Saying Farewell to One of the Best of Us

"If there ever comes a day when can't be together, keep me in your heart, I'll stay there forever." - A.A. Milne


The first time I saw her I knew she was special. Her spiky red and white and beige fur was sticking up in a thousand directions, and her sour expression made her look more porcupine than pig. They told me her name was Cinnamon though she was 6 months old (but weren't quite sure) and was the kind of pig who would never stop talking. 

I liked her immediately. 

When we brought her (and her bonded mate Saffron) home from MSPCA-Angell and started getting to know her, we were delighted by her voracious appetite. The sound of the fridge opening or a bag rustling was enough to send her running across the cage wheeking and popcorning in gleeful anticipation. We also noticed that the more she ate the more she grew, until one day she could no longer fit in her tube. 

She had become convex nearly overnight. 

Cinnamon, you're obese! We teased, and considered putting her on a diet until reality dropped seventeen floors into our laps. 

Some investigation would prove that she had been carrying stowaways the entire time. 

Terrified by what we're getting into as first time guinea pig parents (and soon to be grandparents!), we watched her almost round the clock for three weeks. We gave her treats, made sure she had more than enough hay and water, we rubbed her tummy, gave her massages...until one morning we awoke to the most beautiful of surprises. 

Four little fur-buds: Ginger, Nutmeg, Clove, and Sassafras. 

Those teensy weensy pups followed her around for 3 weeks until we discovered one was a boy who was getting frisky and we decided it was time to separate them and give Cinnamon long overdue mommy alone time. 

In 2013 we moved to Salem and had a year and half of mostly uninterrupted bliss. She was happy, constantly demanding food, and despised being picked up. Although, once you got her swaddled into a towel on your lap she would coo and purr like she was the most pleased pigaroo who ever graced this big blue planet. She spent her days lounging in her hutch, wheeking loudly at meal time (or whenever she thought there was a treat coming her way). 

She was living the guinea pig life of legend. 

In early 2015 things started to take a turn downwards. We would hear her at night spasming and screeching in obvious pain, sometimes seizing and knocking the hutch around the cage. We took her to the vet close to where we live and they confirmed they she had developed sizable ovarian cysts and would need operation. Unfortunately, the vet we spoke to mishandled her so badly during the visit (she obviously had little experience with exotics) that Cinnamon refused to be touched for several days afterwards. 

A friend of ours recommended that we try VCA Wakefield Animal Hospital, and we are to this day infinitely grateful for that recommendation. Dr. Franquin treated Cinnamon with such patience and care, holding her against her chest and saying sweet things. Dr. Franquin was pregnant at the time of the first visit, and it seemed that Cinnamon felt that motherly kindred spirit and relaxed against her.

Dr. Franquin confirmed the diagnosis but said that the cysts weren't at the moment life threatening. She said our options were surgery or hormonal injections because as long as the cysts were there and continued to grow they would be problematic. We told her that we needed some time to think things over because operations can be life threatening, and we weren't sure if we were ready to take that risk. 

She sent us home with metacam (pain meds) and said if the seizures continued or if Cinnamon began to lose hair or stop eating to bring her back in immediately. 

Cinnamon has always been strong (and strong-willed) and over the next few months she seemed to be improving. She ate heartily and her crazy sheep-like fur stayed in tact, unlike her daughter Sassafras who soon began to decline. She also had ovarian cysts, and needed surgery immediately. Also, out of nowhere, we lost Clove - unexpected sudden organ failure. September and October were miserable for us. 

Fortunately, Sassafras did recover from her surgery (thanks to the loving hands of VCA's Dr. Corcoran) and began to bounce back. Since we had just lost one piggie, and Sassy proved that successful surgery could happen, we decided to go ahead with Cinnamon's surgery as well. 

The problem was, by this point (and having racked up $2,000+ in vet bills) we were broke. 

I launched a Fundly page called "Help Make Cinnamon Well Again" asking for $500 to help subsidize the $800 surgery. I didn't know what to expect, I had never asked for help like this before. I just knew that we needed to do what we could to make her well. 

To my immense happiness, the campaign was fully funded within 72 hours. She was going to be ok. I still have so much gratitude to the people who reached out helping hands to make this possible. You saved her. You gave her the change to be with us for these last few months. 

Her surgery went off with out a hitch. Dr. Corcoran said that she was the easiest surgery patient he has ever dealt with. I knew she must have charmed him with her chubby chubby cheeks. Even the recovery went well. She was eating normally within a day of coming home and she was back in with Saffron by the end of the week. 

And for the last few months, she's been her normal bristly self, in every sense of the word. 

Last night came as a surprise to us, as although she'd been a little lazy recently she hadn't given us any reason to think she was unwell. We think she may have suffered a heart attack, and there's nothing we could've done to foresee or prevent this terrible thing from happening. As my friend told me this morning, maybe she was needed somewhere else. 

Maybe she missed Clove. Who knows. All I can hope is that she didn't suffer, and that we were able to provide some degree of comfort and happiness to her while she was here with us. 

Over the last 4 1/2 years she has been the inspiration for countless images and videos and has become beloved by all who have seen her tubby face and crazy sheep fur. She was one of the first pets I photographed, and I have her to thank for me falling head over heels for this kind of life. 

I'm so grateful she picked us. It's incredibly difficult for me to write this because I miss her so much and I will continue to miss her for the rest of my life...but I'm also thankful to have had the time with her that I did. I'm surrounded by images of her, and in a way, she'll never really leave. 

Here are a few of the things she and I have made over the last few years.

I love you forever, Cinnamon Bear. 

© 2016 Salem Pet Photo