Some of you may have already seen the news on Instagram, but last Friday we had to say goodbye to our Molly-pie. On Wednesday, we noticed she was a bit lethargic and not really moving much beyond walking to her water bottle or her food dish. She was also having trouble supporting her weight, choosing to lie down next to her food dish rather than stand and eat. We thought she was uncomfortable because of how large the masses in her lymph nodes had become but nothing seem to be causing any obvious pain so we decided to observe her for a day or two before calling the vet. When I had my lunch break Wednesday, I took her out of her cage for some snuggles and a little time on her pillow. I just had a feeling we didn't have much time left together. Throughout this process, I've been hoping for "just one more week" but at this point my hopes turned to "just one more day." She was still interacting and happily giving piggy kisses, but I could tell she was not feeling well. I also noticed she had a mucus-y discharge coming from her nose, something I instinctively knew was not a good sign.
By Thursday, she barely came out of her igloo and only nibbled a bit here and there on her food. Thursday evening, we noticed she was having trouble breathing and making a wheezing sound when inhaling. Her little body was struggling just to get oxygen. We cuddled her Thursday night and told her to just hang on for one more day, promising to call the vet first thing in the morning. I barely slept that night and even check on her a few times, just to make sure she was still with us. I called the vet as soon as the office opened and they had one appointment left that afternoon. As the day progressed, so did her decline. She went from nibbling a little bit on a blueberry to fully turning away from food and whimpering when I picked her up from her cage. I knew my sweet girl was in pain.
The vet examined her and discovered the cancer had spread aggressively to her lungs, causing them to fill with fluid. If left on her own, she would suffocate from the fluid build-up within a day or two. Our mantra throughout this process has basically been, "As long as she's not suffering, we'll do anything to give her as good a quality of life for as long as possible." The vet told us there was nothing more we could do for her. She was past the point of medical intervention and she was most definitely suffering. It was exactly ten weeks from the initial cancer diagnosis. We knew what we had to do, but it didn't make the decision any easier.
The vet asked if we wanted to be present for the euthanasia process and The Husband and I both said yes without hesitating. There was no way we were going to leave Molly alone in her final moments. The vet walked us through the process step-by-step.
"I'm giving her the inhalant to put her to sleep and stop her breathing."
"Her breathing has stopped."
I held back the tears as best I could but it was no use. I stroked her little nose as the vet said, "Next, I'm going to give her a shot to stop her heart." And a minute or two later, "Her heart has stopped beating. At this point, she has passed."
The vet gave us some privacy and told us we could stay in the room with her for as long as we needed. I didn't want to leave her side and could've stayed in that office stroking her little nose for the rest of the day, but I knew we had to let her go. We left the office empty-handed and broken-hearted.
We had another little guinea pig at home who needed attention and affection to help her through the loss of her companion, too. Gia was very attached to Molly and had never really been apart from her for an extended period of time. The vet told us Gia would need time to process and grieve the loss, too, and that we should monitor her behavior and eating. Many guinea pigs have been known to stop eating after losing their companion and often die shortly thereafter from what is essentially a broken heart. The vet recommended giving Gia a few days to see how she does, but strongly advised us to consider getting her another companion within the week. It felt way too soon for me but if it's what Gia needed to cope, we'd do it.
That night, we let Gia have her dinner out in the living room with us rather than in her cage. She didn't seem too upset at first, though we did notice her peeking in the igloos every now and then looking for Molly. She was doing okay through the weekend but I started noticing a change in her eating by Sunday evening. Rather than digging right in when I gave her food, she'd pause and look around a bit, as if waiting for Molly to join her. We realized Gia hadn't eaten a meal alone since she was three months old. Molly had always been right by her side and she was starting to notice her piggy sister was no longer there.
By Monday morning, Gia lost all interest in food. Normally, she's waiting by her dish every morning and gets so excited for breakfast she'll start popcorning or running around her cage. But yesterday, she didn't even come out of her igloo. I tried to coax her out with blueberries and strawberries, her two favorite things, but to no avail. She sat in her igloo for hours until, on my lunch break, I took her out to sit with me in the living room. Even then, she went into her little cuddle cup and just laid there, showing no interest in her toys or the various yummy treats I offered her. The only time she perked up and ate a little bit was when I played a video for her of Molly squeaking and purring. The sudden decline in her energy and appetite was pretty shocking so we decided we'd introduce her to a new friend that night when The Husband came home from work.
We'd already picked out a little baby guinea pig who seemed like a good match personality-wise so we crossed our fingers and hoped the introduction would go well. We first let Gia discover the newcomer, who was in a separate cage in a separate room, all on her own. She was very curious about this new critter in the house and they even greeted each other with a little nose kiss through the cage. We took them out to neutral territory -aka, the hallway- and let them meet face-to-face. Much to our surprise, Gia was delighted to get to know her new friend! After just a few minutes, the two were sharing toys, chasing each other in circles, and Gia even started purring and popcorning again. There wasn't even a hint of aggressive or territorial behavior.
For me, it's far too soon to have a new guinea pig. I'm still grieving the loss of Molly and sometimes wake up sad just thinking about her. She was my first little baby, my best friend, my workmate, my companion, my sweet piggy girl. My heart still aches for her and I have a feeling a little part of me always will. But Gia lost her companion, too. Gia needs a friend to help her through this time just like The Husband and I need each other. So, for Gia's sake, we've welcomed the newest piggy into our home and our family and will honor Molly's memory by giving her a happy, healthy life, filled with lots of blueberries, of course. ♥