Wednesday, March 07, 2007



Not the cartoon character, no – this Charlie Brown was a guinea pig.
We always had pets when the kids were small, always a dog and a cat, and sometimes a budgie. Then there were the ones Grandad arrived with – a turtle he’d seen on the road, an echidna, rescued from a pile of burning logs at the golf course, a frilled lizard, and a huge spider in a jar with holes punched in the lid. Each of the animals, except the spider, escaped the very night they arrived to live at our house. Hours had been spent constructing runs or cages, and in each case in the morning the animal was gone. The spider met his demise in the probably almost airless jar, and nothing, nothing, can smell like a large dead spider that’s been enclosed in an airtight jar. He didn’t escape, he was chucked into the bin.
So when Grandad’s neighbours moved, after frantic searching by their four kids for their lost guinea pig, and Grandad was watering his vegetables, he found the guinea pig, and caught it. He arrived at our house, with a cardboard box containing a small golden brown guinea pig, about the size of two cupped hands.
He became Charlie Brown, being brown, and Charlie Brown being the flavour of the month as far as comics were concerned. A makeshift hutch, bottomless, was quickly made for him, and he was put out on the lawn to graze. The kids ran around and got lettuce leaves, and thistles, and sliced up carrots, and quartered apples – he would eat anything.
That night we decided he should be brought in from any predators – but where would be the best spot? Finally it was decided that we’d tip the hutch up so the opening was at the top, cover it, in case he could leap out. He didn’t look as if he was made for leaping, but after our track record with escapee animals, we thought it best to be prudent about the chances. We put it out of cats and dogs way – where? Why on top of the washing machine of course.
Great, fine. He survived the night. I raised the washing machine’s lid to put a load in – to be confronted by two inches of guinea pig wee! Charming!
Charlie Brown lived with us for quite a while. He survived the loving ministrations of the kids, until one day he was given all the white rind from a watermelon. Charlie Brown, who up to then could eat anything, ate it all, and promptly died!
You can’t chuck a dead guinea pig in the bin, so he had a typical pet funeral, but the story of our pet funerals will have to wait till another time.
© Nelma Ward


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