Amazing the span of emotions a person can experience in one day. And all because of a little guinea pig.
Yesterday went from the excitement of a short school week and the anticipation of time with family for the Thanksgiving holiday to the agony of making, quite possibly, the most difficult decision I have ever had to make. Don’t worry, I will get to the “thankfuls”, because even in the lowest of valleys, there are always things to be thankful for. Always.
I had a sick guinea pig on my hands as we were preparing to leave town for the Thanksgiving holiday yesterday; that is, Zippy, Emma’s little friend that we got a little over 3 years ago. The thing about guinea pigs is that you don’t know they are really, really sick until they are really, really sick. Like, on the verge of death sick. This is something I unfortunately learned yesterday. I had noticed, over the last 4 or so days, that he was not his usual energetic self. He was looking quite pitiful. Not eating much. Or drinking much. The little guy who was usually very excitedly greeting you with his adorable little squeaking noises when you brought him a carrot was barely peeking out of his igloo. I will spare you all the details, but looking at him, I knew it was bad. So Hubby and I ultimately decided that I should take him to the vet before we left town. Now, you can’t just take guinea pigs to any old vet. So I had to call around to find one that takes care of guinea pigs. As I explained our situation, I proceeded to break down on the phone with the girl at the vet’s office. Have I mentioned that I am a crier?
After she had examined him, the vet informed me that it was indeed very bad. Using words like, grave condition, edge of death, maybe 40% chance, no guarantees, and—you have a decision to make.
A decision. A decision—the likes of which I had never faced before.
Meanwhile, I looked at Zippy, who was struggling to breathe and barely able to hold his head up. His suffering was obvious. I saw the estimate the vet prepared for hospitalizing our precious pet and trying to nurse him, with little hope for recovery. It was steep. I spoke to Clyn on the phone about what we should do. Did I mention we were trying to leave town?
I found myself faced with putting a price tag of the value of our little furry family member. Was his life less valuable than any other? This seemed like some sort of cruel trick. Surreal. One of those, “who gets to stay in the lifeboat” problems. And we all know, those problems have no right answers. No answers that you feel good about giving.
I was on my second box of Kleenex and, quite frankly, gob smacked. How could I make this decision without talking to Emma, who was still at school? On the other hand, how could I talk to Emma about making this decision any way? It is not a decision that a child should make. It is not a decision that anyone should have to make. Ever.
I felt very, very alone, in spite of the very kind veterinary staff. They couldn’t help me make this terrible choice. I was honestly caught off guard at the strong and uncontrollable emotions I was feeling about this little rodent, about whom I had said only the day before that I wasn’t going to take him to the vet. Yet, there I was. And there he was. And looming between us was life and death. And it was on me.
With Clyn’s agreement, I signed a paper. The only thing I remember seeing on the paper was “this decision is irreversible.”
Like Zippy’s illness. And like his death; a death which he didn’t even know was coming.
“We’ll let you spend some time with him.”
I held him and stroked his little nose like he always liked. I told him he was a good little buddy. I told him to rest easy. They took him away.
And then he was gone. Just. like. that.
Clyn told Emma when he picked her up from school about Zippy. She was so, so sad, but she didn’t say much. She just cried. And cried. And so did I.
I brought him home and Clyn made a little spot for him in the back yard. Our family of four gathered around and we said a few words. Emma made a cross out of some wood in our garage to mark his grave. Then she wrote on it in green sharpie:
June 21, 2008 – November 22, 2011
I have to tell myself I made the right choice for Zippy. But I still have the nagging guilt of “what else could I have done?” I know it was what needed to be done, but that doesn’t make it feel any better right now.
And yet, God is still God and He is still good and I was not alone in making that awful choice and I am thankful.
- For 3 years of enjoying a sweet little pet.
- For extremely kind and compassionate care, for both Zippy and me, from the veterinary staff, delivered without judgment.
- For a quick and painless end to Zippy’s suffering.
- For the comfort offered by friends and family, which was so welcome after such a day.
- For laughter and time today with my parents and brothers and sisters-in-law and nieces and nephews, which is truly medicine for us.
- For Emma getting to spend time with her cousin, Victoria, which is fun for her and a welcome distraction.
Maybe you say, “ he was just a guinea pig, I don’t see what you’re so wrecked about.”
Well, he was our little guinea pig. Our Little Buddy. And we loved him.