The world needs all kinds of kinds and I am the kind who has never not had a pet.
This is long but I need some written therapy so hang with me.
I was born into a family that owned a wonderful dog- my parents’ first baby, Bruno. When I was 10 we took in a stray cat. When Bruno died, we still had the cat and a year or two later my brother and I brought home a puppy (much to my mother’s chagrin). Since then, we’ve had lizards, hamsters, a bird, fish, some rabbits, and more cats and dogs pass through our door. The month I graduated college- five months before we got married- Kyle and I took in Lylee. (A few years prior to that we’d found an elderly stray dog that we took in and was living with K and his family at that time.) Obviously now, in our own house, we have Ly and Enzo. My brother has a rescue cat. And my parents have a dog, three cats, and a rabbit.
I’m not kidding- I have never been without a pet.
But the worst part about owning a pet is losing a pet. And last week I was reminded of that.
Like I said, when I was 10 my mom brought home a stray kitten. We think she was roughly 6 weeks old. My mom was a first grade teacher in the country and this scrawny little thing wandered up to her exterior door. The teachers all decided they’d take turns trying to “take her home.” The kindergarten teacher’s husband refused to adopt another cat so it was my mom’s turn. She thought Dad would send the little furball right back. Instead, he cuddled with her all night and named her Rascal.
Rascal grew to be a 19 lbs indoor cat. She’s always been jet black and a little mean, lol. She and K have never gotten along, although I think he loves her deep down. She was my cat- my responsibility to feed, drive to the vet, change the litter, play with, clean up after. She slept between my legs under the covers almost every night and she’d run to the door to greet me when I was home from college. Since Ly hates cats and Rascal was older and more settled with my parents, she stayed in the family home when I eventually moved out.
Last Wednesday I had to say goodbye to my childhood best friend.
I’ve had a few pets leave this world naturally, but I’ve also had to make the call twice. It sucks. Both times we made the choice those animals let us know that it was ok and they were ready. Rascal gave me that on Tuesday night. It’s a quiet sigh or a simple nod of the head, telling you that they are at peace with leaving the world and, while they know you are not, you eventually will be and they’ve appreciated every moment of love and affection and shelter you’ve provided.
But it doesn’t make the sadness any easier.
This is not meant to sound elitist, but if you’ve never owned a pet you probably don’t understand most of what I’m saying. (But maybe you do! I don’t know.) When you’ve loved and cared for something for 5 or 10 or 15 or 18 years you form a bond and a language. And the hardest thing that your pet will ever tell you is, “It’s time.”
I won’t lie- my head and my heart and my eyes hurt so, so much from crying. I was laying in bed last Tuesday night wondering if I’d ever be happy again and why the f*ck we even own pets when this is inevitable?
But it’s because those 10 or 18 years of pure love and joy and family are worth the decline.
So in honor of Rascal, if you’re a pet parent, love them extra hard today and give them a few more treats than normal. The most unfair thing in the world is the lifespan of a pet, but I doubt my heart could stand to love them any longer and lose them.
*This is just a PSA and my own opinion, but if you have to make the tough call to say goodbye to a furry family member, please don’t send them in alone. Sit with them and hold them until the end. It sucks and it’s terrible, but they need your love and your lap more than ever in that moment.*