For the Love of Pets

Our beloved pets add so much to our lives. They entertain us with their antics, stare at us with those sweet undeniable eyes, make their favorite noises to let us know when they’re happy, or let us know in their own distinguishable way that we’re late with their dinner. They teach us to be responsible and learn how to communicate with something that can’t speak our language, and they show us more love than we ever feel worthy of.

The only downside to owning a pet is when their lives are coming to an end, which is where we are with one of our guinea pigs, Spinner, who is 8 years old.  Last Monday evening, we sat at the animal hospital with him, as he had not been eating. We suspected something was wrong with his teeth, but weren’t sure. The first thing the vet said was that he had never met a guinea pig that old. (It’s not a good sign when the vet says “I’ve never seen that before…”). Eight years old is ancient for a guinea pig. They normally only live to be 6 or 7.

After a thorough exam by a very caring vet, it was determined that Spinner has major dental issues. Probably an abscess, and maybe even a tumor causing the strange overgrowth of a lower incisor, absurdly wider than the vet had ever seen before. (Back to that, “I’ve never seen this before…”). He had this troubled look on his face as he described Spinner’s jawline as “jagged”. There may also be problems with the premolars, but he won’t be able to tell exactly what’s wrong unless he does surgery. It would be quite invasive and quite costly, and Spinner’s age is a concern.

We had to let the vet know by the next day if we wanted surgery for him on Wednesday, the normal surgery day at the hospital. Meanwhile, our take-home care package included an antibiotic twice a day, an anti-inflammatory normally used for dogs once a day, and “Critical Care” dry food which is to be combined with water and made into a slurry paste to be fed to him by syringe every 4-6 hours during the day.  Oh yeah, and special foot lotion because Spinner has these sores on his feet from sitting all day in one spot instead of moving around. And one more thing…instead of aspen chips as bedding, switch to “Carefresh”, as it will be better for his feet. Ok, hope somebody wrote that all down for us, and hope they take a credit card…

We leave the hospital lighter in the wallet and heavier of heart at about 8:15pm. We take the poor piggie home, who has been poked and prodded and we now have to dose with medication and feed by syringe. We cover the couch in towels to make this as easy and neat as possible. Luckily, my husband had actually fed guinea pigs like this before, so at least one of us had experience.

Suffice it to say, Spinner was not a real willing participant in this process. He tolerated the meds well, as they were tiny amounts and sweet. The food slurry? Not so much.  He back-peddled and make some rather unpleasant noises that we’ve never heard before. After a few mouthfuls, though, he must have realized it was food and sort-of cooperated. That didn’t stop him, however, from flinging slurry all over when he felt it dripping from his chin. We finally got as much as seemed reasonable into him, and were eager to finish with the foot lotion and put him to bed. It had been a long night. I wish someone would rub lotion on my feet after a long day…

The foot lotion is in a cobalt-blue glass bottle, which needless to say, is not squeezable. Really? Sigh. So I dig out some Q-tips and my hubby holds Spinner while I try to tickle the piggie to death, or at least that’s how he’s acting. He apparently does NOT enjoy having the pads of his feet touched. He’s wiggling, scratching, and trying to scramble with all his might as I try to lube his poor little feet as best I can. Exhausted, we call the event done and put him in his cage for the night, everyone covered in lotion, probably except for where it belonged.

We decide that invasive surgery on a very old piggie is not worth putting him through. So we’re continuing to feed him by syringe and medicate him, providing palliative care and lots of love for as long as we can. He’s a little more cooperative with the feeding now, but it takes 30-40 minutes to feed him each time, and we’re all still splattered with slurry when we’re done. He has not gotten used to the foot lotion at all, and still puts up a fight with all the energy he has, trying desperately to escape when confronted with the loaded Q-tip. There are copious towels crusted with food paste now soaking in the washer, and some moments we laugh at the ludicrous regime we now have going that includes twice daily foot rubs with lotion for a guinea pig that we could replace for $30 at the pet store. And then Spinner looks up at us with those cute pink eyes, and we know it’s all worth it for as long as we can have him.

Oh, for the love of our pets…

Love & Light,


Update 4/7/11: We are mourning the lost of our furry friend, as Spinner died sometime during the night. A brief memorial service was held in the back yard, and he was buried with some carrots and dandelion greens, his favorites. R.I.P. Spinner…


About earthgrl

Herbalist, Naturalist, and Reiki Master posts her observations, musings, and hard-earned wisdom about the natural world and how it speaks to our spirit and heals us, inside and out.
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One Response to For the Love of Pets

  1. Michelle hartis says:

    What a cutie!!!! Spinner is in my prayers, and I think that you and your entire family are amazing!!! Spinner is one lucky little guy!!

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