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Once upon a time there were two Disc Jockey guinea pigs living in Los Angeles. Well, the guinea pigs were named after the D.J.s. because the D.J.s were pretty cool. It was the Mark & Brian Show. The namesake Guinea Pig pair lived together as “Mark and Brian”. No one knew which one was Mark and which was Brian because they were one and the same until the day I photographed them.
My friend and I settled on calling the brown one “Brian” and the other fluffier guinea pig “Mark”. Mark was never featured, maybe because it was Brian that got the model expression just right. Brian the Guinea Pig’s greeting card resonated with many people: “Things go my way whenever I shriek and look bewildered”. I thought it was just my life, but apparently many others could look into Brian’s boggled eyes and relate to these words even without having a syndicated radio show.
Mark and Brian (the guinea pigs) ended up living with another guinea pig named Sunshine. The three guinea pigs moved into a sunny house with a bunch of turtles, a few cats and a tortoise. They were “rescue pets”. America’s rescue pets happen for all sorts of reasons. Someone couldn’t clean the cage anymore, someone was moving, someone’s kid had left home. Someone didn’t have time or was overwhelmed by other parts of life. Or in the case of Mark and Brian’s fellow housemate, a re-homed tortoise, he had gone from hatchling to 80 pounds (I’ll write about him next time).
Like all guinea pigs, Mark, Brian and Sunshine ate well. Squealing whenever they heard the refrigerator open, they were partial to parsley and red leaf lettuce. They were obsessed with kale in that freaky way that some people are obsessed with kale. They liked chill out remixes and on several occasions they were the subject of my elaborate photo shoots.
Around the same time, in the same way some people are obsessed with kale, I was obsessed with vintage campers. I drove down to the Turquoise Trail Campground and watched the glampers which inspired the famous Guinea Pig “Airstream” Greeting Card. Maybe I was just envious of the retirees, but so was everyone else. Brian and Sunshine created to me what is the pivotal RV couple. Yes, the silver trailer featured is actually a Silverstreak for those of you who know you’re campers. But let’s just call it an Airstream for the sake of the story and wild guinea pig retirement on the great American road trip.
Guinea Pigs are often recommended as an easy pet for kids, but be forewarned; with an abundance of their favorite foods, your child’s guinea pig can live eight blissful squeaky years. This far exceeds the lifetime of a hamster averaging just two years, three for the hearty guys. Gerbils fall in between with an average lifespan of four or five years. Determine your pet commitment level accordingly, remembering that guinea pigs are delightful, spunky little animals.
Almost all kids will do just about anything to have a pet. I can still remember the name of my ex-boyfriend’s childhood guinea pig, “Chocolate Bear”. Years ago, always the kid wanting another pet, I paid the neighbor kids $10 for their two burgeoning guinea pig family babies. Initially my parents didn’t need to know. I was already committed, holding the furry critters on my lap by the time my parents arrived home. “Look new pets…the $10 is non-refundable”. Besides, my friend wanted at least one guinea pig anyway. I kept the other and named her “Corduroy”.
Lucky for my parents, I was the kid that actually spent Saturdays cleaning elaborate galactic space station hamster houses and guinea pig hide-aways. Corduroy the guinea pig had long fluffy hair and big cow licks. She was one happy long-lived guinea pig who hung out with my golden retriever and scurried around the yard. Even if a bird of prey circled, my golden retriever was standing guard as if an affable golden retriever really was going to save the day.
Corduroy shunned traditional guinea pig food, those bland lifeless pellets. She refused to eat such standard fare unless it was the kind with the colorful tasty bits. The latter she voraciously gobbled eating around lackluster pellets. She would rather stand around shrieking for another bushel of parsley.
Corduroy ate salads bigger than her entire body. Just imagine devouring a salad the size of a front door in a few hours. You’ll just never eat your greens the way a guinea pig does, unless you juice a heck of a lot of chard, kale, wheatgrass spinach and all the other veggies that cram into a blended concoction.
Sometimes even adults love little pets. It’s something we never out grow. This was the case of Brian, Mark and Sunshine Guinea Pig. I was thankful to have a friend with a menagerie of great pets and whenever I visited I almost always took photographs.
There’s a special art to photographing animals; making weird sounds, clucking like a chicken, meowing, whatever it takes to embarrass oneself. These are things I do in my spare time, peering through one of the last view finders that isn’t a smart phone. I can shriek about photography later in the same way Brian the Guinea Pig taught me. For a couple guinea pigs, shrieking is the philosophy to live by. If you learn one thing from a guinea pig, it’s to shriek your way through life and get what you need.
I don’t know where Mark and Brian the D.J’s are today, but know that a couple happy guinea pigs lived well in your name.