I’ve been seeing a lot of my Facebook friends writing about the passing of a beloved pet lately. Words are hard to find at a time like that — good words, anyway — that will offer real comfort in a time of grief. I have a standard thing I write: “Take comfort that you gave X a good life and a loving home.” Sometimes I add “Not all pets are so lucky.” It’s taken me years to find that, and I’m happy with it. It gives the grief-stricken pet-parent something else to focus on — even if only for a couple of minutes — and offers comfort in the form of bringing up memories of good times with the deceased. I hope it actually HAS been comforting to those whom I offer it; no one has said anything yet one way or the other.
I’ve been thinking about pets a lot lately — mammals, I mean, not lizards, fish, or arachnids. I’m supposed to be finishing up the redecorating of my office so the house can be cat-proofed in time for new kitties to take up residence with us. I have to admit, my heart just isn’t in it right now. As much as I want to have a cat or dog around to cuddle and play with, I still miss my cats Buster and Chyna, who passed away — Chyna in the last year, and Buster back in July of 2014. They were such wonderful companions for us: affectionate, playful, loved petting and attention, and would follow us from room to room, just to be near us — if not actually on us. While it’s true Buster was accidentally destructive due to one or two physical ailments, I wouldn’t trade my time with him for anything. Losing Buster set off one of the most crippling bouts of depression I’ve ever faced. I’m tearing up now just thinking about it. It was a bad time for me.
Pets enrich our lives in so many ways. Besides the obvious companionship, pets are good for stress relief, and they look after us, too. Buster and Chyna always made regular visits if I was bedridden with a cold or the flu, simply to check on me and give me some encouraging cuddles. Most nights Buster would lie draped over my shoulder as I drifted off to sleep, his chest next to my ear, and his butt on my pillow. He would purr loudly, and I usually fell asleep to that soothing sound. Once I was asleep he’d get up and take care of his long list of overnight kitty errands, but he and his sister always came back in the morning to wake me up and cuddle some more.
It’s difficult sometimes to weigh the love and affection given to us over a pet’s lifetime vs. the intense grief at their passing. Not everyone feels so strongly about their pets as I do, I realize, but frankly I like animals better than a lot of the people I’ve met in life. I have no doubt we’ll have furry housemates again in the near future, and while I look forward to it, there’s still a hole in my heart for Buster and Chyna.