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Monday, May 22, 2006

Eloisa on Love and Good-byes

Four years, eleven months and 26 days ago, our family bought its very first pet. Her name was Muffin, and she was a guinea pig. She was my son's pet, and she loved him the best.

For the first few years of her life, we kept talking about sending a video of her to Animal Planet. Muffin had one great trick. She would leap to Luca (my son): literally, leap through the air from a sofa or a pillow, to his shoulder. She would fearlessly do it over and over, hurdling herself through the air to a boy of six, who thought she was better than a cat, and nicer than a dog, and all around perfect.

She had a big heart for such a small animal, and she loved the rest of us too. She would call to my husband when he entered the kitchen, distinguishing the sound of his feet from those of everyone else in the household. Muffin wasn't stupid; once my husband fell in love with her, he insisted on buying heads of romaine lettuce for her to eat during the winter when there was no grass.

She had a special purr for me. I would snuggle her in the crook on my shoulder, up against my face, and she would start to purr. Sometimes Luca would bring her to me and say, "Muffin needs a mom cuddle" (who know the mysterious communications of boy and guinea pig?). I would cuddle her, and she would start to purr right away.

In the last few weeks, she's been getting thinner and obviously more tired. My husband cut up an apple slice for her at noon, and she hardly touched it. Lately, he's resorted to organic lettuce, and she would only eat the tips. When we came back from a school event, she was dead. Her guinea pig companion, Starling, was crouched before her, nose to nose, obviously asking her to stand up and rush to the bowl to get to the lettuce first.

We buried her in the garden. Luca gave me a surly 11-year-0ld boy's glare when I asked if he wanted to say something for Muffin, so we all had group hug instead. My daughter surreptitiously gathered flowers from neighbors who are better gardeners than we are. She said a prayer for guinea pigs and we talked about what guinea pig heaven must be like.

I'll tell you what I think guinea pig heaven is like. In that place, the grass is always a tender green, and it's sprinkled with small carrots and bits of sweet apple. Sometimes alfalfa makes an appearance, but not the dried kind: the delicious, fragrant stuff that makes horses sick if they eat too much. There are all kinds of small homes and houses to snuggle into, build under the trailing branches of apple trees always in blossom.

We've all lost pets we love...let's talk about all those different kinds of heaven. I'm thinking there's a different kind of every beloved little soul who was once on this earth.
Eloisa James, 9:00 AM
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