Our last guinea pig died this morning – ‘Fudge’, eight years old, and the mother of eight babies. She was a plain brown ’pig, always hungry and always greeting you with demanding squeaks whenever you walked past her cage!
Shouldn’t be a big deal, eh? She has outlived her children and her expected time on earth, resided in 5 Star accommodation (bedroom, lounge and run), …just a humble little brown guinea pig.
Then why do I feel so sad?
Her death marks, for me, the end of a long and significant era in my life. Guinea pigs arrived in my family’s life when our now 17 year old daughter was just two, and a wild, free-spirited little toddler, who through them began to learn how to care for others and touch gently.
Amber grew as they grew, from making fabulous hutches with her dad in the backyard, to the fun of naming them! (They were all given ‘food’ names – Creamy Caramel, Snickers, Ginger and Caramello – to name but a few!)
As a nine year old, Amber was the one who found Fudge’s first litter of babies – 5 tiny things curled around their Mum in the straw. She delighted in watching them walk and eat within a day of their birth, micro versions of their parents. She experienced the pain and the profundity of death, giving palliative care to Creamy Caramel until his last breath, and burying numerous little pigs in a special plot in the garden, with ritual and remembrance.
When she turned twelve, Amber and her friend decided it was time for Fudge and her beau (Buster) to “make it legal” so they planned and conducted a wedding ceremony for them on our kitchen floor! Amber had made Fudge a wedding dress and Buster a little jacket and tophat. Their children were the bridesmaids and groomsmen. I was designated the task of keeping order as the happy couple were ‘nudged’ down the aisile!! The vows hadn’t been completed when guinea pig bedlam broke out with much gnashing of teeth and an attempted mating at the altar!!
As our daughter became an older teenager, her interest in the remaining ’pigs dwindled and they became (as pets do!), the responsibility of her parents to clean and feed. Yet this never felt like a chore as they demanded little, had their own sweet ways, and were a part of the daily rhythm of our lives. And yes, they provided an unbroken link to the childhood of our young adult daughter, to the innocence, freedom and joy of that time.
So, now the hutch is empty, Fudge is buried with flowers and her favourite foods in the garden, and we farewell the innocent times that somehow go with these most benign and gentle of childhood pets.Vale Fudge.