Saturday, February 06, 2010


I recently realized that, considering all I’ve written about the Muriels Awards in the past four years, I’ve written precious little about the inspiration for their name. For those of you who don’t know, the name for the Muriels came from that of my little guinea pig, who I’d bought a few months prior to getting these awards started. And while the Muriels name was originally intended as a placeholder until a better suggestion came along, I think it’s worked out pretty well, don’t you?

But what about Muriel herself? This past year has been an eventful one for us, which has gotten me thinking about the effect she’s had on my life. Back in October, Muriel had some health problems, which I discovered when I found that her eye was glazed over and swollen. In most small animals, the only thing that can be done for this is to remove the eye. Unfortunately, the pain from the infected eye was affecting her appetite as well, her weight began to drop, and the veterinarian refused to perform the surgery on Muriel until her weight level began to rise again, for fear that other complications would arise from the operation.

As you can imagine, this was a difficult time in my life. I tried to do everything I could to get Muriel to eat, but nothing worked. Not eating for a guinea pig is especially dangerous, since their digestive tract must remain active at all times, and if their digestive cycle stops altogether then it’s almost impossible to start it back up again. Finally, I rushed her to the veterinary hospital where they were able to feed her some special solutions to rev up her appetite, but it was pretty touch-and-go up to that point. The drive to the hospital was especially hard, as I drove with one hand on the wheel and the other trying to comfort her, fearing that this might be the last time we spend together.

It was then that it dawned on me just how important this little rodent had become in my life. I first bought Muriel on Halloween back in 2006, when I was in a fairly rough spot. Only a few months before, I had moved back to Columbus after living in Akron for a year for family-related reasons. I had spent most of the time since I graduated from college trying (and failing) to make it as a writer, and I had finally buckled down and was trying something less exciting but more stable. But all I had going on back then was work, plus the occasional movie, and I decided I needed something to liven up my home life. A pet was in order, and having cared for guinea pigs when I was a kid, buying a guinea pig was the obvious choice.

Since that time, Muriel and her friends Victoria and Charlotte (who joined the family later) have seen me through a lot. I’ve been able to make a new path for my self in the last 3 ½ years. I’ve got a pretty good job, and I’m back in school to help me get a better one. And I’ve met a woman I love, and we’ve got our own little family, of which Muriel and friends are de facto members. I won’t say that none of these things would have been possible without Muriel, but I believe that taking care of a pet helps us to think outside ourselves, and I think that having to be responsible for Muriel has helped me to become more responsible in other aspects of my life as well.

And if nothing else, she’s given me plenty of laughter and animal companionship. I wouldn’t say that Muriel is my favorite of my three guinea pigs, but I’ve always enjoyed a much closer relationship with her than with Victoria or Charlotte. It’s more than simply the fact that I adopted her first- it’s that Victoria and Charlotte have always been close, whereas Muriel is more or less a loner, so she seems to enjoy spending time with me much more than the other two. Additionally- and I realize how odd this sounds, considering how small guinea pigs are- but she really does have an engaging personality (so to speak). She’s ornery as hell- as you may have seen from the pictures I post here, she chomps on the cage bars whenever she’s ready to eat- and she’s also much more excitable than the other two. But she’s also very affectionate, loves to be held, and has even made friends with our strange little pug.

All in all, I think Muriel has worked out better than I could have hoped when I first adopted her, and I’m looking forward to many more years both with her and with the awards that bear her name. Steve Carlson will be posting the winners over at his site beginning tomorrow- hope to see you there.

1 comment:

sartre said...

That is a very touching and well written reflection on your relationship with Muriel. I like how you have grown to better appreciate her subtle yet important impact on your life.