The recent deaths of friends’ and family members’ pets have me thinking about the recent passing of my guinea pig Gabby.

Gabby was with us for nine years, and despite her critter size, played a huge role in my life. She greeted me every time I walked in the room with her squeaks, and clamored for attention–and food–when I would cut up vegetables. She even squeaked when she heard the sound of a tuna can hitting the counter because she knew celery wasn’t far behind.

We adopted Gabby (Gabriella) with her sister Izzy (Isabella) when they were just days old. They were sisters. Gabby was tiny because Izzy was a bully and would take all of the food. Gabby soon compensated for that–perhaps even over compensated–when she was moved to her own cage and didn’t have to fight Izzy anymore. She grew to be quite a porker–pun intended.

Izzy and Gabby

Sadly, in June I noticed Gabby had cold-like features. She had runny eyes and a sniffly nose. And she had stopped eating and drinking. This came at the end of a extremely trying week in which Paisley had a mysterious pain that resulted in a trip to the ER. Paisley was fine; Gabby was not.

Now, this is the third guinea pig in 12 years that has gotten sick on me. The two times before I rushed to vets, getting instructions to care for them, and nursing them the best I could — giving them meds, hand feeding them, using droppers to give them water. I believed the vets when they said there was a cure. There was not.

So, I should know by now that when a guinea pig shows symptoms of sickness, there’s no saving it. But I called the vet anyway. What I really wanted was for the vet to say yes or no if a guinea pig can survive the symptoms I described. But no, they said they needed to see her. So, because I couldn’t simply let her suffer without a proper diagnosis, off to the vet we went.

Upon seeing Gabby, the vet looked very concerned. At that point, she should have said to me there’s nothing she can do. Go home and let her die in peace. But noooooo. Instead she led me to believe there was hope — like the times before — and suggested a round of tests, medications, special food, and an injection of fluid under her skin because she was dehydrated. That was to the tune of $180.

“OK,” I think. “I can do this. Gabby can do this. She will recover. This time everything will turn out OK.”

I was so wrong. Forty-five minutes after I got her home, my poor little Gabby went into her hutch, curled up, and died. I believe the trauma of the vet’s visit caused her to have a heart attack. I paid nearly $200 for the vet to kill her.

All of this transpired while my daughter was getting ready for her 8th grade dance. I noticed Gabby was dead while Paisley was getting ready, but I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to ruin her night. But during a last-minute return to my bedroom Paisley was near Gabby’s cage and noticed she wasn’t breathing.

“Mom!” she called to me. “I think Gabby’s dead!”

My heart sank. Now my little girl was going to have a horrible night–a night she was greatly looking forward to.

I came out of my bedroom, checked Gabby like I was unaware of her state, and confirmed for Paisley she was dead.

After Gabby Died

Paisley and I shed some tears, but she did not want what happened to ruin her night. Fortunately, she had a fantastic time at her dance. She spent the night at her best friend’s house while I was left taking care of Gabby and all of her things.

I was heartbroken. I couldn’t bear to look at her things, so I immediately threw her cage, water bottle, food container, etc. into the dumpster. The hay and unused bedding went into my car to be given to my friend who has a rabbit. And Gabby was wrapped in a towel, put into a shoebox, and also put into my car.

I didn’t know what to do with her. I have no property on which to bury her. I could bury her in the yard of the house I shared with my ex-husband. I could let her “swim with the fishes” in the lake near my condo. Or I could drive around with her until I found the best place.

Gabby stayed in the back of my car for one week. Yes, one week. Fortunately, she never started smelling.

Eventually I decided to put her body in the lake near my condo. It’s pretty — lots of wildlife in and around it — and close by so I could think of her whenever I passed it.

So, at 11:30 p.m., in the dark of night, I crept over to the lake with Gabby still wrapped in the towel but now in a tote bag. I found a nice spot. Took her out of the bag, unwrapped the towel and placed her into the water.

Now, not ever being in the mob, I thought Gabby’s body would sink. Not the case. Her body rose immediately to the top. I pushed it down. It came back up. I tried to put it under grasses growing in the water. It resurfaced.

“Great, now what do I do?”

I used the towel to take her body out. I look around and notice a nice area of bushes, trees and flowers and decide to bury her there. Of course, I don’t have a shovel of any kind, so I use my hands to dig her grave. (Fortunately, it was mostly sandy soil.) I quickly put her in the grave, cover her up, whisper a goodbye, and walk back home.

I walk around that lake often. And each time I pass Gabby’s grave, and think about how wonderful a pet she was.