07 November 2006

Life, Loss, and Love

Life is precious. We are reminded of that whenever we experience loss, as is the case this week when one of our cats passed away. Ed was a neighborhood stray I adopted 11 years ago, and my best guess is he was now 15-16 years old. He developed a degenerative neurological problem that caused him to turn to the right. At first it wasn’t severe, and we joked that he was “on his rounds”...around a chair, around a room, just around! As the condition worsened we did everything we could to accommodate his needs, but it eventually left him debilitated. We had no doubt it was time to help him go. Still, it was a heart-wrenching decision made with the utmost love for him and his dignity. Ed passed gently into the Spirit World, leaving our home with one less resident.

The plaintive meows of our 12-year old cat Felix tell me he misses the company of his older brother. I tell him we’ll get through this, just as we got through the loss of his sister Smokey to cancer when she was just 8 years old. Even our Golden Retriever seems unsettled. I suspect he’s wondering where his kitty friend is and why there’s no one stealing his pillow.

Two of our cats have died now, and they have been very different experiences. Of course there’s grief and sadness, but each had it’s own context. With Smokey, I grieved for the life she would miss out on. I felt cheated out of years of her antics and all the laughter and love my little girl brought to my life. I also grieved for Felix, who was losing his little sister with whom he had played, ate, slept, groomed, and loved every day of their lives. I forced myself to focus on the wonderful life she had, however brief I thought it was. With Ed’s death, I have the solace of knowing he lived a long, happy, healthy life. But I feel a bit defeated, not having the option of trying any medicines or procedures to slow his decline. Being a “pet mom”, I also worry about the adjustments our other pets need to make: Felix, is now the sole kitty of the house and will spend his days alone; and our elderly Golden Retriever, who took a particular liking to Ed, won’t have anyone to give sloppy licks and bottom sniffs.

Losing a pet is heart-breaking, but the grief and pain of loss fades, slowly replaced by memories of a critter I know had a wonderful life, was given the best care possible, and never knew a day in our home without love. Losing a pet is also a reminder to treasure each day and the love they share with us. It reminds us that life cannot be taken for granted. Life is precious, often fleeting, and each individual brings us a unique personality that will never exist again.

In the midst of our loss we remember to celebrate Ed’s life, his big furry paws, his amusing lack of grace, his shameless laziness, and the laughter he brought to our home. And we lavish attention on our remaining cat and dog, making sure they don’t miss a day without love and fun.

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