Thursday, December 29, 2011

Annus Horribilis

My staff, Badger and I were watching the Queen's Christmas message on Christmas Day when I was reminded of one of her most famous and often repeated phrases. No not "Oh for heavens sake Philip. Put it away, you'll frighten the corgis." Rather "Annus Horribilis." Why was I reminded of this? Well, firstly my male staff was bending over to pick up one a Badger's pieces of bush chocolate and secondly 2011 has indeed been a horrible year in my household - at least for my staff.

My female staff's dad broke his hip and had to spend seven weeks in hospital, where her also broke his arm while going to the toilet. Dementia then invaded his brain and he had to be placed in a care facility, which he alternately loathes and loves depending on what his poor old brain is doing on any given day. Then in May my male staff's mum was diagnosed with a inoperable brain tumour and given between six and nine months to live. My male staff and I have since been flying between Australia and London at regular intervals to help care for her. On the latest of these trips my male staff developed a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) and had to be put down. I'm kidding - he had to spend a week in hospital and is now on so much blood thinning medication that if he nicks himself shaving he's likely to bleed to death in under thirty seconds.

This DVT thingy also means that he can't fly long haul for three months. Even a guinea pig with four digits on each paw can do that sort of arithmetic and come up with the fact that my male staff is not likely to see his mum again. Finally my male staff's mad sister went even madder and has had to take stress leave from her job. I say "finally" because I'm crossing my paws that nothing else happens between now and 2012. It's only two days, but as a precaution my staff have decided not to go outside just in case. They have a good supply of chardonnay and cheese and have asked not to be disturbed until one minute past twelve on the morning of the first of January. In my opinion they are already very disturbed.

Meanwhile I've been preparing a list of New Years resolutions that I can break within the first week of 2012 like everyone else. For instance I vow to get in behind the telly a lot more because it annoys my staff and takes them ages to entice me out with all sorts of treats. I also vow not to mount Badger any more - or any less. Badger says he'll try not to get things stuck to his testostricles. I really have no idea how he manages to do it. They do drag on the floor and are not as hairy as mine so there's less protection. My female staff went to the pet shop the other day and asked if they sold jock-straps for guinea pigs. The pet shop lady thought that one of the inmates from the local psychiatric hospital had escaped and called the police, but that's another story.

 My male staff was going to play over thirty-fives soccer again next year, but his blood thinning medication has ruled that out. He's very disappointed, though the rest of his team aren't. His coach once described him as being "deceptively slow". "He's not as fast as he looks." He said. So he's going to have to take up lawn bowls or something less risky. My female staff says that 2012 will be the year that her shoe collection overtakes that of Imelda Marcos and my female staff's dad has vowed to escape from the care home by digging a tunnel and with the aid of forged papers will make it across the border to Switzerland.

Happy New Year Everyone.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Christmas Pelican

Boxing Day has arrived. It's incredible how often it comes straight after Christmas Day. What are the chances of that happening almost every year. There are three hundred and sixty four other days in could fall on, three hundred and sixty five days some years - just amazing! Anyway, many of you will know that Boxing Day is so called because it is the day that most fights break out - often due to the excess consumption of alcohol the day before. My male staff says that he prefers Boxing Day to Christmas Day because all the hoo-hah is finally over with and he can get on with being miserable.

Yesterday we all went out to a restaurant for our Christmas dinner. There was myself, Badger, my staff, my female staff's mum and dad and my female staff's sister and her partner. Quite a tight squeeze in my female staff's Hyundai Getz, especially has her dad had to fit his wheelchair in too. We were actually a bit worried about her dad as he suffers from dementia and just a couple of days ago had escaped from his aged care home on his walking frame and was heading up the road towards home with several nurses in hot pursuit. It was like the closing scene to any Benny Hill show you care to mention. However, on this occasion he behaved himself admirably. It was a lovely restaurant right on the Noosa River. Santa was there and everyone wore those stupid paper hats and read aloud the painful jokes from the Christmas crackers. A good time was had by all - even my male staff didn't say "Bah Humbug!" as often as he usually does.

The only fly in the ointment on this occasion was Badger. Being right next to the river the restaurant attracts quite a few pelicans, to whom the patrons like to feed their scraps. Badger was sitting on the table next to my female staff (He'd been eating her greens and was now eyeing her plum pudding.) when a large pelican (Actually they're all large to a guinea pig.) waddled in and snatched him up. It was all a bit surreal. There was Badger, his eyes standing out like a dog's dangly bits being paraded around between the tables of festive families by an opened billed pelican hotly pursued by my staff, who were knocking people's wine over and bumping food out of waiter's hands while apologising profusely and chasing the bird. I sat back on on my female staff's dad's lap to watch the fun. Luckily pelicans need a long runway for take off, otherwise things would have been even more interesting.

Finally the bird ducked between two waitresses and waddled into the gents washrooms followed by my female staff with a triumphant shout of "Hah! Got you cornered now you bastard." This somewhat surprised Santa who was standing at one of the urinals minding his own business and was not expecting to be called a bastard by some mad woman accompanied by a pelican with a fat black and white guinea pig in it's bill. Santa was even more alarmed when the pelican hid behind him in a bid to escape the clutches of my female staff who kept grabbing at the bird's bill between Santa and the urinal. It's amazing how fast a jolly, fat man can move when he wants to protect his candy cane and his sack of goodies from grasping hands and a pelican's snapping bill.

After a couple of entertaining minutes of this, the pelican finally spat Badger onto the floor, glared at my female staff, waddled back through the restaurant to the river and swam gracefully away as if it was the kind of thing that happens every day. Meanwhile my female staff scooped up a somewhat fishy smelling Badger, wished Santa a merry Christmas and returned to the table to finish her glass of sauvignon blanc. So all in all it was an excellent day. We all received the presents we wanted - even male staff's mad sister's dog Bella. One of my best Twitter friends Dalton the dog from Wagg Foods sent her a sample of their doggie chews. Apparently Bella told mad sister that she thought they were delicious, but she'd like a few more just to be sure.      

Lastly I'd just like to mention the Christmas turkey in his SUV who ran into my eighty three year old female staff's mum's parked car yesterday. She was just about to get into it as it happened. The turkey then blamed her - in a bullying tone for parking badly. However, I don't think the insurance company will see it that way and the turkey will end up coughing up the insurance excess at the very least. He needs to learn that if you drive into something stationary it can only be ever be your fault. May his Christmas pudding be filled with bush chocolate.  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Christmas Miracle

That peculiar time in the human calendar has arrived once again. Christmas. Thankfully for us guinea pigs it only comes once every twelve years. That's working on my calculation that each human year is twelve guinea pig years. This calculation also means that I spent two months in hospital with my male staff last week, but I don't really want to think about that. I've been trying to work out what Christmas is all about. This will be my second Christmas and I'm still no closer to understanding it. My male staff has been trying to explain it to me but I don't think it's helping.

He says that just over two thousand years ago this bloke Joe and his wife Mary were on their Christmas holidays in Bethlehem. Mary was about to drop a kid, and that was a bone of contention between her and Joe for a start because the kid wasn't his. He reckoned that despite being married for a while, he and Mary had never done the business. Mary said that an angel had visited her and told her that she would give birth, but Joe thinks it was probably the plumber. Anyway, my male staff says he doesn't know how they got to Bethlehem in the first place because if Mary was nine months pregnant there isn't an airline in the world that would let her fly - not even Garuda. Still, it was a while ago so maybe the regulations were a bit more relaxed then.

In any case, they must have booked online because their airport transfers never turned up and they had to walk all the way into town. Well, actually that's not quite true. Joseph managed to find a tout with a donkey which he hired and let Mary ride on it. Then when they finally got into town they found that their hotel had not been built yet and that the pictures on the website were "artists impressions". So now poor, naive Joe is stuck with a donkey and a wife who's nine months pregnant to a plumber with wings, a harp and a glowing white robe and has nowhere to sleep. He needs a drink really badly, so he finds a pub, ties the donkey up outside, goes in and gets a take-away six pack. When he comes back Mary is chatting to another plumber who tells her he has a shed at the back of his house that they can sleep in for the night. Joe knew he was a plumber because he had six inches of butt crack showing.

So an hour later they're ensconced the in the plumber's shed surrounded by bidets, taps, pipes and toilets. There's a lot of straw and a manger too. (Whatever that is.) There's also some cattle, sheep and a few chickens - the kind of thing you find in any plumber's shed. They'd hardly been there five minutes when Mary gives birth to a healthy baby boy. The cattle were lowing, which really annoyed Joe, but the kid didn't yell or anything, and that was the very first Christmas miracle. They were still stuck in the shed a couple of days later when some rich dudes turned up on camels bearing gifts. That is the dudes were bearing gifts - not the camels. Anyway, if they were that rich you'd think they'd have a car, or at least a bike. They handed over the goodies - gold, frankincense and myrrh. Again Joe was a little disappointed 'cos he'd really been hoping for a thirty eight inch plasma telly and one of those weasel toys that runs around the floor chasing a ball.

That, according to my male staff, is how it all started. Mary's kid grew up to be the Son of God and turned out to be a nice man but a rather unsuccessful politician who was rather badly done by one Easter thirty three years later, but that's another story. Ever since that that night in the plumber's shed mankind has celebrated the birth of this failed politician by bringing trees inside, getting totally rat-faced and eating so much that their trouser buttons fly off across the room, almost taking out Auntie Ethel's eye as she tucks into her seventeenth mince pie of the day. Of course these days Christmas begins in the middle of August which is when Joe and Mary first booked their holiday and paid their deposit.  Apparently for a couple of days in December some people are quite nice to each other when they've finished fighting over parking spaces at the local shopping mall.

Merry Christmas One and All.    

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bayonet Drills

Oddly enough, hospitals are not the natural habitat of the Cavius Hirsuitinii Giganticus (Large Furry Guinea Pigs). On the whole we as a species have yet to colonise this particular habitat. This may be due to the lack of food at ground level and the fact that the nurses tend to chase us while waving large hypodermic needles in our direction. Generally we prefer to graze around the floor of McDonald's restaurants where there is always plenty of discarded lettuce and tomato laying around. You do have to be careful not to step in the vomit of those foolish humans who have consumed one of the burgers though. It's almost as good a hunting ground as a long haul flight on an Airbus A380 - and without the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis - as my male staff knows all too well.

Nevertheless we are quick to adapt to new environments, which is just as well since I've had to spend the last six days roaming the wards of our local hospital where my male staff is ensconced, waiting for patients to get distracted so that I can snatch their sprig of parsley garnish from their plates. Sometimes they refuse to get distracted, so intent are they upon guzzling their food. On these occasions I'm forced to burrow down under their bedclothes and bite the inside of their thigh. Then while they're busy calling the nurse, (Sister, Sister! I think I'm having a groin attack!") I snaffle their parsley and anything else remotely green from their plate and scuttle back to the safety of my male staff's bed, under which I have constructed a very comfortable little nest of cotton swabs and incontinence pads.

The worst thing about being in hospital is that I have to listen to my male staff squealing every time a nurse jabs him with a needle, which is currently three times a day. The first jab of the day comes at about six in the morning, which is a great way to wake up, far more effective than any alarm clock. The nurse comes along to the bedside of my dozing male staff, plunges a nice thick needle into his arm and sucks up about a litre of his blood, which she says they will use to test his Warfarin levels. Of course the real reason is that all the hospital staff are having satanic rituals in the staff room after their coffee break and they need my male staff's blood to paint pentagons on the floor or something. At least that's what I like to think. Then he's barely finished squealing like a girl from that first jab when the second one comes an hour later. This time it's a hefty dose of clexane - a blood thinning agent. This is stabbed straight into his stomach, but it still doesn't stop him squealing, so they go away and come later with another dose of the same stuff. Wallop! Right in the guts it goes. It doesn't help that the nurse likes to charge across the room, needle in hand yelling "Yaaaaaaarrrghhh!" I think she might have been a bayonet drill instructor in the army before she became a nurse.  I don't think this second clexane jab is really necessary because he just starts squealing again and it lasts pretty much until he goes to sleep.

With all the light hearted hilarity and comedic value of my male staff's near death experience it is easy to forget one rather sad and somewhat poignant possibility. There's a fair chance that he will never see his mum again. She is now seven and a half months into a six to nine months life prognosis since she was diagnosed with a brain tumour back in May. It makes me a sad little guinea pig to think that I may never see her again either. She was always very kind to me and made sure I had a steady supply of greens. Even now, my eyes are leaking onto my fur. My male staff's doctor has told him that he must not fly for at least six weeks after he gets out of hospital. There's a reasonable chance that if he does it would kill him.  He can talk to her on the phone of course, but it's not really the same is it. He says glad that when he left her about three weeks ago he kissed her and told her the he loved her, but it looks like he's going to break his promise to return soon and that must hurt.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Boring Week

I really don't know what to talk about today. All in all it's been a pretty dull week. My female staff has been reluctantly going to work as usual, Badger's been his usual neat and tidy self. Always colour coding his vegetables before he eats them and always making a beautifully artistic pile of bush chocolate in the same corner of his cage. I like to spread mine about to give my cage that "lived in" feel. Mary the half tame magpie has been turning up on time everyday for her meat, as have Bubble and Barnabus the butcherbirds. Leroy and Lucy the lorikeets have been arriving as always at six AM for their seed.  So as you can see it's been a pretty average week. Oh yes. I nearly forgot..........My male staff almost died and has spent the last three nights in the intensive care ward at our local hospital. Apart from that it's all been very boring.

It started a couple of weeks ago while he and I were in England visiting his poorly mum.We'd done a fair bit of flying recently, what with two other trips to England and a couple to Africa. (You can read about these adventures in my earlier blog posts.) All in comedy class of course because my male staff is far too tight to pay for a business class seat. He started whinging and complaining about having a tight chest, feeling breathless and coughing up blood. That last little detail is never a good sign. Even his mad sister said that he should go to the doctor. He refused though, saying "They'd put me in hospital and then what would happen to Billy?" Touching eh? I always choose my staff for their loyalty.

So anyway, we get home and male staff tries to go for one of his regular runs. He gets about a hundred yards and has to stop and walk slowly home because he's puffing like a steam train and his chest feels as though Badger has been sitting on it all night. So the next day off we go to the human vet thingy. She pokes him and puts something icy cold on his chest seemingly just for a laugh. Then she tells him he has to go and have all sorts of tests and X-rays. See

None of these tests reveal anything other than the fact that Canadian radiologist have no sense of humour. So, back we go the next day to the human vet thingy who orders something called a QV scan, which my male staff assures me stands for Queer Vein but I'm not sure I believe him. So he and I get in the car and drive to Buderim - a town about forty-five minutes drive away. Here my male staff has this new scan which involves blowing into a metal box for ten minutes and then being shoved into a revolving metal tube for half an hour. It was terrible, there was no salad anywhere.

Once the scan was over we were told to sit in the waiting room where my male staff looked at semi naked skeletons in a 1997 copy of Vogue Australia while I chewed a copy of Woman's Day. Very nice it was too, especially the Thai salad recipe page. Five minutes later a doctor appears waving a piece of paper. He had a rather wild eyed, panicked look about him - rather like my female staff when she finds there's no wine left in the fridge. "You can't drive home like this!" He cried. "You could kill yourself, or someone else." That's interesting, I thought. He's obviously seen my male staff's driving before. He continued. "Your lungs are full of blood clots. If one of them shifts you could have a fatal heart attack or a stoke....or worse!" What could be worse than a fatal heart attack or stroke? I wondered. I didn't get chance to voice this question though, (Not that he'd have understood a small wheeking rodent.) because he said to my male staff,  "I've ordered you an ambulance and booked you a bed at Noosa Hospital. You're going to the intensive care unit immediately." Well, immediately wasn't exactly the right word because it took forty-five minutes for the ambulance to arrive.

So when the thing finally turned up my male staff was strapped to a stretcher while I sat on his tummy. Two paramedics watched him like a hawk as though he was about to croak any time at all, which would have meant lots of irritating paperwork for them and a late finish to their shift. Hospitals are fun. There are lots of cables and things to chew, but I'm not allowed to chew the ones that are stuck to my male staff's chest. These apparently tell the nursing staff whether or not he's still alive. Now they're pumping him full of anti-coagulant chemicals, so that if he nicks himself shaving he'll probably bleed to death. The boss human vet came to his bed and told him that he was very lucky. He said that twenty five percent of people with his sort of pulmonary embolism don't even make it to the hospital. Frankly I'm not surprised, the way they drive those ambulances.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Investment Advice

These are uncertain financial times we live in. How does a simple guinea pig know that? Well, for one thing, my male staff's language becomes X rated when he watches the stock market report on the telly. Apart from that, cavies are known throughout the animal kingdom as financial experts. Whoever heard of a guinea pig losing a fortune on the stock market? I rest my case.

Now, I understand that humans get a little bit confused with fiscal matters, so today I have listed a glossary of terms to help you get to grips with the jargon that you're likely to hear from politicians and economists on the television.

Chief Embezzlement Officer

Corporate Fraud Officer

Bull Market         
A random, short term stock market movement which causes the investor to wildly overestimate both his financial wisdom and his wealth.

Bear Market       
A six to eighteen month period during which the investor comes to terms with the fact that he's not so damned smart as he thought he was.

Value Investing  
The art of buying low and selling lower.

P/E Ratio          
The percentage of investors wetting their pants as the market keeps crashing.

What your Financial Planner has made you.

Standard & Poor
What your life is thanks to your financial planner.

Financial Planner 
A person whose phone has been disconnected and who's mail is redirected to Brazil.

Market Correction 
What happens the day after you buy stocks.

Stock split         
When your ex-wife and her lawyer split your assets equally between themselves.

People who's opinions are ignored by the CEO when granting himself a salary increase.

The fog that drifts across the investor's eyes when he hears financial jargon.

Fiscal Conservative
Anyone who spends other people's money.

Finance Minister
A government portfolio commonly given to the least numerate member of parliament.

The member of parliament who takes economic advise from the Finance Minister.

Hedge Fund
When your financial adviser has stolen your money and hidden it in a hedge.

Cash Flow
The movement your funds makes as they disappear down the toilet.

Greatly Depleted Purse

One who makes a fortune by exploiting poor people and then gives a tiny fraction of it back to them.

Merchant Banker
Cockney rhyming slang.

So there you have it. Hope it helped to clarify a few things. Now, here's some free investment advice.
Withdraw all your cash and line the bottom of your guinea pig's cage with it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Exploding Heart

Home at last, and what do I find? Badger has eaten all the parsley, that's what. I had the last laugh though because when he learned that I was due to return he guzzled all the parsley so quickly that some got stuck up his nose and he had to go to the vet to have it removed. I thought that sort of thing only happened to my male staff. Talking of whom; he brought something really nasty home with him, and I'm not talking about his dirty underwear - although that was pretty nasty. He returned home, not only with a large, hairy rodent on his shoulder, but with some sort of strange human malady in his chest. His GP (That's General Practitioner, not Guinea Pig.) told him that he's probably picked up some sort of virus. This, of course, is medical speak for "I haven't got a clue what's wrong with you, now go away and stop bothering me."

He whinges all the time that his chest hurts and that he's constantly short of breath, and it's true, he puffs and pants and wheezes as if he's about to have an orgasm any time at all. It's most unbecoming and quite alarming for the general public. He's worried because a few years ago he was hospitalised with newmoan....noomown....pnoomoan....a really bad chest infection and he is very anxious not to have to repeat that experience because at first they mis-diagnosed a DVT and pumped him so full of warfarin that his eyes leaked blood. But worst of all he had to sleep in a ward full of people even older than him and they used to hold farting contests in the middle of the night while he was trying to sleep.

Anyway his GP made him go and have an echo cardiogram today - mainly to cover her arse, so that if his heart suddenly explodes he can't sue her for negligence. Naturally he took me with him, I mean, who doesn't take their guinea pig along when having an echo cardiogram. So we sat in the waiting room thumbing through tattered copies of Woman's Day and New Idea magazines looking for pictures of scantily clad female celebrities, at least my male staff did. I always go straight to the cooking pages to see if there are any good salad photos.

Shortly my male staff was called, so he picked me up, put me on his shoulder and followed a Mike Tyson lookalike nurse into a dark room where he was told to sit on the bed and take his shirt off. "Someone would be along shortly." She/he/it said. There were all sorts of machines and monitors and humming things in the room, so while my male staff undressed I busied myself chewing a few cables. They weren't as nice as the ones you find on aeroplanes though. After half an hour's wait during which my male staff had turned an interesting shade of blue in the air-conditioning and his nipples had begun to stick out like that model of Wyoming's Devil's Tower that Richard Dreyfuss was making in Close Encounters, a very attractive Canadian lady in a short skirt entered the room and without further ado smeared my male staff's chest with what appeared to be jelly. This had an interesting effect on both his heart rate and his panting, puffing and wheezing. However the lady pretended not to notice and proceeded to stick little labels attached to wires all over him. (I wasn't allowed to chew these.) Then she rubbed a metal thing all over him while watching a monitor that made sloshing noises like a washing machine. The lady told my male staff not to worry about the noises, it was just his heart. Well lady, I tell you what. If my heart was making noises like a washing machine I'd be bloody worried.

Finally the lady stood up, turned the lights on and with some distaste wiped the jelly from my male staff's chest. Then with an evil grin on her face ripped the little sticky labels off, leaving him with more bald patches on his chest than a guinea pig with a bad case of mites. So, he dressed himself, picked me up, much to the lady's surprise (She hadn't seen me in the dark.) and asked her which was the way "oat". Sadly the lady had about as much of a sense of humour as a........well, as a Canadian, so she just glared at us and pointed to the door. I made sure I left her a neat little pile of bush chocolate in the corner of the room. Tomorrow we have to go back and get the results of the echo cardiogram and take them to the GP who will then tell my male staff whether or not his heart is about to explode.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Do Buy

And so with a heavy heart my male staff kissed his mum goodbye and told her that he loved her. Can you imagine how frightening it must be to be seven months into a nine month life prognosis? I for one would be running around in circles wheeking and expending a lot of bush chocolate. We'd spent a month living with my male staff's mum and dad in their house in the English midlands. When we first arrived, his mum was in hospital after a fall and a couple of seizures. The poor old thing looked dreadful, thin and weak and hardly eating at all - barely able to feed herself. By the time we left, she was back at home, strong, getting about with a walking frame and eating like a horse. Of course I put most of this improvement down to my presence. Who would not feel better for having a small, cute, furry thing running around their lounge pooping and chewing cables.

Both my male staff and I had arrived in England from Australia with expectations of attending a funeral and having to console each other and his dad. But no, the steroids are keeping the brain tumour at bay for the time being and his mum is so well that we are able to return Down Under to attend to business and be re-united with our loved ones - my female staff, Badger and Paolo and Biggles the budgies. Not to mention Mary the half tame magpie, Bubble and Barnabas the butcher birds, Thomas the kookaburra and Leroy and Lucy the rainbow lorikeets. We'll return to England in a few weeks, all being well, to see how my male staff's mum is going. The good news is that it looks as though she will see another Christmas.

Right now, as I am dictating this to my male staff we are one third of the way home, sitting in our hotel room in Dubai - or Do Buy as it should be called since it has more land mass covered with shopping mauls than the entire area of Belgium. From our window, across one of the ubiquitous building sites and Dubai Creek is the city skyline - a collection of tall futuristic needles poking up into the pale blue sky. The tallest of them, the Burj Khalifa is the nearly three thousand feet tall and looks like something out of the movie Blade Runner.
This afternoon my male staff took me for a long walk to wear down my claws a bit. (He says smuggling me into places down the front of his trousers is getting a little painful.) I toddled along with him for a while but it was hard keeping up, so I wheeked and looked pathetic until he picked me up and put me on his shoulder.

We ended up at the biggest shopping maul of all - The Dubai Maul which cowers at the feet of the mighty and extremely pointy Burj Khalifa. As far as I could see it contained a thousand shops all selling expensive tat, though I must admit my male staff did buy me a very nice salad. We thought we'd better avoid tabbouleh having had a bad experience with it when I was here with Badger a while ago.

A strange and interesting place is Do Buy. No matter how long a foreign national stays and works there he will never be granted citizenship. Even if his mother and father lived their all their lives and he or she was born there. Until yesterday the child of a union between an Emerati woman and a foreign man had no right of citizenship either as citizenship is passed down through male lineage. This is all very well, but the foreign partner will still never be an Emerati national even if his or her kids will. Do Buy has the tallest building in the world, more Ferraris than Australia has Hyundais (or so it seems to me anyway), and it has the world's longest driverless metro rail system - and still they manage to close the automatic doors in my male staff's face just as he's about to get on board, having just dashed up four flights of stairs with a large furry guinea pig on his shoulder.

Emirates - the national airline was looking at copying the rail system and having pilotless planes. (Qantas have already briefly experimented with engineless planes.) since computers already take off, fly and land the thing anyway. However, research showed that passengers would prefer to have a dumb human at the pointy end. (Though that isn't exactly how it was expressed.) Emirates have therefore compomised and from May 2012 all their planes will be piloted by a crew of one human and an American pit bull terrier. The human is there to reassure the passengers and the pit bull terrier is there to bite the human if he touches any of the controls.