Was his life good enough? Struggling with guilt - all help appreciated!

imissyousid

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Hello. This is gonna be a long post, I'm sorry for that. I hope someone can bring me some peace. I have a lot of guilt about a guinea pig that my sister had, 7 years ago. His name was Sid. We live in Norway. She really loved him and I know she took decent good care of him. But he was alone too often. She was in high school, and I think her schedule was busy in periods of his life. I fear he was lonely. However, he was always talking (squeaking for attention) and acting normal, eating his food and being curious when someone entered the room. So I hope and think that he was content and happy most of the time, even though he lived alone.

My question is if someone can tell me that his life was good enough, by reading this post. I know it wasn't great, since he was alone. But I need someone to tell me it wasn't terrible either. That it was good enough. That he might have been content and sometimes very happy. Please read further.

He lived in his cage in a room in the basement, a proper room, not like a dark cold basement. We had rabbits who had their cages next to him, so I guess he always knew he wasn't alone in the room. His cage wasn't huge, but it wasn't tiny either. I think it would have been "accepted" as a cage as long as he got enough floor time. But I know he didn't. But still, the cage could have been a lot smaller, so it wasn't terrible. This room was not the room with the most traffic, since it was in the basement, so I guess there could be hours in between each time someone came in. But he always got attention in the morning and the afternoon and evening, for his feeding time. And my sister was strict about cleaning cages, so I guess his cage was always cleaned once a week. And often there would be people walking by during the day too, our parents probably talked to him when they walked by.

I remember him being out in the grass in the summer, not every day, but I can remember that my sister had him outside whenever we had the rabbits outside, in the summer holiday. In separate pens of course. I actually can't remember when she bought him, so I don't know how long she had him for. I lived out of town for most of his life. I remember that I would pet him and hold him occasionally when I was home, and that all of the pets would be out in the grass. Sid too.

I have no idea how much attention he got when I lived out of town. My mom says he was well taken care of, but I have a feeling he might have been alone a lot. That some days the only attention he got was when being fed, in the morning and evening. Maybe my dad would pet him whenever he walked by, as he walked past him to get to the garage where he often spent time fixing stuff. My mom says that they all cuddled him regularly, but I'm afraid it might have been too long in between still. I guess it was more often some days. And my sister has told me that she did spend time with him regularly, not every day, but it must have been often enough to keep him content, or else he would probably have stopped eating and definitely stopped talking and squeaking? He did all of this until the very end.

Was this enough? Should I feel terrible for not making my sister spend more time with him? As I said, I really can't remember how much time she did spend with him. It might have been enough, it might have been more than I know of. But it might also have been too little in some periods. Maybe it was more than enough in the beginning and then too little towards the end. I suspect that it was not perfect, and not very good, but hopefully it was good enough. Maybe in some periods the only attention he got was when she gave him food twice a day, and then maybe he was out of his cage once a week when she cleaned it. And maybe he got extra cuddles some days during the week, or maybe it was less in some periods. I don't know. But I think it was something like that.

He "spoke" every day, I think. I think he must have done that, because I moved back home a couple of months before he passed away, and I can remember hearing him often. And that was after he had lived like this for at least a year, so I'm assuming this is proof that he wasn't feeling neglected, that he was content with his life?

I even remember him "calling for attention" on his last day alive. So he must have been happy and content up until the last day. He had also eaten his food that last day, I think. I vaguely remember telling the Vet that he had eaten like normal (I was the one to take him to the Vet when he passed). This is proof that he wasn't feeling neglected, isn't it? He would have stopped eating eventually if he was depressed and not happy with his life?

Then the end came. He must have had a hidden illness towards the end.
I had lived away from home for about 2 years, as I wrote earlier. A few months after I moved back home, there was one day when my sister was at school, and I found Sid collapsed in his cage, and it was like all of a sudden he was very thin. I know he must have gotten thin over time, but I swear he must have lost the majority of the weight the last few days. He had been eating his food like normal, even that last day. I'm sure of this, because I remember it being a conversation. That there were "no signs" except for his weight. And he was talking too, like normal, in the morning, if I remember correctly. So he must have been in that state for a couple of hours, maximum. My dad said he had been normal when he walked by the cage right before I found him. He had been working on something in the garage, and walked by the cage on his way there. So maybe he had just collapsed when I got in the room. Maybe he had been feeling strange for a bit and then collapsed. I don't think he was in pain earlier that day, I'm sure my sister would have noticed if he didn't eat before she went to school.

Me and my dad immediately rushed him to the vet then, where the vet put him to sleep, because he was not gonna make it. I held him the whole way there. The vet said something about an illness that had made it impossible for his body to take up the nutrients from the food. I also remember feeling ashamed for not bringing him earlier, since he was so skinny. I had the feeling of being judged, like this shouldn't have happened to him. I can't remember anything else. But he must have lost his weight in a very short time, and he showed no other symptoms.

Even though he wasn't my guinea pig, I still lived there for a while when he was there, and I do feel responsible for how his life ended. We should have noticed his weight sooner. I should have paid more attention, in case my sister missed something. She was in high school and could have been stressed with exams and so on. Maybe she overlooked something. I was the big sister, I should have looked after her pets too. But I trusted her to take care of them, she had always given her pets everything they needed, except the ideal amount of excercice and playtime. But I really don't think he showed any symptoms but the weight. He was always so happy and social, until the very last day. I'm torn apart when I think of that happy little guy and feeling like we failed him. He wasn't old either, he must have been 2 or 3, depending on how old he was when she got him.

What could the illness have been? Even if she/we did notice it sooner, he might not have made it either way, depending on the illness. But the chance that he could have survived, it haunts me. I find comfort in the fact that I held him the whole way to the vet, in my lap. Even though he wasn't as close to me as to my sister, I assume he felt safe in my arms either way. And I hope he didn't feel like we betrayed him in the end.

We buried him in my parents' garden. I had terrible guilt over it a few months later, and then I managed to move on with my life, and now, 6 years later, the thoughts are back.

Did he have a good life? Was it good enough?

He lived alone, but he was always curious and "awake", and would always come to the door of the cage when someone walked by. He was squeaking regularly, I guess every day. He was eating his food. Is this proof that he might have been content with his life?

If he was very lonely and depressed, would he not stop eating, and stop "talking", and wouldn't he rather hide away than be curious and social?

I can't remember the day to day details, but I have a feeling that he always seemed content. I think if he was depressed and his life seemed terrible at the time, I would have seen that back then. I must have noticed it if this was the case! All I can remember is that he was so friendly and seemingly social, and it breaks my heart that his life wasn't as good as I wish it was. He deserved so much more! I feel so terrible for not realising it back then! But my sister must have spent enough time with him, or else I guess I would have noticed when I moved back home.. And he would have become depressed. I can't remember any signs of him being depressed.

Is it really possible that he was content? That even though his life was boring, it wasn't bad? He could have been content when he was alone, and then super happy when he got cuddles and attention time? And the time in his cage was spent relaxing and feeling safe? Or did he spend his time feeling betrayed and unloved, all those hours and days where he didn't get attention? I really want to believe that he could have been content and that his life was okay.

I hope someone can help me come to peace with this. I hope his life was good enough. And that we didn't betray him when he got sick.
 

Siikibam

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That is a lot of guilt to carry around for 7 years. I hope that talking about it has helped you. I think you did the best for him that you thought at the time. And remember back then guinea pigs probably weren't so 'popular' and not much was known about. Unfortunately I can't tell you whether he was happy or not because only he could have told you.

You got him to the vet when you noticed he was ill, which is so important given they go downhill quickly and hide illnesses so well. I think you just have to try and remember the good times and the positive memories you had of him. Please don't feel like this for another however many years. Did you grieve for him?
Human Bereavement - Grieving, coping tips and support links for guinea pig owners and their children
 

Swissgreys

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I think we all carry a certain amount of guilt about our animals, no matter what sort of life we give them.
It is so easy to think we could have done better, and I know I feel like this about my first 2 guinea pigs.
I adopted them from a charity almost 20 years ago, and at the time very little was known about their care and the Internet barley existed.
In hindsight their diet wasn't great (but it was what was available at the time) and their hutch was way too small. I do feel guilty about this, but I also know I was doing the best that I could at the time. Their basic needs were met and they didn't suffer even if (based on today's knowledge) their life could have been better.

But there comes a point when you have to accept that you did the best you could with what you had at the time.

As for illness I recently lost a perfectly happy, healthy 2 year old piggy in a matter of hours. One minute he was fine, and 4 hours later he was dead.
It was devastating, but piggies hide their illnesses well, and sometimes even with the absolute best care their lives are short and end rapidly.
You took your piggy to a vet when you noticed he was ill, and you were there with him at the end.
Personally I think that counts for a lot, and you have nothing to feel guilty about.
 

imissyousid

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Thanks for your replies.

As I said, he was my sister's guinea pig, not mine. I didn't spend that much time with him, since I lived out of town most of his life, as I said. But I loved him, like I've loved all of our pets, even though he wasn't my responsibility. He was my sister's.

I just came here wanting to know if he could have been content and whether his life was good enough, based on what I've written here. I know how it could have been a lot better, and that it was probably very boring at times. I just wonder if it was "good enough". Based on what I've told about him always talking and eating his food and acting normal. And that all his basic needs were met. If he could have been content and had a "good enough" life, after all, despite all the things that could have been better. Was it good enough?
 

Bradshaw Piggies

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I agree with the above, we all feel a certain amount of guilt when it comes to the life we provide(d) for our animals.
I totally agree with there not being as much information in the past. I work in the animal/equine industry and information is evolving with research all the time. What we think right at this moment, may not be the case years from now. All we can do is learn and adapt as we go.
Our animals know that we do the best we can, and that is all that matters to them. To have someone like yourself who loves and cares for that animal so much, is a blessing that unfortunately not all animals get.
I think if your boy was healthy and got veterinary treatment when needed, he didn't have the worst life at all. And most importantly he knew he was loved.

I still feel guilty now, with having animals all of my life, I look back and wonder what could have been better? Could my rabbit hutches when I was a kid have been bigger? Could I have had my horses on a better diet (we have far more research into equine nutrition now than we ever did when I was younger)?

My piggie boys that we lost last year I feel immense guilt about. I took my Loki to the vet when his URI didn't improve, they decided to hospitalise him and he passed away. I feel guilty for leaving him there and not having that last good bye. My little Rocket passed away despite me having him another appointment booked to travel to our specialist vet (I still feel guilty that I didn't take him sooner). And my precious Odin - though I feel I dedicated my all to him, I still wonder if I could have done things differently or if I caused any of his problems.
I think it's natural to feel this way. I just try my hardest to remind myself of how loved my boys were and I hope that they knew that.

I'm so sorry you have been carrying that guilt for so long. I hope talking here has helped you and you can release that guilt and find some peace. I'm sure if your boy could tell you now, he would thank you for loving and caring about him so much. Like I said, it's a huge shame not all animals get that amount of love.
 

Merab's Slave

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I am so sorry that you have been carrying such a burden of guilt for so long.
Other members have already given excellent replies and I can only echo what has been said.

I do have a suggestion that may help.
Why don’t you write Sid a letter telling him how you feel. Then destroy it.
As you destroy the letter you are letting go of some of the guilt.
You may also want to forgive yourself at the same time.
Do this as often as you need to until you feel that you really have let go.
 

imissyousid

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Thank you for taking the time to write to me, everyone. I really appreciate it. And thank you for not being harsh and telling me he must have had a bad life.
I have OCD, and I tend to over analyze stuff, so it's hard for me to not feel uncertain of what you guys are really saying.

Do you honestly think that his life may have been good enough? Despite everything that should have been better, to him it may have been good enough (based on what I've written about how he acted and so on)? I mean based on the fact that he never stopped eating, and he was always squeaking for attention, even though he was alone for hours, he was always happy when someone came to him. Is that proof that he might have been content and that his life, to him, was good enough?
 

Kellykels

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I know I did absolutely everything I could for my Stripe but I still feel guilt and second guess myself. You did your best. The fact you question it is proof you did enough. Even if certain things weren't the same as we would do now due to the knowledge we have now. You weren't to know and everyone is always learning. Please don't feel guilty anymore. You sound like a lovely kind hearted person and you don't deserve the hard time you're giving yourself.
 

Guineapigfeet

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Hi, I also have guilt for my childhood pigs who were in far too small hutches are were definitely not cleaned out enough or fed the ‘right’ things. The cage and food were perfectly acceptable at the time but the cleanliness wasn’t! They spent most of the spring/summer out on the grass though. They lived to 6 and 8, so were healthy enough and I hope happy ?
I also recently lost one of my current pigs very similarly. She was totally fine, noisy and greedy and lively, until she wasn’t. I found her collapsed. She tried to walk and was staggering and her head was bobbing around and wobbly. She was also very skinny despite eating lots and I suspect she lost it very fast as I weigh regularly. I also took her to the vet to be put down :-(
Try not to beat your self up. You did he best you could. That’s all anyone can ask for.
 

Wizzy

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It honestly sounds like you gave Sid the nicest life despite the circumstances. And i know how it feels to hold onto guilt. 3 years ago, my guinea pigs lived outside in a small hutch and weren’t given much attention. I was still a teenager and quite frankly didn’t know any better. On this specific week i wasn’t at my mums house where the guinea pigs were for a day or two and didn’t go to see them the other days. Then on the Friday i came home to find one of them had passed away. She was only 2.
It took me a long time to deal with the crushing guilt i felt. I got another guinea pig to keep my remaining pig company, and now, 3 years later, they live in a big cage in my bedroom and are ages 5.5 and 6.5. I still find that the guilt affects me, though. My guinea pigs are taken to the vet often when there’s nothing really wrong because i’m scared of missing something. I overreact about the smallest things.
so i hope you know that really you have nothing to be guilty about. all the best x
 

cococookie

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Thank you for taking the time to write to me, everyone. I really appreciate it. And thank you for not being harsh and telling me he must have had a bad life.
I have OCD, and I tend to over analyze stuff, so it's hard for me to not feel uncertain of what you guys are really saying.

Do you honestly think that his life may have been good enough? Despite everything that should have been better, to him it may have been good enough (based on what I've written about how he acted and so on)? I mean based on the fact that he never stopped eating, and he was always squeaking for attention, even though he was alone for hours, he was always happy when someone came to him. Is that proof that he might have been content and that his life, to him, was good enough?
hi, i have very recently lost my piggy and like your sister i am also still in school. 7 years is a very long time to have felt like this, i hope it has helped you by sharing your thoughts. from what you’ve said, your sisters piggy sounded like a very happy boy. i’m sure he knew that he was loved, even if he didn’t get taken out much or had a small cage. the fact that he was still talking and eating until the end proves that he was well taken care of and happy with his life. please don’t feel like this, i’m sure if Sid were still here he would want you to be happy.
 

imissyousid

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Thank you everyone, your answers have brought me some peace <3 Even though he wasn't my piggy, I still feel responsible being the older sister. It's comforting though, to hear all of your replies. I will try to believe that he was happy in his short life, despite the circumstances.

What's scary about OCD thoughts, is that whenever I try to comfort myself saying that his life was okay - I get this picture in my mind of a sad guinea pig sitting alone, and I instantly feel the need to assure myself that he wasn't sad. And this can go on and on until I'm able to stop the thought loop. That's why I was asking all these detailed questions.

All of you sound like wonderful pig owners, and I hope you never experience these kind of thoughts <3

I will try to trust your answers and believe that he was content with his life.

I lost my rabbit this Christmas, and the loss of her brought these thoughts about the guinea pig back. I've been so caught up in this guilt from 7 years ago, that I haven't had the chance to grieve properly for my rabbit yet. Her name was Yuki and she made it to 11 years old. <3

Maybe she is somewhere playing with Sid now.

Thanks everyone <3
 

Kellykels

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Thank you everyone, your answers have brought me some peace <3 Even though he wasn't my piggy, I still feel responsible being the older sister. It's comforting though, to hear all of your replies. I will try to believe that he was happy in his short life, despite the circumstances.

What's scary about OCD thoughts, is that whenever I try to comfort myself saying that his life was okay - I get this picture in my mind of a sad guinea pig sitting alone, and I instantly feel the need to assure myself that he wasn't sad. And this can go on and on until I'm able to stop the thought loop. That's why I was asking all these detailed questions.

All of you sound like wonderful pig owners, and I hope you never experience these kind of thoughts <3

I will try to trust your answers and believe that he was content with his life.

I lost my rabbit this Christmas, and the loss of her brought these thoughts about the guinea pig back. I've been so caught up in this guilt from 7 years ago, that I haven't had the chance to grieve properly for my rabbit yet. Her name was Yuki and she made it to 11 years old. <3

Maybe she is somewhere playing with Sid now.

Thanks everyone <3
All the best lovely. I'm glad you feel better and sorry for the loss of your rabbit, fresh grief can bring back the memories of previous losses. Take care of yourself.
 
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