Taking a break to muse about my guinea pigs might seem a far cry from covering Capitol Hill, but not when you consider just who my infamous cavies are.
Back when I worked at The Hill newspaper, an employee in the production department wanted name suggestions for a cute fluffy kitten she’d just brought into her home. With a nod to our coverage, I suggested Sen. Furry Reid (D-Nev.). She opted for a non-smartass name for the fluffy little thing, but there was no way I was going to let that awesome name go to waste. I just had to save it for the perfect pet.
One day I was at a Petco when I saw a little guy in the saddest state: a guinea pig housed in an aquarium-style enclosure, no longer a baby and barely able to turn around in the display case. I got him out of that situation and brought him home. I’d never had a guinea pig before, but this one was surly, whining, and just crying out for the perfect name: Sen. Furry Reid (D-Nev.) he was. Here he is pictured with Ronnie the cat, having a bipartisan meeting over a strawberry in which Furry Reid predictably bogarted the whole thing for himself:
The senator, as he’s called in shorthand, not only displayed a fondness for baby carrots way too early in the morning but for stuffed animals, namely the seasonal plush for dogs next to the registers at PetSmart. And what more perfect toy for the piggie majority leader than a stuffed elephant, seen here in his hobo bag, ready to travel?
Over time, with good food and plenty of hay, his coat has gone from coarse and wiry to silky smooth. Although I took the senator out of his cage often for cuddling and roaming time, he was doing a lot of whining and crying. I researched a bit and found that guinea pigs prefer to live with other piggies, so I brought Rep. Piggy Hoyer (D-Md.) into the fold. And a caucus was born.
The two are quite the roommates. Seeing them tug-of-war over a piece of kale or try to exert dominance through odd rumbling noises and climbing onto the other is a regular occurrence. Seeing their stuffed toys moved around or suddenly stacked in the corner of their house, but never seeing them do it, is like the Underpants Gnomes episode of “South Park.” They each hop up for their quarter tablet of Vitamin C each night and chew it with their mouths open. They both fuss over getting their nails trimmed but are easily appeased with some petting and a treat, and will fall asleep in my lap. They’re both lots of fun but it’s uncanny how their bickering reflects their namesakes.
When various folks on Capitol Hill have found out about the piggies, chuckling always ensues — even the covert “oops I wasn’t supposed to laugh” style from Dems. It’s universally agreed that Steny Hoyer would have a sense of humor about the guinea pigs, while Harry Reid would not. I secured a promise from one insider to tell Reid about his furry doppelganger if he had lost re-election in 2010; that, of course, didn’t happen.
Regardless of elections, my cavies will continue to caucus, and Piggy Hoyer will undoubtedly continue to hog the office and grouse when the senator shoves his way in.