Guinea Pig Tales

Finn loves animals and seems to have a natural aptitude for them, at least much more so then I did at his age. I, at Finn’s age was very much like Caden when it comes to pets, and that is — scared to death. As a toddler, I wouldn’t go into the backyard because our family dog Lady, a blonde cocker spaniel, would jump on me, and that was terrifying. Around the same age I pulled the tail of mom’s cat Beauty and she bit me. I was scared also of dad’s hunting dog, Drake, a Labrador Retriever. Caden feels much the way that I did toward all these pets, and that is extreme fear, fear that they’re going to hurt him, that their bark means something bad, that their teeth clamping down on your flesh hurts, and that they may look cute but they really have some hidden agenda. Finn sees a pet and sees something to play with, something to love, something that is showing like and love by playing and jumping and enjoying playing with him.

So, for that reason — and because Finn has expressed interest in being a veterinarian when he grows up — I’ve been trying to figure out for months how to get Finn a pet that will make us all happy. I’m not (as) afraid of dogs as I was when I was kid — I mean most dogs I am bigger than, so I could take him if I had to. But as I mentioned, Caden is. The bigger issue with a dog, though, is time. We are not home enough to give a dog the attention it deserves. We leave by 7 a.m. and are sometimes not home til bed time. On a good day, we all make it home by 6. That’s not fair to an animal to leave it unattended for that many hours.

A cat would be a really good option because it might help deter the little mice that keep sneaking into my garage. But Caden and David are allergic to cats.

Fish die, birds are noisy and their poop is yucky, snakes and reptiles are slithery, hamsters are mice-like, and mice are mice ….

I was beginning to feel like I was going to have to give in on going with a dog and just figure out how to do better with our time management when Finn started reading the book Guinea Dog. The book is about a boy who wants a dog and his parents get him a guinea pig instead.  Hmmm. Maybe a guinea pig would make a good pet for us? I thought. I asked my co-worker Jo who knows all about animals and she, of course, was in favor of it. She was babysitting one night while David and I went out and I asked her to take the boys with her to the pet store to let them look at the guinea pigs and to buy us a book about guinea pig care.

That was about a month ago. We read the book and I continued to think about it. I went and checked them out on my own, and then again with David and the kids, and it seemed like a pet we could all be happy with. So this past weekend, when the pet store had a sale on guinea pigs and starter cages, Finn got his very first pet! And he was quick to point out that we were the first in the family to have a guinea pig. Papaw and Nana had birds, Aunt Nanny has a dog and a cat, but we’re the first to have a guinea pig!

What’s in a Name?

The guinea pig, for all intents and purposes, is Finn’s. It is also a family pet, in that we can all enjoy it. Finn, however, is responsible for daily food and water, treats, spending time with it, cleaning it’s cage (with help from me, for now). So, with great responsibility comes great power reward. Finn would be the one to name it.

We took suggestions from aunts and cousins and Facebook friends, with Oreo being the most suggested name because of the creature’s black and white coloring. But a guinea pig named Oreo wouldn’t do for this special little boy and his first pet. Finn chose the name Rocket Fido Smith, with the acceptable nicknames of Rocky and Skunkrat (Skunkrat coined by David while in the pet store because of the skunk-like striping down Rocket’s nose).

First week at home

So, week one with a pet in the house has been pretty smooth. Rocket needs to be socialized  to people, so except for food and water, he was left to himself in his new cage the first two days at home. I was very proud of the boys for respecting Rocket’s need for privacy and time to adjust. For two active little boys excited about their first pet they did excellent being patient. On day 3, we took him out for about 5 minutes (which was actually more like 10 since I felt the need to scoop some of the poop out while the boys had him out). Day 4, a little longer, and yesterday a little longer still. He’s adjusting pretty well I think, going from hiding in his igloo and totally freezing when we hold him to sniffing his nose around at us and letting Finn reach toward him and not scurrying away.

Finn is ridiculously happy about having him so I’m thrilled to see Finn enjoying his pet. For now, he’s even excited to feed and water him and feed him lettuce. So far, so good. More guinea pig tales to come, I’m sure.


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