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Grieving for Pets

 
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Many cats have chosen our house or garden to give birth.
One day it rained and while the litter made it out of the rain, one was left behind.
I rescued it and packed the others around to keep it warm.

Perhaps this was Alicia.

Out of the entire litter, Alicia couldn't get enough of me. As I returned from work,
even before I stopped the car, it would jump up onto the bonnet and even walked
along the window sill. "Come on out slow poke. The adventures are about to start."

One day, it stopped happening.

It transpired that my mother persuaded a neighbour to take these cats
and dump them far away.

A rift, no, a chasm opened up between my mother and I until her death.

I love cats but I also intensely dislike some so I am the exception that breaks the
myth of Toxoplasma gondii. Or maybe I have simply not been infected at all.

Then came Xena. It took months to tame her to the point she would rub her
body against my legs. Mittens never reached that stage but she in her last days
would sleep between my feet. Xena had one litter. A Tom showed up. Could he
be her consort? He was short haired and had the biggest mouth I ever saw.
He would chase off all other males. He was big and tough. We called him Stonecold.
I was
terrified of him whenever he came close. This is the funny bit. He was scared of
Xena and there in front of him and her kittens, she would rub herself against me.

Xena was the first of my cats to get poisoned. Where I used to park my car in the
garden, I buried Xena. Google Earth can show you where that is. I like to be able
to tell people that I can read the licence plate of that car over there.

Alicia happened when I first started to drive.

Fast forward until my retirement. Mittens was with us for years and her fur
was getting threadbare. The end was near and one day she just disappeared.
Mittens was a cat who didn't realize she was a cat. I just seem to have weird
cats. I called her that because she never hunted. I have a picture somewhere
of birds pecking in the grass near her.

There was just one other cat{brother's} left. Ryan{long story} lost her first litter and had
3 in her second litter. All were coloured differently. One day I saw that one
seemed to have an eye infection and could be blind in one eye. So I adopted
that one and fed it in a cage so that the others couldn't steal his share.

And this is Jacksparrow. It is half-cat-half-dog. There was no eye infection.
Ryan was too poor of a mother to care for her kittens. He grew up stronger
and bigger than the other two.

Why do I say he is half-dog? Well, he runs around at full pelt. I was so worried
that he would get killed by a car that I offered him to my cousin who just built a
house up in Chiangmai. He was so lively that one bell was not enough on his
collar but 3 bells. He was to be my retirement cat. My last cat since the doctor
gave me 6 more years at best.

Then one day the bells were silent. He was dazed. I knew from past experience
that he had been poisoned.  One year I found 6 dead stray cats along my road.
I have those kind of neighbours.

This is what I wrote to my cousin:
Subject: Silent bells, silent bells, silent all the way

Yesterday as I was at my usual spot of the drain scooping
water into my watering cans, I detected the familiar odour
rotting flesh. It can't be from J's grave since not even flies
know where that is.

Just now, I looked under my car and there was the body
of the last of the kittens, a two-beller.

Mittens has gotten bolder lately and is able to saunter
into the house instead of furtively slinking around or
waiting for me to carry her past the gauntlet of jinglers.
J has always been the one to chase her.

It has been awfully quiet since you know.

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Edward,
It is difficult to explain to someone without pets how much they become one of the family.
We lost our first dog a couple years ago, had to have him put down when his tumours got too much, we couldn't bear to see him suffer and still miss him. I've rarely seen my husband cry, but thinking on Douglas will still do it for both of us.
How horrid for you that the neighbours use poison. I guess house cats are the only answer there, but that doesn't seem natural to me.
Peace be with you.
 
pollinator
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Sorry for your many losses.  I'm another that feels the pain of lost pets deeply.  I visit the graves of mine and talk to them.  I dread the day I will lose another one.  I understand.
 
pollinator
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So sorry for your losses, Edward, especially when so many are human-caused and far too young. That must cause so much anger and grief.

Hubby and I also cry when we remember pets long gone. We've recently adopted kittens from Cyprus, which has a huge issue with uncared for cats. Much as I hate cleaning litter trays, it's a relief that because of disabilities these need to be indoor cats (one is blind, one has a broken paw from a dog attack that didn't heal right). We'll lose them someday, I know, but it's a blessing to know we'll never have that "where are they, why haven't I seen them today?" worry.
 
pollinator
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My world is filled with animals, currently, that includes ten dogs (we foster rescues, sooo that number can double if we take in one who is pregnant). Most of our nine residents are either geriatric or "broken" so were best not adopted by anyone but us.

Perhaps it is because we deal so much with the very sick or palliative ones, it gives us a different perspective of life and death.

Animals live IN the moment: they rarely focus on the past or look to the future - they live in the NOW. At times I envy this ability, as they rarely dwell on loss, but focus on the joy of now. So I do my best to follow their lead.

YES, we grieve the loss of each one, but mostly by celebrating the joy they brought us, and the joy they found. Rather than weep (and even sometimes WHILE we weep) we share stories and giggle away at the memories of our shared time.

Some are with us only a few hours before they pass, others for well over a decade, but each one is loved, adored and cared for until their final moment. Rather than fear their deaths, and regret the heartache; embrace the opportunity their shorter lifespans offers to invite so many MORE into our hearts.

Think back, you LOVE every pet you have ever had; which would you choose as your only, forever, lifelong pet? Kinda like asking a parent to choose their favorite child! The fact is, IF they lived 50-75-100 yrs, how many would never have joined your life's journey? Would you really give up knowing and loving a single one of them?

This is why I feel when one passes, it makes room for another needing a home. I am sure my animal companions would HATE it if their "spot" remained empty because I was too filled with grief at THEIR passing to welcome a new fur friend into my life. I am certain they feel no sadness or anger when I open my heart and home to another, nor do/would they feel forgotten or "replaced". In fact I am convinced they would give me a solid tail wag and licks of approval!

I wonder what would happen if we spent more time living IN the moment, rather than time spent fearing loss or missing what was...

Perhaps those fur buddies of ours are ON to something!

It's okay to feel sad; to miss your fur friend(s),  but also remember the pleasure they brought you and the love you shared together. Enjoy those magical memories, let them bring you joy and healing. Hugs.

(IF ownership is no longer possible, perhaps consider fostering? Incredibly rewarding, with little to no cost (except LOVE, of course) and often a short time commitment).



 
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