Well, that wasn’t how I expected my week to start. But, you never really expect to wake up and experience tragedy, do you? Using the word tragic is a bit dramatic, I’ll admit. But on Monday, I lost my best pal, the first pet who was truly mine—my guinea pig, Owen.
In the summer of 2009, I decided I wanted a pet. I was in college, living in a small apartment and realizing that I would likely be apartment bound for several more years. I’m not a cat person, keeping a dog cooped up didn’t seem fair, I’d never kept a fish alive for more than a few months, and I’d had, and hated, gerbils as a teenager. I wanted a pet with personality and a love for human interaction, but that was still low maintenance.
I waltzed into the pet store, checked out a couple of ferrets, and headed over to the guinea pigs. Several were on display, but one stood out. The runt of the crowd, he had a little cowlick on top of his head and was pretty timid compared to the other piggies. I instantly knew he was mine. I didn’t take him home that day, wanting to take a little time to think it through.
When I was three or four years old, my dad brought home our first family pet, a guinea pig. He was friendly, followed my dad around the backyard, and from my knowledgeable toddler perspective, never seemed to require too much of our time and attention. Between that experience and my terror that someone would come and scoop up the cute piggie overnight, I figured a guinea pig was the right pet for me. I had to go back to the pet store the next day.
That was the day Owen came into my life and changed it. It wasn’t just about me anymore. The first thing I did when I woke up every day was feed and play with Owen. The last thing I did before bed was make sure Owen was set for the night. My life revolved around him more than I knew, just like a child. Now that he’s gone, it doesn’t seem right to wake up and pour myself a cup of coffee first thing.
Owen was with me almost from the beginning of my relationship with Steve; I got him not too long after Steve and I met. He watched me grow up and become an adult. He lived with me in five different apartments, two houses, and three cities. O met my beloved childhood dog, Maggie, my Papa, and my Uncle Jimmy, and is probably partying with all three of them somewhere up there. He stayed with family and friends in both New York and Ohio.
One day while Owen was lounging on the couch with me, I discovered his love for watching skiing on TV. In a trance, he didn’t move a muscle until the commercials came on. The Notebook, on the other hand, wasn’t his cup of tea. I wanted him to love it, but he tried to bury his head in a blanket during that one. Typical boy.
It brings me comfort that for seven years, I was lucky enough to hear his squeals as I walked in the door. He slowed down in his last year or two, but always kept his spirit. Once the shy runt at the pet store, he turned into a show-off in no time; Owen loved any and all attention he could get. Whenever someone would stop by his cage to pet him, he would proudly take them on a tour of his space, running around to all his favorite spots and toys. “Did you see my water bottle yet? How about my igloo? I hope you brought a carrot.” Steve and I often narrated for O, cracking ourselves up. I love to think he understood what we were saying and was making fun of us the whole time.
For most people, pets are more than just animals who happen to live with us; they become important members of our families. That was certainly true of Owen. He ruled this house, and we sure did love him.
On Monday morning, I knew Owen wasn’t doing well. Over the last several months, he lost a lot of mobility and often times couldn’t use his back legs at all. He gave us a few scares, but always seemed to bounce back. I thought Monday would go the same way, but unfortunately, it was his time. I was able to be with him, holding him, as he passed. Although it was traumatic for me, I’m comforted that he wasn’t alone, and that it was me who was able to be there for my little O.
The past two mornings when I woke up, I looked out to the backyard as I always do. A beautiful ray of glowing yellow sun was shining right to the path that leads to the spot where we buried Owen.
Rest in peace, my little sun baby. Thanks for being you. ♥