Morning comes early at my house. Weekends or weekdays, a certain capybara named Caplin Rous wants his morning yogurt. He has various ways of making this known. The most subtle wake up is one where he sits on the floor or lies on the bed and eeps periodically. Eeping is that I call the soft, high-pitched noise he makes when he wants something. Guinea pigs call this a wheek. It sounds something like a one-note bird call. To wake me he’ll eep quietly, wait thirty seconds or so and eep again just loudly enough to keep me awake. As far as I know, he can keep it up forever.
Another wake-up tactic is to tap me on the face. This is not subtle at all. He comes out from under the covers, climbs onto my pillow with his face directly above mine and not-so-gently taps me on the nose or the cheek or even on the eye or mouth with his large, heavy paw. Sometimes I try to hide under the pillow but this is no good since his 100 lb weight it holding it down.
Might as well get up.
He follows me at his own slow pace into the kitchen, usually cutting through the carpeted living room rather than the tiled family room—he does not like slick floors–and watches attentively while I dole out his breakfast. I have several bathmats on the floor for his convenience. But he’s not in charge of everything. In order to get his yogurt he always has to do a trick. Usually it’s just turning around in circles a few times followed by a brief “stand tall” where he stands on his hind legs and reaches his mouth for the bowl. Lately I’ve been making him walk. I position him at one end of the bathmat runway, tell him to stand and then slowly move the bowl in front of him so that he takes a few steps.
Once breakfast is over, it’s off for his morning soak. Luckily we have a big bathtub that actually comfortably fits a large capybara (or maybe that is unluckily). He climbs onto the tile shelf around bath and saunters over to the sink where I am trying to brush my teeth. Capybaras don’t need to brush since their teeth grow throughout their lives and are made to break off to a perpetual knife-edge. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t like toothpaste. He gets no more than three small dabs that I put on the edge of the sink. I think he likes the minty frothiness of it.
Climbing into the bath, he tests the water for the desired warmth. Finding it suitable, he rolls on his side, bites his toes, pushes his ball under his chin, takes a long drink, soaks and soaks some more. During this time, I prepare for my day also. It is enough for him to know I am there with him, I don’t actually have to do anything.
Eventually I am ready for whatever the day has in store. But Caplin may not be. If it is a weekend I will sometimes sit next to the tub and read until he is ready to get out. If it’s a work day, I leave the bathroom. I return in 30 seconds to find him perched with his front feet on the ledge in the tub and his back feet in the water. This is his pooping position. I stand and watch him, scoop the poop up as it appears and put it into the toilet. Luckily no humans ever use that tub.
Next we move to the computer room where I check his morning email, catch up on his FaceBook page, tweet for him and see if there are any comments on his blog or YouTube channel that need responses. Caplin usually jumps on the window seat and chows down on some hay. But he may be impatient and head for the front porch with the claim that it is popsicle time. Eventually I get a popsicle and sit on the steps to feed him. He taps me when he finishes each bite to ask for another. It’s cute behavior but that is how he picked up the idea of taping me on the face in the morning.
Horse feeding time is very traumatic for Caplin. He follows me outside and races me to the gate that surrounds our house and delimits his home range. I pat him on the nose and tell him he can’t come, that I’ll be back soon. He can hear me while I feed the horses and I can hear him. He eeps at the top of his lungs. Luckily, even his loudest noises aren’t very loud, but he really knows how to make me feel guilty.
Back in the house he settles onto his favorite couch, especially if the morning sun comes through the window to warm his fur. The rest of the morning is pretty much just sleep, sleep, sleep. I sneak out to work once he is comfortable if it is a weekday or settle in for a bit of reading or writing in the same room with him if it’s a quiet weekend.
On weekdays I don’t see him again until evening but I do sometimes hear him. My husband, Rick, is not working these days and will sometimes give me a call, “Do you want to talk to the capybara?” This can be awkward if I’m in a meeting but otherwise I take the call. Over the phone I can hear his plaintive little eeps. I think he is saying, “When are you coming home to me?”
On weekends if the weather is nice we do things outside. When it’s warm he’ll spend an hour or more swimming in his pool (and expecting me to watch him the whole time). In the summer I get in the pool with him. He’ll get on his pool table, which is a plastic table we put in the pool to give him a place to rest in the water, and lie still or roll around or beg for treats.
Nearly every day he spends several hours grazing in the yard, which is about ½ acre and completely surrounds our house. He’ll follow the sun to either graze or nap. He has a favorite corner back behind the pond under the shade of the plum trees. His repose there is sometimes disrupted by our tortoise, Leopolda. Leah has a tendency, as all tortoises do, to walk the fence. She doesn’t care much that Caplin is in her way. She’s perfectly willing to climb right over him. This drives Caplin crazy. When he sees Leah coming he jumps up and threatens her. His threats consist of lunges, huffing, clicking, and biting at her shell. Leah could not care less. She’ll pause when he actually bites her but moves on almost immediately. Once the tortoise threat has been handled, Caplin lies back down to enjoy his victory and claim his turf.
Some days we go on outings. Caplin loves going places. When I put his harness on he runs to the gate. A favorite outings is just a walk down to the creek that goes across our property. Swimming in the creek is infinitely more fun than swimming in the pool. I leave his harness on but take off the leash. I can’t trust him in the creek. He believes that the Amazon is downstream and he is determined to get there. Long before he reaches the Amazon, he’d have to go across people’s property and dangerous roads. So the harness stays on.
Other favorite destinations are local pet stores and restaurants with outdoor, pet friendly seating. Caplin eagerly hops into the backseat for the drive. I fold down half the seat so he can get into the hatch but he doesn’t usually do that. Mostly he sits on top of the folded seat and looks out the window. When the weather is nice, I roll the window down part way and let him stick his head out like a dog. This has been known to stop traffic.
Caplin always draws a crowd but he seems to enjoy that. He loves being pet and we always bring plenty of blueberries for admirers to feed him. The typical conversation with a new capybara fan goes like this:
“What is that?”
“He’s a capybara.”
“A capybara. They’re the world’s largest rodent.”
“Would you like a card?”
The card has lots of information about Caplin on it as well as his blog and YouTube channel URLs. I hope people read it later because even after I give them a card they continue to ask questions answered by it. We don’t mind, it’s all in a day’s work for a rodent ambassador.
As the sun sets, Caplin likes to get in one more graze. In warm weather this is preceded by a swim in the pool. In cold weather it is followed by another soak in the tub. A little late night TV in bed with Caplin begging for dried cherries and then it’s lights out. He crawls under the covers, lets out an audible sigh and we all settle down.
One final note. Sleeping next to a capybara is not that comfortable. He likes to lean against me and his fur feels like wires or straw or something poking me. I think I slept better before I had a capybara.