Wanderer at rest

By Jamie Balke Explorebigsky.com Columnist

In order to write this column, I must first make a confession. I own an albino guinea pig. I assure you, it’s far less creepy than it sounds.

Long story short – after moving around a lot after college, I desperately wanted to get a dog when I settled in Bozeman three years ago. Thwarted by the rental policy of my first place, I decided to find an alternative pet. It wasn’t long before a friend had a lead on a guinea pig and I was driving to Yellowstone to retrieve him.

Thus it was that Joey the guinea pig made his way into my life, doubling the number of slightly cantankerous, spazzy beings residing in the apartment.

Joey has had a predominately healthy and seemingly happy existence since his move to Bozeman. He does a great deal of jumping about, squeaking and rattling the bars of his cage with the full force of his grip and teeth to demand carrots. There have, however, been a couple of occasions for Joey to visit the vet.

The first was shortly after I got him, when he tweaked his back. I came home one day to find the poor little dude limping around, so I made a vet appointment. While he didn’t like being x-rayed, Joey did develop a taste for painkillers. The vet prescribed a liquid analgesic for his back pain, and the first time I squirted it down Joey’s mouth, I had to hold him down. Subsequent days, I had to pry the syringe out of his mouth.

Joey eventually recovered to his awesomely peculiar self, but he recently had another occasion for medical intervention. This time, I set up an appointment after noticing that his eye looked weird. The vet prescribed some drops, which at first didn’t seem so bad.

However, as soon as Joey wised up to the implications of being wrapped like a papoose in a towel, he became an expert eye-drop avoider. With uncanny timing and ninja-like speed, he dodged and weaved away from the medicinal liquid. After a week of fighting that battle, I followed up with the vet, as the condition was not resolved. She advised me to come in for a different medication.

I arrived and had approximately the following conversation with the person at the front desk.

“Jamie Balke here, to pick up medicine for my guinea pig.”

“No problem,” she replied, “you will simply apply this ointment to the affected area.”

“His eyeball is the affected area,” I replied, voice hushed with disbelief and fear, “You want me to apply an ointment to his eyeball?”

She did. The last few days have been what I shall generously describe as an adventure in rodent medicine. I have tried everything I can think of to get the goop to smear on his tiny red eye. He is disinclined to cooperate, so we find ourselves at an impasse.

When I came to Montana, I never could have envisioned trying to maneuver ointment into a small animal’s eyeball. If you would be so kind as to think speedy, agile thoughts on my behalf, I would appreciate it.

Jamie Balke moved to Bozeman in the fall of 2009. She can generally be found behind the cover of a book, meandering down a trail or desperately trying not to kill houseplants.