On Saturday, after lunch, we were watching TV and Sam had her guinea pig on her lap. Pepper, our cat, came in, sprawled on the floor, Sam picked her up and decided it was bonding time for guinea pig and cat. She called me over to show how the two were getting along. I got my camera hoping to catch the bonding moments but what I captured were the various expressions on Pepper’s face that seemed to show just how she felt.
First, she looked indifferent.
Then, she took on a look that seemed to say, “I dare that thing to come near me.”
Well, it did. And Pepper looked really pissed.
But Sam likes the pets to get along with one another so she placed the guinea pig on Pepper’s back while she held the cat in her arms.
And Pepper looked like “Okay, I can survive this.”
It was déjà vu, I tell you, because I’ve seen those expressions on Pepper’s face before when Sam was introducing Twix to her.
But Sam looked happy that the two seemed to be getting along (nah, maybe she was laughing at whatever she was watching on TV).
Later that day, as what happens every weekend, Sam gave her guinea pig a bath. Shampoo and warm water, naturally.
And she asked me to take photos.
I’m glad I took all those photos. The next morning, Speedy found the guinea pig in its cage. Dead. No, it wasn’t mauled or anything like that. It was quite secure in the cage next to the breakfast counter. Speedy, the first one up on most mornings, checked up on the little thing probably intending to give it vegetables for breakfast. And found it dead. He didn’t move the poor thing. He wouldn’t unless Sam said so — it was her pet, not his.
The hard part was telling Sam. She had two other guinea pigs before and they died too. It was about two months ago. Sam found one dead and the other very weak and, apparently, dying. Sam just sat on the floor holding the one that was still alive and she just cried there. And I didn’t know what to do or say, so I slouched next to her on the floor, holding her and wiping her tears.
What do you say to your child, really, when a pet dies? And with Sam, it’s always traumatic. I remember when her first puppy died. Rajah, that was his name. He was given to us by Speedy’s officemate. Sam, about four years old at the time, named him after Jasmine’s tiger. You know, in Disney’s Aladdin. We figured that Rajah was much too young to be separated from his mother because he still wasn’t prepared to eat solid food. When Rajah died, Sam was inconsolable. She insisted that we bury him in the garden (my grandmother’s garden, actually) and she also insisted that we all be present during the burial. So, there we were, walking to the garden, Alex in my arms, my mother trailing behind…
And then, there was Poco whose death almost four years ago was even more tragic. When Poco died, Sam shut herself in her room for a day refusing to eat anything. Then, after she finally came down to eat, she still refused to go out of the house to go to school for another day.
Except when Pepper gave birth and the kittens died (and that’s really not so traumatic because Sam had not formed any real bond with the kittens that did not live for more than a day or two), there’s been no pet death in this house until the guinea pigs died a few months ago. I guess Sam missed having guinea pigs so she saved enough money to buy another. And when this last one died…
Sam was coming down the stairs when I told her. I had to tell her because I didn’t want her to check the cage, find her pet dead and already in full rigor mortis. The memory of how she reacted the last time… I didn’t want to see her like that again. So, I told her. And she sat there — on the stairs like her knees suddenly went weak — and she cried. And I felt and did like the last time. I felt helpless so I just sat next to her, holding her and wiping her tears. I said that, perhaps, it was the strain of the constant moving. She brought the guinea pig to the condo during weekdays and brought it back home on weekends. The guinea pig travelled all that distance twice every week and, well, maybe that was it. After about ten minutes on the stairs, Sam stood up and went to her room. Since she didn’t attempt to see the guinea pig anymore, I assumed it was okay to ask Speedy to take it out.
When I took those photos above, Sam asked me to because she likes to have her pets’ photos posted here in the blog. And she likes me to write about them. But, after the guinea pig died, I wasn’t sure if she still wanted me to post the photos. So, I asked her. I told her I wouldn’t if she’d rather I didn’t. But she said, “Post,” and I felt that I should write about her pet and what happened exactly the way things happened.
*Sigh* You’d think that, having gone through pet’s deaths before, I’d be better prepared to offer consolation to my daughter this time. But each pet’s death is just as sad and as traumatic and depressing as the last one. And I’m still at a loss.