I’ve lost many pets in my lifetime and it doesn’t get any easier with practice. The grief process differs with each pet, but it is still there. I’ve lost fish, turtles, hamsters, parakeets, dogs and cats. With each move to a more intelligent pet, stronger attachments to them formed and the losses were felt more keenly The first one of each specie was also the most missed, as a firstborn child is special to the parents.
My first parakeet was a pretty blue one named Kee Kee. My brother named it the Hawaiian word for little girl, or little boy, I don’t remember which it was. Dad taught Kee Kee to talk and it could say things like “Hello” and “I’m a pretty bird.” The bird flew out the back door one day and I missed it more than birds we got later.
Perro, dog in Spanish, was my brother’s dog, but when he moved into an apartment that didn’t allow dogs, he let my parents and me have him. He was a short haired Chihuahua and we became very close. He’d sleep in bed with me, bury bones under my blanket and sit between me and my boyfriend. When he grew old, he lost much, or all of his sight. We had to carry him down stairs or let him down in a basket on a rope from the back porch. He began having seizures and did not recover from one.
Tiny was a mix of a terrier breed and a Chihuahua. Dad found kids abusing the little puppy and he brought her home. Tiny was crazy about balls of any size. If she found one on one of our walks and could carry it in her mouth, she’d bring it home. Large balls like basketballs, that were taller than her and almost as large, she would steer with her shoulder. She had to run and grab a toy to greet us with when we came home. It was a bitterly cold New Year’s Eve when Mom let her out to relieve herself and we never saw her again. We went all around the neighborhood calling her and asking people if they’d seen her, we posted flyers and ran an ad in the local newspaper, but we never found out what happened to her.
It was another cold night when we took in our first cat. He’d been hanging around because my mother would feed the birds and she started feeding him too. One night he meowed and scratched at the door, so Mom let him come in and he became ours. Mom named him Smokey because of his dark grey color. He was a friendly cat and would let most people pet him. Sometimes he would sneak out and be gone for a day or two, but he would come back.
The birds that would come to the porch and the catscent attracted other cats which Mom began feeding. A pregnant female had her litter under our porch and when they were weaned, she brought them up on the porch with her. Most of the kittens were skittish, but one, a grey was more curious than the others and would play with us and let us touch him. He looked like a male cat we had often seen with the female and we were pretty sure he sired the kitten, so Mom called the kitten Junior. We took him in to be a companion for Smokey, who had no trouble accepting him. They became very close friends. A year or two later, two female kittens were found around the building. We put them in the basement. All of the cats were spayed, or neutered, and given their shots and medical care as needed. Mom named the basement cats Lady Grey and Boots.
When my mother died, I had to move. I was fortunate to find an apartment that would let me bring my cats but I was only going to take the two who lived with me. I wanted to get the basement cats into a no-kill shelter. I wasn’t able to find Lady Grey, but I took Boots to the Vet to have her boarded while I moved in and tried to find a place for her. None of the shelters I called were taking in any more animals, however. When I went back to the Vet and saw how sad she looked, I had to bring her home. Smokey did not hesitate to accept Boots and while Junior growled at her for a time, he too got used to her.
When Smokey got old, he became very sick. He lost a lot of weight and could not control his urine. He would also lose his balance and fall down. One day I found him very wet and knew he must have been on the toilet seat and fallen into it. I don’t know if he hit his head and suffered brain damage or if it was just another part of his illness, but he lost the ability to walk and eventually could not raise even part of his body. He would not eat. I called someone from church and she drove me to a pet emergency hospital. They could not cure him, so I made the unpleasant decision to have him “put down”.
Without Mom, who Junior was more attached to than me, and with Smokey gone, Junior became a lot more affectionate. I called him my back up alarm clock because he knew the time I usually got up and would get on the bed and meow until I did. The first time he did it, I had forgotten to set my alarm and he woke me up right on time. I praised him for it and that must have reinforced this behavior which continued until he became ill.
ILike Smokey, he became skinny and weak. When I found him just sitting in one place meowing and not trying to move, I took him to the Vet. I was going to have him “put to sleep” but I told the Vet to do whatever he could for him. I had to leave him overnight because the cat had to be sedated for them to take blood samples and work on and they did that later in the day and kept the animal until they recovered from the anesthesia. I got a call from the Vet to say that Junior did not make it.
That was really hard on me. I felt guilty for not having gotten him to the Vet sooner and for leaving him there in his condition probably making him feel worse, scared, lonely and feeling like I abandoned him when he needed me. I think he was really too ill to have those thoughts, but I felt them. I didn’t get to say a final good bye either.
Now I’ve one cat left. She was spending a lot of time with me, but now wants to be alone. When I noticed a bald area and hole on her neck, I took her to the Vet. He kept her overnight to sedate her and stitch up her neck and when he cleaned out her ears, he found a tumor. When I came to get her he told me he did not know how deep it was and if he could get it all out and did not know if it would not grow back. He said that she had taken a long time to come out of the sedative.
First I told him to do whatever he could and gave him a check, but as I ate my lunch I kept thinking I would lose her the way I lost Junior. I went back and told him I changed my mind. I want her to live what time she has left where she can be comfortable. Her will to live is strong. She still eats and bawls me out if I am late or tells me to hurry up when I’m feeding her, but she stays behind or in a box and does not come out to me anymore. We are both waiting for death to come and I wonder how I will grieve for her.