I just said good-bye to my last ever fur baby. While the positive side of this otherwise sad life event marks a forever change in my life, given that I do not intend to have any more animals that tie me to added responsibility, in addition to saying goodbye to a beloved companion, it has also been a somewhat sad release of a part of my life I’ve known for over four decades. I’ve always had an animal by my side.
With respect to losing this last little guy and as my 27-year-old son so poignantly put it: “there goes the last of my childhood” (we got this kitty when he was 11 years old), I was a little taken aback when I realized just how many years had gone by with this beautiful cat dutifully by our side. I had never really thought about his aging too much. He was always just there.
I’m sure many of us pet owners don’t think too much about our pet’s aging in the same way we do our children growing up or in how we observe other family members aging. But that is precisely what our fur babies do. They grow with us and are there through all of our joys and successes; our trials and tribulations. Comforting and sometimes annoying us, but most of all, loving us with a loyalty that knows no bounds. They are just there for us. We may not even realize the importance of their presence until they become sick, fragile or are gone.
For pet owners that are fortunate enough to recognize the service that some of our domestic animals seem destined to bring us in any number of areas of our lives, the loss of them can be devastating, if not traumatic. I’ve had several pets I’ve loved dearly throughout the years, and three that came into my life unexpectedly that told me more or less, they were adopting me (two cats and a dog). These were very special animals that I instinctively knew were here to be of service to our family in various ways.
We said goodbye to two of them years ago from natural causes (one even died in my arms which was beautiful), but the last service fur baby we had to help along was two years ago, which was traumatic for me. At just 9 weeks old, she picked me in the strangest of ways only two years after my daughter died, and filled a tiny piece of my heart with joy and love that I couldn’t find elsewhere. She was also very special to the family. Helping her go after a short illness when she was only ten years old was very painful.
This last little guy, while he was of special design (Persian) and nature (he thought he was a dog), he had no purpose other than to just be a great addition to our family. He didn’t need to love us more to soften any wounds or bring added joy to the family through an abundance of energy (our Pomeranian’s original name was TNT). And for nearly seventeen years he did just that.
Helping Chaucer go in the exact same place and way just two days ago as we did my special feline girl Kali two years ago was more than a little challenging for me, and a major reason I don’t want to get another animal. After losing the equivalent of one human family member per year in the last fourteen years, including my child, I’ve had enough loss for a while.
To get me through the difficulty of letting this fur baby go, I forced myself to think only about his current state that saw him deteriorating rapidly from a healthy animal to needing 24/7 geriatric care. Despite him being able to still show up for meals, all other symptoms he had did not add up to him enjoying any quality of life. As with all of my other animals showing me when they were getting ready to go and in particular, the last couple of days of their life, this guy did too. Which made every decision to help each of them on their way easier. But, for all of us faced with losing a pet when we know it’s in their best interest, we are still left with the grief from their passing (making morning tea yesterday was really hard without my boy by my side).
While for some people, the loss of a pet creates an opportunity to make room for another one to fill some of the empty space from their grief, those of us who have decided to bid that part of our life goodbye have to find another way to fill a space that has been occupied for however long by a cuddly, loving and fiercely loyal fur baby. Pets have been valued for millennia for their companionship. Today they are valued, if not revered, for their service (military, police, human assistance) and instinct to comfort those dying or even healing those in need, including people living with trauma and PTSD. Which is why I am thinking a lot about what will eventually replace the cuddles and unconditional love I’ve enjoyed through the years that can only come from a fur baby.
My decision not to get another pet is based entirely on my present need to remove all added stress from my life. This includes the emotional responsibility I’ve felt for and care I’ve willingly provided every fur baby I’ve ever owned. Just like becoming an empty nester a few years ago and getting comfortable with a downsized life, I’ll have to be satisfied sneaking the odd cuddle from animals where and when I can as I decide what I want this next chapter of my life to look like pet-free.
Overall, my heart is a little lighter today, believing as I do that all my fur babies are together in spirit. I know they all enjoyed a great life for the time they were here. Our home is a little quieter. It’s probably a little cleaner and we are enjoying it no longer needing to be pet-proofed. I also know that we couldn’t have done things any better or differently with any of them. That helps with the grief. Sigh.