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Monday, October 17, 2011


Forever I have wanted to write this story for I can’t begin to tell you the times that I have thought about this guinea pig. And he traveled. When my sons were young [older one is two and a half years older] they both went to pre-school located in a nearby church--Bream Presbytertian. My older son started at age three and only went three times a week; he loved it. My younger son was a mere six months old and it would be two and half more years till he also went to pre-school.

My then-husband and I only had one car at that time; he worked and I had quit teaching to stay home with my sons—a fact which left me stranded with them. But thanks to my friend, Bev, up the street who was the mother of three sons [and had enrolled two in the same pre-school,] she offered to pick up my younger son and take him and also pick him up every week. I was so relieved as well as grateful.

Yes, I did get to visit the pre-school off and on:  It was fabulous! And in the room in which my son was as well as my friend’s sons and many other boys and girls, was a pet guinea pig named “Barney.” Barney lived in a cage, was well taken care of and looked exactly like the picture above. The cage set up sort of high but am sure that many three-year old fingers touched Barney or poked on him.  I did hear my son talk about him and listened—thought that was that. Within the first month of school [it was September,] when Bev dropped off my son here, he handed me a note before he even got out of the car.

I looked at the note and it said:  “If you would like for Barney to spend the weekend with your child, please sign this note and return it with him or her.” Read this note on a Thursday and sent it back the next day with Bev and my son and I felt sure that my son would take the note to his teacher or hoped so. I should note that at that time we had a huge purebred collie and a cat and when the time came for my son to arrive home, I was shocked at what he had in the beside him—Barney cage and all! Wasn’t expecting the guinea pig in like forever much less that next day! And worse was that my then-husband had gone hunting for the weekend. Found myself alone with my sons, the collie, the cat and Barney.

What to do I thought? I couldn’t let Barney out nor could I let him stay in his cage anywhere for the cat would have gotten him for sure. In a stage of complete panic, I realized that I could let Barney stay in my older son’s room on one condition:  The door had to be shut at all times. Try explaining that to a three year old; wasn’t easy. And seemed as if all I got done aside from mom duties was to keep checking to see if that door were shut. Many times it wasn’t that first evening and good grief, Barney would be with us all weekend!

Both sons had eaten dinner, played and of course talked to and fed Barney. Came time for them to go to bed:  It was easy to get my younger son to bed but not my three year old for he had Barney in his bedroom. The light had to be on and the door shut but I must have made fifty trips up and down the hall to make sure all was okay. When it was, I came into the kitchen, sat down and grabbed the remote to watch something—anything for I was beyond frazzled and the first channel I hit was showing a movie but not just any movie for it was “Willard The Rat!” Quickly switched channels and watched something else for would I want to watch a rat movie with a guinea pig in the house? No way!

Somehow we made it through the weekend with Barney till my husband came home on a Sunday evening: The minute he walked in the door, I told him all about it and then went straight to bed collapsing into a heap. Exhausted. Frazzled. Tired.

Next morning after my husband left for work, not long after Bev showed up with her sons ready to pick up my son and Barney and off they went. A sigh of relief could no doubt be heard into the next state for the cat did not get Barney nor did the  dog and things went back to normal—for a while. Barney became a monthly visitor and yes, my son’s bedroom door had to be shut but these times I had reinforcement in the form of my husband.

When my younger son entered the same pre-school, Bev would pick him up for she had a son his age. And guess who came home monthly to visit? You guessed it—Barney! Yes, I had signed that note once again for him that first month just as before. When both of my sons were in grade school, I was subbing and really didn’t think much about Barney but off and on, I wondered what happened to him. Called the pre-school one day and was plain shocked to learn that Barney was still alive! He had survived every weekend with different kids all year long for years which was pretty amazing considering how three and four year olds can be! Never did learn who kept him every summer but he was apparently well taken care of.

Barney lived to be twelve years old. Amazing for he belonged to the sisterhood of the traveling guinea pigs and maybe his being with such young kids gave him courage to live on. Had I been him, I’m not sure if my nerves could have handled all that but Barney did! He had nerves of steel, was loved and fed by litle kids and had a great life. I wonder if there still is a sisterhood of the traveling guinea pigs? Maybe not at that pre-school but somewhere out there exists that sisterhood and if you sign a note, be prepared to be on your toes constantly, on the lookout and enjoy a guinea pig—tedious but wonderful.

Sherry Hill

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