This link is TITANICALLY sad.  :( :( :( :( I would consider--seriously--not reading it. . . .  :( :( :( :( As fate would have it, this occurred on the fifth anniversary of some "big terrorism thing" in the U.S.

      9/11/06 Monday Until this fateful morning, The Puffster had seemed absolutely vibrant---if not INDESTRUCTABLE.  She had survived: several years of Rosie trying to eat her, a trip or four in the cargo hold of a commerical jetliner, and having a Samoyed/wolf of uncertain heritage bite her in the neck.  (!!)

      I started cleaning their cage at around 11 to midnight of the previous day.  When I opened the cage, one of the chinchilla-dudes didn't start into their "Flying Walinda" routines---which they always do, every time I open their cage door.  I thought, "Wow. Puffy must be sleeping heavily." I nudged her a bit; she moved---but not much.  Uh-oh. As gently as I could, I moved her into another cage.  She yelped---but only a little bit.

      I set her favorite food(s) in her cage, a measuring cup full of water (She didn't seem to be able to reach the upper levels.  (. . .)), and left her to rest.  I stopped in again at 3-to-4 in morning, and--while she wasn't her usual, bouncy self--she seemed to be resting comfortably.  I thought about taking her to the emergency vet, but she seemed--if not good---at least okay. . . .

      I was able to get her to our normal vet, around 8:30 AM.  I was SOO glad that I was able to get her there, looking forward to getting her some help, when. . . .  The lady behind the counter said, "She doesn't seem to be breathing---at this time." (Like, she was going to be breathing at some other time.) It--the most unintentional (She told me so, later.) "humor"---was just what I needed.  (Oddly enough, I think I was/am completely serious.) I was in a bad way, though.  Here I am, a 39-year-old man, almost coming to tears at the death of muh' buddy chinchilla.

      Although I knew it to be true, I had serious trouble wrapping my heart around the *ENORMITY* of what had just happened.  This incredibly intelligent creature, whose unconscious grace and light reflected the very Glory of God's Creation . . . was now a lifeless hunk of meat.

      If I had had any sense, I would've just fed her to Rosie---I mean, she had tried hard enough, and waited long enough--something like five years--for just such an opportunity.  Instead, I ended up paying over $300 for an . . . (Say it, John.) autopsy (and cremation).  :( :( :( :( -Still no word. . . .

      I sit here, in the campus pub, on my fourth hot dog, and my first pint of Guinness, wondering how to pay homage to my departed friend.  For all my skill at writing, words fail me.  Puffy, you will be sorely missed.  You took a piece with me when you went.  :( :( :( :(

*ADDENDUM* A bit after a week after Puffy's passing, I . . . eructated loudly in the office.  I said--as I have not infrequently been wont to do--"That must've been Puffy." I guess I can't blame that on her anymore. . . .  :( :( :( :(

*ADDENDUM* II Something like a week and 5 days after The Puffster's passing, the vet got in touch with me.  Apparently, Puffy's teeth had gotten out of alignment---which caused her lower teeth to grow to such an extent, that she couldn't eat without both difficultly and pain.  :( :( This caused her to, in effect, starve to death.  :( :( :( :( The vet assured me three times---that I hadn't been negligent in any way, as Puffy didn't give me any real warning that anything was wrong.  My next door neighbor--also, oddly enough, from Pennsylvania--said much the same thing: these guys's teeth get out of whack; they get toxicosis; then they can't eat; and then they . . . die.  :( :( :( :(

I can't even begin to say what a load that was off of my conscience. . . .

*ADDENDUM* III Not terribly long after this, I got something addressed to "The Styers Family." Now, as I live alone, I don't usually make much of things so addressed . . . but this one turned out to be special.  Our vet had sent me the following.  They, apparently, had found the words for the parting of my friend:

There is a bridge connecting Heaven and Earth.

It is called the Rainbow Bridge because of it many colors

Just this side of the Rainbow Bridge there is a land of meadows,

hills and valleys with lush green grass.

When a beloved pet dies, the pet goes to this place.

There is always food and water and warm spring weather.

The old and frail animals are young again.

Those who are maimed are made whole again.

They play all day with each other.

There is only one thing missing.

They are not with their special person who loved them on Earth.

So, each day they run and play until the day comes when one

suddenly stops playing and looks up!

The nose twitches! The ears are up! The eyes are staring!

And this one suddenly runs from the group!

You have been seen, and when you and yours special friend meet,

you take him or her in your arms and embrace.

Your face is kissed again and again and again,

and you look once more into the eyes of you trusting pet.

You cross the Rainbow Bridge together, never again to be separated.