How Eno found Us

Murphy MartImage courtesy of V.W.H. Campbell Jr.

In the early 1980's, variety stores like this Murphy's in McKeesport, Pennsylvania would often have a small pet department in the back. The G.C. Murphy chain of five and dime stores no longer exists.

I first saw Eno at Murphy’s Mart department store. I had not been looking for a new animal friend and I hadn’t had a guinea pig since I was fourteen and lost my dear little Knish.

My friend Jodi and I were off goofing around while our boyfriends were practicing with their band. There wasn’t much to do in McKeesport, Pennsylvania in the early 1980’s, and we pretty much had done most of it one evening.  We decided to go for a walk around the aisles of the local Murphy’s.

In the back of the store they had a tiny pet department of the sort one (thankfully) doesn’t see very often anymore.   Crowded fish, sleepy hamsters, hermit crabs that may or may not have actually been alive.  (Who could tell. They were shells.) On the bottom row, an aquarium with cedar chips*. As we passed this section suddenly a broad black snout popped out at us from the top of the bottom aquarium, then two bright twinkling eyes.  I crouched down to look at what we had here: a beautiful young Abyssinian guinea pig!  He was up on his hind feet, just stretching up to get our attention.  I was able to scritch him on the top of the head as he looked up at me with that please-take-me-with-you look.  I was smitten. Who doesn’t know this feeling?

On the way back home from practice that night I could not stop thinking about this little animal who spoke to me. I kept a lid on it and didn’t mention him to Bob, my boyfriend, as we lived in an apartment whose rules we were already flouting with a pair of white doves. Plus, we worked all day and were out in McKeesport several nights a week for practice, we wouldn’t have time to give a guinea pig the deserved attention he required.

Eno OutsideImage courtesy of Alena

Eno spending some time outside.

But one day, about a week later, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I carefully brought up the guinea pig that had reached out and grabbed my heart at Murphy’s. Bob was reluctant to give an opinion. Actually, he avoided the subject as best he could. He did not want this rat, no matter how cute I said it was.

Well folks, we all know how this story ends; I did talk him into getting our new friend.  I went to the store, heart in my throat at the thought that he might be gone, but there he was, waiting. The employee wasn’t too crazy about having to reach in to get him for me, as he tore round and round the aquarium to avoid her grasp, flinging wood chips and poo every where. She refused my offer to catch him.

The band was making a recording that night, so I took the Heinz pickle carton containing my new buddy right over to the studio. Bob opened the box and looked in. I was sure he would smile, nod, say something kind and go back to his bass, but instead he reached right in and picked the cavy up. He was surprised at what he saw, since he thought all along I was getting a tiny, wiggly hamster. (Tsk!) I will never forget the look on his face.

Eno BlanketImage courtesy of Alena

Eno on his blanket.

We named him Eno after Brian Eno, the master of interesting electronic noises, which seemed like the sound that guineas make.  We took him everywhere: to practice, the store, for rides in the country and walks in the park.  He only lived in the cage a few weeks when he let us know that he would be happy to potty on a piece of newspaper in exchange for the opportunity to live free on the carpet.

We didn’t know it at the time, but Eno was the start of something that would affect our future.  From the day Bob lifted that squeaky furball out of that pickle box, we would be hooked on his species. We have since learned a lot about guinea pig care thanks to wonderful Facebook friends and from Guinea Pig Today, and look forward to the day we get another pig, as we have been without one for a while now.  Somewhere out there are two pigs looking for their forever home**.

* Aquariums and cedar chips are not recommended for your cavy. This was once common practice but there are now better ways to house your guinea pig. We suggest a C&C cage with CareFresh bedding or fleece.

** Guinea pigs are available from rescues and shelters now more than ever. Please consider adopting a guinea pig before purchasing one at a store.


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Alena Loiselle

Alena has been entertaining her friends via e-mailed stories and anecdotes for about a decade now. She lives in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area with her husband and her cat, who vie for position of best friend. It depends on who offers to do the dishes first.

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One Response to “How Eno found Us”
  1. Alena Loiselle says:

    The Story of Lou and Sterling
    In the spring of 2010, it had been almost two years since my husband and I had lost our dear guinea pig, Mingus. We were ready to go out and adopt when Bob lost his job at Border’s Books due to the chain closing down. We were crushed, but knew it would be irresponsible to bring a new family member into the house when our income was unsure. So, we decided it best to put it off until a new job came along. In the meantime we enjoyed watching and reading about other guinea pigs via Facebook and Guinea Pig Today.
    We had already picked out names. Lou and Sterling were to be named after Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison of the band The Velvet Underground. We often name our companions after musicians. By fall of that year, Bob was hired at a new job and we knew we could start looking for new guinea pigs soon. We wanted to get ones as young as possible, but none of the shelters in our area (the closest one in our area was almost an hour from home) had babies.
    We finally found a shelter in Huntingdon, Pa., over a two hour drive from our house. They had taken in several litters with the mothers. It seems someone bought the little families at a livestock auction and had a mind to sell them to a big box pet store. When the pet store turned this “enterprising” woman down, she put them all in a box and left them out on her front porch. This was in December.
    We made plans on the weekend of my 50th birthday to drive to the neighboring town of Altoona, get a room for the night, and fulfill the required two day visit it took to adopt. We saw photos of the little guys, but were anxious to see them in person.
    We arrived at the A B & C Small Animal Shelter in Huntingdon around seven that night, and was greeted by Brooke, who we had been in touch with via e-mails for almost a month. It was a clean, bright space, and all of the animals seemed to be happy and have plenty of room. Still, it hurt my heart to think that so many little beasts needed homes. Rabbits, rats, ferrets, hamsters, guinea pigs and a couple of cats all looked up hopefully.
    It was cage cleaning time, and all the piggies were in pens on the floor. We picked up, cuddled and inspected several of the little fellows, and soon came to learn which one was Lou (the tough little feisty squirmy one), and which was Sterling (the bigger, gentler one). They were brothers from the same litter.
    Soon they were back in our hotel room. We couldn’t believe they were finally here! We knew it was going to take a lot to get them to calm down; after all they had only just been born that November and were still wary of us giant humans. That night we slept, lightly, with the familiar sounds of guinea pigs in a cage nearby.
    They are now happily living in a huge 28 X56 “ C & C cage, for which we had to rearrange our living room. They are still nervous around us but seem to be beginning to warm up to the idea of a cuddle and a movie.
    Thanks to A B & C shelter, Wheek Care shelter, and the Pittsburgh Animal Rescue League for the information, Guinea Pig Today for the inspiration, and Papua Piig and his friends for the illumination. Adopt, don’t shop!

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