I can't believe I am going to blog about a guinea pig, but I am. Not just any guinea pig. Our Wilbur.
He and Alphonse came to live with us in the Fall of 2010. A family we are friends with had them as pets, but decided to find them another home, as they were expecting their 8th baby in the family. Our children had been wanting guinea pigs, and so we were happy to adopt them. There were two piggies. Snowball was 2 and a half years old, approximately. Percy was a baby... only 3 months old. Percy was skittish, and did not want to be held or even touched. Snowball was used to being handled, and was a sweet, cuddly piggie. It was instantly decided that the older piggie would be Robyn's pet, and the baby would go to Amy.
Snowball was a long haired guinea pig. Not all white, but he was mostly white. Around his face and head were patches of brown and black, and he had curious brown eyes, and a Mohawk on top of his head. He had a scarred mouth from a previous battle with another pet, and he had not healed properly from his injuries. It left his mouth a bit deformed, but he was still able to eat and drink well, and wasn't hurting him. It also made him unique and cute in a different way than most guinea pigs. He was affectionate and adorable. We immediately loved him.
Percy was in a constant state of "freak out". He was a short hair, and butter-yellow in color. Both girls loved their new pets, but wanted to give them their "own" names. So Amy re-named Percy, and gave him the name Alphonse, after St Alphonsus. Robyn had just finished reading the book, "Charlotte's Web", so she wanted to re-name Snowball, "Wilbur".
Amy had trouble with Alphonse. It took several months for him to be calm enough to let Amy hold him. She was sad, thinking her pet would never love her back, and would never be a cuddly boy like Wilbur. Months of patience did pay off. Eventually Alphonse did come to love her, and snuggle with her when she picked him up. Each of my girls had their piggies cage in their bedrooms. Alphonse would wheet and popcorn happily when Amy came into her bedroom. Wilbur did popcorn too, but not as much as Alphonse. But he would put his little paws up on the side of the cage and try to see her coming and then wheet happily when he saw her coming.
At night, I would come into Robyn's room to say prayers with Robyn. Even if Wilbur was asleep, he would awaken to our Hail Mary's and begin shamelessly begging. It was a joke around our house that Wilbur had to have his "bedtime carrot". :)
After we'd had the piggies for a while, we noticed that Wilbur's long hair was coming out in tufts. He had a bad scratch on one side, and scratched himself constantly. He was one miserable piggie. Bathing him didn't help. We took him to a veterinarian who treated exotic pets. We took Wilbur, and she discovered that he had mange. We have no idea how he had gotten it. Alphonse didn't have it, and neither did our family dog, Daisy Mae. The vet concluded he must have picked it up at his old home and brought it with him. I did ask his previous owner, and she'd noticed his itching too. She had presumed he had fleas. So poor little Wilbur had to have one shot every two weeks... a total of three shots. He did not like the shots, and would cry and try to get away when he saw what was coming. The girls could not bear to watch. One visit I had to hold him... and I was in tears holding poor little Wilbur so she could stick him. I felt very mean, and cuddled him afterward to let him know he was loved. Funny how attached we can get to our little fuzzy friends.
In addition to the shots, he had a bottle of medicine, with a dropper. Each night we had to wrap him in a small towel and hold him in our arms like a baby and squirt the drops into his scarred little mouth. He looked so cute licking the dropper every night. And afterwards we would give him a bit of carrot for being such a good piggie and taking his medicine. Of course, we all enjoyed this. And within two months, Wilbur was all better, and now we could cuddle him all we wanted. And we did!
My girls loved their piggies. They would take them out and let them have "running around" time, and enjoyed holding them and hand feeding them. They planned an elaborate, multi-level guinea pig playground that they wanted their daddy to build them. When Christmas came, Santa never forgot Wilbur and Alphonse. He brought them chew toys for their cages, and treats.
Around Christmas 2011, Robyn shouted for me to "come look". Wilbur was sitting on top of his 'pigloo', pretty as you please, like he was king of the mountain. Alphonse had been doing the same thing for ages, but Wilbur had never figured out how to get up there. He finally had. Then he would climb up, and watch for one of us to walk by so that he could wheet for treats. We loved it! :)
In January of 2012, Robyn became sick with a cold, and had a very bad cough. We should have moved Wilbur to another room, as guinea pigs are very susceptible to respiratory illnesses. But thinking he'd "be alright", we didn't. Three weeks later, we were very, very sorry indeed.
Amy brought Wilbur in to me, telling me that something was wrong. She handed Wilbur to me. He didn't cuddle like he usually did. He seemed too light. Weak. Barely responding to me petting him, and panting. We got him a bit of carrot. He didn't want it. We insisted, and he had a small nibble. Amy looked up on the internet, and saw that guinea pigs had something very in common with pet birds. They hide illness. And when they finally show signs of illness, it's pretty well too late.
Wilbur moved into his "Aunt" Amy's room since she is much better at piggie nursing than Robyn is. He had plenty of fresh Timothy hay, food, and he crawled pitifully into his pigloo and slept. Later he came out for water, and then just laid there, next to his water and slept. And that was where Amy found him the next morning.. and realized that he had died.
Amy woke me up, telling me that Robyn's little pet had died. Amy wrapped him in a small towel, and put him back into his cage. I called my hubby at work, and told him the sad news. He promised to bury poor little Wilbur when he got home. Breaking the news to Robyn was not something I wanted to do. But sometimes us mothers have the bad job, and that was my day. I was glad Amy had wrapped him up. I didn't want Robyn to have to see his little dead body. Mark got off work an hour early, and he came home and sadly removed Wilbur from the cage. Mark had loved him too. He told Wilbur how sorry he was as he re-wrapped him neater, and held him carefully as he carried him outside to our back yard. Mark was trying to decide where to bury poor Wilbur. We had a new dog, Abby, another Labrador. Abby is a good girl, but like most large dogs, she likes to dig holes. Mark did not want Abby digging up poor little Wilbur.
We have a Silver Maple tree in our back yard. Our dog Peaches is buried under it. On one side of the tree is our statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Mark moved the statue and buried Wilbur very deep in that spot, and then when he was finished he replaced the statue.
Robyn cried a lot that day, and I admit I cried myself. I am shedding a few more tears now, writing this. We loved him. He was such a sweet little boy. We used to call him, "Wee Wheetie Wilbur" and then laugh. He was smart and snuggly and sweet. We loved him and I know that he loved us back. I had never had a guinea pig before him. We learned from having him and Alphonse that guinea pigs have different personalities, and are smart and loving. They are wonderful pets.
A lot of people don't believe that animals can go to Heaven. I think they do, in a sense. I love the poem someone wrote about the Rainbow Bridge, and how special pets play with each other while they wait for their beloved masters, and then one day you are coming, and the pet who you loved and who has so loved you and so eagerly awaited your arrival will run to meet you, and cross over the rainbow bridge into Heaven together.
Our Heavenly Father is a Merciful, Loving God, who loves us unconditionally. Pets love *us* unconditionally. I don't think that is a coincidence. Pets are sort of our own angels here on earth... a precious gift to us... someone to love us unconditionally while we are here in this life. Pets are innocents... pure souls. And they love us no matter what. I cannot believe that God doesn't have a reward for our beloved pets who have been loving and faithful to us while on this earth.
So yes.. I believe that one day I will again see my sweet little Boots (my childhood dog and best friend) and that Robyn will see her Wilbur. I have heard the argument that "the Church doesn't say that pets go to Heaven" or "the bible doesn't say that they go to Heaven".. yes I know that. But it doesn't say that they 'don't', either. And as Catholics, we all know there are many mysteries of our faith. God is a loving God of Mercy. I just can't believe anything different.
Rest in peace little Wilbur. You were a good piggie. We loved you, and we miss you.