Clover was born into filth and indifference,
cramped and exploited at a profit-hungry mill.
She at least had the good fortune
to be rescued while still very young,
while her ears and her feet were still comically huge
compared to the rest of her tiny body.
She couldn’t have asked for a home much more loving
than the one she eventually found.
Her new mother spoiled her in the best possible way,
with a spacious handmade house
overflowing with hay and fresh veggies.
Her mom also lavished her
with oodles of colorful and costly toys-
a plush couch, a stuffed frog, a skateboard-
but Clover’s favorites were the cheap, no-frills kind.
Like when her mom cut a doorway in a white plastic dollar-store colander,
turned it upside-down and called it a “Pigloo,”
it was in this Pigloo that Clover spent most of her time.
She’d even walk around with the Pigloo on top of her,
like some funny looking rodent-turtle hybrid.
And sometimes her mom gave her
a simple sheet of tissue paper
and Clover would romp beneath its soft crinkly shelter
like a child in a blanket-fort.
Clover’s memory only held
as much as her pea-sized brain would allow.
So perhaps- we can hope-
she never had to remember her harrowing babyhood.
Yet in spite of her nurturing home,
she remained skittish and spastic,
prone to scurrying into her Pigloo
at the slightest noises and movements.
For a few years Clover bunked with Kumquat,
who was the Big Pig of the house.
But Clover didn’t mind;
she’d happily groom Kumquat’s fur with her teeth
and wait for her turn at the water bottle.
(Once in a while though,
when Clover felt irritated by her roommate’s Big Pig antics,
she’d thrust her rear end in Kumquat’s face
and squirt a little pee
like spritzes from a 10-cent water pistol.)
One day, when Clover and Kumquat joined their mom on a plane,
the ride proved too turbulent for the Big Pig’s tender heart,
and Kumquat passed away before the plane touched down.
And when mom unzipped the green cloth carrier,
Clover was snuggling close to her fallen friend’s body.
A couple years later, I was blessed
to join Clover and her mom in their happy home.
Every morning when I awoke, Clover greeted me
with hungry wheeks and chattering teeth,
paws perched on the side of her cage,
begging for her lettuce breakfast.
Her little mouth chomped through each leaf
like it was her last.
Her mom and I liked to pretend
that Clover was a crabby but lovable old lady
who spoke in a nasal, high-pitched, chipmunky voice.
We’d pretend she’d yell things like, “Where’s my nettuce?!”
(Because she also had a speech impediment, you see,
which made her pronounce Ls like Ns.)
And we pretended she hated everyone-
“noathsome creatures,” she’d call them.
And we’d act like she “hated” us too,
the way a teenager “hates” her parents-
except, of course, when we fed her
or scratched her behind the ears.
Clover lived longer than most other guinea pigs.
After the vet said she might not last another week,
Clover hung on for 6 days and 22 hours more.
She was full of spark until I said my last goodnight,
and she died on a bed of soft pulp fiber,
with her pot belly full
and her face frozen in tranquility.