• Lydia Chu

My experiences with having pets

Updated: Aug 2, 2019

I currently don't have any pets and i have decided not to have any for a reason.

Aries inside one of his favorite toys

My family and I came to this country when I was 10 years old. According to my parents, we had a dog in Korea when I was about 6 years old but died when our dog accidentally consumed a rat poison. Since I was quite young, I have no memories of this dog but I do have fond memories of another dog we had when I was about 8 years old. My parents had adopted a young puppy and named him "khamdoonghee" which meant "blackie" in English since he was all black.

Our dog was a little over one years old when we decided to move to the United States. He wasn't a special breed of any kind but he was a kind, loving dog who we all loved dearly. When it was time for us to move, we had no choice but to give him away. We all said goodbye to our loving dog as the stranger took him away in his pickup truck. Even though he was part of our family for a short time, we all grew attached to him and it was hard for us to say goodbye. If that wasn't difficult enough, we never expected what would happen next.

We were all home the next day when our khamdoongee came back to say goodbye once more. As we, the children, were playing outside, we noticed a black dog racing pass us. He was huffing and puffing running fast as he could growling at other dogs that were in his way. That's when we realized that it was our dog that we had said goodbye to just a day earlier. It went straight to our house and was met by our parents who were already in tears as we, the children, walked in to see what was going on.

Our khamdoongee had run away from his new home to return to the only family he knew since birth. He was covered in dirt and sweat from running but most of all, his face was wet with tears from crying. As everybody, including the neighbors, gathered around to see what was going on, my mom gave him some food and water, and we all stood there watching him eat his last meal at our house. There was not one dry eye in the house as we all cried including khamdoonghee.

Sure enough, the new owner came by shortly and told us that khamdoonghee had run away from his new home which was at least 20 miles from our house. Our khamdoongee had escaped and found his way home to say goodbye to us for the last time.

We had never forgotten about khamdoonghee and the impact he had on all of us. We were all heartbroken by our experience especially our parents. Since then, we never considered having another pet.

Coco in 2016

That was 40 plus years ago for me, and I never had the desire to have a pet until my daughters were born. Once my daughters got older, they have been pleading with me about getting a pet. My daughter, Hannah, did have a dog name Coco that was staying with her dad when she was younger but we had to put him to sleep when he developed a brain tumor. It was another painful goodbye as my daughters and I cried as he was put to sleep.

It wasn't until 2017 when my younger daughter, Ally, wanted a pet for her birthday. She had originally asked for a husky, but we talked her into getting a guinea pig instead (we thought lower maintenance). Up to this point, we knew nothing about guinea pigs and boy, were we surprised. It totally changed my perspective on what it means to have a caged animal as a pet like guinea pigs.

It was Ally's 15th birthday and she was really wanting a pet so we picked out a black and white guinea pig at the pet store and brought him home. Ally named him Aries, and even though I wasn't a fan of little guinea pigs at the time, I eventually grew to like him and found him to be quite cute and lovable. So, we bought the biggest cage we could find with all the toys and food for the little guy. I told my daughter that it was going to be her responsibility to take care of him from cleaning out the cage to feeding. I figured it would be a good experience for her.

Well, it didn't exactly go the way we had planned. It was getting difficult for Ally to take care of her pet. She was doing well with cleaning out the cage but when it came to feeding and spending time with him, it became more and more difficult as she got busy with school and her friends. Soon, I became more involved in taking care of the little fella particularly with feeding. It's funny how that happens. Within three months, Aries was mainly in his cage with occasional outing in the backyard where we had set up a playpen for him. By sixth month, Aries started losing interest in eating as well as playing. I got worried and started doing some research to find out what to do next.

As I learned more about these adorable little creatures and their needs, it was obvious that they needed more space and companionship. My husband and I thought about getting another guinea pig so he can have a friend and to build him a bigger space for him to run around in. Well, it turned out to be too late.

It was few days before Mother's Day in 2018. I came downstairs one morning and walked by Aries' cage. He stood on his hind legs and looked at me with those cute little eyes as he was trying to tell me something. Since I frequently fed him, I had assumed that he wanted something to eat. As much as I wanted to give him something, I decided not to on that particular day. I wanted to leave it up to Ally and teach her the responsibilities that came along with being a pet owner. I reluctantly looked the other way and left for work without giving Aries his favorite spring mix. Oh, how I wish I had because that morning would be the last time I would see him alive, and it haunts me to this day.

According to Ally, she arrived home that afternoon and took him outside to play in his playpen in our back yard. It was early in the evening when I got a call from my other daughter, Hannah. Hannah was in tears as she told me that she thinks Aries had died. He wasn't moving, she said. I got home as soon as I could and walked outside to see Aries laying there peacefully on his stomach almost like he was sleeping. I touched him gently and felt his lifeless body. I started crying and couldn't stop crying for days. I don't know exactly why I was so sad given that he was just a guinea pig but I cried and cried, mostly out of sadness and guilt. I thought back to that morning when he looked at me almost as if he wanted to tell me something. Maybe he was trying to tell me that he was sick or that he was lonely. That I will never know but I wish I had given him his spring mix that morning...

If I think about it now, I have no doubt he died of loneliness. I found out through

reading that Just like humans and many other animals, guinea pigs are social animals and they typically die if they're isolated and lonely. The thought of him dying alone out there in our backyard broke my heart. Even though he was just a little animal, he was a living creature that had a life and had the right to live. I felt ashamed that I didn't do anything about it sooner and felt responsible for his death.

When we first decided to adopt our little friend, Aries, I never thought twice about the little creature from his perspective. As I was pretty involved in taking care of him and feeding him on a daily basis, I got to thinking about his life and what it might be like to live in a cage and have your freedom taken away. Even though our intentions were good about adopting him and having him as our pet, I now feel that it was mostly for our selfish reasons. Our little friend lived in a small cage that we had provided for him unable to run around freely. How much freedom did he have? He didn't have any friends and only ate what we gave him. He had no freedom to choose where he can live, what he can do and what he can eat. He was completely under our mercy, and no living creature should be subject to that kind of life even if he's just a little animal like Aries was. He had the right to be free.

If he could speak, I wonder what he would have told me that day before he died. He lived mostly in a cage without a friend unable to live his life on his own terms. I cried that day and many more days after that thinking about how lonely he must have felt during his short life.

Most of us never think twice about the lives of other animals, at least I didn't until Aries came along. All living creatures, human or not, deserve to be free. Without freedom, we have no life and is not worth living.

My daughters and I buried Aries in our backyard near the rock that he used to play on, his favorite rock. Even though it was only for a short time, he brought us much joy and through him, we learned a valuable lesson on life, freedom and respect for all living creatures, no matter how small.



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