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Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Spotlight: Elise Chidley

Thoughts About Little Furry Things in Cages

You can learn a lot from observation of domestic rodents, I find. Take hamsters. A caged hamster spends his entire (short) life searching for a way out into the wide world. Day and night, he scrabbles at the bars with his claws, and gnaws at the wire with his buck teeth. He lives only to escape. Sometimes he fantasizes that he has escaped, and that’s when you see him on his wheel, running like hell, the wind in his fur, a frenzied look in his pink eyes.

Guinea pigs, on the other hand, feel safest and happiest behind bars. Leave the door open for a guinea pig and he will peer cautiously over the edge, and then scurry back to a far corner of the cage, there to consult fearfully with his peers. As they huddle together, eyeballing the opening in obvious terror, you feel compelled to put them out of their misery by closing the door. Guinea pigs don’t give a hoot about the big world out there. They live for good food and good conversation. In a pinch, even bad food and the rattle of a clothes dryer will do.

If a hamster escapes, he can sometimes be found months later living a dangerous life inside somebody’s mattress, happy as Larry. But most often, he’s found days later, a stiff and malodorous corpse.

At a certain point, you ask yourself which species of rodent you most resemble—the hamster whose motto is live free or die; or the bon vivant guinea pig, content with his recycled-newspaper lot in life.

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