Wild Paddy

8 Aug

Paddy, the patriarch of our seven guinea pigs, once lived in the woods with a cockerel. Their many wives roamed around the cottage garden in the Highlands where Bunty’s mother lives. Paddy and the cockerel spent part of the day with their wives, and then the two would cross the burn, climb the hill, pass under the fence or fly over it (depending), and return to their batchelor pad among the Scots pines.

The cockerel

Three pregnant wives

Paddy’s wives would nurture and wean Paddy’s pups in special enclosures where they would be safe from cats and owls. When they were old enough, Bunty’s mother would take them to Pets at Home and sell them. One summer, when Paddy’s wives had eleven pups on the go, Bunty’s mother decided to retire him from stud duties. Eleven was quite enough to be getting on with. Thus Paddy arrived at our home as a new member of our family. His arrival was unexpected and we had nowhere to put him, so we ensconced him  in a spare aquarium for his first few days of settling in. It was a far cry from his batchelor pad in the woods.

Not long after this, Pets at Home revised their policies such that they would only buy from a list of specific dealers – not casual hobbyists. Bunty’s mother was left with more guinea pigs than she could provide for. Paddy’s six sons came to live with us. We bought and customised a big hutch, with permanent access to our garden. Paddy had a new batchelor pad.

Paddy at bottom left

As they got older, the guinea pigs paired off, separating  into territorial areas of the garden. Paddy and his smallest son, Orkney, made their home on a patch of lawn edged by flowerbeds and a birch tree. Orkney spent all summer patrolling the edges of their territory against the other guinea pigs. Paddy had no inclination to follow suit: all his sons already accepted him as Top Pig.

In Wintertime, Paddy and Orkney shared the penthouse apartment in the guinea-pig tower block I had built for them all. The pigs like their tower well enough, but nothing beats the sight of them running and jumping unhindered through the grasses and Summer foliage. This year, the elderly Paddy began to take breaks from all the  running and jumping, to sit under a plank propped against the fence and watch the world go slowly by.

Paddy and Orkney in May (favourite plank in background)

Today dawned glorious and warm. As the sun was burning away the morning mist across the fields, Bunty fed Paddy some vegetable off-cuts. Paddy, feral creature that he is, scurried away to eat them in private. This afternoon, he was lying in the shade under his plank again, his boot-button eyes gazing into the buttercups. He had shuffled off his mortal coil, at the grand old age of five and a half.

I usually go to pieces when a pet dies, but this time it was different. He died quickly and quietly, in his old age, in his own territory – an expansive place full of grass to graze on and secret passageways that he had made among the bedding plants and beneath the tree. He died in freedom, with his favourite son close by. We buried him in his special place under the plank.

His last photo

Rest in peace, wild Paddy.

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14 Responses to “Wild Paddy”

  1. Kay Walker August 9, 2012 at 12:43 am #

    Dear old Paddy, all five & a half years of elderly. You can be secure in the knowledge you gave him the best life a ‘pig could wish for. I hope Orkney isn’t too distraught.

    • Snailquake August 9, 2012 at 12:58 am #

      He seemed fine this evening, but we’re thinking of trying him with Colin and seeing if they’ll get on now.

  2. Brianda Domecq August 9, 2012 at 10:52 am #

    Tears in my eyes as I think of his wonderful life and perhaps your gratitude to have him share it with you. Lovely piece, thank you so much, Brianda

    • Snailquake August 9, 2012 at 11:17 am #

      It felt good to be able to give him a life similar to the one he’d been used to before he was brought to us. We’re glad his last moments were in the garden, on a lovely day, and not in the Winter tower.

  3. barb19 August 9, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

    Paddy had a wonderful and full life, thanks to you, and I hope Orkey adjusts to him not being around anymore, as they were so close.
    RIP dear Wild Paddy.

    • Snailquake August 10, 2012 at 12:20 am #

      We hope so too.

      Thanks for popping by.

  4. oogit August 11, 2012 at 9:18 pm #

    Oh…. :( I cried when I read that! But atleast Paddy had a wonderful free life and that gave me warm comfort for his passing… awww

    • Snailquake August 12, 2012 at 8:10 am #

      Aw. I have wondered in the past whether having animal companions is worth the grieving when they go, but I’ve always come to the conclusion that it is. Life seems so grey and dull without critters to share it with.

      • oogit August 12, 2012 at 11:18 am #

        Same as… everytime one goes, I say never again and here I am with 4 cats … again… setting myself up for pain… again… but the amount of joy they give me is infinite, so the pain as intense as it can get will never match the joy :)

  5. LaVagabonde August 12, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

    RIP, Paddy. What a wonderful life he had with you. All of your guinea pigs look really healthy and happy. We once had a guinea pig, Saucisson, who lived seven years. They are such delightful little creatures.

    • Snailquake August 12, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

      We are hoping our other ones will live that long. They’ve had a much cushier life than Paddy – indoors every Winter and posh vegetables to eat their whole lives.

  6. E A M Harris November 11, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

    You reminded me of our feral guinea pig called Star who was very wild and ran around our garden for over a year. He ran away from people but got on well with our rabbit, which was also free in the garden. I think 51/2 is quite old for a guinea pig and it sounds like your Paddy had a really good life. Thank you for posting and reminding me what great characters guinea pigs are.

    • Snailquake February 18, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

      Thank you for this great comment. Our guinea pigs prefer rabbits to humans too. Some people seem to feel that it’s unfair not to tame a pet, but I don’t see why.

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