Home / Life / Rabbit. Hamster. Guinea Pigs. Chinchilla. Dog!

Rabbit. Hamster. Guinea Pigs. Chinchilla. Dog!

If you were to go back just eighteen months I’d have never thought I’d be a dog owner. If you go back far enough it’d probably be safe to say it would have been odd to think I’d own a pet. Too much responsibility. Despite this we have accumulated a rabbit, two hamsters on two different occasions, a pair of guinea pigs and a chinchilla.

Then Daisy entered the home thirteenth months ago.

A Low Responsibility Life

There was a good long while I never thought we’d have pets. This was because we (this will become I at some point, it’s odd at the moment) tended to live a relatively low responsibility lifestyle. We’ve never had kids, primarily because we were happy with each other and were a just a bit to selfish regarding the responsibility. I tended to have a company car if you go back far enough, purely because it meant it was someone else’s problem. If If I’d ever managed to figure out how it would work in old age I’d have probably rented rather than owned a home for similar reasons.

Similarly, our first experiment with a pet, the rabbit, shortly after we got married and moved into our first home, didn’t last long. Cleaning it out was a pain. Letting it run around the house was more annoying than fun. Yes, we could have left it in the cage, but then this didn’t feel like doing it right, and if we were going to do anything it add to have some sort of ‘return’ in enjoyment or what was the point?

The rabbit went to a better home.

Bella and Elpha Wheels

I’m having trouble remembering if the two hamsters came after the guinea pigs or if one was before them and one after? I think Bella Wheels was before the guinea pigs and Elpha Wheels was after Buddy Mouse. Memory is vague. It doesn’t really matter. We were very lucky with the hamsters, as those Syrian hamsters can be quite…peculiar, but the two we had were as soft as anything and didn’t mind being handled. We got black bear hamsters, initially because the black one just looked different, but afterwards we found out, as a breed, they can be more placid and friendly so this was a good thing.

We had good fun with them, letting them zoom around in the ball, walking around the kitchen tops or even the living room since it was pretty secure in terms of holes they could get lost in. One of them, I forget which, did manage to get into the base of the sofa and needed rescuing. I suspect she was enjoying it immensely as both of them had a propensity to try and escape or investigate the boundaries of any location or ‘container’ they found themselves in.

They seemed to be the consummate escape artists. At least they had delusions of grandeur in this regard.

Grey Lad and Big Ginge

The two guinea pigs we had were great. I chose a grey one we called Grey Lad and Louise chose a ginger one we called Big Ginge. They got handled that much they stopped acting like guinea pigs and started acting like small dogs. They weren’t timid, they’d come to the cage door to be scooped up. Once when Grey Lad was at the vet he couldn’t believe how unlike a guinea pig he acted. This was largely due to the fact they’d be often be out and with us while we watched TV in the evening rather than being left in the cage.

The death of Grey Lad was my first traumatic pet experience. It really hit me hard when he got ill. In retrospect we should have just had him ‘put to sleep’ earlier, but he did keep deluding us into thinking he was getting better. He wasn’t, he obviously had something akin to cancer going on inside. There was a period of time I was effectively his carer, trying to make sure he was as comfortable as possible every evening. It was really upsetting when the final decision came and the vet decided, albeit we had gone with the intention of insisting, to put him to sleep. It was horrible.

Big Ginge lived much longer, though he spent some of it without his back legs working. There was a period of time we also became his carers, periodically cleaning him, taking him out of the cage every evening, etc. He very much died of old age.

These were the first pets we got seriously attached to. It’s not that we weren’t attached to the hamsters, but they’re small, live on a different cycle to you and generally only last 18-months. These factors tend to diminish the impact when they die. We were attached to them so much we never got more guinea pigs, I think we unconsciously decided Grey Lad and Big Ginge were our guinea pig experience and there was no need to try it again with another pair which wouldn’t be the same.

Buddy Mouse!

Buddy Mouse wasn’t even a mouse, he was a Chinchilla. He was also a totally unexpected pet. Louise went out one day for a totally unrelated purpose, rang me from the car on her return to tell me she had something she needed help with and, out of nowhere, bang, a supposedly blind, deaf and albino chinchilla entered the home.

She’d been in pets at home and been given a sob story on how the poor fella needed a home. I wasn’t sure at first, he was an angry bugger when he first arrived. Like some white, squatting demon just waiting to jump at your throat and kill you like those rabbits on Monty Python’s The Holy Grail. This was a bit worrying since Chinchillas live for ages!

Once he settled down though Buddy Mouse was great. He became very friendly. We’d just open the cage every evening and he’d run around the living room like a mad thing, the source of us finding it hard to believe he was blind. While we’re sure what he’d done was memorise the room, every so often we weren’t sure. He did have a weird way of cocking his head as if directing his good ear or eye at things. He never soiled the carpet, he just jumped back into his cage for that. It was funny.

Unfortunately, he started to get a problem with his teeth which meant he’d get wet fur, which they don’t like and he’d obsessively try and ‘clean’ it. He could no longer drink properly. An operation was needed to sort this out and one would be needed periodically moving forward. He went for the first one, survived it fine, and when he woke up panicked, had a heart attack and died. This upset Louise a lot as she’d offered to come out of work and be there when he woke up but the vet said it should be fine. I guess, a small part of us wondered if he’d sensed a familiar presence he might have survived his time at the vets.

We like to think he had a relatively short time with us, but a good one considering his handicaps.

Enter Daisy Dog

Despite the pets we’d had over the years I never thought we’d own a dog. That was a pet upgrade of a substantial order. It involved walking it. It was harder to deal with when you went on holiday, and traditionally holidays and being able to go away at a moments notice had been a big thing. I’ll admit it was Louise that maintained the momentum around this decision. I wanted to take a bit longer and see what the options were. She did the initial visits at the dogs trust (we had decided the trauma of a puppy was too much) and the initial ‘get to know each other’ walks, etc. Luckily, once Daisy arrived I found myself between contracts, a status I was happy with for some time, which worked out well as I got to spend a lot of time with Daisy.


There has been significant benefits to Daisy being in our, and now my life, and these have intensified over the last three months as we’ve shared the house without a third occupant. The obvious one is exercise. I wouldn’t be going for a walk every evening if it wasn’t for Daisy. The three of us had some great walks along the beach and the odd longer trip we took her on. Now I’m on my own I’d be deluding myself if I said I’d be out on walks without the dog. This is not only good for my health, it also gets me out with the camera, which is a £500 item I don’t use enough anyway, I’d be not using it at all if I didn’t have Daisy. I’ve even purchased stuff that helps me carry and use the camera conveniently when I’m out with the dog!

It’s not just physical exercise, without doubt Daisy has contributed to my mental health over the last three months considerably. I’ll not be going into the details, but living on my ‘own’ through July, August and September was difficult, intensely difficult during the first two months, it started to normalise in September and I’m now ‘sort of getting comfortable with it’. There are numerous things that got me through this, which is probably another blog, but Daisy is undoubtedly one of them. The dog was someone to hold conversations with, even though I was having them with myself. She reduced stress by being there when I was upset. It was, in some strange way, like I wasn’t living alone. I find it hard to imagine what it would have been like without the dog in the house, I just know it would have been more difficult.

It’s interesting because the relationship myself and Daisy have has significantly changed over the past three months, because of the reasons above and the practical issue that she now only has one clear other occupant in the house that looks after her. It’s grown stronger, and it’s just different. She wants to be closer than she used to be. If I sit on the sofa in the evening she lays beside me on it. When I go to bed she sleeps in the same bed. She’s got to the point now when she actually indicates she wants to go to bed, seems to be around 2200, and indicates it’s time for me to sleep as well. It’s a 1001 other smaller things. It’s a bit weird, it’s like we’ve been through something together. This sounds very…odd, now I’ve written it down. It’s fascinating, interesting and reassuring.

The Future

What the future will be in terms of pets I have no idea. There is a lot more up in the air than that currently. Nothing new will happen while Daisy in the house, she is enough on the pet front. She’s laid out on her dog bed in the ‘office room’, snoring behind me as I write this. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s going to be like when she leaves this mortal coil, for a very short period I was a wreck when Grey Lad went!

Hopefully, that’s a good while away.

About Ian O'Rourke

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