On one of my hikes up the hill behind my house—this was before I got the dogs—I ran down Park Avenue, a steep winding road that ends in the middle of downtown Laguna Beach, and then it’s couple of miles back to my house up the canyon. Halfway down where the road makes a steep curve, I discovered one of these little creatures huddled in the concrete crease between the road and the sidewalk.
A baby guinea pig, I thought. Someone’s pet. Every now and then a car would whizz by and he’d press himself against the side of the concrete. A hawk hovered above. Rolling up the front hem of my sweatshirt, I checked for cars then kneeled in the road and, using the hem as a kind of scoop with both hands, I tried to lift him up. He shuffled forward. I followed, scooped with one hand and with the other gently tipped him into my pouch. I continued down Park Avenue, walking now, both hands cupped around my passenger. Thirty-five minutes later, I turned into my driveway just as my friend and neighbor across the street emerged from her gate. After calling to her, I told her what happened and opened my sweatshirt to show her the baby guinea pig.
She peered down at the little creature. “Um, that’s no guinea pig. That’s a kangaroo rat.” She laughed. “You just rescued a rat.”
At first I felt embarrassed that I didn’t know the difference between a guinea pig or a rat, but then I decided it didn’t matter. There was no way I could’ve have walked away from that frightened little creature. Releasing my rescue in the vacant lot next to my house, I watched him scamper away.