Friday, October 1, 2021

3 things I have learned from my grand-chinchilla

Not actually Percy, but representative of the species

Terry and I have no human grandchildren, but our oldest two kids own a variety of pets that fit the bill nicely at this point in our lives.

One of those is Percy, a fluffy gray chinchilla who belongs to my daughter Elissa. Percy is, for a chinchilla, something like 1,000 years old. Elissa regularly takes him to the vet, and they have remarked there that he is the healthiest, most well-cared-for rodent they’ve encountered.

This is because she spoils him, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Unfortunately, Percy has a tumor, and there’s no real way to treat it. But he continues to live every day the same way he has lived for the past decade-and-a-half.

Doing pretty much whatever he wants.

Percy used to live with us when Elissa first got him, so I do feel a certain bond with the little guy. He has taught me many things along the way, but here are the three important ones:

(1) Everyone deserves to have an anger shelf

Percy has a cage that is, as far as I know, like the Cadillac of chinchilla cages. It is large, multi-storied, and decked out with just about everything a chinchilla could want. It includes a little slab attached to the back wall of the cage on which Percy sometimes hangs out. Elissa informs me this is his “anger shelf.” I like that idea. Each of us should have a place we can go when we’re frustrated or just plain mad at the world so we can work through whatever we’re feeling. This is an excellent concept, though I’ll admit that, to my untrained eye, angry Percy looks exactly the same as contented Percy.

(2) Everyone deserves to be loved beyond what they probably actually deserve

Whether he’s at his regular home or spending some time at Grandma and Grandpa’s (as he is for a whole week as I type this), Percy is constantly showered with love. I’m sure he enjoys this far more than he lets on, and he’s better off for it. And so is every one of us who is unconditionally loved by others. Don’t ever think this is a blessing reserved for someone else, because you should have it, too.

(3) Everyone deserves the benefits of being judged by a friend

When Percy used to live with us and his cage was in our living room, I would sometimes look over and realize he was staring at me. Just sitting there staring at me. Elissa once informed us that, when he does this, he is judging you. I like to think he’s doing it with the best of intentions, and that if he could talk, he would report his observations to me in the name of self-improvement. Criticism isn’t always a bad thing, if it’s offered lovingly and with the goal of making us better people. (Or maybe he harbors seething hatred for me. Again, his little chinchilla face always looks the same, so I could be misreading this situation by a mile.)

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