My cat Peter died today. On Friday, my mum informed me that he hadn’t been off the couch all day. I cuddled him for a little bit and then put him down by the water bowl, only to have him fall over. His hind legs weren’t working. We thought maybe he had a stroke. I held him for the last time on Sunday, hoping that it wouldn’t be the last. But it was. I got a text from my dad today to tell me that Pete passed around 11:30 today at the vet. I wrote a small eulogy for him on Instagram:
For my 9th birthday, I asked my parents for a parakeet. They went to the pet store and came home with a skinny, hunchbacked, tailess cat named Peter. Pete wasn’t the frisky kitty that most people would get their kids. He was ridden with anxiety and fear, crabby, and never ever ever played. He flinched at every noise or movement. Over the years & after many vet appointments, we learned that Peter had been badly abused in his former home, resulting in broken bones & fractures that never healed properly. Peter was always stiff & uncomfortable, but it was the long-term behavioural scars that hit the hardest. For the past 14 years, we gave him sanctuary the best we could. Today Pete was put down, after suffering a stroke last Thursday or Friday. I’ll miss the little dude. He was weird & neurotic & never very happy, but he was ours to care for. Thanks for letting us be your family, Peter
It is for the best that Pete-Pete is gone. He had a long life. By every standard it was considered good, and I hope that he was happy and found peace during these 14 years. But, I am sad. I cried in my cubicle and in the bathroom at work today. I bawled my eyes out in the shower, and then dragged myself out to wrap myself in a towel and cry on the bathroom floor. I am sad, I think, because Peter was my last little bit of childhood hanging on. I got him when I was 9 years old. He was with me through turbulent times during middle school and college. He’s been there for more than half my life. And when I say that he was “there”, I mean he was there yowling in the background, flinching every time I entered a room or reached for a pet, struggling to get away every time I picked him up for a snuggle. But it doesn’t matter – he was there. And now he’s not.
I’ve talked about my pug dog Moses a few times on my blog and on Instagram. Moses died more than 3 years ago now. I got him for my 10th birthday many years ago now, and he died when he was 9 years old from an auto-immune disease. I remember when my mother called me from the vet to say that it was the end for Moses – he had to be put down. I broke into hives and fell on the floor. I screamed and screamed. Moses was my best friend. We brought him home for one last night with us. It was so selfish. My little pup wanted to die. He couldn’t eat, he couldn’t walk. His favourite things in life weren’t possible anymore. But we were selfish and wanted one last night with him. At the vet, my boyfriend held my hand and I sobbed and sobbed as Mo-dog took his last breath. I left the room and my sister ran down the hall to grab me. I can still feel her hugging me as we mourned our dead, exhausted puppy who was no more.
After my dog died, my boyfriend J and I talked about things that would make me feel better. I decided that I wanted goldfish. Me & J would take dates to the conservatory to watch the koi swim. I wanted my own fish to watch swim. He brought me to Petsmart and I picked out two beautiful goldfish that I named Baby & Seymour (and a moss ball named Tony, to purify their tank). In December, J went to rehab without telling me, 5 days before Christmas. On New Year’s Eve, too sad to celebrate, I cleaned Baby & Seymour’s tank, thinking about how different things were when J took me to pick out these fish. I woke up on New Year’s Day, 2014, to find that both my goldfish had died overnight. I cried all day. My beautiful gift from J, my little fish, the antidote to my sadness over losing my pup. Dead & gone.
I’ve lost a lot of pets over the years. I was fortunate to grow up in a household where cats and fish were commonplace. Moses was my first and only dog, brought to me after years of begging. I had a short stint with a guinea pig named Maxwell Edison, and an even shorter stint with a hedgehog. And I write this with two handsome kitties calming me by my side. There’s a George Carlin bit where he says, “It’s inevitable when you buy the pet. You’re supposed to know it in the pet shop; it’s going to end badly. You’re purchasing a small tragedy.”
Yes. It’s going to end. But you’re also purchasing a best friend, a constant companion. You’re purchasing (adopting!) something that you will care for and it, in its own way, will care for you. So thank you, Peter….Moses….Baby & Seymour…and all the many others, for caring for me when I needed it most. I hope I cared for you when you needed it, too.