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Sunday, November 3, 2013

The End of an Era

In the late 80's and early '90's  we raised fancy rats. They're smart, clean, extremely human-oriented, entertaining. Unfortunately most are born with a virus that infects/affects their lungs, and they die at a young age -- 2-3 yrs. We have many tiny graves in Lompoc due to our rats dying before their time.

My sister got a couple chinchillas -- Bud and Vern -- and declared that they lived 15-20 yrs. in captivity. Sadly, the Great Dane she fostered had a killer gene, and killed one chn, injured the other to its demise, and attacked several dogs, killing at least one.

We found a breeder in Morro Bay and agreed to buy an  wk old baby. When we arrived we saw that her breeding pairs had cool names, like George and Gracie, Fred and Wilma, Barney and Bettty, George and Jane, etc. George and Gracie gave birth to twins, a rarity in the chinchilla world, and since they're social animals, we bought both babies. I named on Tika (Tee-ka), and Meave named the other Pooh-Bear.

And so the chinchillas thrived, we played with them, delighted in how they dust and carom around a room, and generally enjoyed them for many, many years.  We took them to the Montessori School, among other places, for show & tell. They were great reps for their breed.

In 2009, July, I think, I was gearing up to attend the Putah Creek Smack Down, the local time trial practice. I walked past the cage and noticed a chin laying on her side -- something they do when they're overheated.  I knew right  away that she was gone. So instead of that TT practice, we buried a beloved pet, and made her a headstone.

I noticed earlier this year that the surviving chin, whom we dubbed Tika-Pooh (because they looked identical but their personalities were so different; yet the remaining chin took on the strong personality). was sleeping more and eating less. They were born in 1994 so I thought as she was so long-lived I'd indulge her. I fed her extra raisins and apple and fresh peas, and less timothy hay.

FAIL. I should have continued her regular diet. Her molars didn't have enough coarse food to grind them down, and they overgrew enough to make her eyes weep.

But after a visit with the vet on 10/21 (yeah, I wanted to spend my birthday focusing on my pet)), we thought all was well. He gave us suggestions for her diet, and we stocked up.

So when I saw our little furry love-muffin on Halloween morning, laying on her side, I knew. I picked her up.  She was still warm and rigor hadn't set in.  I immediately regretted hitting the snooze button, then stopped.  So I cried, a lot, put her in a lunch bag, and buried her as the sun came up, weeping uncontrollably because I get so attached to animals, and she was so quirky and fun and we had a bond with her that outlasts many marriages (also sad).

Today we talked to my MIL, who is in the hospital, freshly out of ICU, and spunky.  When I told her about Tika-Pooh's passing I got weepy. I hope to get past that soon. OTOH, she was with us over 19 years, and there's no way to minimize that.

The animals we include in our lives teach us so many things, give us so much joy, are often key in our sanity. Losing one is really hard. Having support, people who get it, make the loss easier.

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