My Eulogy for Tiny Tim: The Spiritual Lessons of Abuse and Overcoming

Prompted by a "calling" that came without any explanation, I picked up the phone and dialed (literally since I still use rotaries) the local shelter early in December 2013. I asked if they had any elderly or hard luck guinea pigs.

"As a matter of fact I have just the pig for you."

He was in need of a foster home. His background, quoted directly from his intake papers:

"G. Pig surrendered in last 24 hours with history of child in home rough-housing with animal."

When he was brought into the shelter he was laying on his side, the position he had been in for days. At the time an inner ear infection was suspected which could create vertigo and loss of balance. Because he had been left untreated and unattended, he suffered loss of vision in his eye due to his cornea getting scratched from laying in his bedding. The mother asked if he gets better at the shelter, can she come back and get him? (NO!)

They brought me to see him in a separate building for special needs animals. He was able to stand now, but he whimpered as he walked, and walking was still difficult due to his vertigo. He was thin, wouldn't eat any fresh fruit or veggies, and was on heavy duty antibiotics. Most notably he seemed understandably depressed.

I was overcome with some very strong emotions, mostly anger. How could someone permit this to happen? How could an adult not seek appropriate care? I told the shelter I needed to talk to my (now ex) husband that evening about fostering. His response? "Hell yeah!" The next morning we went to fill out the paperwork and brought the patient home.

When he wasn't huddling in the corner where he could keep his head steady, he struggled to eat or walk. His head went to the left, then right. Left, right, left like he was watching a tennis match. My ex made him a little pillow out of a sock so that he could lean his head on something soft to stop it from moving while he tried to eat.

I spent a lot of time apologizing to Timmy for what had happened to him. I cried. I kissed him all over throughout the day. I hand fed him with a syringe. I had his medication adjusted because it had been too strong and then took him off of it while giving him probiotics. His poor little stomach was upset from the heavy antibiotics. The good news was that our vet said after his exam that neural pathways can redevelop, so that if he had sustained brain damage from his ear infection he could still learn to walk without falling.

It was only after a few days that we decided to adopt him and be his forever home. I officially changed his name to Tiny Tim at that time.

Over the next few weeks the dullness left his one good eye gave way to a healthy twinkle. One morning he began to run around his cage and when he fell over a couple of times he got right back up! I laughed and laughed and that seemed to encourage him. Timmy's walking and balance began to improve daily. He developed a very healthy appetite albeit discriminating aka foodie. I trained Timmy, once unable to stand up without falling, to spin on command!

About eight months later we had take Timmy to the vet because his blind eye was leaking a great deal of mucous and he was also sneezing some of it out of his nose. He was placed on antibiotics again which were still very hard on his digestive system. During that time I hand fed him since he'd stop eating on his own. After his course of treatment he was no longer sneezing but his eye discharge continued. We made an appointment with the only veterinary Ophthalmologist in Maine. I wasn't prepared for what his exam revealed.

His diagnosis and prognosis was heartbreaking and shocking. It's not for the squeamish so skip over it if graphic animal abuse is too much to read.

In summary, as the result of his abuse, the least of it was that he would need his eye cleaned and moisturized 2-3 times a day for the rest of his life. The devastating part was that he would have ongoing infections needing antibiotics. The bacteria becomes resistant over time with repeated use, and his stomach could only handle so much. Unless he had experimental surgery in a Boston hospital (for which we'd have to find willing participants), a procedure he would not likely survive due to heavy blood loss, his quality of life would be poor and shortened.

His "good" eye
Although not on the official paperwork, she suggested that I consider euthanasia. 

My regular blog readers know that Timmy went on to live another 2 1/2 years after that for a total of three years and four Christmases with me. He did have repeated infections that first year or so, and he became resistant to two different antibiotics. Then I had a brainstorm. I noticed he seemed to do better during the very dry winter. Maybe if I always kept the air dry it would help dry out the bacteria-prone discharge in his head. I bought a humidity monitor and we placed a dehumidifier near his cage for the times we needed it. It worked!

My ex-husband, his "Pop Pop," still visited with him weekly.

Wayne and Timmy bonded nightly on the floor for guy's TV time (sports, etc.)

He went from an abusive "home" to having two dads and a mom who spoiled him throughout the day. Because I work from home I was able to spend a lot of time with him. He did more for me than I could ever do for him.

What Timmy taught me:

To be open to love from others after being abused by those whom were supposed to love and protect you.

Cruel indifference can not be understood and to contemplate it takes away from the loving energy needed to sustain healing from abuse.

Looking at life from your "good eye," in Timmy's case literally but also metaphorically, your perspective is brighter.

What's normal for you can become your new normal. You don't need to compare.

Focusing on what's good and lovely does not equate denial. Timmy lived with the physically damaging effects of his abuse for the rest of his life. The key word is lived. He wasn't simply surviving.

Animal shelters are lifesaving. It's imperative that we support them in any way we can.

I hope Timmy's life and lessons have touched you in some way. 


  1. Yes indeed, Averyl, Tim's story did touch me very much. I have rescued many animals, mostly dogs and a few cats, and their resiliency and unconditional love has been a blessing in my life. My latest rescue dog, Kiwi, I also trained to spin for snacks, ha, ha! Thank you too for sharing the beautiful lessons you learned from Tim. Other lessons we learn from our pets can be found in the book "Guardians of Being". :-)

    1. Oh Lois, that's wonderful. Kisses for Kiwi. xoxox

  2. Hmmm...this is just a test, Averyl. I just submitted a rather lengthy (and nice!) comment, but received a response that it was being reviewed and would be published later. Does that happen often? I don't want to have to try and remember at all, but I can if it disappeared!

    1. Sometimes I put comments on moderation if I'm getting a lot of spam and I'm stepping away for the night. All is well. :)

  3. What a beautiful life Timmy had and also you for having him in your life. I feel tears in my eyes reading this. I'm so happy Timmy found his forever home with you both. The love and support is so amazing. Yes, these little beings bring to us is more than words can express. I had a little lovebird that I met while housekeeping. He lived in a hallway, no one loved or cared. I finally convinced his owner to let him come home and live with us. What he brought to us, dear little soul, was more than words can express. A sweet loving soul that wanted nothing more than to be loved. And that we gave him. Miss him everyday, just like you with Timmy. I want you to know how much he loved you and appreciated the gift you gave him and what he gave you. hugs. You are wonderful.

    Anne Day

    1. Aw, Anne, thank you. Your lovebird sounded so sweet. Thank you for convincing the owner to release him to you.

  4. Thank you for sharing the story of Timmy's life. It brought tears to my eyes, but I'm glad to know that he was loved and cared for.

  5. I don´t know how people can be so mean to animals... It's heartbreaking and I'm sure Tiny Tim had a Big Happy life with you and all the past was forgoten even with all the scars that he had.
    We adopted 2 cats 3 years ago. They were in a municipal shelter and they came home scared and in need of a lot of love, patience and care. One of them, died after 3 months with us, because of a bacteria in the blood. But I know that those 3 months, made all the time they were in the street, be forgoten and that Ninja (that was is name) felt loved until the day that he died. And we still have Tareco and he's pampered, loved and cared every day! He's our 4 legged son! :)

    1. Paula, that's so sweet about the life you gave your Ninja, and your Tareco who is still with you. Pets really are our children, only we don't have to pay to send them to college! :D

  6. How blessed you both were to have one another. Thank you for sharing your learnings and stories from Timmy's life.

  7. Averyl,

    So sad to hear about Timmy. I knew the day you and Wayne got him that he would have a charmed life with you; I am so sorry that we didn't recognize just how badly injured he was. You have always gone above and beyond for your piggies, first Louis and now Timmy.

    1. Hi! Is this Beth? Thank you! No apologies needed about the extent of his injuries; there was no way for you to know. I am so grateful that the ARLGP took him and and cared for him and for guinea pig lovers/volunteers like you. Thank you for all you do!

  8. I loved Timmy and I know you've mentioned abuse in the past. I couldn't read all of this. I was already getting teary-eyed at the beginning. I skipped down and saw the pics of your ex and Wayne with Timmy which are so sweet! And the last part, what Timmy taught you, is beautiful! As you know, my Teddy was a rescue kitty but I don't know his background. He can get kind of "bitie" sometimes if your hands are too close to his face. My neighbor said maybe it's because he was hit in the past. I don't know but he sure has been spoiled rotten since then! ;)

    1. Aileen, I actually didn't realize your Teddy was a rescue! I once had a "bitey" guinea pig. He had been rescued from a back yard and had a very bad case of mites which made him painfully itchy. It took many treatments for them to finally go away, and then he needed some maintenance treatments for most of his life. It was almost like a reflex for him to try and bite when he was petted, but it was never ever malicious and his bites never hurt. Just a little nip and then he purred for pets. Thank you for loving Timmy. It means a lot!

  9. I've enjoyed reading about Timmy over the years, and this article was a wonderful tribute. I'm so sorry for your loss. He seemed like a real sweetie pie, and I'm sure he understood the good care you gave him.


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