The critter to the left over here is Paws, my elder daughter's guinea pig. As long-time readers may recall, back in Xmas 2006 we got The Girls guinea pigs, which we obtained from a specific "guinea pig rescue" place in the south suburbs of Chicago called Critter Corral. Paws (and her sister Ginger, who is still with us, but very lonely) had been a "classroom" guinea pig for a couple of years, but for some reason they were unable to stay there, and they ended up at C.C. for adoption. We liked the idea that they were used to kids, and The Girls were thrilled to get the piggies. Now, we're not sure how old Paws & Ginger were when we got them, but we're guessing around 2-3 years. The average life span for guinea pigs is 4-8 years, so with our having them for four and half years, the piggies were probably around 7 years or so. They'd been generally healthy (they had a skin thing we had to take care of in their first year here, but nothing past that), and so it was something of a shock that when we went to get them out to clean the cage (this was on Saturday, May 21st), we saw this big pink "ball" (about an inch across) hanging out of Paws' nether regions, and discovered that she was leaving a slight trail of blood on the towel she was on.
I jumped on the web and researched this, and it looked to be one of two things, neither of which was particularly good. Unfortunately, this was a Saturday evening, and the vet we'd previously taken them to was closed until Monday, as were all the other places in the city that handle critters like Paws. We found an emergency vet up in Skokie that would see guinea pigs, so I rented a car and convinced Daughter #1 to come along with me. There had been some pages which said that sometimes these sorts of things could just be "pushed back in", and we were hoping that the vet would be able to do an "office procedure" and get things back to normal. Unfortunately, to even fully determine what this was would involve exploratory surgery, and there was no guarantee that Paws would make it through that. It also was time-sensitive as there was all this "internal" stuff that was hanging outside of her, and that was getting dried and was highly likely to get infected.
So, we had a piggy fairly close to the end of her natural lifespan, who had a very bad condition, and who was maybe 50-50 to make it through surgery ($$$), and wasn't even certain to fully recuperate. We ended up making the decision that we'd let her go ... but it was very, very hard. Admittedly, Paws was evidently "in trouble" when we brought her up there, but this is the third time in a relatively short time (in my mind, at least, it's probably been more than a decade) that we've taken a pet to the vet, anticipating getting them a shot or a pill or something, only to come home without said pet. I don't know if it's any easier dealing with a pet that has a long, uncomfortable decline (and I've followed along with other L.J. folks who have been through this), but I've gotten to be "gun shy" about going to vets, as it seems we always lose a family member there.
It's been a difficult several weeks, as, even as ephemeral as guinea pigs are, they are "family members", and we're reminded daily of Paws' absence. It's especially hard in that we're so used to thinking of the two guinea pigs as "Ginger and Paws", as they came as a unit, and had always been together, and it's hard to try to force the singular when referring to