The Passing of Appa

I had dearly hoped that I would not have to make a post like this for years to come, but unfortunately life had some other plans. My fiancĂ© and I adopted our 6th guinea pig on October 3rd, 2020 and he developed pneumonia 2 months after that. When he got sick, it was extremely difficult for him. It took him over 3 months to fully recover and was a changed pet after recovering. He drank an excessive amount of water and was normally pretty agitated unless he was being held. It was difficult at times. He had good days and bad days but we always powered through them. We knew he wouldn’t be able to go through that illness again and our vets knew it as well. We did what we could.

Appa in his final hours.

Our vet is fantastic. They loved and cared for Appa just as much as we did. They gave us a surplus of medication that has a long shelf life in the chance that he got sick again. Our vets told us how much medicine to use and to couple it with infant gas drops. We were prepared but we still did everything to prevent it. We were strict with spot cleaning, scrubbing the canvas cage bottom with pet safe disinfectant, and even went as far as to use 3 different layers of bedding to assist with his excessive water intake and peeing. He got sick again on October 5th, 2021.

He was very lethargic, which wasn’t like him. He felt as though he had lost a significant amount of weight. He wasn’t drinking as much water when he would go through 3 large bottles a day. I jumped into action without hesitation. I gave him antibiotics twice a day. I gave him gas drops twice a day. I syringe fed him three times a day. I kept an eye on our security camera and kept a log of how often he ate and drank. He was stable for about a week and I even regained hope on October 11th. On October 12th, he took a nosedive for the worst. He was running around and wheeking in the afternoon but was on death’s doorstep when I came home from work around 9:30 pm.

Appa prior to moving apartments.

I know you’re screaming “VET!!!” I understand the sentiment. However, our vets knew he wouldn’t survive this a second time. Even if we took him, they would have given us the same medicine we had already been giving him which was proving to not be working. It would have been unnecessary stress for him and fruitless since we were already doing what they would be doing. On the night of October 12th, we just held him. We knew he would not make it through the night. He had lost use of his limbs, he refused all medicine and would spit it back out, he refused water, he wouldn’t poop. We had made him a promise to keep fighting until he was done fighting. In that moment, he told us he was done. Appa was known to have immune issues from birth and we noticed that night that his spine had a curve in it near his back hips, which most likely caused issues with him pooping without pain. He was born with defects that we unfortunately could not medicate away.

Growing up, I would run from death. I accepted it, I understood it, but I feared it. I feared losing those I love. When my childhood dog, Roxy, was humanely put down, I didn’t stay in the room. People she knew and loved were with her so she wasn’t alone but I didn’t stay because “it was too hard on me.” As Appa was in his final hours, I sobbed harder than I ever have in my life. I’m talking the shoulder shaking, snot running kind of sobbing. The difference is that I didn’t run. In the hours we spent cuddling him, kissing him, and sweet talking to him, I reminded myself “it is not about you. It is about him. You will have all of the time in the world to grieve. He has limited time. Cherish what time you can get.” And I did. And I am thankful that I was able to have that insight to be with him.

Appa smiling with Jonathon while recovering from pneumonia.

I woke up October 13th to one less pet in our little family. My fiancĂ© is a superhero. He stayed up the entire night alone. He checked on Appa every few hours (we set him up in a cozy, plush bed in his cage where he felt safe and comfortable) and gave him kisses. Around 6 or 7 am, he found Appa had passed away. He set up a small cardboard box full of bedding and placed him inside. He went ahead and called a pet cremation place nearby. He took Appa’s cage apart because he knew I would keep it up for weeks and cry over it. He took care of everything. When I woke up, we cried over our little Appa and took him to a nearby pet cremation place an hour after. His ashes were returned to us October 14th at 9 am.

I don’t want to focus on his passing but rather the life he lived. Despite only being a year old, we gave him the best possible life we could. We celebrated every single holiday with him. His first holiday was Halloween, where he got tons of treats. Then we had Thanksgiving, where I took time aside to tell each pig how thankful we were for them. He was the only one we celebrated Christmas with because we had to go north to be with family and he had to come with us so we could keep on top of his medicine. He is the only one to have experienced snow. We celebrated New Years, Valentines, and Easter with Appa. He got costumes, kisses, and treats galore. We spent so much time soaking up sunshine and fresh air. We spent countless hours giving him baths and haircuts for his long, crazy fur. We would share his joy when he popcorned around his cage happily. We greeted him every morning and gave him kisses every night. He watched movies with us and would sit on my desk with me as I played video games.

He was so involved with my life that it feels so painfully empty without him in it anymore. I still tell him goodbye when I leave for work out of habit. However, I know I did everything I possibly could for him. I gave him everything. We knew he wouldn’t survive a second round of illness and we made sure to cherish every day we got with him. We’re lucky we got a year. As sad as it is to say, I know most people wouldn’t have gone to the lengths we did for him simply because he was a guinea pig. Many people see small animals like him as “unworthy” of proper care and medical attention. Appa’s passing has made me an even bigger advocate for small pets. It’s made me want to fight harder to make sure all of these little creatures have good lives. Appa had a significant impact on me as a person that I will carry with me forever. Until we meet again, my sweet boy.

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