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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.