Wednesday, March 21, 2007

It happened so suddenly...

It's been a few weeks of craziness around the house, and finally I have a few moments to sit and write about what's been going on. First things first:

We've suffered a small loss in our family.

Our guinea pig passed away. When they got up, one of the older girls tossed a bowl full of greens and carrot in, and went on their way. When I checked in after an hour or so, he hadn't come out of his plastic igloo. Not normal behaviour at all. When I opened the cage and moved the igloo out of the way, I found him stiff and still -- he had passed sometime in the night.

We inherited Mister Squeakers from a family on Bolling AFB -- they were headed to Saudi Arabia and couldn't take their pets with them. He came fully equipped with cage, igloo, several water bottles, a hay manger, food, and a few books about the breed. We promptly tried out any number of new names for our new addition to the family. Monaco GP (guinea pig), Piggie-Boye, and several less popular ideas. I personally liked Mixmaster GP, envisioning him wearing a large gold medallion and shades.

He was a sizeable fellow, about 15 inches from stem to stern and very large. Portly would probably be a better description. He reminded me of a certain British actor from the age of black and white film. It was very easy to imagine him whuffling into his whiskers, saying, "Confound it, Holmes! Where's that blasted hay?"

His size might have contributed to a death earlier than expected. Of course, that may just be my making excuses for what happened, as I'm not sure how old he was when he arrived. Let's face it: he was a big, fat pig and he loved his veggies and such. It was a lot of fun to watch him steadily dismantle the occasional strawberry and he puttered about with orange stains on his chin after reducing an orange slice to a neatly-trimmed arc of rind. Loved his tomatoes, sliced or the little grape ones, and would set up a racket if I started cutting up green pepper for supper.

I feel a little sad now when I'm cutting up the pepper that he loved, or breaking up romaine for salad. I got used to him squeaking for his share, throwing his dish (and his not-inconsiderable weight) around in the cage.

I was the one that figured out something had happened. I was the one that handled the funeral detail, making sure that he was taken up before the girls noticed something was amiss. Part of the whole Dad experience is dealing with the dead pets, such as a couple of Emma's luckless tropical fish.

Taking our cat Mr. Velvet Paw on his last ride was one of the most difficult ones to do. With Velvet, we knew he was sick, and I had anticipated having to take him to the vet one last time when it got bad. So when he kept his weight on and stayed bright-eyed and bushy-tailed we didn't worry so much. When he started to fail, it all came to a head in less than a month. When it got bad for him toward the end, we discussed what was going to happen. We all had a chance to pet him and say goodbye. We all did some crying together before loading him into the carrier for one more ride in the car.

He died by my side in the car, on the way to the vet.

I miss him, much like I miss my beloved Perl the Wonder Dog (way before kids and marriage) or Velvet Paw. I'm not about to claim that "not a day goes by that I don't think of him." Too much much drama, and we've got more than enough in this house as it is.

I think of Perl, Velvet and Squeakers in much the same way: I'm not sure if there's an afterlife for beloved pets (heck, some days I'm not sure if there's an afterlife for beloved people). If there is, then Perl's is full of fat rabbits that run fast enough to be entertaining but not too quick to be caught without a little effort. Velvet's must be full of small rodents and the odd tin of sardines laying about all handy-like (we used to share a couple of them of an evening).

I imagine Piggie-Boy's is much like the picture above: It's high summer, a warm evening, there's plenty of grass and clover to eat and nothing to worry about at all. Hanging with his people, just enjoying the day.

Ostensibly Yours,


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