When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

This little piggie

I grew up in what a good family friend jokingly referred to as "the zoo". Over the years, my brothers and I had the pleasure of loving many different pets thanks to the good-heartedness of my mom and dad. Dogs, cats, fish, hamsters, guinea pigs, a rabbit, and birds all came to be a part of our family at some time, and through caring for them we kids learned how to be kind to animals and to be responsible for the well-being of other living creatures. These are valuable lessons for anyone to carry with them through life.

My home now is not a zoo by any stretch of the imagination (though I'll admit some days it feels like it as the parent of two busy boys!), but I wanted Noah and Will to experience the joys of having pets the same way I did as a child. Matt and I have had our cat Maggie since just after we were married, so the boys have loved their feline companion since they were babies, but in recent years they've asked to add other furry friends to the mix. Last August we went on an excursion to the pet store and came home with a guinea pig, now named Butterscotch, or Piggie for short. She has been a perfect pet for a 6 and a 9 year old; she is gentle, friendly, cuddly, and entertaining, and the boys are easily able to help with her care.

Keeping a guinea pig happy and healthy is a fairly simple task. These creatures, when living alone, need an enclosure that measures 2 feet by 2 feet at a minimum, and a shelter within the enclosure for hiding in, to help them feel secure. The cage needs to be lined with a suitable bedding material (we use Natural Critter Care made from cellulose fibres) that gets changed regularly to keep it clean and dry. Guinea pigs eat pellets enriched with vitamin C, hay, and an assortment of fresh fruits and veggies daily. (Ours especially loves carrots and will "wheek" enthusiastically if she thinks there are any coming her way!) Because guinea pigs' front teeth grow continuously, it is also important to provide them with items such as apple branches or wooden toys to chew, which are readily available at pet stores.

Guinea pigs are social creatures and like to live in pairs, but a piggie will also be happy living alone provided she gets lots of interaction time with her human "family". We let ours run around in our family room for exercise, and the boys get a real kick out of seeing her trying to stuff herself under the couch or hopping around like popcorn. They also love imagining what she's saying to us when she makes her many different rumbling, squeaking, and singing sounds. Butterscotch loves to have her head and back scratched and will sit purring happily in our laps. Even Maggie, who hisses like a maniac at other cats or dogs, loves our little pig and is often seen lying contentedly alongside her cage or trying to give her a bath.

Guinea pigs are wonderful pets for those who are looking for a clean, smaller-sized furry, friendly animal. With a life span of approximately 4 to 7 years, a guinea pig can be a source of many happy moments in a child's growing up years. I know our boys are enjoying their little piggie friend and the many good lessons having her is teaching them.

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