(March 2002 - July 29, 2004)
Einstein was my second guinea pig, and my first and only female pig. There are a few reasons for this, not the least of which, is the fact that I do not want ten million little pigs running around the house, to add to the already surplus population. So I have nothing against female pigs; but if I have female pigs, I can not have male pigs. Female pigs are generally thought to be easier to deal with, get along better with each other, and are a bit less ornery than male pigs. This tends to make them more popular. So the males need me more than the females. I picked up Einstein as a companion to my friend Dilbert, after learning that it is not good to have a guinea pig all by himself. I picked her up at the Pet World, in the Silvernail Mall. She had been there kind of a long time, and was a bit larger and older than the other pigs. She was also a special favorite of one of the salesgirls there, who had gotten to know and like her. Einstein was about four months older than Dilbert, making her around six months old, when I got her. I had seen her a few times, while I was out looking for a guinea pig, and finally decided that I should take her home.
Einstein was a very sweet and gentle pig, and was very kind, almost maternal, to the much younger Dilbert. The two of them got along better than any other pair of pigs I have ever owned. They were initially kept together, until I discovered Einstein was a female. They happily played together, and loved to huddle together in a blanket, or towel. When I did ironing, or laundry, or sometimes for no reason at all, I would block off the hallway of my apartment, put down some newspapers, and old pillows, and occasionally I would toss some of my dirty laundry around, in which they liked to burrow. This was a practice I continued with my other pigs, which they all seemed to enjoy. Einstein was my only female pig, and I called her my little piggy girl. Einstein got her name from the way a shock of hair seemed to stand out and fall randomly around her head. It reminded my of the old photos I saw, of the famous scientist.
In contrast to the clucking and chirping of Dilbert, Einstein would purr when she was being stroked, or scratched. She did not crawl into my shirt, the way that Dilbert did; but she liked to lay on my chest, while I watched TV, or went to sleep. She would stand up, when food or treat was coming, or sometimes just to see what was going on, or to say hello, if I was near the cage. In addition to her relationship with Dilbert, and myself, she came to be on good terms with my parakeet. Einstein just seemed to like everybody. At that time, I had a blue parakeet, who ended up living to be seventeen years old. The parakeet was allowed to fly around the house, and would usually end up landing on my head or shoulder, to ride around on me for a while.
On one occasion, the parakeet lighted on the edge of Einstein's aquarium, and the two seemed curious about each other. From that first time, the parakeet would pretty regularly "visit" landing on the edge of the aquarium, or even landing inside. It was the darndest thing I ever saw. I have a photo of one of their visits, off to the left. There was no hostility or fear there - the two of them actually got along, and seemed to enjoy each other's company. So the bird started regularly landing on and in the aquarium in which Einstein lived, to look in on her.
So in addition to getting along with other guinea pigs, Einstein got along with birds. She also got on very well with people. She enjoyed the usual cuddling, and liked to play with crumpled up sheets of paper. She also very much liked her Quaker Oats box, both to chew on, and to hide in. She was a very good companion to Dilbert, a good little pal to me, and was a very pretty little thing, with long, soft silky fur. If you have never held, or felt a guinea pig, you will be surprised at the fineness of the fur. This can be particularly striking on a longhair, like Einstein.
Einstein was my second pig; but she was slightly older than Dilbert, and was the first guinea pig that I ever had die. It was awful. As with most problems with guinea pigs, the first sign of trouble was diminished appetite. Taking her into the vet, they looked at her teeth, gave her a vitamin C shot, and some medication. Sadly, this was a one in a million problem. Discovered after her death, was the fact that she had a fungal infection in one of her teeth, which could not have been treated, even had the diagnosis been made immediately. I watched her die, which was awful. She was terribly skinny, and had no energy, she slept in a nearly comatose state, so much so, that I actually thought she was dead, and tried to take her out of the aquarium in which she was living, only to see her rouse. After she died, I left her for a time, and then called the vet. He wanted to do a necropsy, so I left my little piggy girl n the refrigerator, in a small cardboard box, wrapped in paper towel. In some ways it was kind of a good thing to have her body there, for a night, and I found myself peeking in, almost in the hope that she had not really died, and then wishing her a good night. This was a particularly hard one, because she had been the first pig to die on me, and she lived for such a short time - I only had her for twenty months. I had read that guinea pigs should live for 4 -7 years, and this took me completely by surprise. In addition to the fact that I felt affection for her, and wanted to keep her around, I also felt distinctly as if I was failing her, by allowing her to die so young.
Still, you don't want your memories of your animal friends to be of their relatively few last moments. Like most guinea pigs, Einstein's sick days did not last that long. Once guinea pigs start to go, they go fast. They either recover, or die very quickly. For almost the entire time I had her, Einstein was a happy, healthy, busy little pig. She was pretty happy at the pet shop, where I first saw her, and where the store clerk had taken a special liking to her. She was happy at home, playing with Dilbert, meeting Swirl, running around in the hallway, eating her fruits, vegetables, and pellets, meeting my bird, and often falling asleep in my lap, or in a towel on my bed - sometimes with Dilbert, sometimes by herself. It was not a bad life for a guinea pig, and in return, she was a very good companion animal, and added to the quality of my life, through her presence, and through the affection that she so freely gave. My little piggy girl had no malice, or unpleasantness in her, and was easy to get a delighted squeal, or a contented purr from. I only wish that she could have stayed around a bit longer. She was quite a bit bigger than Dilbert; but never bullied him, or picked on him. She was always kind and sweet with every creature, and seemed to inspire the same treatment for herself.
Like my friend Dilbert, who was her cage mate, she started out in a box, was moved to a plastic storage bin, and then was kept separate, in her own aquarium, right next to Dilbert's She even let Dilbert nibble on her fur, which usually irritates the heck out of long hair guinea pigs. Nothing seemed to bother her, or to try her temper. I never saw her bite, or even heard her clack her teeth, which guinea pigs do, when they are irritated, or angry. Those kinds of things just weren't in her.
In addition to their romps in the hall, and their cuddling in blankets, towels, and sheets, the two of them would sometimes be taken outside. This was something else that I liked to do with all of my little pigs. A guinea pig has an excellent sense of smell, and enjoys the outdoors as much as any animal. I have seen little harness sets for them; but I would feel pretty silly taking my guinea pig for a walk on a leash. I would also worry about mites and ticks, as well as insecticides and fertilizers. Guinea pigs can move pretty fast, when they see something that they want to nibble, and by the time you see yours nibbling on a chemically treated lawn, it will probably be too late.
Still, the two of them, as well as all of my other pigs, really did enjoy being out on my balcony, I would settle them in a lawn chair, and they would put their noses up to sniff the air, huddle together a bit, and look around. They seemed quite content just to sit, probably following my own example.