Growing old…

There was a faint growl behind me and I turned around to find Angel standing on her hind legs, front paws on the top mattress. She can’t jump that high anymore but wanted to sink into my memory foam topper and rest her 14 year old joints. Mornings are tough, I get that. I gently eased her onto the bed where she slowly lay down, hissing and growling the whole time, looking around as if she was trying to find who was attacking her, as if age could be seen. All I could do was drape a small blanket over her hips. She hissed for a second then stopped when it didn’t hurt. Several minutes later she relaxed and stretched out as the heat soothed her joints. I’ve looked into pain medication but cats don’t metabolise it properly so heat’s her only option.

Oreo, our 12 year old needs a lift onto the bed too and he occasionally starts wailing because he can’t see his people and he’s lost in the middle of the living room. Lost despite the fact we’ve lived here since 2012. I carry him into my room and place him onto the bed, where he snuggles down and immediately falls asleep.

And then there’s Blackie, our 13 year old. She’s lost so much weight again this winter but hasn’t gained it back, despite me feeding her wet cat food twice a day… alone in the washroom so no one can steal it from her. She’s cheerful as heck though, racing to the front door so she can sneak into the hallway and climbing all over my computer desk (usually when I’m writing). I pet her and feel every bone in her spine plus her hip bones and she purrs loudly because she’s getting petted.

I hate watching them grow old. The pain, the senility, the knobby bones, the occasional bout of incontinence (thanks Oreo). I know no one lives forever but they’re so small and innocent that aging just feels unfair.

I don’t know how long I’ll have with them but I’ll cherish every minute and know that whatever amount of time we have will be too short.

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Saying goodbye…

“Mom! Mom! Something’s wrong with Ben!” Jeremy wailed. “Please, can you help me clean his cage? He needs to have a clean cage to die in!”

It was 2 o’clock on Saturday morning and the quickest I’d woke in years.

“Jeremy, give me your guinea pig and I’ll cuddle him in bed,” I said as reassuringly as I could. Zie handed me a freshly washed, sopping wet piggy and I tucked him under the covers and cradled him beside me. Ben snuffled my hair and started chewing. I’m his food lady but today I arrived empty handed. I guess he figured my hair would be good enough.

“Can you give me something to feed Ben?” I asked and Jeremy promptly handed me a carrot.

“Ben’s front leg isn’t working,” zie cried as Ben happily chewed on his favourite food. “And there’s something wrong with his left eye.” I could only see his right which looked fine to me.

I cuddled with Ben for about ten minutes then changed into a dry nightie and went back to sleep. Luckily Jeremy went to sleep as well. I snuck into the living room yesterday morning fully expecting to find a body. Instead I found a bright eyed piggy happily gnawing on his pepper; his full weight on both front legs. He’d eaten well the night before and looked perfectly fine now. I assured Jeremy all was well and zir geriatric piggy was on the mend. Then we went out for the day. Ben still looked fine when we got home.

I woke this morning and decided to start my day off with a morning hike. I had to pass the guinea pig cage to get my shoes. No squeaks greeted me. Anyone who’s ever had a piggy knows how unusual that is. Ben was curled oddly under some hay in the back corner of his cage and he bit me when I reached in. I grabbed him by the waist instead and lifted while Ben flailed… both right legs hung uselessly. His waist was tiny and his anus protruded alarmingly.

I cradled him in my arm and gently fed him a carrot, which he took eagerly, whimpering for more. Then he stopped wanting the carrot but continued to whimper helplessly. I called the local vet clinic only to find out they were closed. One more day… one last day with Ben.

Of course I needed to tell Jeremy and woke zir as gently as I could. This is zir very own pet, one we’ve had since zie was 10 years old, I knew it wouldn’t go well. I handed the piggy over and headed out for apple sauce and baby asprin. I wasn’t going to have his last day full of pain.

Thankfully I bought a mortar and pestle from Dollarama last month so I was able to grind the tablet down to a fine powder to mix with apple sauce. I found orange flavoured ones too so the bitter taste wouldn’t deter him and managed to spoon feed him the whole pill (after checking weight and dosage for cavies). Twenty minutes later he was groggy and ready to lie down. So was I.

“Mom! Mom! Ben’s doing so much better! His legs are working again and he can walk… see!” Jeremy announced eagerly.

I blinked and rolled over in time to see Jeremy place Ben on the ground. The piggy stood trembling for a second then attempted to take a step with legs that no longer worked properly. He collapsed onto his side, legs twitching frantically in his panic to get back up.

“Hon, pick him up now. Please!” I implored. Jeremy immediately complied.

“See, he’s doing even better than before,” Jeremy said happily. “Once he gets more food in him he’ll be even stronger.”

Zir words felt like a blow. Ben’s unable to walk and can no longer lap water from his water bottle. Instead I’m feeding him water from a dropper. He can’t walk and he’s having massive issues with pooping. And he’s eight years old! His brother and cage mate died on my birthday almost a full year ago. He’s an elderly pig and it’s his time to go.

After dinner I’m bundling Ben up in a dish towel and taking him out for a walk in the woods. He’s enjoying being held and, while in our arms, he can feel the wind and smell the grass, trees, and flowers. Then I’ll dose him up with more pain medication so he can have a pain free night before we say goodbye to him tomorrow.

Hopefully Jeremy will be able to forgive me for letting Ben go.

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