Wilfred was our favourite guinea pig. Eric used to be our favourite guinea pig and, after he died, Wilfred just slotted into his place. Cedric is cute and funny and lively, but Wilfred was our favourite. When he was little he was boisterous, but as he got older, he calmed down. He would sit nicely to be stroked, although he always ran away when you tried to get him out of his hutch. He spent the whole of the summer sat in a big tube. In fact, I usually ended up lifting him out of the hutch in his tube. I’m not sue if he was hiding from Cedric, who used to chase him around a lot. He spent the winter sat in a warm, furry bed in his bedroom.
Once the weather turns colder and damp, around the end of September or start of October, the guinea pigs can’t go on the grass any more. Instead, they come into the kitchen for a run/ sit or go on the patio when it’s dry. Last Monday, I got them out on the patio while my younger son cleaned them. I took this photo of them.
My son won’t put them away himself and, as I was going out with my daughter to ballet and Scouts, I asked my husband or eldest to put them away. I got home at 7.45, it was pitch dark and the guinea pigs were still on the patio. My daughter had put their furry beds out for them before we’d set off, because she said they were cold.
I didn’t really see them on Tuesday. We take it in turns to feed them and it wasn’t my turn. But I do remember a tussle for the water bottle and I can’t remember whether it was Monday or Tuesday. On Wednesday evening, it was dry, so I thought I would get them out on the patio again. As soon as I saw Wilfred, I knew he wasn’t right. He just looked sad. His eyes weren’t as wide open as usual and his head was drooped.
I got them out on the patio, but neither of them ran around much, so I put them away again. But I couldn’t get rid of this nagging feeling that Wilfred wasn’t right. I cut him a slice of carrot, but he pushed it away. Wilfred will ALWAYS take a slice of carrot. Or pepper. Or broccoli.
I got him out again and carried him around. My daughter agreed he looked sad. I weighed him, something we’ve been doing regularly since Eric died as it’s an early indication if guinea pigs are poorly. Guinea pigs are very good at masking when they’re ill. He’d lost 200g, or 20% of his body weight, in a month.
I rang the vet and got him an appointment for the next day.
The next day, I woke up at 4.12am. I had so many thoughts going round in my head and tears were shed before 6am. Would Wilfred already be dead? Would he have to be put to sleep? He was undoubtedly dying and I knew he wouldn’t have long without help, but could the vet come up with a miracle for him?
The morning felt very long indeed. I felt sick the whole time I was waiting. I made sure my daughter held him and said goodbye before she went to school. Just in case. We were hoping for a miracle, but facing reality. After Eric, when I took him home for 24 hours before he was put to sleep, I wasn’t sure I could put any of us through that again. But my daughter asked me to ask the vet for one more day, if it came to that.
The vet was very thorough. She said he was very deyhydrated, and that would account for at least some of the weight loss. She also said he was very cold. He had certainly been shaking since I’d got him out of the hutch the previous evening. And my daughter had said he was shaking with cold on the Monday. The vet tried to take his temperature several times (with a thermometer up the bum and he didn’t even struggle), but it wasn’t even registering a temperature. She couldn’t find a cause for his symptoms, but she said she DIDN’T THINK HE WAS GOING TO DIE.
He was ‘hospitalised’ for the day and given hydration and warmed back up. Potentially he wouldn’t be home that day, but later on they rang to say he was much better. So I picked him up that evening.
I had felt more relaxed while he was at the vet’s, but once he was home, I felt very on edge and anxious again. The vet still didn’t know what was actually wrong with him and had only treated his symptoms.
To be honest, he didn’t seem ‘much better’ to me. He was a bit better. His fur felt soft and smooth and I realised even that had been dehydrated earlier on. He was moving around more, but he still wouldn’t take any food or water. We had a feed in a syringe to give him (apparently he had already taken four of these while at the vet’s), designed for animals with hypothermia. It was a struggle to give it to him and I am sceptical about how much got into his mouth, as it was mainly on my trousers. He had two doses before bed.
In the meantime, poor Cedric had been sitting very still and intermittently running round the hutch squeaking for his friend. Of all the guinea pigs we’ve ever had, Cedric is the one who relies most on his friend.
We brought Cedric inside to sit with Wilfred for a while, first on my lap and then in the box. The vet had said to keep Wilfred inside for the night, to stop him getting cold. We don’t have an indoor hutch (I started thinking we would need to buy one and make space for it), so he stayed in the box for the night – with water, hay and food. I was still very worried about him. He needed a miracle to turn him around.
I woke up at 4.12am again. I didn’t dare go and check on Wilfred at that time, because I was too worried about what I would find. It was going to go one of three ways. Either he was going to need admitting to the vet’s again – at a further cost of £140. Would it even work? Would we pay to have him kept alive and then end up paying again for him to be put to sleep? (You can’t get pet insurance for guinea pigs, what do people do when they can’t afford these costs?) There was an outside chance he might have perked up, eaten some food and started drinking. Or he was going to be dead.
I asked my husband to come and check him with me. I was already crying before I opened the box.
Wilfred hadn’t made it through the night.
My favourite guinea pig was gone and I was heartbroken. I cried a lot of very noisy tears. Then I had the horrendous job of waking my daughter and supporting her as her heart broke. She had really believed he was going to wake up well.
Farewell, Wilfred. You were a very special boy and we are all missing you very much.