In 2014, we acquired a guinea pig. Found him on Craigslist, brought him home with his cage, supplies, and some crazy ideas about his future. We planned on dressing him up, adding a few props, and photographing him as a little celebrity. The Grumpy Cat had his memes, Tuna, the dog had his Instagram…Mr. Pickles would be our little internet sensation. Down the road, we would introduce a Mrs. Pickles – we even had a small dress-up bride and groom set, courtesy of the Webkinz stuffed animal line – there was an entire story line mapped out for his future. It would be sensational. And silly.
And, as the universe is fond of reminding me, most things are out of my control.
As the star of his own website, things went very well. Mr. Pickles was amazingly tolerant when it came to playing dress up, and cooperating during photo shoots. He was the consummate professional. Playing to the camera, patient with costume changes, quick to ad-lib when necessary. He traveled well, loved being out in public, never met a stranger. He was a joy to work with.
His personal life, however, was perplexing (to say the least).
About a year into our adventures with Mr. Pickles, we secured two female guinea pigs. “Pepper” and “Piper”. (Yes, yes…picked a peck of pickled peppers… glad to see you’re paying attention…) We now had a trio, it was simply up to Mr. Pickles to pick a “Pepper” or a “Piper”. Of which, he picked neither. Don’t get me wrong, he loved the company of Pepper and Piper. They grazed together, shared stories around the water bottle, engaged in grooming sessions, and amicably lazed in their Eskimo shaped “Pig-loo” house. But it was all strictly platonic. Mr. Pickles showed zero romantic interest in either ladies.
This seemed odd. They’re animals. Aren’t animals, especially guinea pigs, hard wired to eat, and reproduce?
It wasn’t that simple. With the addition of other piggies to our herd, it became abundantly clear that Mr. Pickles was abundantly uninterested. We even introduced him to “Eva”, a seasoned breeder with several litters to her credit. Nothing. He didn’t go for the smooth coated ladies, or the adventurous crazy haired ladies. Mr. Pickles was, seemingly, not a ladies man.
What was going on? Our guinea pig was full grown when we acquired him…perhaps he had been neutered? That seemed plausible. But no. He was examined and deemed to be “intact”. So what was it? Low testosterone? Old age? Nope and nope. The answer came to us when we took on a large number of rescue piggies.
Last fall, quite suddenly, we found ourselves in possession of sixteen guinea pigs. Random ages, genders, colors, hair styles. They were in need of socialization and Mr. Pickles was just the guinea pig to help. It was during this period that we realized Mr. Pickles did, in fact, have a romantic preference. He had a preference, specifically for “Tim” and “Leo”. During one occasion we put the male cavies in their backyard enclosure for a bit of outside pasture time during cage cleaning. It was here that we witnessed Mr. Pickles attempt to strike up a convo with Leo. Guinea pigs are very social animals, but Leo brushed him off; ever a gentleman, Leo continued grazing, and simply gave Mr. Pickles the cold shoulder.
Not one to give up so easily, Mr. Pickles moved on to converse with Tim. BIG mistake. After a short exchange of (seemingly) friendly guinea pig noises, Tim squealed at Mr. Pickles, bared his teeth, attempted to bite him, and, in a most humiliating act, Tim peed all over Mr. Pickles. Where Leo had simply been uninterested in Mr. Pickles advances, Tim was incensed.
Could we dare say that Tim was, possibly, homophobic?
Well, maybe that’s going a bit too far. They are just guinea pigs, after all.
And I probably would’ve left this extremely unscientific discovery at that, if it had not been for my coming across a publication in our local book store.
There, in the children’s section was a book titled And Tango Makes Three – the six year, documented, true story of a same sex penguin couple, raising their adopted chick.
Documented same-sex preference in penguins?
Yep. Turns out homosexuality can be found in all sorts of animal populations; in fact, there are five hundred documented animal species where homosexual behavior has been identified. (See this list.)
For those who want to argue that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice, I will tell you I could’ve never conceived of our guinea pig choosing to be attracted to his same sex house mate. This discovery prodded my research into known cases of homosexual behavior in different animal species where, much to my surprise, there is an abundance of information regarding this natural occurrence. And while it has completely changed our plans for Mr. Pickles story, it has not diminished our love for him, nor has it affected how we feel about him. Not one bit.