Friday, July 6, 2007

The death of a pet

Sometimes, it seems as if there are two types of people in this world: pet lovers and those who don’t love pets. My family is in the pet lover category. Until today, we shared our home with our almost 5-year-old greyhound Oscar and a 5-year-old guinea pig Ernie. Ernie was one of a pair, with Bert, but Bert passed away in the fall.

After today, Ernie won’t be with us any more. He’s failing fast. He was fine yesterday morning but my oldest son, the 20-year-old, found him not well last night. Not well at all. He wouldn’t/couldn’t eat. I don’t have a problem with bringing piggies to the vet; I’ve done it before with previous guinea pigs who shared our home, but at night, there’s no vet for small animals here.

All evening, either my son or I held Ernie until he seemed to want down. We put him on the floor and he slowly made his way across the living room to his cage. That’s where he wanted to be. So, in he went and he made his way to his favourite corner. My son didn’t want Ernie to be alone, so he brought the cage to his room for the night; surprisingly Ernie is still with us, but very weak. As soon as the vet opens, I’ll be taking Ernie over and saying our final good-byes.

I know that some people will say just to let him go, why bother with euthanasia, but no animal should suffer. Ever. And Ernie does appear to be suffering now.

I never dreamed I’d love a guinea pig. I grew up with cats and dogs. I wanted a dog, not a guinea pig. I wasn’t against them, I just never saw them as pets. When my now 20-year-old was 7, he decided he wanted a guinea pig. Smart mother that I thought I was, I told him, “sure, we can get a pig, but first you have to find out everything there is to know about having one.” The little guy got to the library and took out books on guinea pigs and studied them hard. A few days later, he had all the answers I could ask for. Ok, time to come up with plan B. “Find out how much it costs to get a guinea pig and all the accompanying stuff, including cage, and then we’ll talk again.” Smart little fellow knew within two or three days that it would cost about 80 dollars. Darn, foiled again.

Plan C, and the last one before I’d have to give in: “Raise half the money, I’ll match it and then you can have your guinea pig.” I figured that this would buy me some time. Hah! Never underestimate the determination of a 7-year-old and his 5- and 3-year-old siblings. They checked under couch cushions, raided piggybanks and pockets. Any beloved aunt or uncle who set foot in the house was fair game to be hit up for a few dollars. Wouldn’t you know it? They had the money raised inside a week. Time for mom to step up.

Off we went to the pet store. I’m not a pet store fan, but I didn’t know where else we could go. This particular store doesn’t sell dogs or cats, just birds and small animals like guinea pigs. The kids saw their first guinea pig and we brought him home. Ben was now a part of our life. We were lucky enough to have Ben for six years. During the six years, we bought home a rambunctious 2-year-old golden retriever, Rox, to join our family. The first day Rox went over to Ben’s cage to check him out and Ben promptly bit Rox on the nose. “I was here first bud,” he seemed to be saying. Rox was always very respectful of Ben’s seniority after that.

Ben’s death was the first that my children experienced and they were devastated. Surprisingly to me, so was I. This little creature who taught my kids to love him just for what he was, nothing else. His death saddened me as much as any of my cats and dogs of my youth.

Not long after, Paddy, the gender-confused GP, joined us. We were told Paddy was a girl, so we named “her” Patti. We quickly found out that she was a he, and Patti became Paddy. Again, the children loved him and cared for him until he left us when he was only 4-years-old. Finally, we got Ernie and Bert. By this point, I’d learned that GPs did well with a pal, so the two of them lived together peacefully until Bert died this past fall. We were afraid that Ernie would mourn and die, but he did quite well. Until last night. And now it’s time to say good-bye. I’m just waiting for the vet office to open. My tears and sadness are for my children as well. It’s never easy to lose a beloved pet, whether it’s a goofy golden retriever who loved to play tug-of-war and chase tennis balls, or a soft, squeaking guinea pig who just was there to be loved.

Ernie is the multi-coloured piggie, Bert is the brown and white one:

Safe travels Ernie.

Update: 7:30 a.m. No need to go to the vet. Ernie passed peacefully just now.


Dawn said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. He looks adorable and loving. And another connection severed to your children's childhood? Maybe they are feeling that loss too?


Crabby McSlacker said...

So sorry to hear. My condolences, too, that's a hard one.

Marijke Vroomen-Durning said...

Dawn, you could be right. I hadn't thought of that. We packed away his cage and everything. We won't be having any more guinea pigs as my husband never really wanted them anyway. Shows you what a good dad he is. A non-pet person tolerated guinea pigs and dogs because his kids really loved them.

Crabby, thanks. It's always hard, isn't it?

Dawn said...

We give our heart to our pets, Marijke, and they give something back. Sorry you lost the little guy but it sounds as if he had a wonderful life with you and you were all there for him at the end.

(PS I see you have two Dawn fans)