Our piggie, Leo, is in the hospital. We rushed him to the ER Saturday morning when we realized he was drooling and he couldn't eat. He'd lost so much weight recently (at least 2 lbs - which is a lot when you only weigh about 7lbs to begin with) and he just looked like he was withering away. He couldn't even eat the apple we gave him. Leo never passes up apple. There was obviously something very, very wrong.
We love this pig. I know how that sounds. Everyone says "...isn't that a rodent?" And I say "Yes! Yes! He IS a rodent! And I love him anyway!" We are proud of our piggy love. Really - to own a pig is to love a pig. But people who don't have guinea pigs see a $35 animal from Petco, and assume he's disposable. But he's not. He's too awesome to be disposable.
And now he's sick. Very, very sick. And on Saturday, after taking him to the vet and them telling me he needed immediate attention, I was faced with the question most pet owners face at one time or another. He needed surgery. Turns out his two back teeth had bent inward were pinning down his tongue making it impossible for him to chew. A piggy who can't chew is like a dog that can't wag it's tail. What's the point in living?
The vet said, "We can fix his teeth...but it's going to be expensive."
"How much will it cost?" But I knew the real question was "What is the price to keep this small creature we loved so much alive.
"It will be around $____."
"Oh my God! Really?! $____ to fix his teeth? Seriously?! Does he need caps?" The Doctor didn't even crack a smile. No levity here today.
There was no getting around this and I was sick to my stomach. With worry, saddness and guilt, and my guilt was compounded because Leo's life was in the balance because money was involved. If he'd been a dog, would I have even contemplated my "options?"
My daughter, Izzy, who had come with me to the vet stared at me with huge saucer-shaped eyes - her mouth agape. Her lips were quivering. She was terrified this was the end. The end of her first real pet's life. The end of her relationship with Leo. I was torn. I really had no idea what to do. I realize that spending a lot of money to save a guinea pig seems insane. But we really love Leo. I mean REALLY LOVE Leo! And he was so robust, with the exception of his tooth problem. Do you squelch a life because you don't want to spend the money? His life could quite possibly be great if we did the surgery. It might not. It possibly could help a little, but he'd still have trouble with his mouth. But if we didn't try to save him, we'd be snuffing him out. I just couldn't take it. I couldn't live with that.
But I needed to know my options, I sent Izzy out of the room so I could talk to the doctor privately. Then I tried to negotiate the price of my beloved family member's life.
"Is there any way to cut the cost? Is there anything you're planning on doing that isn't necessary?"
"Well, we don't have to do the pre-operative bloodwork. but we won't know for sure about the status of his liver function. That will save about $65.
Wow. $65 off of $____. What a bargain.
"Let me as you this, Dr. Frank. What would you do?"
"I would do the surgery."
"Well, if you do it, he could have a few good years left. He might not. The problem could be recurring, but you won't know until you do the surgery. He's in a lot of pain right now. he can't survive like this. We could just not do the X-rays. That will save you another $100 or so."
I thought about it. I had no choice here really.
"Okay. Let's just do it." I figured I just won't eat out for a few months. And I'd pass on buying that hutch I wanted for my kitchen. I couldn't just let Leo die. Not for the price of shelving.
And what is the price of love anyway?
I called Izzy back in and told her we would do the surgery. But if he doesn't recover well from the surgery or he has a recurring problem, we would need to look at the bigger picture and think about his quality of life.
Then we both gave Leo hugs and kisses good-bye and told him to be strong with tears streaming down our faces and choked up throats.
We're hoping, hoping, HOPING we could at least have another year with him. We're not ready to let go. Maybe I'm not ready to watch Isabel have to let go. Either way, it's in fate's hands now.