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.”
“You think I didn’t, but I did. I loved him!”
“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.
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.
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.
I 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.
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.
When she was a pudge–BP, before Peppa–and getting nipstoned.
Zuni samples an Aussie meat pie. She was big into meats and starches: pies, pizzas, pastas.
Zuni cops a feel.
Before 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.
Welcome to another installment of the Saturday Pet Blogger Hop! You’ve found the right place to connect with other pet lovers. Whether you are a seasoned blogger, one who loves reading pet blogs, or if you’re just thinking about starting your own blog – there is definitely something here for you. Acquaint yourself and enjoy – this is your resource, so use it as you see fit! Of course, you have to follow the rules, so let’s get to that. Get those links in and have fun.
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