Life After Loss

As long as I can remember, I’ve loved animals, and I don’t mean that I love them in the way that kids love the zoo.  I mean, even at 4-years-old, I was bringing home a stray or begging for a new kitten.  Because of that, my dad nicknamed me Ellie May when was little (yes, as in  The Beverly Hillbillies Ellie May) and we’ve always had pets.  Some things never change.

Right now, I am proud momma to 4 furbabies.  Nikki, the Yorkie I posted about in The War on Mice, has been my cuddle buddy since I was 15.  He’s seen me through a nasty breakup, my parents’ divorce, and many other catastrophic events.  He’s my little compadre and I love him dearly.  He moved with me when Mr. Cooper and I got our first home together; two weeks later, I decided  I wanted to expand my little fur family.  I adopted a cat from the Humane Society soon after my cat, Marley, passed away.  His name was originally Monkeyboy and he shared a cage with another cat (I assume it was his brother).  He was incredibly laid back, so much so that when the volunteers cleaned the kennel every week, he didn’t even have to be placed in a separate one until the job was done because he was content simply kneading on a blanket in the floor.  While his missing left ear leads people to believe that he was a fighter in his old life, he’s a real lover.  Thus his name: Vincent van Holifield; Vincent for Vincent van Gogh who cut off his ear and sent it to his lover, and Holifield for obvious reasons.  He’s sleeping in the floor next to me as I type this. The same week Mr. Cooper and I got married, we adopted Shooter, a 5-year-old German Shepherd/Collie mix from the shelter.  While he was far too big for our old home, he has brought so much joy into our lives, and I hope that we’ve done the same for him.  The fact that he was already neutered when he was left at the shelter tells me he was dropped and had a family before us.  The fact that he flinched every time we raised our hands to scratch his ears for the first 6 months we had him tells me that the family he had didn’t deserve him.  Lastly, our most recent addition to the family is still an itty bitty baby tabby cat.  His name is Opie and his energy makes up for all of the spunk our other pets are lacking.  These animals are like children, and my love for them has only grown in the past couple of weeks.

As some of you may recall, my sweet dog, Sprocket, lost his battle with Lymphoma just a little over a month ago.  A few weeks after that loss, I stumbled across the viral post about the dog’s awesome last day.  Have you seen this post?  If not, I urge you to have a Kleenex readily available because <i>man</i> did it get me.  The entire post (which you can find on BuzzFeed here) is written from Duke’s (that’s his name) perspective.  My understanding was that he had an inoperable tumor, and his family decided to give him a spectacular last day on earth, complete with a party, a platter of cheeseburgers, and a trip to a water park before his day ended with his family in the park.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a big ol’ sap, and if it involves animals or veterans, or God forbid veterans holding animals, I’m gonna cry. A lot. But given the recent circumstances, I didn’t want to read the post and in fact told myself out loud <b>not</b> to read the post but I did it anyway.  And I cried even  harder than I expected. Like, snot running, eyes puffy, full on ugly crying.

Y’all know how heartbroken I am over the loss of our sweet boy, and that post just made guilt set in.  Did he know that we did it to show him mercy?  Did we have enough time that last day to let him know we loved him?  Was he scared?  Was he relieved?  Was he ready?  Did we make the right choice?  These questions have plagued me since I read that post, so I guess I’m moving right along in the stages of grief, but they were eating away at me.  I remembered something I read written from a dog’s perspective who had already passed on. If anyone knows what I’m talking about, please post it in a comment!  I’d love to have it.  Anyway, if you’re not familiar, it basically says that we shouldn’t be crying over them and should instead show another animal the love we showed the lost pet.  Give someone else a shot at the life we had given that pet.  And that alone has helped me.

Clearly, by the title of my blog alone, it’s evident that I love my pets.  However, the recollection of that post/story/whatever changed me.  Nikki and Shooter love to go for rides.  Can I take them with me everywhere I go? No, but I can make the rides they do get to take just a little longer, even if it means turning the 3 minute drive to Redbox into a 10 minute cruise around town before returning home.  Just seeing the look on Shooter’s face when he has his head out the window, or when someone in a parking lot comes up to pet him and speak to him, makes it all worth it.  Do I necessarily want cat hair shoved in my nose when I’m trying to nap?  Not exactly, but our pets aren’t with us for a long time and there will come a day when I would gladly lint roll my black pants if it meant spending a few more minutes cuddling with my boys.  The problem with pets is that they don’t live as long as their people, but gosh they make an impact while they’re here.  It’s only fair to do the same in return, right?

Anyone who’s ever lost a pet, whether it was recent or a hamster when you were 6, understands how hard it is.  I only hope that stories like Sprocket’s or Duke’s makes you want to either love your current furbabies a little harder or maybe even give a shelter animal a chance.  I speak from experience when I say you won’t be disappointed by their loving, appreciative nature when you give them a second chance at life.

-A

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