Posted: May 13, 2014, 4 a.m. EDT
© Courtesy Kimberly Belvedere
Edmund the guinea pig was a big fan of going to the beach.
A savior can come in any form at any time in our lives. Kimberly Belvedere’s came to her in the unlikeliest form — a blonde little ball of fur named Edmund with black and gray speckles. The little cavy turned out to be her champion during her most dire days; a time when she could no longer champion herself.
Even the strongest of people can be faced with a Goliath that needs to be slain. In this case, Belvedere’s guinea pig was David and her Goliath was what seemed to be insurmountable desperation brought on by a cascade of events. This vibrant woman has a long list of stellar accomplishments, including titles that would make anyone throw back their shoulders and have the confidence to face and conquer any challenge. What could have brought her to such a place? What’s more, how could such a tiny creature have saved her?
To understand the irony and gravity of the situation, we must look at exactly who Belvedere was and is. Among her occupations was a police officer (CHP and Ontario PD) of 12 years since age 21, a Chief of Staff to a California Assemblyman, and a prosecutor for the State Bar of California. The work of a police officer is not the warmest or fuzziest of careers.
"You see pain; you see the worst sides of humanity,” she said. "You must be a rock even at times when you feel like you cannot. Same with being an attorney. You can’t show weakness. The attorney who shows weakness will be eaten alive in the courtroom. Even at the capitol as a Chief, you are in the hotbed of crazy California politics — cutthroat deals, lobbyists cramming to get at you, reporters always angling for a story.” Despite those daunting things, she thrived and says she always had energy and the pride of success.
She shared that success with a little cavy packed with personality, Edmund, who entered her life shortly after she graduated law school. She experienced great joy from providing him with the best of everything, including a big, homemade fortress to play in and full run of the house. They went everywhere together, just as you would with a dog. Edmund loved the beach, berry picking, floating on his raft at the pool and even going on vacation with her. They went to Yosemite and Belvedere climbed the Bridalveil Fall with Edmund in her arms.
© Courtesy Kimberly Belvedere
Edmund also enjoyed floating on his raft in the pool.
Life seemed grand. Then one day, she took a risk that ended up being a huge mistake. She quit her dream job in Southern California and moved to a remote place in the Central Valley. That’s when it all went south. Less than two weeks later, her new job fell through.
"I think it took days to actually set in — I had no job. How could this happen to me?” Belvedere said. To add insult to injury, the very reason she gave up everything was to be with a man and get married, but one week later, he decided he was "not marriage material” and it was over.
Only she herself can put into words what she went through, "I would wake up in the morning, and I cannot describe the feeling. It was as if a 2-ton elephant was on my chest, I couldn’t breathe. Day after day. Although people would try to give me words of encouragement, it did nothing. Honestly, all it did was depress me more. All the friends and ‘connections’ I thought I had were dead ends. My family was 300 miles away. I felt more alone than I can even describe. Nothing helped, not even positive thinking. I felt dead, but like my body just had not yet realized it. I never thought feelings like this could ever happen — it was unreal. I knew I was going to suffocate. I did not want to wake up anymore.”
One job rejection came after another. One day yet another arrived and she fell to the floor and sobbed. She felt as if she had nothing … and no one.
What happened next changed her life — and may have even saved it. As she lay on the floor, completely defeated, she felt something crawling near her arm and then heard a deep purr. When she raised her eyes, she saw it was her beloved Edmund. He was looking back at her as if he was in pain with her. As they locked eyes, she saw that he so wanted to make it all OK, but didn’t know how.
"He was telling me that he needed me,” she said. "I petted him. Then, he came closer and started licking the tears away from my eyes. And I held him, and he nuzzled on my chest. It was the only thing that seemed to drain the pain from my body. He connected with my heart. We sat there for hours. And I knew, at that moment, that Edmund was my reason to wake up. Edmund needed me. Edmund couldn’t be without me. I had protected him his whole life, and now it was his turn to protect me.”
Her beloved pet gave her the breath of fresh air she needed and light during her darkest of days. He was there for everything from the simplest things, such as house chores, to the more difficult things, such as filling out job applications. She talked to him through it all. He was always there to redirect her from her woes, get her to focus on his purring and give her something tangible to hold onto when she started to drift. They were a team now. She’d tell him how they were going to move back to be around family, find a nice house and how he’d have his own room. She’d boast that she was going to build him the biggest and best fort ever.
© Courtesy Linda Belvedere
Edmund gave purpose to Belvedere's life so she could reconnect and get back on track.
She knows that many people don’t understand such a bond, and it infuriates and hurts her when they go as far as to say things like "it’s weird” or "he’s nothing but a rodent.”
"He was the reason I survived,” Belvedere said, "because he was the one thing that was constant and forever, like the North Star.”
Sadly, Edmund left this Earth on September 14, 2013. But not before completing a greater purpose in life. Not before his mother healed, found a good job, got her career back on track, and reconnected to life. Best yet, their relationship led to her finding a great many friends who also appreciate these beautiful creatures. Belvedere is active in events relating to guinea pigs, especially those that help the homeless ones. She takes great joy in knowing that other people and their guinea pigs will benefit a great deal from their own relationships. Most of all, she hopes that one of those wonderful animals will help another someday as Edmund helped her.
"Prior to Edmund, I was all about the job, always in control, always in command, always about success,” she said. "Edmund showed me that all those things pale in comparison to the love that a pet can give you, that the bond between a piggy and his or her mom is so precious that not a second of it should be wasted … and he showed me just how special these critters really are.”
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