Saturday’s Pet Blog Hop: Slugs and potatoes

When I was a very young child, I had a pet slug. My mom told me that if I loved it too much, it would die. She had the option of telling me to punture air holes in the jar lid or releasing it back into the wild that is our backyard, but this is the woman who’d ruin any chance I had of liking beer by leaving out saucers full of Coors (kerz) to lure and kill slugs. There would be no releasing of my new best friend. 

I remembered telling her that I loved it so much. “Well, it’ll die if you do.” I loved it; it died. I was crushed. Several dead goldfish and anoles later, I got my first kitten. Lorelei was with me from when I was four and eating paste at AAUW Child Development Center, which I called the Child Be Beautiful Center, to 26 and leaving graduate school with the sinking feeling that I’d never write that thesis. I didn’t. 

Fast forward to 2008. I’m walking with the Manboy to our car, when I hear the cries of a heart-broken child. I turn to see an elderly woman walking with her grandson. I shush Manboy to listen. It’s one of the few conversations I have ever memorised. Screw “Tomorrow and tomorrow …” and “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, this has been more useful to me socially.

“But I loved him.”

“Yes, I know.”

“I did. I really loved him.”

“Yes.”

“You think I didn’t, but I did. I loved him!”

“Yes.”

“I really really loved him.”

“Yes, but it was a potato.”

The little boy was crushed over the loss of his potato. Unfortunately, Manboy is politer than I am and wouldn’t let me ask about the late potato. How does a potato become loved by a little boy? How does this potato die? It can’t be mashed or fried. He’d have experienced that. Or if that was the case, why this potato from what must have been a sack full of them? Seriously, why am I still married to the man who kept me from getting the answers to those questions?

Zuni died last Sunday.

ZuniAtMilkBar                               Zuni’s first days in my classy efficiency apartment in the booming metropolis of Oxford, OH.

I took her around the house and even to the coffee shop with me packed into a felted shopping basket I had made. I put a serving dish and tea towel beneath her to keep her from being folded up.

IMG_9340
I was home moping about her decline and wanted to get out. I also knew that she’d prefer to be out in the fresh air. I took her to what is now called Zuni’s garden for a little rest before we took off for the coffee shop. At this time she responded to touches and a little boy who told me “I don’t share any of my girlfriends” gently pet her as he told me of his kindergarten exploits.

IMG_9343I put my bare feet in the basket and used my toes to rub her under the chin. People are used to seeing dogs at the coffee shop, so Zuni was a little novelty. I was able to tell people that it was her last day, and we’re going out happy and in comfort before our trip to the vet on Monday.

Her decline was rapid–faster than I realised–but her stubborn brainstem kept her alive in her furry shell. In what I see now was a bad case of denial, I assumed that the vet would be closed on Sunday. 

When I checked their website to get their number and call for a Monday am appointment, I saw that they would be open for another 15 minutes. I thought about the floppy, all-but-lifeless package of memories in my hand and called. They would stay open for us. 

Bawling, I called out to Manboy to let him know that it was time and keep me going because if I thought too much, I’d be selfish and keep her with me for one more day. I could fool myself into thinking that a beating heart was all that was necessary to make a life worth living. 

Before we left, I took one last photo.

IMG_9344
I had never done this before and because she was nearly gone, I wondered if I’d know when life left her. As it turned out, when I put her in my lap, she curled her tail around my arm. And then her tail fell away.

And I cried for the last time.

I miss her. I still miss her. Writing this brings tears to my eyes, but I don’t cry any more. I’m relieved. She was obviously trying to leave to die on Saturday, but we’re surrounded by dogs and a busy street. Although her instinct was to look for a private and quiet place to die, a blind cat can’t make that choice. Zuni died as a cat should–safe and in peace. 

Although I am sad to lose my little friend in a cheap fur coat, it did not gut me like Tamale’s death. I am still angry about that and try not to revisit it. 

Pet grief is odd. It unites us. No one holds back from saying that they’re sorry. It’s one of the safer sad times when it’s okay to say “I understand how you feel.” No one disagrees. You’d never say that to anyone who’s lost a human companion or family member. Most of us comment about our own losses and, sometimes, coming loses. No one holds back because there’s so much baggage. “I haven’t spoken to my dog in years. We’re not close. I can’t relate.” “My cat started sleeping on my sister’s pillow behind my back. Now we don’t talk. I can’t understand your pain.” Even adults who may not have had pets as a child, often have children who make them fold like lawn chairs when the want a cat or dog. It’s hard not to imagine the loss, and it’s safe to commiserate.

What we all have in common is that we were once children. We don’t all have children, siblings, or even parents in our lives, but we ourselves were all once little goobers. I believe that our grief over a loss of a beloved pet takes us back to when we were children because there is no baggage with our grief. It’s just simple. We miss our pets and grieve over the lid being placed permanently on the collection of those memories. Lorelei and my dog Scooby (pre-named) were the pets of my childhood. Zuni was my post-college life–my adult life. And so on. Think about what we keep, what we drag from house to house. Think about Toy Story 3. Tell me that you didn’t cry at the last scene. I don’t think it matters how old we are when we get our little friends, when they go, we grieve hard without thinking of the logic because we loved hard without thinking about the logic.

I’ll miss my little potato. I loved her. I really really loved her.

ZuniVsNip1When she was a pudge–BP, before Peppa–and getting nipstoned.
ZuniVsNip1Zuni samples an Aussie meat pie. She was big into meats and starches: pies, pizzas, pastas. 
ZuniVsNip1Zuni cops a feel.
ZuniVsNip1Before our trip to the coffee shop, I took a few photos and videos. I don’t know if I’ll revisit the videos, but I know that they’re there. I for one appreciate living in the digital age. I’d to have videos of Lorelei and Scooby.

I’d like to thank you all for your kind comments. I chose not to reply and cc the commenter only to make it easier for me. My eyes still sting.

Two weekends ago, Brooke and I took the dogs to the Mothership to housesit. I was writing that post when Zuni faded.  I promise a lighter post later.

***

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16 thoughts on “Saturday’s Pet Blog Hop: Slugs and potatoes

  1. So so sorry about Zuni.
    I don’t agree with you about people’s attitudes to pet grief though, we were devesatated when our kitty of 19yrs had to go….and then shortly afterwards our 18 yr border collie….I found nothing but lack of understanding in my friends who were pet free with kids. I had those pets for all of my adult life practically, and I was only in my twenties when I got the kitty (21/22) and over 40 when I lost them.
    There was a lot attached to the grief as well, because I have been quite seriously unwell for many years the pets going was like saying goodbye to the tiny bit of familiarity and only link to my earlier healthier life that I had, and I have also lost many family members since then, lost my job, lost the full use of my arms, lost some use in legs, lost my looks and everything familiar etc etc….so I felt like it was just me and my partner left from everything we used to have and the pets going made me face up to the fact nothing was ever going to be the same again, whilst I had been hanging on the hope that I would somehow fight myself better and get back to me previous way of life…etc….all grief has baggage I feel, and being upset about one thing opens a can of worms. Especially if there is literally nobody you can share grief with.
    I stopped to pet an old dog a few weeks after we lost our doggie, and my friend just tutted and mumbled ‘God!’ and stormed off…as if to say, not again. You can’t question what you feel for something, it just is….and people cannot put a measure on grief and say ok with a cat you are allowed to feel this much, with a human you are allowed to feel this much…..otherwise I could say to parents who lost their babies….well its not as if you knew them, they were only a few weeks with you!’ (this is cos my friend argued that getting upset over pet death was futile, as they didn’t live that long anyway…..like you could say to someone…well your gran was old, and humans do die you know!)
    Anyway, I popped over to say, not sure if the harness is ok for a tripod, you can tighten the straps around them but is whether it can slip off the shoulder or not, I can’t really tell….depends where the leg is lost (below hock/knee? front leg I assume?)
    The thing is though, you know how they are like furry snakes…and travelling somewhere, or having a need to get out of a car cos it broke down…it is handy to be able to open the car hatch and stick in a hand and grap the harness.
    Lily did Houdini out of the harness once, she pulled her paws back, bent one, pulled it through…..and then backed out of it, but I am convinced someone didn’t put it on right, cos it was new.

  2. Erssie,
    Im sorry to hear that people said such unkind things. I cant believe people dont follow the If you cant say anything nice … rule when dealing with peoples grieving. I guess I am lucky to have friends who have had pets or at least are sympathetic. One friend wrote the sweetest note of support, and she had just gone through a miscarriage. I didnt know about that until the note. Another friend lost a child to cancer and was still very understanding as she and her surviving children (now teens) have always had pets. There are so many types of grief out there and all of them are valid. 

  3. I’m sorry to hear about Zuni’s passing, but I’m glad that it was peaceful and that you were able to make peace with it. I think that’s a very important part of the grieving process. Your post today is lovely, and I agree with you. Losing a pet is always a sad thing, no matter the circumstances!
    I thought of you yesterday! We went to the bike store where hubby finally got his hybrid bike that he’s been drooling over for a year and they had this awesome bright orange vintage-looking bike!

  4. Thanks for posting your very tender tribute to Zuni. I’m really sorry for your loss and I know you’ll miss her.
    Each time I lose an animal friend, I don’t know how I’ll make it through. And yet it’s worth every moment of pain to bring animals into my life.

  5. so sorry to hear of Zuni’s passing, but she was obviously at peace and so happy to have been with you. Sending you hugs.

  6. Houndstooth,
    Thank you. It was peaceful. I think it helped that she was so far gone that she couldnt look up at me. The tail did me in enough. Officially, Im against death, but I dont see a way to stop it. k

  7. Pamela Honey,
    While at the coffee shop, one of the husband of a couple at the next table was saying that letting go of so many animals stopped him from getting another. He had a farm and loved his ducks, goats, cats, dogs, etc. Who is to say its only the mammals we get attached to. Thank goodness for me that I dream and remember them. I get visited a few times a year. I look forward to my first dream with Zuni. k

  8. Thank you, Sue. She was definitely at peace. If I could wish any way of going for my pets, this would be it. I does make grieving a lot easier when theyre old and they go peacefully. k

  9. Lori,
    She did. Thank you. It was hard to admit that she was old because she didnt feel old. She was able to keep herself groomed until the very end. I forgot to mention that the vet was wonderful. She clearly looked as though shed never get used to this part of her job. She looked pained, and for that I was thankful. She knew I was doing the right thing, but had the grace not to say it but just scrunch her face up in sympathy and sorrow. k

  10. I’m so sorry to hear about Zuni. I’ve been there too many times, yet they give so much that I always bring more animals into my life. Being there at the end is just part of the deal.
    Thanks for visiting us. The shower tower is a tower we built for the dogs. We hang the hose over the top and they can go in to get wet and cool off. They love it.
    Sue

  11. Sue of Portuguese Waterblog,
    What a great idea. I have found many bricks in our backyard. I have no idea why they needed that many flattened spaces–theyre also under dirt, so they are old areas. We use clam pools for Omo to lounge. I think Ill reuse the bricks and one concrete area that makes no sense to make our own shaded wet zone. If I hosed mine off, theyd have a fit. If I gave them a clam pool, theyd lounge. Go figure. 
    Thank you for the kind words.

  12. It must be the hardest part of being a vet. Sorry for your loss and it is so true what you say about grief for pets. It is how most of us learn to grieve losing pets as a kid.

  13. Katy, I had a big, BIG lump in my throat reading this. I’m glad you were able to give her one last outing in the snuggly bag and were able to hold her safe and warm when it was time. They give us such joy and happiness and leave a big hole when they have to move on.

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