Harry the Guinea Pig, age 6, lived in our living room for the last half-year. A pet of our Indianapolis granddaughters, he was hounded by other animals (I won’t mention their names) in their house and had been relegated to his own private bedroom.
We thought he was a lonely little guy, especially since his longtime pal Guinea (yep, a guinea pig named Guinea) had died a year or so earlier.
So we told our granddaughters that he could vacation at our home for a while — that “a while” turning into the rest of his life. But it was a good life for him with plenty of vegetables and timothy hay in the morning, cheerful words spoken to him throughout the day and a seat in my wife’s lap while she binged-watched “Suits” on Netflix in the evening.
I think he even made me a better eater. After chopping up all that lettuce and green peppers and carrots for him, it seemed sensible to eat some of it myself.
I liked having him around even if I did have to clean out his cage every four or five days (three days if my wife had her say). Sometimes, it’s good to have somebody to talk to even if they don’t answer — especially when they don’t answer.
When Harry quit eating last week and showed other signs of agitation, we knew his time might have come. I called four different veterinarian businesses but they either didn’t work with guinea pigs or they couldn’t take on new clients.
When it was obvious he was suffering, my wife called an emergency animal clinic that couldn’t treat him but would euthanize for $167 (with more costs if you wanted his ashes).
I have put severely injured birds and squirrels out of their misery by hitting them with a shovel — and hating every moment of it. Even though $167 seemed a lot for a $25 pet that wasn’t even ours, I couldn’t even consider using a shovel on him.
So we lined a little box with a towel and drove him to the animal clinic. He would occasionally squeak and toss and turn erratically, but my wife softly stroked him and talked to him with her soothing voice.
Just when we pulled into the clinic’s parking lot, Harry suddenly shuddered and became still. “I think he just died,” my wife said.
He had — with the sweetest look on his brown and white face.
“I guess his parting gift to us was saving us $167,” my wife added as both of us got a little misty-eyed.
Who would have guessed that a couple of oldsters like us would get so attached to a hairy little rodent who could eat like a shark, poop like a flock of Canada geese and hide in his little plastic castle whenever the vacuum cleaner came near his cage.
Yeah, I did use the shovel for Harry, digging a hole at the top of our hill and burying him in his little box. I then rocked it over before tossing back the dirt. On top of his grave, I put a little stone that had been painted to look like a guinea pig and had been used to weigh down his water dish so he couldn’t turn it over.
I thought I was going to write a 50-word eulogy for my granddaughters on the passing of Harry and now I am well over 500. A lot of creatures, objects and items are often labeled the little things in life but that doesn’t mean that they are insignificant — or won’t be dearly missed.