of the Guinea Pigs
2005, Pat (my husband) and I decided we were responsible and settled
down enough to have pets. More specifically, guinea pigs. I had
one as a kid and I remembered it being one of my favorite types
of animal to live with.
scoured online adoption sites, and checked local pet stores. The
pet stores had no guinea pigs at that time, and I honestly wanted
to adopt, so I kept looking. At petfinder.com I saw a photo of
a “bonded pair” of guinea pigs named Chip and Tinsel
who lived at the Twin Cities Guinea Pig rescue. The first thing
I noticed was Chip’s big smiley face. I could tell that
he had a world of personality, and I knew that he was going to
come live with us.
Cobhan at the shelter.
shelter was in St. Paul, and not looking forward to that drive,
I continued to look at more local shelters, but I couldn’t
get that big smiley face out of my head. There were a pair of
guinea pigs in a closer town, and we thought about getting them,
but we waited too long and they were given new homes. I waited
too long on purpose, really, because I wanted to bring home Chip
and Tinsel. I already had new names chosen for them, based on
their photos…Cobhan and Arkham.
is Gaelic and means “one who dwells near the hillside hollow”
and Arkham is a town in HP Lovecraft stories.
we got to the ST. Paul shelter, we were amazed at how big Cobhan
was. We saw in the photo the size difference between the two guinea
pigs, but we thought Arkham was just very small! Wrong. Cobhan
was huge! We were told Cobhan was about 2 years old, Arkham only
3 months. Cobhan was a lilac Agouti with white spots and ruby
eyes. That is a very rare color combination for cavies.
Little Arkham, BIG Cobhan.
had a hard life before he came to live with us. He had been “surrendered,”
which is a polite way of saying abandoned, to the Jack Pine Guinea
Pig rescue in the cities on January 18, 2004. The girl who brought
him in also had a female guinea pig named Raison, and abandoned
her as well. She had tried to breed Cobhan and Raison, but both
litters had died, so she lost interest in the parents. Cobhan
was then paired up with another male named Andy and they were
adopted in March 2004. That owner then lost her job and could
no longer afford the guinea pigs, so Cobhan was transferred to
the Twin Cities Guinea Pig rescue in January 2005. He did not
get along with his friend Andy, so they were separated, and he
was then paired up with Arkham. They came as a match set, and
we had to adopt them both, which I was more than happy to do.
we got to the shelter, they were out for floortime, munching on
apples and carrot sticks (both foods Cobhan later came to reject
out of boredom). When their little pigloo house was removed, Arkham
ran behind Cobhan and Cobhan just stared at us. Then Arkham made
a bolt for it, and Cobhan tried to follow, but his belly got stuck
on the edge of the cage and he couldn’t get out. We held
them, Cobhan in Pat’s lap, Arkham in mine, which would later
be the way things were. Cobhan always preferred Pat’s lap,
and Arkham preferred mine. Not that they wouldn’t sit in
opposite laps, that is just how they were most comfortable.
signed the necessary paperwork, and then lured them into a carrier
with fresh hay.
We made do with one carrier for the both of them, not knowing
how close quarters that would be, and drove an hour and a half
home to the sounds of them chewing paper and whining every time
the van would shift gears. Occasionally one or the other (but
usually Cobhan) would look out the carrier window at me as I drove
and I would wave hello.
was 26 March, 2005.
Cobhan under the hayloft,
baby Arkham taking his chance.
started out letting Cobhan and Arkham live together in the same
cage. We quickly found out that wouldn’t work. Cobhan would
bully Arkham and take all his food, and Arkham would drive Cobhan
crazy wanting to attention and wanting to spar. The short time
that they lived together in the same cage was a learning experience
for everyone. Cobhan liked to sit under they hayloft and sleep,
or claim the hayloft first thing in the morning and not let Arkham
up there at all. From the hayloft I learned that Cobhan was scared
of heights, even ones he could easily jump from.
Arkham’s adolescence fully set in, we had to get separate
cages. It was hard at first for him to not sleep near Cobhan,
but Cobhan had started to pull out Arkham’s fur in fights,
and I had to watch them constantly to make sure they would get
along. Cobhan was older, and he just needed his space. We joked
that our place was Cobhan’s “retirement home.”
He was immediately thankful to have the entire cage to roam around
in and his own food to eat. We had to get rid of the hayloft altogether,
but we set up a mirror image of cages instead. Each piggy had
his own water bottle, pellet bowl, veggie bowl, tent, tube, brick,
haypile, pillow, and paper tunnel house.
favorite spot was on top of his pillow, under his paper tunnel.
He would also sleep deeply in his haypile.
this time, we still let Cobhan and Arkham play together during
floortime. At first, they would pee all over everything, including
each other, marking their territory. They finally learned that
peeing on the floor didn’t make us happy, so they learned
to go before floortime, and immediate after. Cobhan initiated
this protocol, and Arkham eventually followed. I was always amazed
at how much Cobhan understood what we said to him and how he truly
did care about what we thought of his behavior. Arkham became
determined to show his male dominance, however, and eventually
they had to have floortime separately, which again, made Cobhan
happy and Arkham annoyed.
really looked up to Cobhan, and Cobhan took it upon himself to
impart his knowledge and wisdom to his little friend. Cobhan and
Arkham usually talked telepathically, just sitting near their
shared cage wall or even across the room, looking at each other,
deep in thought. Cobhan taught Arkham the ways of being a guinea
pig, and now when I look at Arkham, I can see traces of Cobhan
was not only a teacher, but he was also a listener. He learned
the names of most of the vegetables and fruits he ate. I would
run down a list of what we had in the fridge, and he would jump
up when he heard what he wanted to eat. His favorites started
out as lettuce and…more lettuce. But he loved seasonal melons,
and at the end of his life, he was most fond of tomatoes and strawberries.
All food we gave him was organic. He used to take his metal veggie
bowl and toss it against his brick when it was empty and he wanted
more food. That became our REAL alarm clock in the mornings.
Note the dented
we gave him some food he loved, he would grab it out of our hands
greedily, and back up as far as he could to eat it in secret,
his head darting from side to side in what we called his “victory
I once saw him carry in his jaws an almost full slice of cantaloupe
across his cage! We
used to jokingly make a beeping noise when he would back up, because
he was such a “wide load.” He also loved the smells
of human food cooking, especially spices. He always begged for
ginger snap cookies and Spanish rice, but the only human food
I broke down and gave him were corn chips, which he also loved.
He would puff up his fur when he got food he liked, until he looked
even more round than he was already.
I took too long getting his snacks, he would scream at the top
of his lungs, sounding just as loud as a fire alarm! His little
ears would go up and down with the force of his screaming, and
he would dance around in a circle trying to see the food above
him, getting up on his hind legs to beg. He would jump against
the cage, throwing his full weight against it, and stretching
as far up as he could, chewing at the bars like a crazy piggy.
this was an act, of course. He got fed whenever he wanted, for
the most part, and whatever he wanted. He was a Oscar worthy actor,
letting us know exactly how he felt about everything. I got very
used to his language, what wheek meant what, and it was a comfort
to hear him talking.
He'd even eat a car!
was not only a big talker, but a big smiler too. He was usually
very content with his life, it seemed, always smiling, getting
into mischief. He would chew on everything and anything at least
once. He would popcorn for doing something “naughty”
which made me laugh. He loved to chew on plastic, which I always
tried to discourage him from doing, but never really succeeded.
He loved tunnels during floortime, and he would do laps up and
down the hallway, thumping on the carpet like a kid in army boots.
He knew we would not truly get angry no matter what he did, and
he would look at us out of the corner of his eye and gauge how
much trouble he could get into that day. Chewing on magazines,
plastic dropcloths, bags…or hiding the corners we could
not reach and harassing Arkham still trapped in his cage.
something scared Cobhan, he would put on a show for days in order
to get sympathy, attention, and yes, more veggies and fruits.
I always told him I knew he was putting it on, but then I’d
give him what he wanted. He hated Mondays, because the sound of
the garbage trucks scared him. Occasionally something (or nothing)
would make him scared of a certain corner of his cage, and I had
to baby him back into not being scared. He was tolerant of other
people, but preferred the company of his immediate family. He
was somewhat camera shy, and would only allow a few photos to
be taken at a time.
Pretending to be
got kind of overweight, probably about 2000 grams. His little
belly would touch the floor, but still he would sprint and dart
around in laps, through newspaper and paper bag tunnels. He was
difficult to catch and bring home because he was scared of being
picked up. We never dropped him, but he definitely had a phobia
about heights that he never fully got over, although he slowly
was overcoming it and I have no doubt that he would have given
Floortime tunnel fun.
loved art. He loved color. He had a definite opinion about color
schemes, and loved to watch me paint, but got embarrassed when
I would look over and see him looking at me. Just getting my painting
supplies together would make him excited. He used to pull brushes
out of my tub, and I took it as a sign he wanted me to paint.
I would always show him my finished product, and he would usually
(but not always!) give his approval.
liked to watch me put together my zines, and would sometimes start
tearing paper when I was folding and collating! I’d never
had a pet who so obviously appreciated art before, and that was
my special bond with Cobhan. I tried to explain to him about the
written word, and how people were simple and couldn’t communicate
telepathically, and I truly believe he understood.
also loved the houseplants. He enjoyed watching them flower, and
would get concerned if we moved them around or blocked his view
for any amount of time. He appreciated all life had to offer.
was usually carefree and playful, and his favorite toy was paper;
chewing away at his paper house, or pieces of kraft paper, which
he would throw from side to side. He was an interior designer,
moving his tube around just where he wanted it, and chewing his
paper house in a little musical rhythm until it was shaped just
like he wanted. Sometimes he would play with hay blocks, tossing
them around his cage and eating them.
The last photo
I took of Cobhan.
we were able to give each piggy a three foot by three foot cage,
however, his already established personality just flourished.
Cobhan was so ecstatic at the amount of space he had, he could
hardly believe it. The first thing he did when we put him in his
new home, was run laps. His huge body was shaking the cage as
he bolted from corner to corner, then turn around and go the other
way. He would get out of breath and just plop down to sleep wherever
he was at the time, with his eyes wide open.
Smiling in his sleep...
got to be a morning ritual for him to do laps in his cage. He
loved it when we would hold up newspaper to make tunnels for him
to add to the obstacle course. He would be so happy and popcorn
so much he would roll over on his back and get embarrassed at
not being able to control himself. It was quite a sight to see
such a big guinea pig popcorning like he was having a seizure.
Once he got his big cage, he acted even younger than Arkham!
Pat and I would sit in the kitchen to eat, we would look over
and see his little shining eyes staring at us over the top of
his cage. He would stand up and we could see his happy little
smile, and of course he would get a treat, either food or a wave
and a hello . Over the years, he had collected quite the collection
of nicknames: Cobe, Cobe-Cobe, The Cobhinator, Little Buddy, Big
Guy, Sweetie, My Friend.
the big cage, he started to chew on the fruit tree sticks that
he had usually ignored, and he loved to taunt Arkham and try to
“bite” Arkham’s nose through the shared cage
wall. He learned to make nests out of his hay, and did so almost
daily. He loved to run though the hay and make lots of intricate
little tunnels to play in. He would do half laps, taking the long
way from his haypile to his water bottle all the time. We pinned
a piece of fleece to the side of his cage and called it his blankie.
He loved to dart under that, or get under it and push it around,
or sleep under it. It was adorable to see him half covered by
his blankie and munching on hay. He had a better view of the outside
from his new cage, and he began to enjoy sitting up at his pellet
bowl and watching the world go by outside. He liked to watch the
snow fall, but he didn’t appreciate it being brought inside!
The snowcone incident.
this time, my life was very difficult. I would sit and talk with
Cobhan, and he would give me his undivided attention. I could
tell he was trying very hard to understand what I was saying to
him, and I felt that for the most part, he did understand. He
never wanted us to be upset or sad, he would be very concerned
when we would cry.
was never said that Cobhan was Pat’s pet and Arkham was
mine, but they did seem to favor us that way. When it got close
to the time for Pat to get home from work, all I had to say was
“Pat will be home soon” and Cobhan would look around
and start to figit. The moment he heard the door open, he would
come running out and say hello to Pat. He could judge just by
Pat’s body language when he had to work, and when he had
a day off, and Cobhan would get really excited when he figured
out Pat would get to stay home with the family.
after my hardships, Cobhan and I grew even closer, and I really
got to know him as he got to know me. He had always appreciated
having art to look at and good food, but I think what he appreciated
the most is that he was equal in our family. He was asked his
opinion about things, and told what was going on. I would never
leave without saying that I’d “be back soon”
or “be gone for awhile” and handing him a bowl full
of veggies. He always had felt a sense of responsibility to Arkham,
and I think he appreciated that we felt a sense of responsibility
for him, too. He liked to pretend that Arkham just annoyed him,
but when Arkham was upset or concerned about something, Cobhan
was right there, ready to help defend him or listen to his stories.
He was the same way with us, which was really touching.
long after my birthday in July of 2007 Cobhan started to whine.
We found blood in his urine and took him to the vet who diagnosed
him with a urinary tract infection. We had to give him antibiotics,
but he took them with his usual strength of character and slowly
got better. At one point he was whining almost constantly, which
was too much for me to bear. He seemed to heal up, though, and
for a week or so, he was slowly getting back to his old self.
did major laps out on the floor during floortime, he would explore
all the corners of the room, chew on plastic and cardboard (even
though I kept pushing them out of his way), jump up and beg for
food, play “show him who’s boss” with Arkham.
He was eating normally, drinking normally, and even chewing on
the fruit tree sticks again. Then one morning, he would not come
out of his hay. He would eat only small amounts, and he wouldn’t
ears, which were usually up, like an elephant, were hanging down,
and his eyes were starting to crust over. His head was tucked
under his body. We tried to bathe him, but he was so weak, he
almost drowned in a few inches of water. He would not walk around,
and he would not struggle to be picked up, even though he used
to run and hide because of his fear of heights. We took him to
the vet again, and he was diagnosed with kidney failure. The vet
also said that he was probably older than we had thought, closer
to six or seven years old at that point.
had to force feed him liquid type food, and give him more medicine.
It was horrible. He got so thin we could see his hipbones, and
he would not move, would not eat, would not drink water. The force
feeding was degrading, and I knew that he was unhappy having to
be subjected to it, but he put on a little weight, and tried his
best to eat some veggies. We had to do the force feeding and medicine
for a total of three days.
The last night Pat mashed up some bananas and strawberries for
him and we force fed him some of that. Arkham came running out
of his hay making noises I had never heard him make before, and
looking back I now think Cobhan was telepathically telling Arkham
he had decided that was the night he was going to go. He was too
proud to live like that, and he did not want to cause either Arkham
or his human friends any more suffering at his expense. With his
usual wisdom, he held out until Pat actually had a day off work,
so we could take care of everything when we had time.
night we had a violent thunderstorm and record amounts of flash
flooding. I went in to say goodnight to them as I usually did.
“Goodnight Arkham. Goodnight Cobhan. Sleep tight. I love
I went in to check on them the next morning, Cobhan was already
gone, a 'Rider on the Storm.' After a few delusions of thinking
I saw him breathe, I realized he wasn’t going to wake up.
seemed to have already made peace with it, and he was calmly drinking
water and eating his breakfast as we prepared Cobhan’s tomb.
gave Cobhan his blankie with his favorite pattern on it, his favorite
pillow, and as a burial shroud, we gave him his tie-dye tent that
he had ever since he arrived here. We made a bed of hay, gave
him a perfect organic strawberry, and I let him keep my healing
crystal that had been in his cage for the past week. We found
a nice spot in the backyard, near nightshade and violets, and
lit incense on his grave to help carry his spirit to the heavens.
was 19 August, 2007.
was a special guinea pig. He loved art, and he loved his life.
His heart knew only kindness and compassion. He loved to smile
and to bring joy to others. He will be strongly missed by all
who knew him, but never forgotten. He was wise beyond his short
years and a good friend. I know I would not be here today if not
for his support and unconditional love. He taught me patience
and he could always make my soul laugh.
love you Cobhan, and I hope we will meet again someday.
then, good journeys, my Friend.
This tribute was written by and copy right Love Beth
Drew for the memory of Cobhan.
Contact: lbd @ wearerecords.com