RIP Tom Servo (2009–2016)

I’m deeply saddened to report on the passing of my beloved chinchilla Tom Servo.

The brushes I’ve had with death have been infrequent and distant. The few relatives who have passed were elderly and lived full lives, so their end was not unexpected. My childhood cat lived to the ripe age of 20-years-old before he was put down due to incontinence and kidney failure. I was out of college when my dad told me about the euthanasia, and while I was obviously sad, we knew his time was due. His name was Kiki. He loved turkey. He was fat.

I didn’t know the loss of a pet could hurt this much. And yet it does. Servo’s death hurts, and it hurts deeply. To say I’m devastated is an understatement. I’ve never felt this sort of overwhelming, merciless sadness. I’ve cried more in the past 36 hours than I have in the entirety of my life. I really don’t know how to process it, and maybe airing these feelings in public will alleviate the heartache.

Servo entered my world just over two years ago when I began dating my girlfriend. I had no clue what a chinchilla was before Erin asked if I wanted to hold her little ball of fur. Perhaps Servo knew that I grew up a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan, because he accepted me immediately. Erin assured me his friendliness was not the case with her past beaus, so I can thank him for helping bind our relationship. I guess animals just “know.”

It’s understandable if you’ve never crossed paths with a chinchilla before. Try to picture a Pikachu-like rodent with the softest fur imaginable. Their teeth are constantly growing, so chinchillas gnaw indiscriminately at anything they can get their paws on. Servo usually munched on small sticks and pumice stones that Erin and I bought at PetCo, but if we didn’t keep our eyes on him, he’d seek out trouble. Nearly all of Erin’s shoelaces are ruined. The floor molding throughout our apartment is in shambles. I’ve had to scold him on two occasions for nibbling through headphone cords. When Erin and I moved in together, the Nintendo Wii was retired when he acquired a taste for the wireless sensor bar.

Servo had a mischievous streak. If he didn’t get adequate free time, he would violently run on his metal exercise wheel, shaking his wire cage. He liked to pluck cookies out of the container and hide them under our couch. When Erin acquired an interest in adult coloring books, Servo developed an attraction to her orange pencil. Servo would frequently seek out the highest point in our apartment that he could reach and survey his domain. Erin was repulsed by his fondness for autofellatio, but I thought it was hilarious. Servo’s inquisitiveness was one of his best features, and although the details remain too raw to transcribe, it was his curiosity that suddenly killed him.

Servo provided us with unconditional love. He wanted nothing more when he exited his cage for his daily romp than to cozy up next to us. I loved feeding him treats — raisins and coconuts — and watching him roll around in his little dust bath. When he sat on my lap, I would sometimes throw my t-shirt over him, forcing him to escape through my neck hole. I’ve been going through a recent bout of depression and the hour I spent playing with Servo each day helped remedy my melancholia. Some days, Servo was the only thing that could shake me out of my slump. My favorite memory of Servo is when he would hop on my forearm, paws and legs dangling on each side, and shimmy upwards toward my hand. Erin and I called this “monorailing.” If he monorailed you, it means he liked you.

After he died, we covered his cage with a blanket and began the arduous process of grieving. The strangest aspect of his absence is how our daily schedules have been rearranged, no longer subscribing to the 7 p.m. ritual of putting up cages around our valuable electronics, playing with Servo, cleaning his cage, and making sure he stays out of trouble. Watching Seinfeld and Jeopardy is not the same without a little fuzzybutt bouncing in and out of my life.

I miss my squishy in so many ways. I miss his lush, silver fur. I miss his daredevil personality. I miss his nipping at my bare ankles. I miss his futile attempts to jump from cage-to-couch. I miss watching him do kick-flips off our taciturn cat’s backside. I miss staying up late and watching him sleep under the ramp in his cage. I miss monorailing and feeding him coconut pieces. Hell, I even miss his poop pellets.

I guess this is my long way of saying hug your pets. They won’t be around forever.

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