Last week my husband asked me how I am addressed by the staff at our local veterinary practice. Karen? Miss Thorburn? Mrs McIntyre? I realised that none of the staff have ever called me by any of these names. However, after reflecting for a little longer, I recalled that I have been addressed by name at the vets, and in a way that makes me smile and fills me with warmth, despite the perishing December cold outside and the aching sadness in my heart that comes with losing a much-loved pet; a member of the family; a dear friend.
We are defined not only by our given names, our professions and passions, but also by our relationships with others. One of the most rewarding relationships I’ve ever had was with a handsome wee chap called Squeak; one of two guinea pigs who burst into my life one Sunday morning in September 2013 and filled it with joy.
Bubble and Squeak were like chalk and cheese. Ginger and grey. Big and small. Boisterous and understated. Like most brothers, they had the occasional falling out, yet they were the very best of friends. Squeak was like Bubble’s shadow; forever following Bubble around and always the first to call out if his companion disappeared from sight. I dread to think how Squeak would have coped if he’d been the one left behind.
Squeak was an intelligent guinea pig, always on the lookout for danger, a bit timid when meeting new people and ready to bolt at high speed if startled by a sudden movement or loud noise. That said, he loved to explore his surroundings and was the first one to venture out of hiding and have a rummage around on the day I brought him and Bubble home. Bubble, on the other hand, is oblivious to any natural instincts and is often seeking to be the centre of attention! Some visitors to our house considered Squeak to be antisocial and people tended to assume that Bubble was the favourite. In all honesty, I couldn’t choose between them if someone held a gun to my head and asked me to. Bubble’s sweet nature and extroverted personality make him an instant hit but the way in which Squeak overcame his shyness and learned to trust me and feel safe in my arms as we cuddled on the sofa or slow danced around the kitchen was one of the most touching compliments anyone could ever pay me.
I seem to spend an excessive amount of time chopping vegetables, topping up food bowls and picking up soggy, smelly hay, and the next expensive visit to the vet always comes around too quickly. My house would certainly be tidier without a constant trail of hay finding its way on to every carpet, and my bank balance would be healthier if Mark and I only had ourselves to feed. However, our hearts would feel empty without the constant sounds of munching and jostling for space in the corner of our kitchen and the sight of two cute furry faces looking up at us, demanding some fresh veg from the fridge!
We all have our crosses to bear and poor Squeak was no different. Despite our best efforts to provide an endless supply of hay, nuggets, veg, vitamins and suitable boredom-breakers to nibble on, his molar teeth kept overgrowing, preventing him from eating sufficiently and causing him to lose weight. Like a cat with nine lives, Squeak survived surgery under general anaesthetic nine times in eighteen months before his luck finally ran out. In an ideal world, we would have had more time with him but we will be eternally grateful for the 4+ years we spent together and will take comfort from the fact that he passed away warm in his bed with Bubble by his side and me and Mark sitting at the kitchen table showering him with love.
Our sweet little piggy was buried under our oak tree on a beautiful crisp winter’s day with the sun in the sky and snow on the ground, tucked up snug in a towel and hay, and with a few of his favourite treats, a letter from me and a hair from his best friend, Bubble. We will remember him every day.
I trust that this sadness will lessen over time and that the memory of Squeak will become ever sweeter. But, even if I had to live every day with waves of grief washing over me, not for one second would I wish to turn back time and be anything other than Squeak’s mum.
“Born to amuse, to inspire, to delight
Here one day, gone one night
Like a sunset dying with the rising of the moon
Gone too soon”
(‘Gone Too Soon’ by Michael Jackson)
In loving memory of Squeak
15/09/13 – 08/12/17