How Not to Kill a Guinea Pig

Before I tell you this story, I have to explain that in no way do I think that it is funny that there is a legitimately sick guinea pig with a real family who is struggling with how to best help her. I am not an animal-hater nor someone who regularly pokes fun at her friends, but as things unfolded yesterday for a family that we adore, it was impossible not to see the humor in their situation.

We had scheduled a dinner with our friends last evening, and when she called me to coordinate details about the meal, she got distracted by what was happening on her end of the line, and I heard, “No…no, don’t do that…you are ruining what I spent all that time setting up. Just close the garage. No…you have to close it!”

She came back to the phone and explained, “ Oh, I’m just sick about this. It would cost us $75 to put down this guinea pig, and she is just so sick.”

“Oh no, what’s wrong with her,” I asked.

“Oh, she has this tumor the size of my fist, and she has had it for almost six months. She is six and a half years old, and we really didn’t think she would make it this long. The vet told me that it will only continue to grow and then abscess. I just can’t let it suffer through that.” She sighs.

“I’m so sorry. So what are you going to do?”

“Well, I’m trying to put carbon monoxide into its cage. I have the hose hooked up to my car and I just spent the last half an hour with the lid closed and the car running. My son just lifted up the lid and let out all the gas that was probably in there,” she explained exasperated.

“You can’t just let it go out in a field or something?” I naively ask from the perspective of a previous guinea pig owner, whose pigs didn’t live longer than three years.

“Oh, that’s just too cruel. She would get eaten that way, and I just can’t do that to her. She’s been in a cage her whole life.”

I see her point, but I’m still trying to visualize this contraption that she has described. We work out our details for the dinner, and I wish her luck with her euthanizing adventure.

When we drive up to their house, I see the remnants of the days’ drama. The hose is attached to the tailpipe of the car and the other end is closed underneath the garage.

We learn that my friend is not very good at killing animals, even in a merciful capacity. The guinea pig is still alive, possibly more sluggish, but hard to tell. We discuss the disturbing image of the hose/tailpipe combination and we talk about the fact that they were lucky that their neighbors did not call the police. It cannot have looked good with the hose hooked up to a running car and slid under a closed garage door. We imagined the conversation with a policeman answering the call:

“No, officer, we are not suicidal…just homicidal.”

“Excuse me?” A confused and concerned officer would respond.

“Oh, you see. It’s for our guinea pig.”

After we abandon that angle of discussion, we move to the part of the conversation that includes the fact that the guinea pig is still alive. It is probable that the exposure to the gas has only left the pet with a really bad headache and has not effectively poisoned it. My husband offers another possible side effect.

“You do realize that you may have just cured the guinea pig.”

“What?” my friends look at him confused.

“Well, who knows, maybe carbon monoxide is like chemotherapy to guinea pigs and you just gave it a dose to shrink its tumor.”

We all know the science behind that comment, but it makes us laugh anyway.

My friend’s husband asks about the technical aspects of the contraption, and we all realize what must have been the problem. The hose was hooked up to the tailpipe, but not sealed. Some carbon monoxide was probably getting into the hose but not at a concentrated enough level to be lethal.

I am certain that the fate of the guinea pig is one of a peaceful departure, if my friend has anything to say about it, and she can only be commended for her kind-hearted, pet-loving approach to putting her pet down. It is nothing to be ashamed of if you are an ineffectual pet killer, and she has proven that there are certainly ways NOT to kill a guinea pig.

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