Take Your Pills Today? Thank a Guinea Pig

Take your lithium today? Thank a guinea pig. Taking something for asthma? Thank a guinea pig. Free from tuberculosis? Benefited from those new heart valves, a blood transfusion, kidney dialysis? You owe your gratitude to the guinea pig. These loving, gentle rodents have contributed to 23 Nobel prizes for medicine or physiology.

Yesterday as the vet jabbed my daughter's terrified, squealing and squirming guinea pigs with
ivermectin to help them heal from mites, I wondered about the number of humans who have benefited from medical research performed on this species of friend over the years. The answer: too many to count.

Turn around is fair play, I thought after my dad dropped me, Adella, and our half-brother guineas Tapper and Delmo at home after the appointment. (He had come with us as much-needed moral support.) They deserve some medical benefit from all the knowledge we have pulled out of their little bodies, I thought. And they go it, though not without their loud and active protest. The effect was almost immediate. They settled down, ate, and resumed their former roles as Alpha Mouse (Tapper, the bigger of the two) and the Little Guy (Delmo, who is very tolerant of his me-first brother).

Though researchers have used guinea pigs to find ways to balance bipolar minds, clear lungs, and repair various systems of human plumbing to lengthen and improve human life, there's plenty about a guinea pig that can improve your life without even cutting him open or poisoning him. Consider these.

A lesson in mental health: be kind to a guinea pig, and he will be your friend. Stroke him and he will purr. Set him on your lap, and he will share warmth with you. It's give and take. No head games.

Another lesson in mental heath: guinea pigs know they need each other. Separate them, and they will call for each other. No head games.

Yet another lesson in mental health: guinea pigs accept each other. They figure out who's Alpha Mouse and go with the flow. It's simple. No head games.
More: guinea pigs enjoy safe places. Take them out of the cage, and they will find a safe place under a table or chair. No need to show off.
And this one
: when strange things happen to your body and you need extra care from a doctor, the little human who has a heart like your own will hold you and comfort you until your teeth stop chattering. Life is life and love is love. There's no ranking system in a healthy heart.

The words of a friend--a counselor--came to mind yesterday as I unwound from the trip to the vet's. He advised me not to ascribe human emotions to animals. I don't think I would make that mistake; I don't know very many humans who add up to this kind of healthy or who can give so much and expect so little in return.

Related: The Rodents in my Life
and Facts of Life a la the Rodent Men


  1. Anonymous1:20 PM

    A sensitive, caring, and oh so true post. People can learn a lot of lessons from watching animals. It's too bad the people who need to learn don't take the time to.

  2. As a horse woman I can so relate to your words! On the other hand, I became a more compassionate, forgiving and powerful woman the day I decided to treat people with the same considerations with which I treat animals.... Very humbling.

    Great blog! I look forward to reading more!


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