IT comes to us all sooner or later, and our little granddaughter is having to cope with her first taste of death…

Miles the guinea pig didn’t have a long life. In fact, it only seems five minutes since he joined the family alongside a furry friend called Roly.

You may recall from a previous column that they started out as Millie and Rosie until it was discovered that they were boys rather than girls and had to be hastily renamed.

Anyway, Miles got sick in the night last week and nothing could be done to save him. By the morning, he’d gone up to heaven, and the news was gently broken to Chloe by her Daddy when she woke up.

She burst into tears and was inconsolable for a full five minutes before she suddenly stopped, went into the lotus position, and closed her eyes.

“What are you doing?” her Daddy asked.

“Yoga – I’m remembering all the happy times we had together,” she whispered.

Her short period of meditation over, Chloe then went over to comfort her Mummy, who was also in floods of tears, having been up half the night acting as an intensive care guinea pig nurse.

“Don’t worry, Mummy – it’s not your fault. It just happened,” said the five-year-old, with a maturity way beyond her years.

When my wife and I got the phone call to say that Miles had gone the journey with suspected heart failure, it instantly brought back memories of pet deaths when our own four children – including Chloe’s Daddy – were small. Elvis, the hamster, Jasmine One, Jasmine Two, Aladdin and Tallulah, the rabbits, and Emma and Arrow, the goldfish, were all given poignant garden burials after going to play in heavenly wild-flower meadows and sparkly ponds in the sky.

Bow, another goldfish, missed out on his dignified send-off because he was left unattended in a matchbox coffin on a garden bench and got snaffled by a neighbour’s cat, but that’s another story.

Two decades have passed since then, and how strange it is to see that tearful little boy all grown-up and having to deal with the grief of his own little girl. It’s hard being a parent at times like these.

He asked Chloe if she wanted to see Miles for one last time and she said that she did, bravely giving the creature’s soft, lifeless body a stroke as he lay, peacefully, in his shoe-box coffin.

Miles was then laid to rest in a grave dug beneath the “Chloe rose” Auntie Hannah bought her as a present when she was a baby. That way, she’d always be close to him, her Daddy explained.

Through misty eyes, Chloe made a little speech about what a good guinea pig he’d been, and how much she’d miss him, before throwing some of his favourite cucumber on top of the shoe-box, while the strains of Time To Say Goodbye floated through the kitchen window.

Funeral service over, it was round our house so she could break the news: “GANMA, GANDALF – MILES IS DEAD!” she shouted, matter-of-factly, before kicking off her shoes and getting the felt-tip pens out to do some guinea pig drawings.

Life goes on.


CHLOE, five, was delighted to hear that her teacher had said nice things about when her Mummy and Daddy attended a parents’ evening last week.

On an almost daily basis since, she’s been basking in the glory, asking: “Daddy, did Miss Newton really say good things about me?”

“Yes, she really did,” he assured her.

“I really am the perfect little girl, aren’t I?” she concluded after a long sigh.

AND thank you to Sue Campbell for passing on her memory about being offered a trampoline by a friend whose grandchildren had outgrown it.

“We duly installed it in our garden and left it as a surprise for when our own grandchildren visited,” Sue recalled. “When they arrived, three-year-old Edith took one look and shouted: “Ooh, look, Nana – a jumpoline!'

Sue says it will never be known as anything else.