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.
I just finished re-reading Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy, some of the best young adult books ever written. Without giving anything away (no spoilers here!), one of the characters experiences a tremendous loss after discovering how much it’s possible to love someone or something so much it changes her life forever. The quote that resonated with me: ‘She thought the tenderness it left in her heart was like a bruise that would never go away, but she would cherish it forever.’
What a great way to describe the terrible joy that goes with getting an amazing gift of love and then having to say good-bye to it. Yes, Haggis, I’m thinking about you.
Not much else to say today – it’s been a long week (much over time at work) and I’ve got two posts to finish this weekend for my blog tour with Jess.
It’s been a rough few weeks. Last Wednesday night, we had to say goodbye to Haggis, our darling eight-month old kitten. He let us know he was ready to go…and we had our vet come to the house. He had 24/7 of attention and love from Dave and me from the moment we found out he had FIP; I took him to work with me a couple of days. He faded out slowly, but even at the end he still purred when he woke up and saw the two of us with him.
I have cried more in the last couple of weeks than should be allowed.
His sister, Taz, curled up with him every hour or so. If she wasn’t grooming him, she was coiled around him in a protective semi-circle. I spent a lot of time holding the two of them.
We got Haggis’s ashes back from the vet’s this morning. They came in a little polished pine box, complete with a lock and two little keys. We put the box in a vampire kitty container from one of Cost Plus’s Halloween collections, courtesy of my brother and sister-in-law. It was one of my favorite Christmas presents this year and perfect as a resting place for Haggis, who had overlong canines. I need to take a picture of the vampire kitty and post it. Just not yet
Grieving is a long process. You can’t rush it. I’m okay with that. I’m not okay with people telling me ‘get over it; it’s only a cat, fer crissake.’ Tell that to Taz, who periodically wanders around the house looking for her brother and meowing. If someone doesn’t relate to those of us who consider our animal companions (that’s the PC term for ‘pets’, in case you were wondering) part of our families, the best thing they can do (both for the sake of the bereaved and their own health) is keep their opinion to themselves. Seriously.
I hope this is the last post I’ll write for quite a while about grief and loss. I attended Left Coast Crime in Denver last weekend, am gearing up at a leisurely pace for a book signing tour in May with my new pal and fellow writer Jess Lourey, and have a lot of positive things happening in my life.
But damn, I miss that cat.
Our little boy is ill. Haggis, the most adorable little cat anyone could have, has dry FIP and will not be with us much longer. It’s been a tough week of vet visits and bad news. We’re spending the weekend taking turns holding him, giving him love and making sure he’s comfy. He’s on prednisone, still eats if we coax him, and purrs when we pet him…but it’s just a matter of time. Both Dave and I are in a weird twilight zone of denial and grief.
Anyway…I’ll be back and will start posting regularly, but right now it’s all about Haggis and seeing him out properly. He will be missed more than I can even begin to imagine right now.