October 2013- January 26, 2014
Christmas was celebrated in Minnesota so with the traveling, they knew we'd have to wait and buy the pet in Oklahoma. So instead, Erik asked for a guinea pig calendar from Santa and Ellie a bag of hay and pellet food, and they were ecstatic. Woo hoo, pellets-- Santa reigns supreme! Except this year Kyle and I outdid him. Their final gift was a small box containing a clue that led them on a wild scavenger hunt throughout the house, old-school Goodwin-style.
The surprise and elation on Erik's face and joy in Ellie's demeanor when they discovered Midnight for the first time, and named her immediately, was simply perfect. They've cared for her meticulously, ne'er complaining about how frequently the cage must be cleaned. They couldn't get enough of her and thankfully Midnight loved to snuggle. Erik literally believed that Midnight was cuter than Millie (pshaw!) and claimed he loved them exactly the same. I kind of hope that wasn't actually true, but I get it. Kids' hearts are so big that they can't quite distinguish between love of pets and love of any other family member.
And I can't quite distinguish right now between my kids' pain and my own.
I'm glad Kyle was home with them and I was out during Midnight's final moments. I am haunted even by the thought of that experience. I stayed mostly strong while the kids were conscious, but after the last tuckings had been tucked into bed, I retreated to my room and bawled. Through my choking sobs Kyle assured me that it wasn't my fault, but I knew better.
The guilt is overwhelming. I knew she was sick, that something was not right. When we realized she hadn't eaten all day last Monday evening, we arranged to rush her to the pet ER. It was our only option given our extra early am departure for New York the next morning. As we grabbed shoes and jackets, though, she inexplicably started eating, drinking, and happily squeaking. We breathed a sigh of relief and have been watching her with concern ever since.
Kyle and I came home late Thursday night and, though Midnight was nibbling here and there, she remained oddly lethargic. Our original research indicated that if she indeed had a respiratory infection, it would be fatal if untreated. In retrospect, it's so clear that we should have swallowed the cost and taken her in. We just didn't, though. We thought she was doing better, or at least not getting worse.
Now it's so clear I should have hand-fed her more fruits and veggies to boost her immune system, nestled a warm water bottle up to her to keep her warm, snuggled her more. True, taking her to the vet would've cost four times more than we paid for her, but the cost of not taking her in, we're discovering, is much greater. I feel foolish and selfish for not taking the time and thought to do what it took to make her well.
True, I've never been much of an animal-lover, but I've always been a softie when it comes to suffering, and now I see that Midnight was truly suffering. She was just a baby, and such a sweet, affectionate little thing. Guinea pigs are quite social and loyal and I do believe she already cared for us as we cared for her. And then we betrayed her. We let her die. The kids couldn't have known better, but I should have.
Perhaps when the guilt subsides a bit I'll be comforted by happy memories of the short period of her life in which she was robust and carefree. I'll be content then to entertain visions of heavenly reunions. Yes, she was just a rodent and for only a short time. But she was somehow more than that, too. To Ellie she was. To Erik she was. Even to Charlie and Amelia she was. And my heart can never be far from theirs.