A Eulogy for Garibaldi Rous



It has been two weeks since Garibaldi Rous died so I guess I’d better get on with it and write his eulogy.

Monday, March 10th would have been Gari’s 4th birthday. I knew he was very sick but somehow I always thought he would make it to that day. Humans often die right after their birthdays, holding on until the milestone is met and then surrendering to the inevitable. I guess since capybaras don’t know when their birthday is, they don’t do that.

I get a lot of hate mail saying that capybaras “belong in the wild, they are not meant to be pets.” I don’t believe in a god or gods or that there is a pupose to the universe or anything in it. In my view of reality there is no external or supernatural force to “mean” for any animal to be a pet. I can say that Garibaldi was born in captivity, the “wild,” whatever that means, was never an option for him. Due to his circumstances, there were three possibilities: he could be a pet, he could live in a zoo or he could never have been born.

The recent controversy and outrage about the fate of a young, healthy giraffe named Marius  at a zoo in Copenhagen finally brings some attention to the fact that zoos are not always the animal welfare organizations they pretend to be. Despite being young, healthy and bred at that zoo, Marius was deemed excess and fed to the lions. Giraffes breed much more slowly than capybaras. I often wonder what happens to all of those cute babies we see at zoos, especially in Japan. In the wild, capybara herds are about eighty percent females. The prospects for young male wild capybaras are not good, but I wonder if they are any better in zoos.

I’ve already expressed my opinion on The Wild Life, not that it is relevant. What I think these people are trying to say is that Gari would have been better off  dead or nonexistent than living in my home. Obviously, I don’t believe that. In spite of everything that happened. More than that, I can state unequivocally that I would not be better off.

Gari at his new home

Gari at his new home

Gari came to me at a time of great need for both of us. After three years, I still cannot imagine how his previous owners could have given him up. How they could have left him in a crate at the airport, scared and alone, to fly by himself back to Texas. I don’t understand it, but I am glad they did. I am glad they had the strength to admit that they did not have the time or facilities to provide for him. And I’m glad he came to me so that I had the chance to know him and to love him.

Here are some of the things I loved most about him.

His cuteness

His cuteness

Like all capybaras, Gari could not help but be cute. Even so, there was a special look in his eye, a kind of longing to be with people and to be loved that gave his gaze and extra dose of cuteness.



Rolling was Gari’s superpower and he never looked cuter than when he was doing it. There was so much joy and playfulness in those rolls. So much appreciation for the freedom and comfort water brings to a capybara. And just so much Gari. Caplin Rous never rolled and I have never heard of a wild capybara doing it, nor have I seen or heard of zoo capybaras rolling. In this way, I think Gari had more of a childlike quality to him, more of an appreciation for the moment. Or maybe he was domesticated enough that he no longer feared the many predators that capybaras face in the wild.

Me and Gari

Me and Gari

The best times I spent with Garibaldi were the long summer afternoons in the pool. Caplin Rous used to come sit on my lap while I sat on the pool table reading, but Gari would never go for that. Instead I was expected to spin him in the water for as many as 15 rolls before he surfaced for air or swam away for a break. This last year I was also expected to pick him up and throw him over backward so that he went as deep as possible. He would then swim back to me, a capybara smile on his face. If he wanted to be thrown back again, he would squirm in my arms with a little twist that both let me know what he wanted and simultaneously made it very hard to do.

If he didn’t squirm, he would often place his front paws on my left forearm and bring his back paws to rest on my thighs. I could hold him like that for hours. The funny thing was, he never put his front paws on my right arm. We always had to face the same way. . He would sometimes let me hug him in that position. At times, I could even rest my head on his back.

The friendly capybara

The friendly capybara

Gari was not brave like Caplin. He didn’t like going places. But, also unlike Caplin, he was very friendly to people who came to visit him at our house. I never would have let strangers get in the pool with Caplin, but Gari was a completely different personality. He warmed right up to people in the pool and would let them hold him and pet him and swim with him. The photo above is of Gari being held by Dr. Sharman Hoppes, the ROUS Foundation vet at Texas A&M. She and a bunch of her students came down to check on him after his neutering in 2011.


Animal friends

Animal friends

Gari was good with his animal friends and co-pets too. He never met an animal he didn’t like. He was often confused by Flopsy the Killer Cat’s attitude toward him though.

Gari with his Rick

Gari with his Rick

No story about Gari would be complete without mentioning his love for “his Rick.” Gari never felt safe unless he knew where Rick was. He loved to follow him around the house and to go for walks with him. Sometimes he would sit outside the door to Rick’s office and eep quietly and plaintively. This never seemed to move Rick the way it did me. I would end up going over to Gari, talking to him and petting him while he stared at Rick’s door and cried. Eventually I would persuade Rick to come out and Gari’s little eeps would transform instantly to his happy sound. Sometimes he wanted Rick to take him outside for a walk. Sometimes he wanted Rick to watch him swim or graze. Often he wanted Rick to watch his back for predators while he used his water bowl in the bathroom. I don’t know why Gari loved him so much, I guess it was a guy thing.

I could go on forever but instead I am going to bring this to a close. Please read the old blog entries if you haven’t already.

As for me, I need to get a handle on my new disability. I need to get my life in order. The future is so uncertain that I cannot possibly commit to another pet. I’m hoping that in a year or so things will have settled out and I will be ready to bring another capybara into my life, hopefully a full sibling to Garibaldi Rous. Until then, I will be doing some things to raise money for the ROUS Foundation and to promote capybara awareness. I will post occasionally here.

Thank you all for your support and for your generous donations to the Rous Foundation.

71 comments to A Eulogy for Garibaldi Rous

  • Caroline

    Gari brought so many smiles to us – through your lovely blog, people all around the world have been able to enjoy his adventures, and sigh at his incredible cuteness. We are in England and my daughter can’t fulfil her dream of keeping a capy, with our cold weather and small garden, but Gari has been a special “virtual pet”. I have absolutely no doubt that his life was much happier and fuller than it would have been in the wild. Who would want to see him end his days as prey for a jaguar or meat for the locals? Animals who are loved by humans develop qualities of affection, communication and loyalty that you wouldn’t find in a wild animal living by instinct. Our thoughts are with you at this very sad and difficult time Melly, and we hope that you will find comfort in your loving family of humans and co-pets. We will buy something at your store in his memory.

  • Kim

    I first learned about capys through Caplin, and I was devastated when he died. I followed Garibear from the very beginning, and I loved hearing about all his adventures and silliness. As long as an animal is bred in captivity, they are going to need people to look after them. People with the proper knowledge and facilities to do so are the best option for these animals. Gari had a wonderful life with you, full of swimming and co-pets and scritches and happiness and understanding. Where else could he have gotten that? I am a fan of zoos in general, but they are hardly the best place for every exotic. You did the best thing for your capys and I sincerely hope you’re able to get another one once you take some time for yourself to heal. You’re a wonderful person and a great animal parent, Melanie.

  • Janet Lutkus

    This is a wonderful Eulogy to Gari. Thank you for sharing so much of the joy and knowledge Gari brought into your life. There are so many of us who are hoping for your healing at this time.

    Your photographs and words always communicated his story so clearly, I felt like I knew Gari personally. I will never forget how proud and thrilled I was when someone dropped off his maxed-out FB friend list, allowing me the privilege of being added as his “friend”. You never saw such a happy dance.

    The laughter and happiness your blogs gave me truly helped me through some very difficult, lonely times. So although I already had one, I ordered an extra “Super Capy” last week, knowing someone will need his comfort in the future.

    It may be selfish on my part, but I hope we hear from you soon Melanie. You are a in the light in the darkness. A voice of reason for both humans and for animals. You will hear from me as well — at the very least through reviews of both your books on All the best, Janet

  • Shannon Zapf

    Melly, this is truly one of the most eloquent and beautiful tributes to anyone (animal OR human) I have ever read. I don’t understand how anyone could ever send you hate mail for the wonderful thing you did by taking Gari into your family. I don’t believe for one moment that he shouldn’t have been born, and I am so thankful that he had the love from you and your family for his short time on this planet. I do wish that he had lived much longer, as he so deserved a happy, long life. Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do for capybaras. I wish you and them well. Take care of yourself, and I hope to see more posts when you feel up to it. And one day, a new capy!!!

  • Nancy Piccirilli

    Gari’s life was a joy to behold even from afar. Your elegy of him is heartwrenchingly beautiful. My heart is with you.

  • Mingles' Mommy

    It seems obvious to me that Gari responded to the love and affection he was given. He had everything he could possibly need in his life – from pools to food to medical care to love. Also, based on where he came from, his chances of survival in the wild were zero.

    Many exotic animals are rescued and cared for in people’s homes under extraordinary circumstances due to natural events or human cruelty. They are loved, they are happy, they are wanted. How anyone could get on a soap box and tear down someone grieving for a beloved animal family member is beyond me.

    I thank you for sharing your life with Gari. It has been such a pleasure learning about these wonderful animals called capybaras. You gave Gari everything. I think animals are much smarter than we realize. I think he knew that.

  • Dear MELANIE,your Eulogy for GARI is so wonderfull and well described,
    so much heart-touching.
    When you once agreed,-a short time after you lost your lovely CAPLIN,-
    to give this poor 10 months old capybara in need “GARI” a home and place
    in your family,-I was first a bit sceptic.
    But I could imagine that you BOTH had something common: You were in need!
    Your common “in need”-and your interest on capybaras -that has been the best basic condition for you and this poor capy to get access to each other.
    After GARI had arrived in your home, you described us that GARI tries to eat “everything”…!! What a sad life GARI must have had before,I thought.
    When you published your first video to introduce him,and I saw him grasing and eating AS MUCH HE COULD GET,- then dear MELANIE I knew that you had made the right decision: to adopt GARI into your family.
    I loved this video ,you calling him: GARI,-come on! And then, GARI jumped through the open window outside to you and start grasing .GARI`s new FREEDOM !!
    GARI learned to open the doors,-he decided when to go outside into his pool,
    and when he wanted to sleep in his bed or on his beloved blue armchair,-
    then he entered the house.
    MELANIE,you have given GARI so much freedom, pleasure and loving attention.GARI became your “GARIbear” and your “SuperCapy”.
    GARI loved you ,-I`m sure. There are so many videos where we all can feel this.
    And you,dear MELANIE have given him all your love as well.
    You were celebrating his birthday with a capy-present,-it doesn`t matter if GARI didn`t know what a birthday is,- but GARI recognized this loving attention on this day,-only FOR HIM.And his present:created for his needs: THE POND/last year!

    MELLY,you have spend every freetime with GARI- and very often in his pool.
    You take him into town or visited with him some Elementary Schools.
    Whenever I could see on a video or photo how happy you`ve been with GARI,-
    then I felt happy as well…!!
    Whenever I have seen GARI`s happy face,and his tries to communicate with you,-
    then I felt it very clear:
    For GARI,- YOU MELLY,- have always been HIS capy-mum !
    The LOVE of an exotic animal,- is such lovely present !

    MELANIE,-I will miss you . You are such an amazing and strong woman !
    I wish YOU and RICK all the BEST !Please,take good care of yourself !
    THANK YOU VERY MUCH,-dear MELLY for ALL you have given to us.
    -Antje- / Germany

  • Barbara Brooks

    You gave Garibaldi a wonderful life. Anyone can see he was very happy! And he brought happiness to so many people.
    Perhaps if you feel up to it, if you do get another capybara, you could raise corn in a fenced area (using capybara and rabbit manure), and plant the rows at different times so that during the frost-free times of year there are always fibrous stalks to feed the capybara. There’s probably some native grasses that grow in the winter that could be a good feed also. It seems like the capybaras need to be fed more like farm animals from what I was reading in the $160 book on capybaras. Perhaps if you raised them and had several, it wouldn’t be so painful to go through the sorrow of their inevitably short life and death. But I don’t know if your health is up to it, but it could be very rewarding and profitable, too. It’s too painful to get so attached to an animal with such a short life span, yet a person wants to enjoy the animal and make it happy. Perhaps there’s a way you can do it next time so there is less sorrow . . . I hope it’s not so painful that you give up.

  • francine

    I can’t finish reading this right now… it’s just too hard.

    Gari was so lucky to have you and Rick. You rescued him from a terrible life and gave him the best life a capy could ask for. I remember how amazed I was when he rolled all the way over! He loved his life with you.

    My favorite picture of Gari shows him on his back, loving a roll in the flooded yard. Capy joy! That’s what he brought us, thanks to your generosity in sharing your lives with us.

  • Franci Zalon

    Thank you so much for sharing Gari and the life of a capybara with us! I had never heard of capybaras until I found your website and the most adorable pictures I’d ever seen. I especially loved the one of you handing Gari slices of apple while he was in his pool. His love of you and yours of him was so apparent.
    I cannot imagine how you feel but I am truly sorry for your loss and hope that someday you will be able to cherish another capy!

    Love to you and yours,


  • First and foremost, I am so very very sorry for your loss. Losing a loved one is never easy, no matter who (or what) it is.

    Second, I am so very sorry that people were mean and hateful to you. It was obvious you had their best interests at heart, and you rescued them from a life that … well you gave them the best life possible.

    Many deep rumbling healing purrs for you and all who loved Gari..

  • Jacob

    Melanie I feel so sorry for your loss.I am sure you offered him the best life possible.Let us hope he will rest in peace and become friends with Caplin.Be strong Melanie!I wish you good luck raising money for the ROUS foundation.

  • Mary

    Thank you so much for your blogs on Gari and Caplin. I have been checking in for years and enjoying their take on life, people, friends, and mud. Your blog never failed to touch my heart. I am so sorry Gari passed away. I am glad he lived such a happy life with you. Be well, Melly!

  • Jenny Drastura

    Reading the eulogy to Gari made me smile. I have loved capybaras for a long time, and to know that one lived with such love and devotion made me very happy. Thank you for giving him such a wonderful life. His own swimming pool! How awesome! I am sure he was a happy little man!

    Okay, now I’m crying.

  • Raquel A

    So so sorry for your loss. What a great, magical experience with the adorable Garibaldi. Thank you for rescuing him and giving him such a wonderful life. Sending love and hugs.

  • Moth

    You and Gari had such a wonderful bond, Melly! He is deeply missed by so many of us that have never met him. I loved looking at the pictures and reading the stories.

    I hope you heal both from the loss of Gari and from being ill. I hope that life will settle so that you can share it with another lucky Capybara.

    Until then I will miss both Caplin and Gari and look forward to the day when you have more stories and pictures to share 🙂

  • Bonnie Vollbeer

    Dear Melanie, since learning of Gari’s passing, I have tried to collect my thoughts so I could write something meaningful as to how you, Caplin and Gari have impacted my life in such a meaningful way. I wrote many comments, but they didn’t seem good enough, so I didn’t post them. Finally, I have decided to just say “Thank You.” Thank you for loving Gari so much that you were willing to share him with all of us. Thank you for writing the blogs and posting the pictures so we could share in his daily activities. Thank you for teaching us about caring for a capybara and for cautioning us that owning one isn’t for everyone. Thank you for standing up to the haters by eloquently expressing your unconditional love for an exotic animal and that, with kindness and patience, domestication is possible! Thank you for helping Gari to overcome his fears so he could become the great Capybara Ambassador he was meant to be. And thank you for loving Gari sooo much that you knew when it was time to let him go. Like many others, I too hope the time will come that you feel able to give another capybara a home filled with fun and laughter and love. Thank you. Bonnie

  • Dora Lavie

    Thank you for sharing Gari’s life with us.
    May the future years bring you health & love.

  • Megan

    Hi Melly, I’m a longtime reader, but I had not been back here in awhile due to some craziness in my own life. I was sobbing as I read about Gari’s death and also your stroke. Your blog made me aware that these “exotic pets” could be happy and healthy and our friends. It also made me more aware of the work and resources that go into keeping a capy like Gari happy and healthy. I know at this point in my life, I need to stick to cats!

    You were such a wonderful mom to Gari and Caplin. I know they had happy lives. Thank you for sharing them with us. I miss them both. I’m so sorry.

  • […] charm and gentleness that was so special to Gari. To read his eulogy, please click the link below: A Eulogy for Garibaldi Rous « Capybara Madness While you are visiting the Capybara Madness website, take a moment to explore some older posts. Go […]

  • J

    Just stopped by to catch up on your posts and saw the horrible news! I’m so sorry to hear about Gari! He was lucky to have you and Rick.

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