Requiem

Franklin, my guinea pig, died this weekend.

It was a quick decline. Two weekends back he was in the vet to get his nails trimmed. I told them he was being picky about eating *only* his favorite foods, but we didn’t worry about it. One weekend ago, I picked him up to clean his cage, and he had lost weight. Last week, Wednesday, I took him to the vet. She said he had a heart murmur, and an enlarged heart. She took x-rays and gave medication, but, by Friday I decided we were going to do full-on piggy hospice mode…I was tired of stressing him out by syringe-feeding him, trying to make him eat pills or swallow fluids. And I decided that I would rather he felt rested and cared-for and loved than confused and agitated about the feedings.

Fortunately, I had Saturday off. I gave him a bath (which he did not like) and wrapped him in a fuzzy fleece sack I made just for him (which he did like). The orange juice I bought him (did he ever love sweets) sat in his bottle, untouched. He walked a bit, labored in his breathing, still squealed when it was feeding time (but didn’t eat much more than a few bites), and didn’t make it through the night.

I once read an article about loss of pets. It was like, “We know, when we pick them out, that this will probably happen…that their lives won’t last as long as ours. And yet…we do it anyway.”

He was a very vocal little guy. He eventually learned that, when my bedroom door was shut, I couldn’t hear him. But, my bedroom door fits tight in its frame, and releases with a gasp of air. He knew this gasp, would listen to it every morning, and greet me chatting for his breakfast. He’d chat with me when I returned home, too, often late, and he’d always wake up and greet me. This was my routine for the past six years.

It’s sad losing a friend like this.

I received messages all Sunday, feeling sorry for him, expressing loss. This was a nice touch from my friends.

It’s been a very cold snap this past week, though, and I, worried that the ground would be frozen, texted my brother and asked him to help me dig the hole.

We picked out a spot under a pine tree.

Death is weird.

We’re not supposed to know it, after all. We were supposed to have the garden and the animals with the trees, but, we made a mistake and here we are.

I put Franklin in the cozy fleece I made him the night before, in a little box. We placed him in the hole, not making eye contact.

I waited on the handle of my shovel, staring at the little pile, waiting for my brother to throw the dirt on top. He didn’t. I looked up at him.

“You throw the first shovel,” he said, “you named him. He’s your pig.”

So I did.

And we buried him and went inside.

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