All My Pets Are Dying

Party Animal
May 5, 1998 – July 23, 2013

Recently, my two favorite pets died. Our 15-year-old Golden Retriever, Skye, was put down last month and last week I came home to find that one of my two pet guinea pigs, Symphony, had died during the day. I think it must be one of those getting older things – just like the fact that all my (at least Facebook) friends are getting married or having babies, all my pets that have been with me for so long are dying. It’s awkward to harp on about your pets, but I want to tell you guys a little about them both.

I’ll be the first to admit that my obsession with animals is borderline weird. As a child, the only thing that mattered (other than my My Little Pony collection) was getting more pets. Over the course of my life, I’ve had turtles, every type of fish you could find at a suburban pet store in the 90s, sea monkeys, hermit crabs, two bunny rabbits, over 15 guinea pigs (that is another story for another time), 4 kittens, at least five birds and two dogs.

I hit the highlight of my scamming-my-parents-into-getting-me-pets career in 6th grade. My dad’s job relocated us to São Paulo, Brazil. Air Bud had just come out, and my little brother and I were obsessed with Golden Retrievers. At some point we came up with the idea that if we were to move to a foreign country, we required a puppy.  And sure enough, we got us a puppy.

Not quite Air Bud, but look at that flexibility.

The litter was born on Cinco de Mayo, which seemed fitting, because it would make sense that we’d get a dog with a little pseudo-Mexican flair. The owner allowed us to come over and choose our puppy before the litter was even able to open their eyes. Claude and I were taken with the tiny little puppy who had a white diamond on her forehead.

We waited the five painstaking weeks until we could take her home, and in my memory of that time, the idea that the puppy was coming lessened the pain of packing up our home, saying bye to our friends and planning to move somewhere far, far away.

Aeropostale sweater tee, WWJD bracelet, chipped blue nailpolish. Yup… it was 1998.

Some other important facts about Skye: 

  • She was a fast learner: She brought new life to Amadeus, who was arthritic and near death, but never missed an opportunity to hump her. I guess she thought it was a game, because once she was large enough she would jump on him and start humping him.
  • We thought adding the ‘e’ to Sky was super hip: If you remember, the momma dog in Babe is named Fly, and then there was this girl on my bus named Skyler who I thought was really cool.
  • She had a hot boyfriend: We were about to get Skye spayed when our minds were changed after watching an episode of “Full House” where the family golden had puppies. Somehow, we convinced our parents that this would be a good idea for us, and set up a date with a neighbors dog. Buddy was a pure bred Golden Retriever, so I can only assume that in dog standards that means he was HOT. Their baby-making attempt was unsuccessful, but I did learn a lot more about dog sex than I ever needed to know.
  • She was not the brightest/ loved cars: We were pretty sure that Skye was eventually going to get run over because she LOVED cars. Not chasing cars, or barking at cars… just, cars. She’d run right up to them as if expecting them to be humans who would pet her. It was terrifying.
  • She provided the entire family with endless entertainment: For example, this video of my brother carrying old, limping Skye around the kitchen so she could chase after this piece of meat my dad was holding.

  • She was a party dog: She really liked licking beer off the patio whenever it was spilled during parties.
  • While she didn’t age gracefully, she didn’t seem too upset about it: Here’s a video I took of Skye the last time I saw her. She had a cone and weird booties, as well as a limp and was completely deaf… But she was as happy as ever.

Seriously… endless entertainment.

_____________________________________________

After a few years in college, I started to really miss having pets.Not having a furry something to cuddle felt wrong. During my senior year of college, my little brother lived with me and we started to plot the purchase of pets again. As a child, I’d had at least 15 guinea pigs so they seemed like the natural go to when we started talking pets. Before I knew it, we’d purchased two baby guineas and named them Symphony and Professor Commonwealth, after nearby streets in Boston.

AKA Pat and Vanna, if you’re calling from Wheel of Fortune

While guinea pigs are nowhere as exciting as dogs, they have provided me with a lot of entertainment in the past 4.5 years, and holding Symph’s poofy little body comforted me during a lot of my quarter life crises.

Some facts about Symphony:

  • She was definitely the leader of the pack: I don’t think Professor ever walked anywhere that wasn’t directly behind Symphony’s butt.
  • She got around: The guineas have lived with me in Boston, Atlanta and New York. That means they’ve been on a plane and in a Uhaul for a cross country trip.
  • She might have been a bit of a stoner: Back in my college days, as the scent of pot smoke waft through the floors of my music school apartment building, Professor would sneeze and hide in the corner, while Symphony would walk up to the front of her cage, place her paws on the metal bars and sniff as vigorously as she could. I think sometimes it made her paranoid though, because she started some pretty nasty fights with Professor.
  • She was my favorite, but we had our differences: During our New York move, a few bars on the guinea’s cage came off, creating a tiny little window out of which they could stick their heads. I thought this was adorable, until I realized Symphony would sneak out the cage during the night and poop on everything under my bed.
  • There must have been something in her hair: Because Professor ate so much of it that I took her to the vet TWICE thinking she had mites-induced hair loss.
  • I buried her at sea, like the fucking sailor she was: Is it sailors they bury at sea? Anyway, whoever it is. The awkward part of losing a pet in the city is that you don’t really know what to do with it. All my previous guineas were buried in my backyard, with proper little guinea gravestones. This time, I wasn’t sure what to do so I decided the most romantic thing would be a burial at sea – er, river. I brought her down to the tip of Manhattan so I could put her shoebox coffin in the Hudson, near the Statue of Liberty. As it turns out, finding a break in the fence and throwing something into the river isn’t so romantic, because I was pretty terrified someone was going to See Something and Say Something. Either way, her tiny body will forever lie at the bottom of the Hudson, close to Lady Liberty.
  • Yes, the means I brought a dead rodent on the subway. She was in a box, and a bag, and concealed and it was a grief thing, ok guys?!

In light of all this, I still have one pet left. Professor Commonwealth and I are bonding over our mutual feelings of loss (that I assume she also has) and now at night she sits on my chest and eats my hair while I watch TV. It’s pretty creepy/adorable.

Peace, love and hug your pets, 

BWCE

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