I like to observe the dynamics going on in my cage, and there really is a whole array of personalities among them. We have dominant pigs like Jiffy, who is very possessive of his ladies and chatters his teeth viciously whenever he catches a whiff of boar-scent. We have assertive pigs like Pom pom, who never hesitates to give me a firm nip when she's had enough of lap time, we've got feisty pigs like Minipuff where her size really is so "awwww", until you try to share a bed with her. There's also Flubby, who really thinks the cage is just the wilderness, full of predators (Minipuff, Human Hand) and scarce food to compete for.
Then there's Snowy, who is mellow and motherly and easy-going and nurturing and simple-minded and just...so much grace, and at least for my pigs, that is quite a high compliment to christen a pig, and that's my Snowy.
I quickly converted their store cage to an expanded CC cage, but all they needed really was smth to paw up as they wheek for breakfast
I take comfort and joy in the fact that leafing through her photo album is truly a trip down memory lane. Puffy (her husband), Cotton (her son) and Shylie (her contemporary) have all since left me, and I can't help but smile seeing their little fluffy noses pop up after such a long time
I'm even nostalgic seeing all the different cages I've built them over the years...the most spacious of which:
Out of all the 15 pigs I've owned, I'd say Snowy is the most "accomplished". She put up with a little husband
a 2 time mother
Suffered from an ovarian cyst...poor sweetie lost so much weight and hair
slept like a little sheep
wheeked bloody murder when breakfast was late
had a bit of a spending problem. also, good taste!
oooh...and just the cutest little mismatched sockies
other characteristic Snowy features included a tufty top of head, lopsided chewing lippies...and the absence of eyes.
in fact I had trouble picking out a photo for her urn because so many of my top-Snowy-picks had no eyes but she's just so cuuuute with or without them.
She liked to sleep butt-to-butt
occassionally engaged in stimulating conversations with her daughter.
always contributed to the group effort
then sometimes - took all the credit for herself
But I don't want this post to just be a chronological photo album of her life...and I'm sitting here trying to pinpoint what exactly it is about her that was so endearing, that made me feel such a profound sense of loss. I mean, when I lose each pig I battle with a mixture of grief and guilt for at least a week, but for Snowy, and only Snowy, I also hold so much respect for her. She was enduring and patient..and I didn't warm up to her right away at first because I had Puffy and all the babies to fuss over, but over the years she planted her (mismatched) paws firmly in my heart, and I just have to cry when I think about all the times she put up with me, when I used her as a "guinea pig".
One time Minipuff had mites and I isolated her, but I wanted to keep her company with someone and I picked Snowy, and she had to put up with a bad-tempered Minipuff and living in a different cage.
Then there was the time I gave Fuzz away to Winnie and Cotton was alone by himself and I couldn't pair him with anyone except a neutered female, so poor Snowy had to step up again and live with a young hyperactive boar, in a different cage. She's hiding under the bed and Cotton is asking me what I did to his Lady
and I thrust upon her an irresponsible pregnancy...
and she never complained, and was the most nurturing mother
she was always forgiving...never resentful or even annoyed. No matter how cranky or hyper her roomies were, she just carried on her mellow days in her mellow ways...oh, she was just so so sweet
and she was sick quite a few times. As old age took over, she had at least 3 "health scares" that made me so scared I'd lost her when I wake up the next morning to check on her. She was always the kind of robust healthy pig, but once struck down by some illness she'd go down quite fast. Once she had diarrhea and was dehydrated and I took her to the clinic every day for a week to get sub-q fluids to hydrate her.
and because of her arthritis, she had to raise her hindquarters higher up in the air when she walks on tiptoes for her back feet, I often sit on the sofa in the living room and look in at the pig room and all I see is a white fluffy butt bobbing along behind the coroplast...oh, Snowy <3
she also never went up any ramps because it hurt her joints, and sometimes when I pick her up she would wheek (in pain, I presume) so I rarely picked her up. She always looks fluffy on the outside, but her frame is actually thin and frail. Everyday, she'd get an oxbow Senior or Joint Support tablet, and to keep from being swarmed by everyone else, I'd put her on the second floor to eat it in peace, and in time she learned that when mommy suddenly lifts her upstairs, it's YUMMYS TIME, and she'll immediatey stand up on the coroplast then snatch the tablet out of my fingers and start eating greedily. But all my girls rarely "lived" on the second floor, they only go up there when I'm cleaning the 1st floor. So when Snowy is done eating she'd start to feel uneasy being on the second floor alone and habitually go to the stairs. and because it would hurt her joints, she would sometimes wait for me at the top to lift her out and down.
A couple times I'd forget she's waiting and she'd be impatient and go down reluctantly...and I'd feel so bad when I realized later on
because of her weakened state, she had a fungal infection on her tummy 2 months ago that must have been uncomfortable. We treated her with miconazole shampoo and sporanox, and her tummy went back to fluffy yeast-free
there were some days when I see her move a little slower, more gingerly, and just looks relieved to be lying down. and it's as if she's telling me she's slowing down, she's not feeling the spring in her youth anymore, that she just wants to curl up and take it easy today...
and oh, I'd feel something clench up inside me. Am I losing time with her? am I losing her? please Snowy, hang in there. and every time she bounced back. sometimes a slow recovery...but she always came back and in just a few days she'd be standing on the coroplast again. eating hay standing up with 1 paw hooked on the hay rack...
then on Sunday, she didn't. she didn't want to eat, drink, move. I put her favourite hay under her nose and everyone was eating it except her.
Before that she had always been perky and interactive, standing up on the coroplast for breakfast. but that morning she looked in pain, and did not want to move from her bed. I put the pellets under her nose, but she barely nibbled it. She no longer likes her water, and she was a big drinker. I fed her critical care throughout the day, gave her twice the dosage of metacam, put hay under her nose...but she looked miserable. When I put her back in the cage, she would stand on all fours, as if it hurt even to lie down...when she eventually lies die, she is very still. I booked her a vet today and he says she's very bloated, and upon the xray we found that almost 90% of her stomach was filled with gas. Her gut had stopped working (or perhaps it was a gut torsion) and the gas had built up inside her...he explained to me that the gas will press against her vena cava, suppressing blood to the heart and causing hypotension, and it will also push up against her diaphragm, so that she'll have difficulties breathing. She would eventually go into shock, or die from asphyxiation. She got painkillers and sub-cutaneous fluids/meds, and he told me to transfer her to a 24 hour clinic for IV fluids and intensive care.
I booked the 24 hour clinic, and half way to the train station, I remembered PJ, when he had his bacterial infection and came down with severe diarrhoea. He was always robust, and still young. The vet told me he had a 50/50 survival chance, and kept him there overnight. The next day I had a chem exam, after I came out I called them and was told he died in the night.
Snowy's chance is a hell of a lot worse than 50/50...If I put Snowy there, she'll be lonely and scared and cold and in a lot of pain...and I don't want to get a call the next morning telling me she gave out in the night, alone. So I went back to the vet and asked him for his honest opinion on her prognosis, and he says intensive care will only prolong her life a little, but the chances of successfully passing out all that gas inside her, and getting her gut working again...is close to 1%. After all, she's 8 years old.
So I put her to sleep today, and I learned that sometimes a painful decision, and the right decision, are the same. Prior to this, I've lost 4 pigs: Puffy, Cotton, Shylie, and PJ. Out of them, Puffy was the first and only one I euthanized, and I remember that time was not a choice. I remember going to the clinic prepared to do surgery, anything to save him, until the vet told me it wasn't an option. He was bleeding from the anus, had a kidney stone lodged in a duct, his kidney swelled to twice its size, he could not urinate for 24 hours, toxins were building up inside him, he was anaemic and if he had surgery he would bleed to death. So that was cruel, and I didn't have a choice. Yet this time, I had one, and I'd like to tell myself that I made the right choice, because that is all that matters right now.
Sometimes I look at the way she sleeps...and I smile because I see she's happy and content. and that was the beauty of her life, she never asked for anything extravagant, because she didn't need it. She absorbed the simple pleasures of life, and she lived every day with grace, and gentle dignity.
and I tell myself she is a wonderful thing in my life because I could always count on her machine-gun-drinking-sounds, her nappy poses, her pristinely white fluff, he BIG floppy ears that goes galoopabop! when she shakes them...
so I don't know which breaks my heart more. losing a guinea pig at a premature age like Puffy, Cotton, PJ (1.5, 0.5, 3 years old) or a pig that lived a full life like Shylie (6 years old) and Snowy (8 years old). I mean, we all want our pigs to live a long, long life, so we can spend more time with them, isn't that better than having them die suddenly at a young age? But that's the thing about pain, it's never any less either way...she gave me all these years of love and joy, and I feel so fortunate she lived so long. If anything...it just makes it even harder to say goodbye :'(
she was...the brightest thing in the whole room...
I miss you Snowy