Moments before I had to leave for work this morning, my wife discovered that our menagerie had lost one of its members overnight. Peach, the last and oldest of our Ps in a pod, passed sometime during the night, sleeping in her hide.
This is an old picture, but a favourite. Peach is the one hiding I the back. (We both lost Peanut, left, and Pepper, right, last year, months apart.)
Based on age estimates when we brought Peach and her sister Pepper home, she was somewhere between five and six years old, which, by everything I’ve read, is at the higher end of average for the little fur balls.
Peach was always super skittish for a Guinea Pig, only settling in the last few months to the point where I could reach into the cage to stroke her without her getting as far away from my hand as she could, and still running away when someone tried to pick her up for cuddling or cage cleaning. In the wild, they’re prey animals, and some of them hold those instincts pretty well. She was one.
I’ve been thinking for a while that she was getting old, and didn’t like how bony she was starting to feel in places (which is also natural when they’re old as weight redistributes), though her appetite and activity level never really wavered that I could tell. Age caught up to her sometime during the night, and I hope it did so while she was sleeping. I missed my chance for a final scratch by going to bed early to relieve some exhaustion.
The Guinea Pigs we’ve had have all technically been my daughters’ pets, though I’ve done most of the cleaning over the last couple of years, at least, as well as toenail clipping duty, and have shared with my wife in making sure there’s always food and water, and that the cage was always secure against curious felines (only one has ever even really looked). Cuddling wasn’t so much on my list, though I have held her at times, and she was warm and furry and cute. She loved carrots and kale, tolerated affection well, at least once you caught her, preferred to have a blanket or a towel to hide under even when in your lap, and didn’t pee on you very much, which I’ve certainly experienced with other rodents.
It’s strange how we get attached to the other life forms around us. Peach wasn’t a big part of my life, but for the last several years, she’s always been there. Running from my attempts at affection, yelling for treats when she thought she was entitled, quietly wheeking when the food bowl, hay rack, or water bottle wasn’t as full as she thought it should be.
I might not be feeling it as intensely as my daughters, but I’ll feel it more intensely because of them and I’m certainly feeling the small hole Peach’s departure has left in my life. To borrow a phrase, my mental pathways have become accustomed to her sensory input patterns.
Once upon a time, we had three Guinea Pigs. Now we have none. There are no plans for more, but if we drop by the shelter some time and they have one or two in the cage at the front, it will be hard to say no.