Campbell Unclassified

A diverse series of articles by library staff about all things libraries and books!
Book Notes | Recommendations | Articles | RRV History

⇐ Return to Library Website | Browse the Catalog | Overdrive Catalog | Contact Us

View All Posts

Jun 18

Communal Grief by Charlotte Helgeson

Posted on June 18, 2021 at 12:46 PM by Genesis Gaule

The Library lost our guinea pig, Ivy, this month. One day, she was greeting patrons as they approached her home and the next day, she took ill. We found veterinary care for her and started her on a prescribed medical care plan. Unfortunately, it was not successful and the next day Ivy died.  

Ivy eating hay while standing on her hind legs
The suddenness of her death surprised our staff and we comforted each other with, “She didn’t suffer long.” and “She had a happy life.” There were tears and shared stories about our little friend. Our focus turned toward supporting her sister, Bean, who is healthy and has taken on greeting all our patrons.  

As a public figure, Ivy had a following. Patrons of all ages swung by before or after finding library materials to say hi and smile at the popcorn jumps and squeaks. During quarantine, we kept the public informed as to the sisters’ activities and how much they missed their fans.  Pictures were often included and we are certain they brought smiles to our patrons while separated by quarantine precautions.  

Ivy and Bean Back at the Library

The sisters did not look alike at all. Ivy was a summer tan with highlights while Bean has ruffled black fur. We kept pictures with their names at the cage so patrons could chat with each one when visiting. The sisters played and performed together. Like many sisters I know, they also fought over attention and oftentimes, food.  

Guinea pigs love to eat. They love treats as much as hay. As staff, it is our duty to keep an eye on what they consume. Patrons bring greens and veggies from their gardens in the summer which are big hits! Our little friends are only fed by staff with an occasional guest pass attended by staff.  

Ivy the library guinea pig 3
There is a hole in the atmosphere at the library without Ivy. Many visitors ask about her.  “Where is she?” As a public figure, her life was on display all the time. Explaining to families, adults and children, what happened to Ivy is not easy. We’re gentle but honest. There are also many library books on losing a pet friend that can be used for support.

Grief is not easy for anyone at any age, but there is a strength in sharing it. We comfort each other by telling and hearing stories about our little friend, Ivy. Simply said aloud by a young patron, “That’s sad,” connects us. One young boy told me that Guinea Pig Heaven is just like Dog Heaven so she would be OK. Adults commented how they’ll miss her just as staff does.  

Ivy is missed and remembered. This past year brought loss of all sorts to many of us. The grief is real and so is the strength of community to help carry the burden. 

Books to Read Together
Dealing with the Loss of a Pet

Need help starting a conversation about the death of a pet with your child? Here is a short guide with helpful tips on processing the loss of a loved one with children.


You must log in before leaving your comment