The most popular man on my college campus!
During my junior year in college, I ran a campus group that partnered with the local Humane Society to organize adoption and awareness events.
One day, I stood outside a nearby pet store running an event with the Humane Society director. While chatting with him, I told him I was looking to foster animals.
He said none of the dogs at the event currently needed foster homes, but a guinea pig inside the pet store was looking for a home. I abandoned my spot on the curb and sprinted inside to meet said guinea pig.
His name was Butterscotch, and he had been saved from an abusive, neglectful home. Due to mistreatment and malnourishment, he had inner ear problems that made him off-balance. Sometimes, he'd perch on the cage wires and lift his head to sniff the air, but in leaning too far backward, he would accidentally flip over.
I knew I should have asked my roommate if it was okay for me to bring home a guinea pig, but she was in class. I told the lady at the pet store I would be back.
After the adoption event, the first thing I said to my roommate when I saw her was, "Is it okay if I adopt a guinea pig?"
She of course said "yes" without knowing he would steal her heart, too.
The pet store wasn't open the next morning, but the following day I was there bright and early, concerned that someone else would snatch up that little fluff ball in an instant. Luckily for me, he was still there doing backflips.
I paid the adoption fee, bought a cage and supplies, and hurried back to my room.
While the name Butterscotch went along with the food theme from the other guinea pigs I had growing up, it didn't quite fit this little guy's character. He looked like a Gus. A friend of mine suggested "Gus" could be short for "Asparagus" and so my new miniature friend was dubbed Asparagus Butterscotch - Gus for short.
I always joke that Gus was the most popular man on my college campus. He often came with me to the student union. He was also a part of a school presentation, a costumed member in my university's haunted house (the tiger shark to my sea urchin), and the subject of a behavior science project.
With plenty of TLC, good dieting, and exercise, Gus's inner ear problem slowly subsided and he stopped doing acrobatics in his cage. His sass, however, remained.
One time, during a mid-semester break, I fell asleep with Gus on my family's couch without bangs and woke up with bangs. The little rascal had chewed my hair while I slept. I went through a headband phase in college to pull back my coiffured duck feathers.
Since my college days, Gus has joined me on many travels, making the move all the way down to the Florida Keys. He made friends with dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, birds, and turtles - and in all honesty, he was my best friend.
Guinea pigs are by far my favorite animal, and I can't wait to have one again some day soon. The next piggle, though, has some big shoes to fill.
All photos via Stacey Venzel
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