When an Atheist Loses A Pet

I’m having a hard time with this one, folks. One of our little fuzzy buddies was put to sleep last week and it sucks. A lot. But he was damn near 8, which is a really excellent run for a guinea pig. Reese was a sweet boy and we took really good care of him. But old age has health complications.

Friends have been wonderful with support and condolences. Well wishes and thoughts of him meeting us over the rainbow bridge.

I can’t tell you how much this support has meant. Truly, we’ve been lucky to have people in our lives who understand. But in my heart I know there’s no rainbow bridge or afterlife for him. It’s not a bad thing. It just is what it is, for me.

I’m an atheist. I don’t feel that there’s a higher power. But I’m perhaps different than some atheists in a few ways. I love when people discuss their religion and I’m actually pretty passive about when someone’s point of view is contrary to my own. I want to learn. I want people to feel comfortable to express their faith. I think that’s a great thing.

The other part is that I’m fully accepting of the idea that maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the Catholics are right. Maybe it’s some religion we don’t know. Maybe there is no way we could know. In a world of infinite possibilities, I can’t pretend that I know that my answer is right. Just as the faithful feel that there is something there, I feel there’s nothing at all. Feelings are a good guide but aren’t fact.

This makes for difficulty moving through hard times and processing grief. I previously discussed on this blog when my husband and I were living apart. In the middle, we had no answers or timeline. I spoke to another atheist friend about it. “I think this is when people would normally just have faith that everything will work out. We don’t have that luxury. Just hope that everything will be okay.”

Instead of putting things in someone else’s hands, we are left with our own. Our hope everything’s going to be okay.

Mourning my pig is the same. I have no comforting day dreams of where he’s gone. I know exactly where he is. Just writing that… It’s a punch in the gut. I know. And it might be a nice fantasy to think of my pig eating grass and basil in an open and endless field. But it’s just that – a fantasy.

But then my brain goes to memories. Moments we really experienced something. When I know he was happy. When we were happy. These thoughts are so comforting. I know they are real and true.

The time we sat up and watched Breaking Bad for hours while I was recovering from an illness. Playing in the yard. Holidays. The time he wore a sombrero.


See? Cutie.

I can’t say that my lack of traditional faith makes for better mourning. Mourning is so personal. In fact, I considered not pursuing this at all because it is something people handle personally and it’s not my usual blog fodder. But just as people choose to share their faith with me, I choose to talk about this. This is my truth. Maybe sharing it spurs conversation. Maybe it helps someone else.

We have guinea pigs.

Reese and McCoy are our boys. They are six, which is kind of old for a guinea pig! But they’re healthy and cute and probably eat better than we do. Here they are in the yard. Reese is sleeping in the sun. McCoy is eating grass.

yardflopI had guinea pigs growing up, but as a child caring for the tiny herbivores was challenging. The lifespans were much, much shorter. They were always cursed with some unfortunate ailment that eventually brought them to their demise.

But as an adult, when we knew we wanted a pet… a guinea pig just seemed natural. A dog was too big and my husband hates cats, so pigs it was. They’re pretty great. They’re curious and pretty darn adorable. They’re also convenient too. If I have to go to work or class, we’ll toss a pile of food at them and they’re good all day.

upclosepigI’m pretty sure our neighbors have been confused hearing us declare, “Hi pig!” when we enter the domicile.

And I just want to dispel any misconceptions about guinea pigs. They are nicer than hamsters (bigger too). They have personalities. McCoy and Reese are sort of like those classic Goofus and Gallant strips from Highlights for Kids. McCoy shoves all of his kibble into his face at once. Reese slowly eats his kibble over the course of the day, so he isn’t hungry. They’re pretty smart, too, for a small animal.

Soooo this post might have been an excuse to post pictures of my pigs on the internet, true. But they’re my boys. I love them a lot.


The end. 😉