Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Death Comes for the Guinea Pig

Last Saturday evening we were running all over the house, straightening up for a Pentecost potluck. People were yelling at each other, tripping over each other, bossing and objecting and protesting. Added to that was the mechanical noise -- the dryer, the dishwasher, the vacuum I was pushing around the dining room, sucking up dinner debris and the hay around Piggy's cage. Piggy, whose given name (not given by us) is Big Electric Piggy, has been a resident of the dining room for the four years since her cage was put there temporarily while her owners across the street staged their house to sell. They moved, she didn't, and ever since we've been the bemused caregivers of a guinea pig.

Piggy is a harmless creature and doesn't do anything novel, so I thought it odd that she was laying on her side kicking her back feet in a way I'd never seen before. A second later, I realized that she was convulsing. I called for Darwin, and he and everyone came running, and the evening abruptly shifted gears.

While Darwin snuggled Piggy in a towel, the oldest googled for information about guinea pigs and convulsions, discovering in the process that the life expectancy for piggies is 4-8 years. Piggy was at least 10 years old, though nobody knew for sure, so the prognosis didn't look good. Everyone took turns patting her head and telling her she was a good piggy, and after about ten minutes she grew very still and her eyes became glazed and opaque.

A shoebox was found, and a grave was dug, and Piggy was interred with all due ceremonies. The mourning continued on, with younger children wailing for the lost pig, and stuffed animals needing to be located and tucked in with everybody for comfort -- Piggy more essential in death than she ever was in life. In the morning, grief was assuaged, and we went on as usual, but without the little presence in the corner of the dining room to give an amiable squeak every now and then.

The kids are already asking for another guinea pig, but I'm not willing to add another animal into the house before the baby is born. But I do think we'll get another piggy soon. She was a good and gentle creature, and probably more missed now by the parents than the children. I told the kids, the night she died, that she was probably nibbling grass now in the Garden of Eden, and why not? Piggy was the least offensive creature that ever lived, and the primal paradise seems about the right place for animal souls. I hope she's adding her small squeak to the celestial harmony.


Foxfier said...

I have no idea how God works it, but God is love-- so I'm willing to trust Him to look out for what I love. I can try to come up with ways to express how He might do that-- thoughts on the stuffed animals you needed to find for the kids come to mind, to try to express the difference in kind, but it doesn't quite work right-- and I think you're right, Eden does sound about right.

Trying to remember-- do y'all have cat allergies in the house? If not, you might consider a kitten.
A real kitten. None of this "young adult cat that they say is a kitten to try to guilt people into paying $200 bucks for at the pet rescue place."

mrsdarwin said...

Oh no, we already have two cats, and they are 10 years old and 17 years old, respectively. The older one is a world-class curmudgeon, and the younger one is just plain dumb -- but she does catch mice and bats, so we make allowances. We keep saying that once they pop off, we're done with cat ownership, but that's probably just all talk.

CMinor said...

My sympathies. We once had a hamster with a similar background. He didn't convulse, just keeled over in his food dish after a long life of high adventure.

Emily J said...

Farewell, little pig! We have been serial guinea pig owners - the type that leave their pigs with friends and move away, only to acquire more at the next place. We have only had one die on us, and it was found dead in the cage, so it wasn't very traumatic. I'd vote that guinea pigs are the perfect pet for reluctant pet owners: low maintenance but still cuddly and somewhat affectionate, depending on their personality. If only they came with self cleaning cages...

Finicky Cat said...

Aw. Condolences. I know what you mean about a pet suddenly becoming more consequential in death than it ever was in life. The anticipatory enthusiasm of acquiring a pet - we've never had more than a short-lived rodent or water fowl - is the high point of affection, followed by the first week of ownership, followed by the day its death is discovered. Actually *having* the poor little thing, day after day after day, doesn't seem to excite anybody around here. Hence, very few pets...

(Perhaps a dog would be different? But we will never take the risk of finding out.)

Foxfier said...


In a fit of panic about the Princess not being an only child, and to get a cat to replace one of the two we'd previously had (poor thing died after a rabies shot), we got her a kitten. Didn't tell her until we got to my folks'. (Their barn cats provided the kitten. It's amazing how people will dump cats at any big barn near the road.)

It worked. She mothered on the kitten instead of the baby until the Duchess was big enough to TAKE it, and the kitten...well, he's a brat, but when someone is sick or crying, he'll come set about a hand's reach away, loaf up and purr.

It's not exciting, it's just...another family member. A rather young one that is randomly affectionate.