Friends Can Be Animals and Friends Can Be Squeaky

If you have the privilege of having a furry friend, squeaky or not, you understand the bad bad days when you walk in the door and have that friend go crazy to see your face and hear your voice. Immediately, they get cray like your own personal cheerleading squad. "YAAAAAY!!!! YOU'RE HEEEEEERE!!!! I LOVE YOU JUST BECAUSE YOU EXIST!!!!!" That's a lot of wagging, meowing, jumping on you, or in Oatmeal's case, squeaking.

I know it's because he thinks we have food, but when you start feeding that little nugget, he knows your voice, smell, face and gets super excited when he sees, smells or hears you. "WHEEEEK!!" And he prances around his cage, kicking his back legs like a little furry mule, and sometimes he moves around his log house, like he's clearing space for you to sit down. When you open the side door, he perches there, sticks out his nose and nuzzles your nose if you get close to him. It literally makes my day.

Paul and I were cleaning out Oatmeal's cage Sunday and, like idiot guinea parents, trusted him to lay on his towel on the floor while Paul fed him spinach. He sat there munching on his snack, drooling green slime then decided to start hopping like a little bunny. We thought this was funny. "Let him," Paul says. "He needs to stretch his legs." He hopped a little passed his towel and I got nervous. "He's fine," Paul said. It didn't take long for Oatmeal to take off underneath the futon, far enough just out of reach. He stood there, a big round lollipop of fuzz, and took turns staring at us and hopping back and forth. This went on for about 15 minutes until finally he waddled back and let me pick him up.

"You're going to be the "fun" dad, aren't you?" I said to Paul.

He just shrugged and smiled.

I swear Oatmeal was grinning with the equivalent of a KoolAid mustache but it was green from all the spinach. And having a spinached-faced guinea smile at you makes your heart swell ten times bigger.

I have a student who has a lot of social issues. He'll get really sad sometimes and repeats, "I got no friends" a lot. He will lay on the floor face down and play "possum." He'll get back up eventually, but very slowly and mopey. I always remind him that Oatmeal is his friend and we talk about how Oatmeal makes us all happier.

"You know when you say good morning to Oatmeal and he comes over and sniffs you?"
"That means he likes you talking to him."
"Yeah Oatmeal's cute. I like him."
It's sometimes the only way I can get him not to be a possum anymore.

A 3rd grade teacher down the hall used to come in and talk to Oatmeal in the morning. "How's my little guy?" She would talk to him about everything, from her job to how she was feeling. She said it was the best part of her morning. The night custodian started buying Oatmeal snacks and whenever he heard her wheeling the garbage can into the room, he started squeaking up a storm. Sometimes she would leave carrots for the morning.

It's kind of crazy how many lives Oatmeal has made better. It sounds so silly, but I've had a tough year and I wonder how much worse it would've been if Oatmeal wasn't around to squeak and nuzzle and smile green smiles at me. What if I invented a pet therapy business where I packed up Oatmeal in his carrier and visited schools with more kids with possum tendencies? I would let them pet Oatmeal and tell them that Oatmeal will be their friend forever because his tiny guinea heart is bigger than most and he has room for them all and a stomach that can hold a mountain of veggies. Is that possible? I'd like to think so.

Oatmeal and I could be a pretty good team.

I may or may not have already created a theme song.....