When I was a kid if you wanted to get a pet, you went to a breeder or a pet store and looked in a few cages or fish tanks and picked one out and passed a few dollars across a checkout counter and your pet was handed to you on a leash or in a small box with some holes punched in it. And this time-honored arrangement served me in good stead for countless pets of almost every description. Maybe sometimes the box was a plastic bag if it was an amphibian or a fish. If it was a snake, it would be a cloth bag with a knot in it to prevent it from trying to squeeze out of a flimsy box. But if it was any of the several types of rodents that I have owned; mice, rats, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs or chinchillas; there was no fanfare and definitely no discussion beyond what it ate and how to keep it from escaping.
Today I journeyed with Camera Girl across state lines to an obscure and truly annoying animal “adoption” center to be allowed to purchase two guinea pigs. The fact that guinea pigs couldn’t be found at our standard pet store was inconceivable to me. Guinea pigs like all rodents procreate at the drop of a hat. They seem to be almost literally born pregnant. How there could be a shortage of them sounded like a science fiction story plotline. But being the mild-mannered and supportive modern husband that I am I only scoffed a little and agreed to travel to the ends of the earth to procure these rare and legendary beasts.
When we got there, I had my first nasty shock. The nudnicks who ran this establishment required us to wear face masks to enter the sacred precinct. Apparently, we had entered a medical facility where lockdown protocols were in place. I asked Camera Girl if we should scrub up and put on our surgical gowns too. She nervously shushed me and we moved on. The surprising thing was that none of the highly trained animal adoption specialists were wearing masks. I found this more than a little annoying. This was the first of the little hints that I picked up that told me I was participating in a passion play. We were performing a religious ritual where the High Priestess would coach us through our roles and provide the sacrament which in our case were overweight rodents.
The various stations of the cross included discussion about why we wanted said rodents. I was tempted to relate a story about how a voice out of the sky told me to find the guinea pigs while I was mowing the lawn but I didn’t want to crab the deal. So, I let Camera Girl describe her maternal fervor to save a poor orphaned guinea pig from a life of crime. Then we had to prove that we could afford to care for these two new dependents. I wanted to say that if the present menagerie had no complaints about the regularity of meals these two new freeloaders should be willing to roll the dice with me. Once again, I bit my tongue. I cautioned myself, “Patience, patience. It will all be over soon and Camera Girl will be proud of me for being so tolerant.” So, I held my peace while she answered all questions. Credit reports were submitted, bank account statements were handed over, COVID vaccination papers were displayed. Finally, it was all over. Camera Girl followed the high priestess into the checkout area and I was left to commune with the rats while payment was made. I felt virtuous for being a compliant chump through this embarrassing and absurd ritual and the payoff was imminent.
But after twenty minutes I was still sitting there with the rodents. We had stared at each other a very long time and I could tell they were even less impressed with me than I was with them. So, I cleared my throat excused myself to them with the alibi that I would make their space in the car more comfortable and went looking for Camera Girl.
I found her at the counter with the thirty bucks still in her hand. But instead of grabbing the receipt and being on our way she was filling out a stack of paperwork and chatting amiably with the high priestess (HP) about the cutesy things that guinea pigs do when you give them human food. So, I sidled up to her and gave her a quizzical look. What I noted was that HP was handing out these forms one at a time with copious and completely unnecessary instructions on the minutia of how this information would be used to further the continuous improvement of rodent adoption.
I started glaring at Camera Girl to make it clear I was out of patience and needed to exit this building before I told HP what I really thought of the idea of “adopting” rodents. I could tell that Camera Girl guessed that I was getting close to announcing to HP that most of my rodent associates were deep frozen rats and mice and even several hamsters that I would use to feed various snakes that I have from time to time kept and that if I wasn’t allowed to get on my way Rodent A and Rodent B were in danger of ending up as dinner for some future serpent inmate at my home.
And as hoped the pace of checkout speeded up acceptably and we were out of there in another couple of minutes.
On the way out I gave Camera Girl a very detailed lecture on what was wrong with allowing women to run anything and more particularly what was wrong with allowing women to confuse animals with children in their priorities. Seriously a whole industry has grown up around the idea that dogs and cats and rats need to be rescued. But what is actually happening is that suckering these women into “fostering” animals and then suckering some other women into “adopting” them had become a scam. The shelters were hooked up with rescuers who were breeding the dogs either themselves or through some fellow scam artists and then charging the saps hundreds of dollars to save them.
I cautioned Camera Girl that from now on all rodents we purchased would be from people who didn’t name them but calculated their value by how much grain they had consumed during residence time in the system. I just don’t have the stomach for dealing with scam artists and I don’t want to encourage Camera Girl to humor these maniacs.