Connecting (or not) with Pets

RIP Sparky, 2007-2014.

RIP Sparky, 2007-2014.

Sparky the Guinea Pig died a few days ago. Actually, I had her euthanized. Her back legs stopped working. She didn’t seem in pain or anything – was still eating and drinking as usual. She just couldn’t move very well.

Sparky is a girl piggy that we bought almost seven years ago at the insistence of my youngest son, who wanted another pet. She’s been healthy and sweet for all that time, except for her recent development. Since Sparky was ancient for a guinea pig, and because I am the one who has been caring for her all that time, I wasn’t keen on going to heroic measures to save her. I did spend time doing Internet research on her condition and discovered it could be caused by many factors but a calcium deficiency was the most likely in our case. By the time I discovered that, she had been ill for about four days — it took a while to figure out what was going on because she didn’t move around much to begin with.

The instructions described use of a liquid form of calcium designed for human consumption. I called around all the local pharmacies, but couldn’t find any available. I found some through mail order, but that would have taken several days to arrive, and I wanted something soon. I described Sparky’s plight to a friend and she found that Pet Co had liquid calcium, so I went there the same day. But when I got to the store, the supplements they had for guinea pigs didn’t have any calcium in them, so I ended up buying one designed for lizards. I mean, calcium is calcium, right?

We did the three-day course of treatment, but it didn’t seem to make a difference. And now, Sparky was moving around even less, so that she wasn’t getting enough water to drink unless I moved her over to her bottle. That’s no way for her to live, so, call me heartless, I made the appointment to have her euthanized.

When the time came, I packed her in a box filled with a deep comfy layer of bedding and went to the vet. I filled out the paperwork and handed her over without a fuss or any desire to see her through the procedure. The experience was markedly different from when I had to have my cat of 14 years euthanized. For that, I was a blubbering pile of Marie goo. It got me thinking about what made the difference.

I suspect one reason is that I never really connected with Sparky. I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t “get” guinea pigs. I had never had one before, and although we read books about them, the emotional connection wasn’t there. The cute “popcorn” jumps they do just seemed spastic. In the beginning, we took Sparky out to cuddle and let her roam around, but she had a habit of peeing in one’s lap and she nipped hard with her beaver-like teeth. So that didn’t help. About a year after we got Sparky, we got our dog, Buddy. We were worried about his reaction to her, so we took Sparky out less often after that.

Another reason is that she was my son’s pet, so I felt like it was his responsibility to connect with her more than mine. And he did try, but as he got older and busier, that fell by the wayside and Sparky’s care fell to me. She became an obligation, not a joy.

I feel bad that I never connected with Sparky. I can connect to dogs, cats, birds, and even fish. (I taught my catfish to wink at me.) We had a hamster once, and I never connected with him, either. Maybe I’m just not a rodent person. Have you ever had a pet you didn’t connect with? Do you think there are just some types of pets you aren’t designed for? I’d be interested to hear.