January, of my junior year of high school, I am taking a final exam and fidgeting with anticipation. I could not wait for the bell to ring and dismiss the class. My reason for such excitement? I decided to buy a new pet after the exams!
A visit to Petsmart––where my sister, Holly, worked––influenced my decision. Scarlett, the Chinese exchange student who lived with us, and I perused the store aisles and admired the various critters the store had in stock. I wanted to take many of the animals home with me since my room had been absent of pets for quite a long time. We moved at a relatively quick pace until I stopped to look at an animal I had not seen in a few years and had missed more than I realized.
At the lowest cage closest to my feet, sat a Standard Gray chinchilla. I could not help but fawn over the puffball. Soon, Scarlett noticed my gushing over the adorable pet.
“Is that a bunny?” she asked me.
“No, it’s a chinchilla,” I answered as I kept looking at the precious creature. Moments later, my mother and sister came to find Scarlett and me kneeling in front of the cage enthralled by the rabbit-sized pile of fluff. Then, my sister said five influential words.
“You should get a chinchilla,” Holly suggested.
I thought for a moment and could see no problem with her suggestion. My mom supported it, too, because I had not had a pet since junior high. Mom did not allow me to get another pet because bunnies are just about the cutest things to which I am allergic.
Although I loved my bunnies and still love rabbits to this day, I did not fight my mom on the matter. During the time the rabbits lived in my room, my sinuses were significantly more irritable and congested. Having a rabbit puts part of my health at risk, which meant I could not buy another one. Mom and I knew it was for the best. However, since chinchillas are hypoallergenic, Mom approved of me getting a new pet. We waited until after the exams to buy it, which is what made the last day of finals so memorable.
During the last moments of class, I wait for the bell to ring with nothing but the new pet in mind. The bell finally chimes, and I delightedly head out to the student parking lot and wait for my sister. While anticipating my sister’s arrival, I grin knowing that I am moments away from acquiring a new little friend. She finally pulls in, and then I open the car door and see my sister and exchange student in high spirits over the trip to get the new furry family member. Holly looks up directions to the ranch, and then we drive for ten very lengthy minutes.
We finally show up to the ranch, which appears to be abandoned. I start to wonder if it is even still in business until Holly points to a structure adjacent to the one we first saw. It has an open door and turns out to be where they keep the chinchillas. We step inside, and a man advanced in his years wearing a straw hat and braided beard greets us. A sweet, ninety-year-old lady with short hair and glasses, accompanies him. The gentleman soon commenced the informative visit, where he introduces Chip, his flocculent Mosaic chinchilla.
When he put him on his shoulder he joked, “I walk around with a Chip on my shoulder.” Of course, we find his pun humorous. Despite my research about how to take care of chinchillas, I still have questions about proper maintenance for them. I still wonder how often chinchillas should bathe, and he said that Chip received about twenty dust baths a day. He came to the conclusion that their baths just need to be frequent.
After he shows us his chinchilla, he offers to show us the ranch’s baby chinchillas, to which we agreed. The tiny babies fit in our palms and overwhelm us with velvety preciousness. The fur from their heads protrudes upward, making it adorably disproportionate to their bodies. The fuzzy younglings possess a seemingly infinite amount of energy.
None of us had any idea that the little guys would be so fidgety. As the baby chinchilla in my hands continues to move around, I lose my grip and drop him. Needless to say, I feel like a heartless animal abuser, even though I had no intention of letting him fall. However, the man guiding the trip claims that chinchillas can fall from five feet and remain unharmed.
Feeling anxious about holding the babies for any longer, we put them away and begin making our way to the chinchillas for sale. In the cages stand full grown chinchillas, some of which have metal bits around their necks. As we wander further down the aisles, the owner says that they breed the chinchillas. He also tells us that the females’ metal accessory was a “wedding ring,” that showed that they had chosen a specific mate. Unlike females, the male chinchillas live a more polygamous lifestyle.
Finally, we make it to the wall of available chinchillas where I get to hold a little black one. He bites my jacket sleeve, which makes me crack a smile and feel over ninety percent sure that I had just held my new pet. But to be sure, I look at a younger chinchilla.
I pass the Ebony chinchilla to Holly and Scarlett, who take a liking to him.
They like him so much that they say, “You should get this one!” Their fondness confirms my decision that he is the one. The downy critter made me overjoyed. During that excitement, the ranch owners easily upsold me the larger cage. It has two stories, which gives him more room to be his energetic self. For forty dollars more, I was able to get the starter kit, which came with volcano dust for his baths, wooden blocks for his dental health, food, and bedding. Over four hundred dollars later, I officially have a chinchilla. Before I leave, one of the owners asks if she can bid the chinchilla farewell. I say yes, and she put him on her chest.
“I told you that you’d find a family,” she said as she kissed the chinchilla between the ears, “that loves you,” she finished. At the end of the visit, the owners give us hugs goodbye and almost forget to charge us. We then leave with the supplies and the pet in a tiny box from which I was anxious to release him from but could not. I kept him in the box because chinchillas can easily get stuck in many areas of the car.
Throughout the ride home, I start thinking of names for my new companion. I almost immediately come up with Goku, after the main protagonist of the show Dragon Ball Z. Holly seems apprehensive about my choice concerning his name since it sounds similar to Kovu. She had already named her evil iguana that we thankfully no longer have Kovu. I keep persisting on the name, but Holly continues to disapprove.
We come home, where I can finally let my little buddy out of his box. Being so excited to do so, I run right into the house with him and forget the cage and starter kit. I ecstatically go inside, and my delighted mother welcomes me.
“Let me see my grand-chilla!” she tells me. I take him out of the box and let her hold him as Holly and Scarlett bring in everything needed to take care of the new family member. We later elaborate on the discussion of his name until I think of the name Yuki, after a raven-haired protagonist of a different show. Everyone approves, including Holly.
Ever since the day I bought him, I have been calling Yuki my son, my little boy, and my baby. Yuki is more than just a pet; he is a source of happiness. I have held Yuki during times of sadness, as I was shaking from anxiety, and in rational moments of anger. From him, I have relearned that a pet can be not only a furry friend but a form of comfort when needed.