Updated: Feb 6, 2021
Losing a pet is more than just losing a pet. For non-animal people, this is hard to understand. But the rest of us, you get it. Hell, for me, just seeing an animal hurt, sad, or diseased without being personally connected to them hurts my soul. Death is inevitable and we all know and accept this, but that doesn't mean when the time is coming that we're ready to accept, understand, or even prepare for what's about to happen. A lot of people pretend that animal life isn't as important as human life and don't get me wrong, if it came between my actual child and my cat, I'd absolutely choose my kid. But that doesn't mean in a lot of instances, animals are just as important as people. In fact, we rely on animals a lot more than we realize, as pets or wild creatures. Every life as meaning, value, and importance [Amen!].
Pets are like our children. We feed them, we train them, we take them with us wherever we go, we play/interact with them, we take them to the vet, we clean-up after them, we talk to them, some of us dress them [Okay, we kind of understand as to why.], we love them. All these things you do/for your child. Pets are like our best friends and confidants. We love them with all our soul, just like they endlessly love us with all of theirs. Whenever we're sad, lonely, playful, cheerful, relaxing, or adventurous, typically our pet is there by our side. Emotionally and physically, they are always there for you. You are the center of their world. A lot of the time, we treat them better than we treat ourselves and other people.
So let's talk about it. I'll start. My cat, Mittens, since the day my mom brought her home at just three weeks old (she was found abandoned in a box at Walmart), I have admired her with the upmost respect. I believe I was eight at the time. We bonded immediately. It's like she knew automatically that I was her human. She trusted me to always be there for her and to love her completely. I envisioned us together always. I would always picture myself with an apartment of my own, just me and her cooped up on the couch with a cup of tea in my hand binge-watching TV shows, a nice space of her own overlooking the scenery from the living room window. The world being ours [Ahhh, that's our favorite daydream. . .].
The thing about getting older is you forget everyone else is getting older too, especially your pets. You also forget that their lifespan is much shorter than yours because out of habit you forget they don't live as long as you. They'll be around forever as long as you're taking amazing care of them. My Mittens was fifteen when she passed (September 2019). It's incredible when I think/read that age number. Fifteen-years-old [Bless her young, vibrant soul!]. It's both hard to believe and yet, when I realize it, I forget I've had her since I was eight. That was forever ago! To realize she was that old was a hard pill to swallow because fifteen years is really great for cat, but I selfishly wanted more.
I was in Colorado having the time of the my life for two weeks camping and enjoying getting lost in the mountains when my mom called me about Mittens. She had been acting strange for a few days so my mom had taken her to the vet, where they had found a mass in her lung and her lungs were filling up with fluid. She was taken to a vet specialist to see if there was anything that could be done to save her life. $2400 in vet debt later, I learned she couldn't be saved. I was rushed home in time to stay up all night with for the last nine hours of her life. She died in my arms on the way to the vet to put her down. That was the most horrific experience of my life, watching my cat drown and suffocate in her own lung fluid. I couldn't get over that guilt for so long and it still stings if I think about it too long and hard [That's what she saiiiiiid!].
I carried a lot of guilt after her death about how I got too busy for her over the last five years of her life. All up until I was nineteen, I spent most of time with Mittens. She was literally my best friend. We would play cards together and she'd win [Don't ask.]! She would sleep on the pillow next to my head and that was her bed. I did everything and spent all my spare time with her, and she was used to that. We had a connection not understood by many. It's like she understood me like an actual human being on every level. But once other people came into my life and I started traveling the country and spending all my time with others, I had little time for her anymore. On top of my anger when she puked everywhere. So much regret filled my heart and still does. She was always there for me and I couldn't even be there for her, especially when she was suffering all that time that I was away. She held on until I got there to be by her side in her final hours.
When she did pass, I couldn't sleep or eat for three days. Grief filled my stomach with knots and kept my throat closed up with pain that wanted to escape with wailing. I couldn't stop crying for a month. Every night at 4 or 5 a.m. that cat would wake me up with her long nails on her back right paw tapping against my floor and then scratch on my door to go do something. It would piss me off. Now, it's the thing I miss the most. I ripped myself apart for months over the guilt because she was my emotional support, best friend, and basically my daughter, and I felt like I had disowned her in a way, even though I loved her to the absolute depths of my soul. She was my soulmate [Yes, there are different types of soulmates. Not just as partner!].
Though it killed me to realize it, I knew I had to forgive myself and move on instead of staying in depression. It took a lot of convincing myself that Mittens was in Heaven not hating me. I had to believe that she knew how sorry I was and I'd give anything for a do-over or just to have her back.
I've been through a lot between the end of last year and the beginning of this year (I'm sure a lot of you can relate) and it's been that hardest I've had to go through since I was fourteen. The difference is is that I've learned so much and I'm wiser and maturer now. People don't realize how surreal it is to lose a pet, as it to lose anyone or anything (living) close to you. In the blink of an eye, people and/or animals are out of your life forever, whether you want them to be or not.
The best practices of coping with pet loss is to take your time, make no hasty decisions, go through all the motions, feel them, accept them, let yourself hurt, forgive yourself (if you feel there is a situation where you need to), and move on at your own pace. Even though it feels like it won't ever get easier, I promise you it always done. Maybe not easier, but better. Believe me, I'm here for you [We're all here for you.].
Mittens is feature on my homepage in remembrance of just how wonderful and full of life and love she had in her whole tiny heart (the vet said she had a really tiny heart after x-raying her lungs).
the Blue Label
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