It seems i’ll be moving soon. Made an offer today on a townhouse. i’m capitalizing on the crappy housing market and buying a new place. I’d call it “down sizing” except it’s the same size as the house i own. Fewer bedrooms, more party space. Within a month or so, i shall also become a
slumlandlord, and advertise my current home as a rental.
Joy. But, i shall “buy low”, and maintain the current home as “cash neutral” until the market recovers. It’s math. Not a big deal.
Knowing that this was in the cards, i’ve made a few feeble attempts to poke my way through 20 years of life-shrapnel that has collected in my home. Last weekend, while sorting ancient paperwork on my desk, i stumbled across a document that brought back a flood of memories…
It was a bill from the veterinarian for $70. The “patient” name – “Blossom Jenny”. Blossom was one of our first guinea pigs. When The Girl was about five years old, she decided that guinea pigs would be good pets. We encouraged her to learn more about the care and feeding requirements for happy pet rodents.
After she became versed in “pig care”, we relented. Family trip to the pet store resulted in two pigs – The Girl named hers “Blossom Jenny”. The Boy – all of 4 years old at the time – wanted to name the other pig “Dad”. We explained that the name was already taken in our small family. His eyes narrowed. He smirked and said quite deliberately “Turbo Dad”. It stuck.
A few weeks later, we discovered that Turbo Dad had violated one of the commandments with a sibling while still at the pet store, as she birthed three baby pigs. Suddenly, we had a ranch. Five guinea pigs. Fuck.
First order of business was to learn how to “sex” a guinea pig to prevent further incest. If you turn one upside down, press on the little pig-belly just above the ‘nad’ region, you can determine guinea pig gender. If a teeny pig-weenie pops up, it’s male. Just like humans, for the most part*. i got good at this. Fast. Calling the pet store, they agreed to take the two male pigs once they were weaned.
This left me with three female pigs. And so it went… We expanded the “ranch”, building a happy pig farm from a plastic baby pool. They are extremely good pets – cuddly, low maintenance and fun to watch**. An added advantage? They have a relatively short life span*** – just about equal to a 5 year old child’s interest in caring for small pets. Being suckers for animals, we even took in a “stray” pig from a friend at work. Abandoned guinea pigs? They need love, too…
Over time, the pigs died off. A great mechanism, by the way, to teach children about death and dying. Four are buried in my side yard. Was a bit of a challenge to explain why other family members weren’t going to be buried there too, but overall a good lesson. Thankfully, none of the grandparents kicked off in the same timeframe.
The last pig standing was Blossom Jenny. When The Girl was around 10 years old, Blossom took sick. Guinea pigs will completely lose the will to live when they catch cold. We noticed Blossom wasn’t eating, started feeding her water with the eye dropper. i also noticed a protuberance around her abdomen. Better take her to the vet.
The vet examined her, identified an abscess, and after draining (blechhh) the abscess, prescribed antibiotics. Which The Girl and i mixed with yogurt and administered through an eye dropper four times a day. For ten days. Returning to the vet, we learned the abscess was still there (blechh), and went for another round of antibiotics. After another 10 days, we returned to the vet.
In hindsight, i’m astonished that i didn’t flinch when he suggested surgery. He wanted to “open her up” to see what was going on. After almost a month of daily nurturing of a sickly pig, The Girl and i were pretty heavily invested in her health and welfare. Of course, we wanted her to get better!
Leaving the pig at the clinic, i went to work. Early that afternoon, i received a call from the vet. i was informed that Blossom had an abscessed kidney – pretty much fatal. She made it through the surgery but died in recovery. Weeping hysterically, i agreed to stop by later in the day to settle up the bill. Regarding the disposition of the body, the vet recommended cremation/burial in a mass grave for a small fee. i sniffled, regained my composure, and agreed to the arrangements****.
On the way home from work that evening, i stopped by the veterinary clinic, and wrote a check for $70. For a dead guinea pig. Ten years later? Perhaps the saddest thing is the realization that my pet guinea pig had better health care than many humans living in the United States.
* Richard Simmons, Janet Reno and kd lang excluded…
** Also my definition of a perfect “boy toy”…
*** Um. Yeah. See comment above. Five years may be about two years too long for the “boy toy”, though… My attention span needs work.
**** At the time i shared an office. My office mate happened to be in the room when i took the call, and only heard half of the conversation. From his point of view, he discerned that: a) someone had died – due to my hystrionics upon receiving the call and b) i agreed to leave the body in a mass grave for $5 extra. Took him a couple days before he asked about it… Best. Office Mate. Ever.