of cilantro? Yes, sirs! Right away, sirs!
Munich’s Museum of Man and Nature scored Bruno the Bear’s taxidermied remains, displayed by taxidermist Dieter Schoen at “being disturbed by people while stealing honey from bee hives to show his potential danger” (as quoted from this BBC article). In 2006, I blogged about how poor Bruno, or JJ1, is the result of a poor candidate for motherhood. Bruno was shot dead on June 26, 2006.
This bear is not Bruno.
I knew that Bruno dabbled in sheep and rabbit menus. I had no idea there were other animals involved. Specifically, I didn’t realize there were Incan rodents with a penchant for timothy hay involved in the Bruno saga. Here’s Bruno’s more complete list of exploits:
He upset farmers, breaking into bee hives and eating 30 sheep, four rabbits and a guinea pig.
Now that we’ve switched to guinea pigs, Ivan is having identity issues again. This time, he’s gone a bit further:
Matt described the event: “The pigs actually weren’t very disturbed when Ivan climbed in there, so I didn’t worry about them too much (Chuy actually likes Ivan quite a bit, and will follow him around), but about 30 minutes later, the fact that they’d shared naptime with a cat seemed to have sunk in, and they were a little retroactively freaked out, requiring lots of cilantro and fresh hay to compensate for. . . . ”
Apparently, there was some hay-eating on Ivan’s part too.