Guinea Pigs: A Farewell and a Welcome

In the spring of 2008, my roommate bought two guinea pigs for us. We named them Crème Puff and S’mores. I’ve always been fond of guinea pigs, because a guinea pig was my first non-fish pet as a child. When I eventually moved out, the guinea pigs came with me. My husband loved them right away, and we doted on our boys, giving them all the love and attention we could. We stuck with them even when Crème Puff developed heart trouble that required constant vet visits and twice daily oral medication. They were our darlings.

Crème Puff and S'mores

Crème Puff and S’mores

S’mores died unexpectedly in October 2012. One day he was fine, the next day he was acting oddly, and only a day later he was gone. We mourned his loss, for he was a sweet and gentle guinea pig and we loved him as an important part of our family.

Crème Puff, despite his medication issues–which continued to increase as he aged, outlived his companion until just last Thursday. We noticed a few days before that he was acting sleepier than usual, but at this point we knew his ongoing health problems would never be fixed and would only get worse. We doted on him, giving him lots of attention, but our strong-willed little guy was tired. He died peacefully on August 15, 2013.

Every once in a while my husband and I had talked about what we might do when the guinea pigs were gone. We sometimes thought about adopting a bunny. Sometimes we discussed being pet-less for a few months, or even for a year or two. Sometimes we considered other animals, although I’m allergic to dogs and they’re not allowed in our apartment. It was a constant conversation, always trying to decide what would feel right at some point in the future.

When Crème Puff died, “what we might do when the guinea pigs are gone” was no longer something in the future. Our pet was no longer with us, and we realized that our lives were suddenly empty. We weren’t happy about no longer needing to give him oral medication at 4:30am in the morning while my husband got ready for work or 7:00pm while settling in for the evening. I didn’t smile to think of the vet bills and monthly medication costs we wouldn’t be incurring. All we could think about was how much we missed him and how there wasn’t anything we could do about it. (I’m tearing up just thinking about this again. ;_;)

One of the first things we did after Crème Puff died was go to the closest pet store to stare at baby guinea pigs. Seeing their cute little faces as they romped with each other cheered me up enough to stop weeping over our loss. Even so, I knew that I didn’t want to leave the pet store with “new” guinea pigs. Sure, they were cute, and it would have been immediate…but I wanted to look into adoption.

Adopting a guinea pig is trickier than adopting a cat or a dog. Most rescues or shelters don’t take guinea pigs; they aren’t equipped to find homes for small animals, so often those small animals are euthanized. I looked on, but it wasn’t easy to find pairs of pigs that were near our location.

After looking through some of the listings placed by Critter Corral, a guinea pig-specific rescue in Illinois, I decided to email them to get more information. I wanted to know if they had any young male guinea pigs that were already being kept together. (That’s a bit easier than introducing two pigs to each other for the first time, regardless of sex.) We were hoping for young guinea pigs so that we could focus our attention–most of which was usually spent on caring for Crème Puff–towards caring for younger pigs. They need a lot more daily “work” to socialize, supervise, and teach them.

I didn’t expect to hear back from the rescue so quickly, or to be approved in a flash, or to be told that yes, they had two young males that had never been separated that needed a home. These two boys were so new to the rescue that they hadn’t been named or photographed yet. I said I’d be willing to take them as soon as possible, and they told me I could pick them up from an animal rescue event on Saturday. It was all settled and ready to go in a blur, and before I could really understand it I had signed a contract to take possession of two terrified little baby boars.

Lecter and Graham

Lecter and Graham

And it was wonderful.

Having these babies in our house is exactly what we needed. They’re skittish and shy. They need gentle handling and lots of supervision. Every fruit or vegetable is totally new and unfamiliar to them. They eat hay like they’re starving. When they’re startled, they dart towards each other, piling up into one mound of tan hair and big dark eyes. They’ve started to let us pet them with a little bit less hesitation each time.

They’ll never replace Crème Puff or S’mores, but they don’t need to. We just needed more guinea pigs to help heal the guinea pig-shaped holes in our hearts. We’re looking forward to getting to know Lecter and Graham’s personalities as they learn that they’re safe with us.

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