william, from the moment i saw you in the pet shop and you looked back at me with your beautiful red eyes, i knew you were special. whilst james came freely out of the tank and into his box ready to go home, you had to make a statement. i’ll never forget the look on the pet shop workers face as you leapt out of her hands and made your great escape into the guinea pig enclosure, needing 3 more workers just to catch you. i knew you would be such a fighter. It took you a little bit longer to warm up to me than it did for james. while he would climb all over my arms and neck, you would sit in the hammock and assess the situation before bolting off before i could even touch you. i remember feeling like you would never love me and that it would be james who craved the affection. how wrong was i? i spent hours on end creating the perfect out-of-cage enclosure for you both with all the cardboard boxes and tape i could find. you loved it in there, running around and pinning james to the floor. my arms and neck looked like they’d been clawed by a pack of velociraptors by the time you’d go back in the cage but it was all worth it just to see your excitement. but of course, your soul is of an adventurer and it wasn’t long before you were chewing your way out of that enclosure and jumping over the sides of the boxes, leading james astray. from then on, you both wandered freely in my room before bedtime, chewing through my wires and pulling my plants apart, biting chunks out of the wooden furniture to the point where i had to physically tape them up. i just wish i knew how lucky i was every single time i got to pick you up and tell you off for chewing yet another hole in my bedside tables. i’d give anything to see you mischievously running around looking for your next victim. i never knew an animal so small could love somebody so fiercely until i met you. you completely changed my life and saved me when i truly thought i was on my own. you gave me a purpose and a reason to get up in the morning and sometimes i think if it weren’t for you, things could be very different. unlike james who loves to run around and stash his food in every corner of my room, you would spend all of your time out of the cage sitting on my shoulder or following me around the room and climbing up my legs. you sat by me until the very end, through my stress and anxiety over my theory test and through doing my last minute work for college, which you chewed a hole in, you were always there. you were there when i got home from college or from work, clinging onto the bars of the cage and following my every move. you were there when i was going to bed at night, watching me as if to say “get me out of here” even though i knew you loved it in there really. even today, on your final day of life, you held on so strong and fought as hard as you could, but it was time, baby, you knew it was. i will never forget the many times you would sit on my shoulder whilst i ate my breakfast and sneakily steal bits of cereal and drink out of my vimto glass, always coming back for more. you weren’t a rat, i’m sure of it, you were a person in a little furry body. you never did care for extravagant rat treats and the pellets in your cage, you much preferred a bowl of coco pops or a refreshing glass of apple juice. i remember the first time you ever got ill with your infection. i remember seeing you so puffed up in the cage when i got home and being so panicked. i took you downstairs and you sat on my shoulder and licked away my tears as i cried, thinking then was your last day. it wasn’t, of course, and after only a few days of medication you were your lovely happy self again, until the next time. and then the next, until now. just a week ago today we were at the vets who told us that you had lost a significant amount of weight and that your prognosis wasn’t looking good. even as the vet remorsefully informed me that it wouldn’t be unreasonable to let you go there and then, you were still trying to pull her gloves off and steal her tissues. you never lost that beautiful personality i fell in love with. i sobbed in the room and said that i would give you another chance to improve, i believed that you could do it. this past week, you have shown me the greatest courage and strength i have ever seen in an animal. you gained 30 grams in only two days and you ate every bit of baby food i fed to you. even though you absolutely hated the medication you had to take twice a day, you still allowed me to wrap you up like a little burrito and give you that medicine because you knew i loved you so so much. i knew it was time to let you go today and that you were suffering too much to improve, as much as i would have loved to keep you going as long as possible. me and meg took you into the bathroom and stood clothed in a boiling hot shower with you to allow your lungs to rest whilst we waited for mum to get home and take us to the vet. you were so calm, so relaxed as you sat in megs hands but the moment i took you, you cuddled into my neck and allowed yourself to droop as i told you it would all be ok. i hope you know that i love you so much and i am so grateful that you chose me and loved me almost as much as i love you. i saw you take your final breath, lying there on that fluffy blue blanket and i held your tiny hand and stroked your softest ears. i love you so, so much, william, and i truly believe that you were sent to me to teach me how to love something to the point of pain. i know that we will meet again, in another life, and i just hope that then we might get a little longer to be together. until then, billy bob, see you in the next life.