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The Vacuum Issue 4 spacer Issue 4
Guinea Pig Death Stories
by Rebecca Hunter
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Guinea Pig death stories. Sounds like it would make a good Bad Seeds song. I find myself thinking of all the people I know who I could ask to share a good tale about loosing a pet guinea pig. My husband was out. He had a pet tarantula called Renee. But she did die quite spectacularly, the victim of a falling rock.
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But anyway, first of all let's get to know this piggy beast before we kill it off. Like you would expect there are so many names for the many breeds of guinea pigs. Here are a few that appealed to me. They are a mixture of some kind of philosophical musings, navel gazing; Agouti, Self, Non-Self and Peruvian, and then a raucous mix of names like a line-up of porn-king stars; Shaggy Shelties, Silky Satins, Waxy Rexes. See what I mean? They can suffer from a fantastically named and illusive desease called bumble foot, if they have a stroke you can treat them with swimming therapy, they are very shy, spend lots of time hiding, eat at dawn and dusk, they like to breed, and best of all, their semen sets like super-glue. Ouch.
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I joined an e-guinea pig newsletter to start collecting death stories. It felt voyeuristic to become a member, knowing I would silently trawl through the daily contributions, skimming through the emails trying to hack into anybody's experience of death. I was unlucky in just catching the tail end of one particular email exchange where members were consoling 'Suzan' about the loss of 'brown bear'. Apparently Suzan had written a very moving piece about her 'bear' just after he had passed away. I thought I might be in luck in that Suzan's experience would evoke some decent death anecdotes from her 'fellow piggy lovers', but unfortunately I didn't get the surge I had expected. Guinea pig lovers don't dwell on things like death. They prefer to chirp on about the abundance of joy a 'piggy' can add to your life and that there is always another little darling out there waiting to be loved, even more than the one before. It would seem in this little club, the glass is always half full.
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I did however get a few dwellings on death. One from a member who reported that he had lost five guinea pigs in the past nine months, two through old age, another silently not waking up from sleep and what seems to read as some kind of hunger strike with the last two. The answer? He got two more. And that was that. Later there was the inspiring short tale of old age. 6-yr old 'Baby' wasn't ready to give in quite so easily. Clinging on to life apparently, her will to live so strong she still gasped for breath even after her heart had stopped beating.
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A message of warning was delivered at the expense of one poor pig who died of eating excessive amounts of 'people snacks'. Bloated, constipated, her insides gave up from eating too many corn 'Frito' snacks. Let that be a lesson to the couch potato in us all.
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I gleaned newspapers and found an article about a woman who had introduced cat flaps into her pig's lives. And read how they learnt to use them to get into the conservatory on cold nights. All very top class. They hadn't died by the end of the article but I thought they deserved a mention. But then there was 'Beverly' and her story. Pet Pig had escaped, running about the house, in and out of rooms. Pig eventually tears into the room where Beverly lies in wait to capture it. Of course the first thing she does it shut the door to the room, just as piggy enters, or rather just as its head peeps round the door. The rest of poor pig never made it through. Although she remembers it did twitch in protest for a good few seconds.
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'Sacha's' guinea pig was purchased as a kind of substitute puppy. I must warn squeamish readers to look away now. She could tell he wasn't well at all, so, deeply concerned, she took him to the vet who said 'look how ill he is' and squeezed the guinea pig, not really hard, but with enough pressure that as his eyes bulged a little, and puss also came out of its willy. Uuuurrggghhh. It didn't have long to go.
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A friend couldn't recall the name of her pet guinea pig but vividly remembers how it met death in the jaws of the neighbour's Burmese cat. Her dad even conceded to cremating the pet, holding a ceremony. He usually just chucked dead pets in the skip. She got the morning off school and cried a lot. She replaced it with a mad looking long haired creature called 'Tufty'. But she just sort of lost interest in Tufty, throwing food in its hutch now and then, getting really pissed off when it had to be cleaned out and then her mum started to take care of Tufty instead. She feels bad still, can't even remember its death story and still dreams that Tufty is alive, ancient, living in the back garden, long matted hair, waiting to be remembered. A bit like a real velveteen rabbit, only a guinea pig instead.
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'Boomer' was a brown and white short haired guinea pig, adopted after its original family moved from the West of Ireland to a Dublin house without a garden. Boomer, when she is recalled now, evokes memories of high pitched squeaks and a pungent and ammoniac smell of damp newspaper and sawdust. And of course, hundreds of rice shaped poohs. Spring arrived and she was let into the garden. She got forgotten one day, was left out all night. In the morning Boomer lay dead stretched out on the grass. There was no sign of wounds apart from a tooth mark. The conclusion was she probably died of fright from an attack by the neighbour's cat. But Boomer remains the kind of unsolved tragedy you'd like the detective Columbo to make a case out of.
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Shock, Fritos, hunger strikes, just plain old age, decapitation, unsolved mysteries, haunting unremembered departures... potentially cat flaps. I'm sure the list is as endless and diverse as the number of poor casualties from that unfortunate semen fact.
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