When I was about seven years old, my mom surprised my brother and me with two pet guinea pigs when we arrived home from school. It was my first time having a pet that was not a dog, so it was new and exciting for my whole family. However, at such a young age, I did not take the best care of them and relied on my mom to do most of the work. I quickly fell in love with my guinea pigs but once they passed away, my brother and I decided we did not want to adopt more due to our young ages and busy schedules.
After I went off to college, I had a difficult time coping without my two dogs with me all the time. Once I had my own room and space in an apartment, I instantly knew I needed an animal to help me get through each day and help me stay focused, happy and motivated. It was such a long time since owning a guinea pig, but I knew it was what I needed in my life; despite no one agreeing with me. I was told that it would be too much work, too expensive, and too distracting to succeed in my classes. Of course, I considered those factors, but I still held a strong desire to adopt a pet of my own.
On December 26th, 2018, my mom and I spent the day together which included a stop at the pet shop to strictly look at guinea pigs. I was told we were just going to look so I could get a feel for what kind of guinea pig I would want when the time came to adopt one. We probably went to six different stores before we calling it quits and started heading home. However, we passed a PetSmart on our way home and I asked to make a quick stop there to look at all the animals. My mom and I walked in and went separate ways, she went to search for bedding for our hedgehog and I went towards the guinea pigs.
The first guinea pig I laid my eyes on was in a cage by himself running around in circles like a ball of energy. His coloring was black and white, but the black fur made it look like he had a small pair of pants on, which made him even cuter. He was also the only guinea pig on sale for a discounted price. I am still unsure as to why, but it was heartbreaking. Maybe he was there for a while because no one picked him to take home. Of course, I asked an employee if I could hold him and as soon as he was in my arms, he ran up my shoulder and got tangled in my hair. This resulted in the employee untangling him from my locks for about five minutes. I was a bit apprehensive to adopt him at this point because he seemed a tad bit crazy, but I saw it as a sign that he was begging to be taken to a loving home. Needless to say, I adopted him without even telling my mom. She eventually found me signing his adoption papers at the front of the store while she was getting ready to walk out.
It took me a while to think of a name for this little guy. My mom, sister and I were all throwing names back and forth, but I chose to name him Chester for West Chester University. His full name is Chester Mac Hartranft, Mac for Mac Miller, and he is a carrot-loving, finger kissing, guinea pig who completely stole my heart.
Chester was very shy during the first few weeks at his new home, but that was expected since guinea pigs are prey animals with the instinct to hide from everything. However, this did not last long. He is very different from how a normal guinea pig acts in a couple of ways. As soon as he hears a footstep from anywhere in the house, he runs up to the side of his cage waiting to be pet or picked up and cuddled with. People get upset when they hear things like this, but he also loves running around the living room with my two dogs; under supervision of course. You would think it would be the dogs chasing after Chester, but it is the other way around. Chester chases the dogs out of the room. Sometimes it is as if Chester acts more like a dog than a guinea pig. He enjoys playing with dog toys and then falling asleep on them in the middle of the floor or stealing a toy from one of the dogs while they are playing with it. He is a socialized piggy, which the vet even commented on saying they never met a guinea pig that acts or is as well-behaved like him.
Chester is a registered emotional support animal and helped me tremendously through tough times. I may or may not have hidden him in an apartment before, but we will not get into that. Whenever I am feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or upset, he never fails to cheer me up. He has been a lifesaver and it made me realize that I made the right decision in adopting him even though others advised me not to. If I did not have him, I do not know what my life would be like today. He motivated me to do my best, so I can provide for him in buying fresh vegetables weekly, fun toys for him to play with, and vet visits when necessary.
Guinea pigs’ teeth grow continuously, so it is important to give them unlimited hay and toys to chew on to wear them down as to not get too long. I go out of my way to buy him fun toys off of Etsy but when I give them to him, he plays with them for a minute then acts like they do not exist. Little did I know, small Dixie cups are his favorite toy. He will sit there and flip it, roll it, and chew it for 20 minutes. A small $5 box of 100 cups makes him happier than the handmade $15 toys ever will, but do I still buy the expensive toys hoping he will eventually get a kick out of them? Absolutely.
Without a doubt, I am a crazy guinea pig mom. I am always in his face with a camera because every move he makes is adorable and I just cannot get enough of him. He may be tiny, but he sure is mighty and powerful. He has me wrapped around his finger making it that I do not own Chester, but he owns me. If he makes one tiny squeak from his cage and I go running to him with his favorite treat, chopped green peppers. If he starts chewing on the bars of his cage, I go over and open the door for him to go in his playpen. When he sneezes once, I drop everything and race to the vet. I even made him his own guinea pig Instagram account (@its.wheeking.chester) where I post all of the cute photos and videos I capture.
To any college students or non-college students debating if they should adopt an animal of their own, as long as you can financially support them, do it. People may doubt your ability to manage your time to give them the proper care, but if you are as dedicated and well-educated as me, you will do amazing and it will change your life for the better. If you are interested in adopting a pet, definitely check out Petfinder.com to find animals looking for a forever home.
Chester, thank you for stealing my heart. I wish you could understand how much I adore you – I love you to infinity and beyond, Chester Wester.