Lessons from a Guinea Pig

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A week ago this Saturday Justin and I welcomed our first pet into the family.

He is a 3 year old guinea pig who we have named Songkran in honor of a Thai holiday that was occurring on the day we bought him.

We decided to purchase him somewhat quickly, well, I guess, VERY quickly, we found out that he needed a new home and then welcomed him into ours less than 2 hours later.

We are not allowed to have cats or dogs in the place we are renting right not, but were told that a guinea pig would be alright. Justin and I had considered purchasing a couple awhile back, but hesitated because we didn’t know if we were ready for a pet.

This little guy just seemed to fit though, it was swift, and honestly a little surreal bringing him home.

But then the next day it really began to sink in.

We had just committed to caring for something apart from ourselves.

Something that was helpless without us.

Something that we could hurt if we weren’t careful.

Something that needed our love and our attention and our money.

To be honest, I got a little scared and freaked out a bit.

Now I know he is just a little guinea pig, but I have not had a pet in almost a decade and Justin and I have never been responsible for one, no matter how little, ever before.

It was in those moments that I was freaking out about the mess, the smell, the fact that he wasn’t responding to me how I wanted and the responsibility and money that he would require, that I realized how much he could teach me.

I had not realized how much I had adjusted over the years to a certain type of living.

I had begun to not only want, but NEED, the environment that I live in to be a certain way.

Clean, simple, organized.

I must admit I myself don’t even have the stamina to maintain the level of cleanliness and organization that I would love to have every day. I thrive on knowing that things are well cared for, in place and clean, and sometimes it is overwhelming to think that something could upset that balance. I had gotten very used to being able to control my environment’s characteristics and space. I had the ability to make it happen and look how I wanted and to keep it that way.

But then Songkran came along, him and his littleness, his excrement, the smell of the hay and the shavings in his cage, the fur, the nails, the needs.

The first day we had Songkran I spot cleaned his cage 6 times. I washed my hands after I touched him even a little or even just touched his cage and I picked and swept up every piece of hay and wood shaving that somehow founds its way around the outside of his cage.

I was so focused on maintaining the same level of organization and cleanliness in regards to him as I did with my house that I was consumed with all of things I had to DO for him and couldn’t even think about putting more attention to just loving and enjoying him.

As I sat on the dining room floor with Justin on Sunday afternoon and looked at Songkran eating his hay that I had gotten for him, so overwhelmed with the little animal that had rocked my world, I realized my terrible mistake.

My mind traveled past Songkran for a minute to our future children.

I realized that if I can’t even relax my intense desire for organization for a guinea pig that stays in a cage, what on earth was I going to do with children?

I hadn’t realized the comfortable state of control that I had become so attached to, and I am humbled to say that our new guinea pig is teaching me far more about myself then I would have ever thought.

I think that every married couple should own a pet before they have children.

I would have never realized before Songkran the significance of opening your world and your heart to something so small and so needy. It changes things, it changes you, no matter the size or needs of the pet.

I am learning how important honest care is, gentleness, patience, compassion for things in need, and being willing to break down expectations and control to give a better life to something else, even if it means giving up things that were once so important to you.

Through all of his quirky, jumpy little ways Songkran continues to teach me how to be better.

And I am grateful to the little fur ball for helping me learn lessons that will be used for the rest of my life.

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