Farewell, Eric

After a week of worrying about Eric the guinea pig and trying to build his strength up, I knew he had to go to the vet. And quickly. I was grateful that the vet agreed to see him within a couple of hours, even though it was Sunday.

The waiting room was empty at the vet’s and I was seen very quickly. The one thing I saw was a candle and a message. If the candle is lit, it means someone is saying goodbye to their beloved pet. It asks for people to be quiet and respectful at this difficult time.

The vet had Eric’s weight on record – 1.17kg. She put him on the scales – 670g. I was horrified. He’d lost 500g, or nearly half his body weight.

His nose was a little bit crusty, he had an upper respiratory infection. I had totally failed to see that his nose was crusty, in fact I still couldn’t see it when she showed it to me. She said his breathing sounded difficult. Again, I hadn’t heard that. I would definitely have taken him to the vet if I’d heard any problems with his breathing.

And, the worst thing, she found quite a large growth in his stomach.

I was proud that, in his weakened state and, despite having always been an inactive guinea pig, Eric made a couple of brave attempts to run away from the vet.

She told me I’d done exactly the right thing by feeding him separately to ensure he was eating. I knew that, certainly until Friday, he had been weeing and pooing well because I’d seen the evidence on my own kitchen floor.

But, she told me that, with the weight loss and the infection, she couldn’t put him through an operation to remove the growth. He just wasn’t strong enough.

I knew what was coming next.

He needed to be put to sleep.

I burst into tears. And I’m so grateful that the vet had tears in her eyes too. Even though she must have to deliver this news every day, she still knows how hard it is and how much I care for Eric.

I was so confused. I didn’t know what to do. How could I do that without the kids knowing? I had to let them know.

‘Can I bring him back later?’

So she agreed I could take him home for 24 hours.

My eldest was the only one at home. He broke down when I told him. He was absolutely inconsolable.

We put Eric on the grass. The guinea pigs don’t go on the grass in the winter because the damp and cold aren’t good for them. But what did it matter now? He always loved being on the grass. It was lovely to watch him just eating it.

Eric, Wilfred, Guinea pigs, Pets, 365, Farewell Eric

We brought Wilfred out to keep him company. Over the last few days, I’d noticed Wilfred was always sat right next to Eric, it was like he know something wasn’t right and he was looking after him.

I phoned my husband and told him what was happening. He told my younger son, but agreed we wouldn’t tell me daughter until she got home.

When she got home, I couldn’t read her face.

‘Do you know what’s happening?’

I can’t remember if it was her or my husband that repeated what was the matter with Eric, but then my husband added.

‘So the vet is going to put him to sleep.’

‘NO!’ I’ve never heard such an anguished cry. It was a cry of pure pain. I knew exactly how she was feeling.

She cried and cried and cried. Noisy, messy sobs.

And there was nothing I could do to make it better.

‘But he’s my favourite guinea pig! When I’m ill, I always want Eric.’

All that evening, we kept bringing Eric into the house and crying over him. We held him, we stroked him and we cried.

And I kept beating myself up, thinking I could have done more, thinking I should have spotted something sooner. And I kept thinking about that candle at the vet’s. And every time I thought about it, I cried.

Would Eric even make it through the night? Would it be easier on all of us if he didn’t?

On his final morning, Eric ran happily to me when I fed him and took carrot from my hands. He seemed happier and more active than I’d seen him for a while.

‘Does it have to be today?’ said my daughter. ‘He’s well!’

He really wasn’t well, but it was heartbreaking to see him so happy.

My daughter and I cried a lot of tears before school and Eric had a lot of cuddles.

Eric, Eric the guinea pig, Pet, Daughter, RIP Eric, Farewell Eric

My younger son’s way of dealing with things had been to stay out of everyone’s way, but he shed a few tears as he said goodbye to Eric before school.

As the day wore on, every time I stopped moving, stopped working, stopped doing, I cried. I hadn’t cried that much since my grandparents died in 2005. Twenty five hours elapsed between getting the bad news and finally saying goodbye to Eric and I was in bits the whole time. Crying, endlessly holding Eric, looking at him through the window, thinking I couldn’t bear to let him go, wondering what life would be like without that little ball of fluff.

At the vet’s, I held him in the waiting room, although the wait wasn’t long. I held him while the vet explained the procedure – it would be quick and painless, and that’s all that really mattered. She left us to say our final goodbyes and I could have held him forever. I didn’t want to let him go, but I knew it had to be done. I cried again as I handed him over and when the vet returned minutes later to say he’d passed away. She wrapped him in tissue and put him back in our box, so we could take him home to bury him.

Eric would have been four in May. As my husband said, he brought a disproportionate amount of pleasure for something so small. His passing has brought a disproportionate amount of pain.

I loved that little ball of fluff. Without him, a little piece of my heart is gone.

Eric, Eric the guinea pig, Pet

Eric, Eric the guinea pig, Farewell Eric, RIP Eric, Guinea pig, Pet




Author: Sarah Mummy

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    • Thanks very much. It’s been really tough 🙁 x

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  1. Oh I’m so sorry xxxxx

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    • Thanks very much. x

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  2. Oh my goodness Sarah, I couldn’t even read all of this. So sorry that he’s gone. I think he really did have a very happy existence at yours xx

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    • Thanks very much, I think you’re right! I’m not surprised you couldn’t get to the end of it, I was in floods writing and editing it. I don’t think I’ll read it again for a while! x

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    • Thanks very much, I really appreciate that. x

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  3. Big hugs to all. It’s amazing how much a little fluffy potato can give so much love. They really become part for the family. Xx

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    • Thanks very much, they really do!

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    • Thanks very much! It’s been a tough few days. x

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    • Thanks very much. x

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  4. So sorry Sarah. No matter how small they take a huge space in our hearts. Lots of love

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    • Thanks very much, that’s so very true!

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  5. Such a heartbreaking post. I’m so sorry Sarah. I hope the pain begins to ease soon, so that you may look fondly on your happy memories of him, without feeling too much grief. How is Wilfred coping? xx

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    • Thanks very much. At the moment I can’t think about him without bursting into tears. Wilfred seems OK, we are making sure to give him more attention, but I think he will need a new friend soon. x

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  6. It sounds like you have had a heartbreaking few days, I am so sorry for you all. It is so hard losing a pet as they become one of the family and as I said on Twitter earlier, it is the one thing that puts me off having a pet. It’s lovely that you have so many gorgeous photos of you all with Eric, he was such a cutie.

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    • Thanks very much, he really was a cutie! It definitely has been a heartbreaking few days. One of the reasons we chose guinea pigs is that they’re supposed to have a reasonably long life so we wouldn’t have to grieve too often. I can totally understand why that would put you off having a pet.

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  7. So sorry. I have had many pets that have all lived to a good age and I have been through so many losses. Every one was devastating. Having a pet is so rewarding but it is so hard to say goodbye. Huge hugs to you all x

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    • Thanks very much! We haven’t had that much experience of losing pets, but I would say this one was definitely the hardest. x

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  8. Aww bless him, I was so sad to hear about Eric. That said, it is wonderful to see that he was so loved and had such a happy life. So many rabbits and guineas are left in the hutch and neglected, it’s no life for them at all. Eric was definitely one of the lucky ones.

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    • Thanks very much! I’m ashamed to say that I was that person in the past with a series of rabbits. When we got our guinea pigs, I was determined it wasn’t going to be like that. If we were having pets, we were going to treat them properly, and we did! x

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  9. Sarah,

    It was a hard post to write, and it was a hard post to read.
    Eric and the others have been very lucky guinea pigs, to live with you and your family.

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    • Thanks very much, that’s such a lovely thing to say, I really appreciate it.

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    • Thanks very much, we need them right now! x

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  10. My goodness Sarah, what a well-loved guinea pig who lived an incredibly long life! I cannot believe that he made it to 4 years of age, that’s amazing. Right up until the end, he still looked fluffy and happy. You put me to shame all of you crying, I don’t think any of us cried over our guinea pigs dying. Hope things settle down soon and that you find a new pet who will never take his place but will mend broken hearts. xx

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    • Thanks very much. I thought 4 was pretty young as their life expectancy should be at least 6. Everyone reacts differently to pets dying, don’t they? I knew I loved him, but I realised even more when I knew he was going. I didn’t expect to take it quite so badly, but I’ve been bursting into tears all week. x

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  11. Such a sad post Sarah and obviously he was very well loved in your family. I remember when our little budgie died and me and the teen took it the worst. Love and hugs xx

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    • Thanks very much. He really was extremely well loved! I can totally relate to you being the most upset about your budgie. X

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