Back when we were kids, my brother and I wanted a dog.
My mom hated dogs.
However, my mom was also willing to compromise. So instead of a dog, we were gifted with, eh, a guinea pig. He was beige, with red eyes. My brother named him Waldorf.
I know—mean thing to say about the departed. But, truly, Walforf did suck. This doesn’t mean he was a bad guinea pig, because he wasn’t. Guinea pigs, though, are bad pets. Save for pooping, drinking and eating, they do pretty much nothing. They never learn their names, they don’t really love being picked up and and if you let your guinea pig run free around the house, there’s a solid 63.4 percent chance you’ll never see him again. Guinea pigs smell like their own feces. Which isn’t a surprise, because they live in their own feces. I have these vivid memories of Waldorf cowering in the corner of his cage (which was a converted mail crate), dreading the weekly changing of his shavings. I also have vivid memories of those weekly changings—which involved walking back toward the woods behind our house and dumping the crap-infused shavings beneath some leaves.
Anyhow, Waldorf was our guinea pig, and we tolerated him. Then, one summer, my brother and I went away for a month of sleep-away camp. Upon returning, my parents greeted us at the bus with grim faces. “Waldorf,” my father said, “isn’t doing so well.”
Indeed, he was a sorry sight. Some sort of infection stuck itself to the left side of his body, and where once hair reigned, there was now a ping pong-ball sized circle of blood and puss. He also was barely eating or drinking. Even for a species inclined to appear lethargic, Waldorf appeared lethargic.
He died on a sunny Tuesday morning. Or maybe it was a windy Sunday night. It’s hard to remember these things when you’re referring to the death of a guinea pig. All I know is we placed his limp little pig body in a shoe box and buried him in the rear of our yard. My brother turned a rock into a tombstone, and he wrote WALDORF PEARLMAN in green marker. (I’m guessing, were someone to dig in the precise spot behind 24 Emerald Lane in Mahopac, N.Y., Waldorf’s little bones remain)
A few days later, with hope of a dog as dead as Waldorf, we bought another guinea pig and named him Sparky.
He sucked, too.