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What does it mean to lose a pet? - "You didn't hear about the polar bear?"
September 27th, 2006
08:50 pm

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What does it mean to lose a pet?
It's so sad. First a friend at work lost their cat due to bladder problems. Then an LJ friend lost a cat to cancer. Then another lost two rats to pneumonia. And now another LJ friend lost a cat to cancer.



What is the right response when somebody loses a pet? I should know; I adore my cats and will be just destroyed when my first cat dies. I've been trying to prepare myself for years, as he's gotten older and older, and now they're both 18. And yet, when my friend at work told me their cat had dited, I just said I was sorry, and didn't know what else to do. I did listen to him talk about the cat, but I didn't give him a sympathy card, or anything else. I didn't really know what to do. Somehow the whole word "pet" just doesn't seem adequate to describe what they mean to us. If I didn't know what to do... how will people act who don't understand how much our cats and dogs and rodents mean to some people?

Think about it: my boy cat has been with me almost my entire adult working life, and almost the entire time I've lived in Chicago (and Indianapolis). He was with me in my coachhouse apartment, my first condo, my temporary housing, my first house, and my current temporary housing. I have very few friends that I've known for as long a time, and nobody who loves me as unconditionally. Nobody's spent as much time with me - not even my family. I hold him when I'm upset. I talk to him. I pet him when I need contact. I feed him, and clean up after him, and take care of him when he's sick. He wakes me up in the morning, and looks at me with those intelligent wide eyes, and at night, he "kneads" my hair with his paws, settles down against my head, and purrs. He looks at me, and I know what he wants (most of the time - *G*), and I talk to him or motion at him, and he knows what I want him to do (or stop doing!). And I love making him happy.

He's not a human; I don't forget that. And, really, nobody else knows him, so, when he goes, how will anybody else know what he means to me? But he's the most important "being" in my world, and I can honestly say that the very best thing about these last 18 years has been the pleasure of having him as my cat.

So to all of you out there who have recently lost loved ones who are also pets, my heart goes out to you. Other people may not understand your pain. And other people who do understand it may not know how to respond to it or help you. But that doesn't make your loss any less. And remember... there are always dogs and cats and rodents out there that need homes and somebody who will love them the way you do - and love you back, when you're ready.

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From:ninquelosse
Date:September 28th, 2006 03:14 am (UTC)
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Calvin and his family have been with us since he and his sister were born, twelve years ago now. We love Luna and Rusalka too, but Cal is who I think about most when I let myself think about the time to come when he's not here anymore. He sleeps with us (between our heads if he can wangle it), talks to us (especially at bedtime: "Why aren't you in bed yet? I can't get comfortable until you are, you know!"), comes to me when I make "his" sound - I can't imagine any other small creature with whom I could have such a rapport. Can't.

...I don't think a card matters as much as giving someone - your friend at work or your LJ friends - the safe space they need to grieve, which you've done. Showing that you understand how important these bits of fur and purr (or woof, or squeak) are is, I think, much more helpful.
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From:ninquelosse
Date:September 28th, 2006 03:18 am (UTC)
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...and I forgot to send my sympathies to the people mentioned above who have lost their friends recently - I hope the hurt lets go of you sooner than not.
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From:rosamundeb
Date:September 28th, 2006 01:05 pm (UTC)
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I know what you mean; although you're not supposed to have favorites among your "children", some do mean more than others. I love my girl cat (who's sitting right next to me), but she doesn't interact at the same level as my boy cat; I'll miss her, but it's his death that will be the hardest to take. " I can't imagine any other small creature with whom I could have such a rapport." That's a good word for it - "rapport".

Those little sounds - *S*. And the way they train us! So that we know when to come to bed with them, when to feed them, when to scritch them on the head - *L*! Yep, they're definitely the ones in charge.

And, thanks.
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From:aeb
Date:September 28th, 2006 03:36 am (UTC)
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Yeah. I've been thinking about this a lot, since we're in the process of losing Alban to cancer ourselves.

I must say my parents and I have been incredibly fortunate in one thing: no one has called Alban "just a pet" when we've mentioned this. Everyone seems to understand how much the little fellow means to us. I have to wonder if we're really that obvious... and yet I'm very grateful indeed that folks do seem to understand. {wistful smile}

Anne Elizabeth Baldwin
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From:rosamundeb
Date:September 28th, 2006 01:00 pm (UTC)
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Sorry... that's such a shame. And I'm glad people have been so understanding.
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From:aeb
Date:September 28th, 2006 07:55 pm (UTC)
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Yeah... and thanks. {Smile, take hand, squeeze}

Anne Elizabeth Baldwin
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From:niroc
Date:September 28th, 2006 01:11 pm (UTC)
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I still miss Charlie, my little tiger. He was like a little brother or something. He died because some children in the neighbourhood had hit him on the back with a stick and damaged a nerve, leading to the destruction of his kidneys...
We've got new cats now and though they're cute, we still talk about Charlie, because he was so special to us and mostly to me. It was "my" cat and I loved him to bits and I'm very angry about him being beaten by some ignorant little punk.
It really is like losing a familymember to me...
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From:rosamundeb
Date:September 28th, 2006 03:30 pm (UTC)
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I can't believe kids DO that! Sorry, that just makes me so angry. ((((hugs)))) I know what you mean.
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From:niroc
Date:September 28th, 2006 04:42 pm (UTC)
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If I'd seen that kid hit my cat, I would've been beside myself. I probably would have hurt him, too, for being so mean!
*hugs back* Thanks.
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From:rosamundeb
Date:September 28th, 2006 03:27 pm (UTC)
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"independent contractors" - you mean, as exterminators? Good point!

And, yes, pets = family - as I keep trying to tell my mom when she complains that I'm not married and don't have kids. "But what about the grandkitties, mom?" *L*! What's scary is... I think she's bought into it!
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From:quasievil_bunny
Date:September 28th, 2006 10:07 pm (UTC)
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4-legged and with fur, these little critters are family. So when the time comes, it's just as hard because you are losing a member of the family.

So what do you say to someone who has just lost theirs? Words never are completely enough because let's face it, death just sucks. But letting them know you care (no matter how inadequately conveyed) still means something.
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From:rosamundeb
Date:September 28th, 2006 11:08 pm (UTC)
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Thanks - I appreciate that.
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From:lavendertook
Date:October 8th, 2006 04:20 am (UTC)
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My cats are my closest family too. Always have been. Stormie was the first cat I had living on my own, and she died too young of IBS--took years to get over that.

When I was a kiddie, I never liked baby dolls--only adult dolls--and never played mom to human kids. However, I used to play that I was mother-lion to my stuffed cubs all the time. (-;
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From:rosamundeb
Date:October 8th, 2006 04:56 am (UTC)
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*G*
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