Yesterday my beloved cat Beezle died. If you’re an animal lover, pet owner, whatever you want to call it, you’ll understand why I spent much of my morning in the bathroom at work crying when I lost the battle to keep it together at the front desk. You’ll also relate to my referring to my cats as my children. If you’re not, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. You may be outraged at my equating my love for my cats to your love for your possibly multiple offspring. To which I say your value judgment is not welcome in my world.
Don’t get me wrong. I love children. I adore my nieces and nephews and have been known to go all gooey over cute babies. I’m a wonderful babysitter, aunt and godmother. I probably take more safety precautions when I’m looking after someone else’s kids than they do themselves. I have actually been told to ‘chill out’ by some of these parents, who look at my constant scanning of rooms for potential sharp corners on which the child could be injured as kind of comical. This is one of the reasons I don’t actually have any human children of my own. I’d probably drive myself — and them — insane by my ‘must wrap in cotton batting’ attitude combined with a singular lack of patience with many of the things that go hand in hand with parenthood.
On the other hand, I have what has been called a remarkable patience with felines (I’m not as good with dogs although I do also love them) and can put up with behavior and messes from my cats that would drive a normal person mad. I don’t like the messes and both myself and Dave get tired of the cleanup necessary to live in a house with multiple felines without having our friends walk in and say politely, “Wow, cats, huh?” But it’s worth it because of the love and joy our little furry darlings bring us. Which brings me to the main point of this post.
Yes, there is a difference between losing a child and losing a pet. No one expects to have a child die before them – it’s (in theory) a lifetime commitment and it’s also tied into issues of the parents’ mortality, their line carrying on, etc… We know our pets probably aren’t going to outlive us and that the time with them is finite. But it doesn’t mean the love and commitment we feel towards them is any less valuable than the love a parent has for his/her child, or the grief at their loss any less painful or real. It’s just easier to accept because we know it’s going to happen and our expectations are set. It’s not something anyone has the right to place a value judgment on in terms of importance or what we should or shouldn’t feel. Please try and remember this the next time someone you know is dealing with the death of a pet.
And keep in mind that the words “What’s the big deal? It’s just a cat (or dog)” won’t just make you stupid and insensitive, but will put you right up there in Major Asshat territory and you will deserve the black eye you might very well get from a rightfully enraged pet owner.