My husband is terribly, perversely, insistently allergic to cats. We weren't mature enough to handle a dog. So I researched small, furry mammals, tried to find the ones that looked most like miniature capybaras, and got two of them. They are named Benson and Stabler. Benson is small and wily, and Stabler is tubby and indignant. Actually, they're both generally indignant. They live in the guinea-pig cage equivalent of the Sun King's court, make regular angry noises because they feel they deserve a constantly-replenished supply of hay, and look a bit like vaguely-startled (and indignant) slippers.
Now Benson is sick. Benson, who rushes about, squeaks, and rushes about some more, is now listless, despondent, and refusing to eat. I rushed her to the vet today and she's going to have to stay the night and be subjected to a battery of tests. I am depressed for a number of reasons:
1) It is crazy to have pets. Pets, as a rule, tend to die before people do. If you decide to live with animals, you are inviting the promise of loss into your home.
2) Pets can't talk. Benson just stares at me with giant, expressive, terrified eyes and there's no way I can explain to her what's going on. Of course, if I could explain things to her and she could understand me, she probably wouldn't be all that reassured.
3) One of my most vital and meaningful interpersonal relationships is with a guinea pig.
4) People sometimes acknowledge that it's traumatic when a cat or dog dies. Almost nobody takes it seriously when a guinea pigs dies. In fact, they usually feel the need to say something like, "Oh, when I was a kid, we accidentally starved ours to death", or "I threw mine down the stairs when I was a kid and then starved it to death", or "I was intending to starve mine to death, but then it escaped into our basement. We never found him." Even if Benson recovers, she will eventually die, and when she does, almost everyone will be bemused when I am plunged into deep mourning. Stabler will not mourn. Stabler doesn't like Benson very much. In fact, neither of them like me all that much.
Which leads me to:
5) One of my most vital and meaningful interpersonal relationships is with a guinea pig. Who doesn't like me very much.
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