In the course of events in this blog and this family life, long time readers know we've had some guinea pigs.
First, you will perhaps remember the saga of Oreo, Jess' first guinea pig. Oreo met her untimely demise when Geoff decided to give her a bath because she smelled funny. The thoughts of this family event still break my heart and make me cry.
After a while, Jess wanted to try it again and we went to the pet store and shopped for a new pig. One stood up in the cage and sang to her, and we knew he was ours. The kid at the pet store didn't know if it was a boy or a girl, so we named it "Gordon," after the Barenaked Ladies song "Steven Page is Having a Baby." He sings, "And if it's a boy I'll call him Gordon, and if it's a girl I'll call her Gordon. I just like the name Gordon." We thought that was perfectly appropriate. Turns out Gordon was a boy after all... our vet checked him out for us.
Gordon lived a good long life and was super cuddly and friendly and always wanted to be held. He loved the backyard, the dogs liked him. He ate flowers and grass and sat on the table while we did arts & crafts.
He got sick one day and the vet told us it was scurvy and a respiratory infection. She gave us antibiotics for the respiratory infection, and a prognosis that was not so good.
Geoff and I applied amazing veterinary care for several days to keep him comfortable and happy. We fed him and watered him with an eye dropper, we hand washed him since he could only lay on his side and then he'd be covered in pee. He could not poop, so I had to assist him with mineral oil and a Q-tip.
The lengths we went to for that pig, I tell ya.
He died one day before we left for church, and when we got home he jumped into my hands when I reached into the cage. We rejoiced.
But Zombie guinea pig didn't last much longer... he died shortly thereafter.
A couple years ago, Geoff asked for some more guinea pig love in his life so I decided to stop by the pet store and see what they had one Christmas eve day.
The pet store lady told me they were from the same litter as she held them in her hand. They were curled up together, so sweet and small... a black and white one and a tortoise colored one with a rosette on her head. I doubted they were really FROM the same litter, but they were the tiniest and they were together. So they came home with me.
Geoff named them Helena and Hermia, from Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." If you know the characters, one is plain and thinks no one loves her. The other is more beautiful and beloved... He decided the one with the rosette on her head would be the "more beautiful" one, and the other one, black and white and ordinary in appearance, would be the lesser beauty... so the character names seemed fitting.
Over time, they became backdrop to our story. They were always there, they would wheep wheep wheep to me when I walked in the room because it became clear almost immediately that I was the primary feeder and care giver. Neither of them liked to be held. They would run like crazy all over the cage to avoid being picked up, and once caught, they'd fight. So we stopped trying to hold them.
Geoff used them as his pets in the Pet Care Merit Badge for Boy Scouts. Our last guinea pig, Gordon, loved to sit in the grass and eat dandelion stems in the yard. Geoff figured he'd set these girls down in the grass and talk about them. Both of them ran like LIGHTNING out away from the circle of kids. Two guinea pigs, on the loose.
We'd talk to them, we'd spend time with them, we'd clean their cage. I think I talked to them every day.
This morning I came to talk to them, and Helena was on her side breathing heavy. I picked her up, she was struggling to breathe... I held her and Doug got a towel. Geoff came down and held her as we researched in the Google machine what could possibly be the problem. We didn't even have to discuss it. We have no money, a vet visit for a one pound guinea pig is a lot of money. If she made it through the weekend, which I doubted 99% she would, I'd bring her to the vet but we decided that the best course of action was to hold her and make her comfortable.
She was so soft.
Geoff went upstairs and I held her, stroking her and helping her when she pooped by cleaning it up with a paper towel. She didn't last longer than an hour. I'm kind of relieved that she went fast because I don't think that I could have made it through the weekend holding her and patting her and stroking her.
So there you go. Three guinea pigs in eleven years have met their demise in our house. Hermia is left, with her tortoise shell coloring and her rosette upon her forehead. I'm horribly worried that she is next, because whatever this was that took Helena came fast. She was fine last night.
To quote the movie Raising Arizona, "It's a hard world for small things." And right now it is a hard world for me. I'm very sad.