13.06.2007 to 17.05.2011
George came into my life because we could catch him, and we couldn’t catch his identical twin. And Fred his twin (triplet?) brother came because I fancied him!
They were my very first guinea pigs, in fact the first pets of my own, and we hadn’t had family pets since I was about 11. They taught me everything I know, and George’s teeth problems taught me rather more than I ever wanted to know about dental problems, syringe feeding, abscesses, and the amazing tolerance of a small person determined to survive in spite of his mum’s inept handling.
The first thing that struck me was how fast they were! George and Fred would have dashing-round-the-cage chases which seemed to be a combination of catch-me-if-you-can and see-if-we-can-avoid-a-head-on-collision! Sadly I didn’t realise I could video that till after they stopped: after George had his first tooth episode when he was just one year old they never regained that youthful exuberance. I did notice them having a mini-chase (at walking pace) when they were in their C&C cage (designed by George) recently though.
The second thing that struck me was the way Fred would spend hours gazing into space while George rearranged the furniture and generally got on with engineering works. Hence their titles – the Philosopher and the Engineer. When we found the Guinea Pigs – Rodents With Attitude forum, in its very early days, George was bestowed the title of Forum Engineer, a job which he took very seriously. He also took time off his duties to add a little homespun wisdom from the guinea pig’s point of view, often starting or ending with “I’m just a guinea pig, but…”
From forum duties he branched out into the internet, building his own blog site, and having his own email address so he could vote for his favourite Classicfm tracks (Mozart Clarinet Concerto was highly rated, as were Butterworth’s The Banks Of Green Willow and Bach’s Sheep May Safely Graze). He also took on all-comers in the RWA Trivia Quiz. I never worked out how he knew so much about films and games I’d never heard of. I thought he must have looked up the answers, but he couldn’t have done in the times he recorded. Maybe he spent the rest of his time, when not engineering or blogging, trawling the internet for untold trivial facts.
Despite being rather prone to car-sickness, George became a well travelled pig, visiting CCT in Huntingdon on numerous occasions, and also travelling to Zoe and Tom in Norwich and to Shirley and Barry in Ipswich for dental consultations. He also travelled with Fred, Hugo and Victor to Scotland twice for a holiday on Mull, and also to South Devon for a house-sitting break.
He took all this in his stride, but he was really a home-loving sort who enjoyed nothing better than being in the garden with his brother, running between the vegetable patches, checking how well the chard or fennel was growing, and carrying out his lawn-mowing duties.
George had a congenital tooth disorder called malocclusion which meant that his lower teeth were angled towards his mouth so that if not kept well under control, the top molars gradually failed to grind down the bearing surfaces of the lower ones and a spur would develop on the inside of the bottom molars, cutting his tongue and stopping him from eating. The first occasion this was discovered was exactly one week after his first birthday when I found him shivering and fluffed up in his cage. I thought I’d poisoned him since I’d grabbed a bunch of herbs from the garden late the night before and might have got something poisonous by mistake. But it turned out to be the first episode in the saga of his teeth, treated under anaesthetic by the vets, but he developed abscesses which also needed lancing and operations and antibiotics. I thought more than once during that period that I had a dying piggy in my arms. That first episode took him four months to recover from, and when it happened again eighteen months later I was distraught.
Throughout his illnesses he was always so patient and trusting. Sometimes he was crying with pain which made me cry too, especially the second time, eighteen months after the first, when I understood better how to clean out the abscess that developed after the veterinary dental work, keeping the hole open to drain it. He got a sore neck and had a manky, seemingly broken incisor and he just wasnt recovering so I took him to the Cambridge Cavy Trust where they trimmed his teeth and removed the broken one with no need for anaesthetic, and suggested the use of nappy rash cream for his sore neck. The result was almost magical. You’d never guess this pig has a shaven neck and is recovering from being very poorly!
Since I was advised this overgrowth would keep happening and he needed his front teeth trimmed regularly to make sure his back teeth didn’t get a chance to overgrow, I went on the CCT Dental Health course, although I was disappointed at the level of instruction which didn’t have the element of ‘hands on’ practical guidance that I was expecting. He met PigPog, the Forum Boss though!
I’d taken Fred & George all that way to be my and PigPog’s ‘guinea pigs’ and they just got their teeth check and we were lectured on teeth and the problems and how to deal with them. Being shown doesn’t equal doing it yourself, and I wasn’t confident enough to trim George’s molars till the thought of another long drive when he was again ill with premolars growing across his tongue forced me to act, nearly a year later. I’d kept his front teeth trimmed, but doing molars is much harder. What I missed then was the need to file the sharp edges and I’m afraid I caused the soreness in his mouth which led to the infection which finally carried him off. But I’ve written on that on the Eppingstrider blog, and what it all comes down to is that I did my best for him, and he taught me all I know. He just didn’t have time to teach me all he knew.
George lived an amazing life as a Pig of Mystery, inspiring stories and tales of derring-do. He had a fan club on the forum and recieved a ‘secret santa’ present from one of them that was just brilliant. For a pig that listed his hobbies as ‘eating, sleeping and flying my biplane’ he received a cosy fleece hammock with flying things printed on it, including biplanes. He loved sitting under it and dreaming.
George was so patient, so kind and loving, and we spent many extra hours together with his medicines or extra feeding, or the extra travelling. He used to sit on my chest for his morning cuddle, place his feet carefully on my hand to make sure he held my fingers just so, and settle down to groom the length of my index finger, sometimes checking out a thumb or some other fingers too.
He and Fred inspired me to write stories about them, and their adventures just sprang into my head and had to be written until they were done. Whether the heroes of the Princelings of the East stories will ever see their names in print is in the lap of the Gods, but George has given many people a lot of fun and help and his name will be written in the stars.
You were never ‘just a guinea pig’ George.
Adapted from a eulogy first posted on the Fudgekins Memorial Board, GPRWA forum.