Today Josh and I had to make an incredibly hard decision when our chinchilla, Ethel Funk, was showing signs of being really ill last night. I sat by her cage from midnight to 4am, just waiting for her to perk up and be her normal chinny self. Up until yesterday I hadn’t seen any warning signs—she was eating and drinking—the only strange thing I had noticed was that she had lost some hair on the end of her tail, which I thought was just normal shedding during the colder months.
Once we arrived at the vet, she told us how Ethel’s cecum was really backed up and her back teeth had also become incredibly overgrown. She told us that we could try to give her a catheter to get fluids back in her system, along with extensive surgeries, but from what she could tell, even if we went through with the $2,000+ procedures, Ethel would only have a small chance (15% if that) to actually make it through.
We sat in the room with Ethel Funk (named after our favorite lunchlady from college) for an hour trying to decide what to do and ended up ultimately deciding to euthanize her because it was apparent how much pain she would have to go through and sadly, we didn’t have the funds and would’ve had to charge a credit card (which makes me feel like an irresponsible pet mama). It broke my heart because she is not even 4-years-old and the average chinchilla lifespan is 15+ years. I feel like a terrible pet owner and like I should have seen signs, but whenever we fed her hay and pellets she would always snarf them down.
When the vet gave her the vaccine, we were told it would take just about two minutes to take affect. They left us in the room with her, where she finally took her last breath after over 20 minutes. It was torture waiting for her final exhale and I couldn’t help but feel guilty, like there was something I could’ve done and that maybe she would’ve pulled through it. I know people look at me like I’m crazy when I say I have pet chinchillas, but they are really great pets and have a lot more personality than you’d think. She would always do this little sassy nose grab when she was getting snarky and she did it a few times while we were waiting for her to pass. It totally made me turn into a blubbery mess.
When we got home, I looked at their cage and saw Maude (our other chin) just staring me like, “what the eff did you do with my sistah from another mistah?” Insert me crying big dragon tears here _____. We opted to get Ethel cremated since we don’t exactly have a yard to bury her in at our apartment (nor a shovel), so I guess once we have the ashes we will have to find an appropriate container of sorts. Perhaps a tiny teapot since Ethel Funk (the lunchlady, not the chinchilla) worked at the coffee/tea shop at Kutztown, where we were always getting tea. Yeah, that’s right, I’m going to be the girl who has her dead chinchilla’s ashes in a teapot on her non-existent mantle. If that doesn’t make my 20 followers dwindle down to zero, then I suppose nothing will.
Here’s Ethel Funk when we first got her. She was a tiny little thing and we were contemplating about what we should name her. The choices were Claire Huxtable or Ethel Funk, and ultimately we chose Ethel. As we were waiting for her to pass a couple of hours ago, I told Josh that we should’ve gone with Claire Huxtable because if she had passed on Black Friday it would’ve been more ironic and made me a teensy bit less weepy. I like making inappropriate (at times, borderline racist) jokes when there’s a really sad situation going down, which in turn makes me the worst funeral guest ever.
As heartbroken as I am, I think Maude is going to be seriously bummed and listening to Elliot Smith on her tiny chinchilla headphones for the next 15 years. They were always spooning and grooming each other and being ridiculously cute in general. I have never had to euthanize a pet before and I can safely say it can go on my top three list of hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I hope she had a happy little rodent life, despite it ending so abruptly.