"Mommy, can we bring Zoe home from preschool?" Sunshine asked me from her car seat behind mine in the Jeep one afternoon while we were driving home.
Picturing her favourite Sesame Street character, I said, "Toys stay at the preschool. You have a Zoe doll at home to play with."
Sunshine kept talking and slowly I connected "Zoe" with something about a mouse. "Oh," I asked, "is Zoe the preschool mouse? We get to bring her home in a few weeks. Do you like her?"
"Yes," Sunshine said. "She's white."
Picturing a little white mouse, I was surprised a few weeks later by the size of the cage. Zoe, I discovered, was Sunshine's way of saying "Rosie." I loaded her pail of shavings into the Jeep when I dropped Sunshine off at preschool. After preschool, Sunshine carried Rosie's pail of pellets, Lily carried the water bottle, and I carted the cage. It just barely fit on the front seat of the Jeep. Once at home, I settled Rosie onto the blanket chest (which makes a great side-table) in our dining room and took off the cover of her cage.
Rosie was clearly not a small white mouse, but rather a light brown guinea pig with big brown eyes and a patch of hair missing on her back, revealing her black skin. She displayed her long teeth while chewing on the bars of her cage, and I read quickly down the list of "Rules for Rosie" to find out what we could feed her. Cucumber every other day (not very nutritional), pinkie-sized carrot once a day, very little pepper (too much calcium), broccoli was fine. Great, I had some broccoli.
The girls enjoy sitting beside Rosie, watching her. Lily says "hi, hi, hi" to her and Sunshine always wants to feed her. On Sunday afternoon, while I was canning pears, I found it quite companionable to have a little guinea pig watching me (and eating a few pear peelings). The smell of her shavings reminds me of the lambs and chicks I used to raise as a child, but I never had anything like a guinea pig. Late one night, as I dared to pet Rosie's soft fur after giving her some pellets, she whistled softly at me.
Tomorrow, Rosie goes back to the preschool. Technically, we're not allowed pets here, but I enjoyed seeing how the girls reacted to Rosie. So far, Rosie has held their attention longer than Siam-I-Am (who is now demonstrating that it's a good thing beta fish are hardy, as I try to feed him every morning... or every other morning...) and been a good way to teach them about feeding pets and being gentle. Maybe someday we'll take care of her again.