This weekend one of our guinea pigs died. Having looked a bit out of sorts for a few days, it chose the day of my eight year old's birthday party to finally shuffle off this mortal coil. This resulted in its having to spend a night unceremoniously dumped in a shoe box coffin on top of the wheelie bin until a more auspicious day could dawn for the funeral. Said guinea pig, Jojo, has now been duly dispatched with appropriate levels of solemnity and the matter is dealt with.
Or is it? Those of you who have been reading for a while will remember that I have stated quite unambiguously that when the current pets, said guinea pig and his brother Nibbles, die there will be no more, bringing to an end the tradition of pet keeping in this house.
Nibbles is still looking pretty sprightly so the issue could be pushed to the back of the cupboard for a wee while yet except that my eldest already has the bit between her teeth. As is generally the case in my experience of the death of animals, Jojo's blood had barely turned chilly but she was asking whether I would change my mind and allow a replacement of some description.
And now we get to the issue. Guilt. Again. In its many and varied guises it seems to haunt my life. It forces me to analyse why I have made this ruling and see if it stands up to scrutiny now that the hour of its enactment is approaching.
I'm sure you know how it is. The kids get a pet. There is great excitement whilst it is named. It gets manhandled ruthlessly until it nips someone and then it lives a solitary kind of existence in the garden. The children feed it only when reminded and moan incessantly when it is time to clean it out. Every time we go away I have to beg favours from my ever generous brother to do the honours. So what is a pet really adding to our household?
On the other hand, do I really want my children growing up remembering that they didn't have pets because their mother wouldn't let them. I can just hear the dinner party conversations in thirty years as my children recount tales of how they begged but their cruel mother was unwavering. A pet isn't really that much hard work if it's a small furry one. It's just that my life is complicated enough and one less thing to factor in would be welcome.
Nibbles is in mourning. As I merrily go anthropomorphizing his behaviour the guilt builds. Not only is there the issue of his being the last ever pet but now he is all alone with his brother from whom he had never been parted gone. It's enough to bring a tear to my eye.
Hopefully, Nibbles will get a grip and snap out of it and the issue will be put to bed for a while longer. Or perhaps I should just throw caution to the wind and get a new cat, my secret wish when my practical head is off duty. Answers on a postcard please!