One of our two beloved guinea pigs passed away yesterday at the ripe age of almost-5 years. It's been a sad time in our house.
Now, I know many of you may be thinking, 'It was only a guinea pig.' True, it was, but these little animals have a way of morphing into an actual family member, someone who matters. And that was Cuddles.
I for one never thought I'd get overly attached to the little varmints when we first adopted them almost five years ago. They were a gift to our children, one for each of them. We had decided on guinea pigs as our family's pets because there were too many allergies in the house, and they seemed like a good choice. And we thought having pets was important for lots of reasons. This is before we decided to go ahead and adopt a monstrous dog, that is. But that's another story...
We gave the kids the GPs for their birthdays. Cuddles and Furry were just wee babies when we adopted them, so tiny they both could fit in a porridge box. You could scoot one into your shirt pocket if you wanted to. That's how tiny they were.
Almost from the beginning, you could tell they were very different in their personalities. Furry (Dennis named her) was outgoing, assertive, fun-loving, silly. If she were a person, she'd be the life of the party. Cuddles was more refined, shy, subdued, dignified. She drank her water with precision, letting nary a drop fall from her little plump black-and-white lips. She was more skittish, always trying to make a getaway when one of us tried to pick her up and give her some loving (which was often). As a human, Cuddles would be the classy girl holding her glass of chilled white wine at the party, watching the commotion around her.
Our GPs had the best life. We had built a cage just for them so that they would have lots of room to run around, and we put them in the corner of the dining room, because we knew they were social animals who needed and wanted people around them. We fed them lots of hay, special pellets, Vitamin C, and two servings of fresh veggies every day. And we'd take them out of their cage often so that they could get some more exercise and have a different environment. They'd always end up making their way back to their cage. They had lots of attention, lots of love.
A while ago, Milly noticed Cuddles had a lump near one of her nipples. So we took her to her very first vet appointment, and were told it looked like an ovarian cyst, nothing to worry about. Bring her back if she seems ill. The vet even complimented us, saying our GPs looked nowhere near five years old. So, we watched Cuddles, and Milly would regularly take care of the lump, squeezing it to get rid of the gunk inside. Then, the lump sort of went away, and we were so happy, thinking the cyst was gone and she was healthy again.
However, over the last few days, I had noticed Cuddles was acting a little strange, a little out of the ordinary. She would face the wall of the cage a lot, and she seemed more subdued than usual. But I didn't really give it any more thought. She was still active, still eating and drinking and pooping, as guinea pigs do. On Saturday, however, Dennis noticed that she was really lethargic, just kind of lying there in the cage in one of the shelters, not really reacting to anything or anyone. So I picked her up and I could tell she wasn't well. We tried feeding her, and she would take one bite of the carrot and one nibble of the romaine lettuce, and that was it. She was also just lying there, very still, and I had also noticed that she had lost some weight. The tummy she so proudly and gracefully wore was gone.
We held her the rest of the day, and by the end of the day, had decided that if she was still like this Sunday morning, we'd take her to the vet.
I think that cyst she had was actually cancer, and there was probably nothing we could have done for her anyway. Guinea pigs don't do well with surgery and anaesthetic. They have very sensitive little systems, and chances were she would have died on the operating table anyway, if we had decided to go that route in the first place.
This is the first pet to die for our kids, and it's a very sad and difficult time. Now Furry is all alone, and we have to decide whether we want to continue raising guinea pigs and introduce a new one to the family, or just let Furry be on her own. It's going to be a hard adjustment for her, so I have a feeling we'll be getting a new little piggy soon. No one will replace Cuddles though.
Sorry if I bored you with this post. It's a major event for our family, and I felt I had to write about it since that's what this site is about.
Milly said Saturday night, crying a few tears as she thought about it, "But what if we only put out one stocking this Christmas?" meaning not two for each pig, just one for Furry. Yes, the guinea pigs and the dog get Christmas stockings. If you have a problem with that, talk to Santa. It's his fault. I think we all kind of knew Cuddles was very ill and wouldn't be around for much longer.
Anyway, these are hard lessons we all have to learn one way or another. I don't know if I'll ever understand why these things happen, but I have finally started to accept death as part of life, and that although it's so sad Cuddles is gone, she'll always be alive in our hearts.
Bye bye Cuddles. We love you.