On the day before Halloween, a rainy late fall day in 2012, Oatmeal showed up in my classroom. He was in a glass aquarium tank and quite shy. I was in the midst of my third and hardest year teaching. Paul worked 3rds and I would stay in my classroom late into the evening most nights. Oatmeal was with me more that anyone else that year. He always knew when I was having a bad day and would pop his head out of his cage to see what I was up to. I would sometimes eat lunch in my classroom when I was having a day and we'd share the apple I would bring. The night janitor loved Oatmeal so much she would buy him veggies and feed him a second dinner while cleaning my classroom. Val's kindergarten class visited us that year to learn about guinea pigs and Oatmeal charmed everyone. My students loved him. He would make the hardest, shyest kids open up. He even had his own desk and I would call on him during math class. We'd make up his answers or laugh if he was sleeping through the lesson. When we moved to Tahoe, his cage was directly in front of the kitchen and he loved to watch me cook, always trying to make me feel bad for not sharing the chopped up veggies I was preparing. He would get so excited when Paul and I would get home from work, racing around his cage and popping his head out for a chin scratch. When a noise startled him while I was holding him, he'd hide in my hair. When I worked from home, he'd get so excited that he'd just stare at me while I worked at the kitchen table. He had a silly soul and loved us deeply. I miss him so much already.
It's funny what animal companions offer. The most loyal, dependable friend. Belly laughs. A feeling of family when yours is far away. An appreciation for such a tiny little creature that makes you love so big. Oatmeal was the best pig. I know, I've met many. He was the best one. Everyone he met loved him, including his cat friends Jungle and Biscuit. He didn't like dogs much, but he never really got to know one long enough to make an actual judgment. The vet's office workers wanted a guinea pig after meeting him. He was charming and bossy and a wonderful friend.
After the shock wore off this morning, I felt a lot like when we put my dog of 18 years to sleep. No more pets. It's too hard when this happens. He would've been 6 this fall. He lived a long happy, healthy squeaky life, playing with his paper tube until the very end. And he will always be my spirit animal, prioritizing snacks and naps over everything else. Some pig indeed.
Oatmeal was one of my best friends and I will love and miss him always. Paul and I are going to have a private ceremony on our favorite trail we call the Fairy Garden this evening and put him to rest. Everyone in Tahoe who knew Oatmeal is invited to a memorial Saturday at Eagle Rock. We'll drink some wine and I'll tell Oatmeal stories. Feel free to dress in your favorite vegetable color. He loved spinach, carrots and green peppers the best. He also loved blueberries, oranges, bananas, apples and cilantro. Forget your best zucchini dress. Oatmeal hated zucchini.