Another Amimal Story

As you can tell, we seem to have  a number of animal stories in our family.  My husband, Sheldon, was a scientist.  In his work, they kept white mice, primates, and guinea pigs in the animal colony.  Unbeknownst to me, he had asked one of the animal caretakers to use our car to transport some guinea pigs from the laboratory to the animal colony, which was several blocks away.  A few days later, I was driving the car, when I heard some squeaking.  I pulled over, looked in the back and underneath the seats, but couldn’t see anything.  Maybe it was my imagination… 

I told Shel about it that night.  He investigated, but couldn’t find anything.  Several days after that, as I was driving along the Cross Westchester Expressway, I felt something go bump under the seat.  Arggh! As Charlie Brown would say.  I almost drove off the road!  Either the car was haunted, or something alive was under there… 

I continued driving.  Something definitely alive was under there! 

I am not the most fearless animal handler.  Again, I turned to Shelly.  By now, he sensed what had happened.  When the caretaker had transferred the animals, a cage must have opened and one of the guinea pigs escaped.  It found the perfect place to nest under the driver’s seat.  For food, it ate the stuffing, but without water, it couldn’t have survived much longer.  We put  bowls of water and some pellets on the floor, and after a few minutes, out came this sweet little guinea pig.  He could hardly stand, he was so weak.  We took him into the house, found a cage from a pair of gerbils who had departed this earth for gerbil heaven (that’s another story) and nursed him back to health before returning him to the animal colony.

I must explain about the animal colony.  When I first met Shelly in 1956, laboratory animals were routinely used in experiments and often “sacrificed” at the end of an experiment.  An autopsy was usually the best, if not the only, way to verify the results of a study.  Even back then, before animal rights groups made all of us aware, Shelly had great reservations about the treatment of animals in scientific research.  Over the years, standards were adopted for more humane treatment of research animals, but long before it became the rule, Shelly changed the way his lab dealt with animal subjects.  While animals are still used to test new drugs, every effort is made to prevent them from feeling pain.  With computer modules, it’s possible to obtain many test results without using animal subjects.   Before a new drug is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for clinical testing in humans, however, it must have been proved safe in animals.  For all animal lovers, including us, it’s a dilemma. 

In my work-in-progress, First Among Peers, I write about the world of medical research.  Are we justified in using animals as subjects in scientific experiments that are designed to create drugs that will save the lives of thousands?  Or, perhaps, prevent a pandemic that could wipe out entire populations?  You be the judge.