Man's other best friend

How do you face the loss of a pet? And why does it hurt so much? This week in Table Talk.

Published September 8, 2006 10:03AM (EDT)

House and Garden

Cats and Other Furry Fiends

EricaYO - 12:56 pm Pacific Time - Sep 5, 2006 - #1624 of 1733

I had to put my kitty to sleep this morning. Her illness was finally identified as heart failure. I had Chloe for 10 years, since she was a kitten that had been tossed out of a car to die along the roadside. She used to creep under the covers to sleep with me -- and still was, before I left on my trip. She couldn't jump worth beans, and occasionally dug in my flower beds, and her little purr was hardly audible. I am really going to miss her.

Karl Northman - 04:49 pm Pacific Time - Sep 5, 2006 - #1630 of 1733

On this thread we've all been through this, and we've all felt the pain of losing a longtime companion, even if it did many questionably appropriate things and was by no means the model of a modern major pussycat.

Just yesterday my wife and I and our son Erik finally got around to burying the ashes of Moonlight, who died the week before Erik graduated from college in 2003. We've never wanted to do it without him, but with him living out of town, we forget, and he's gone again, or we remember, but it's January and we aren't digging any holes.

Finally we remembered -- so there we are, the three of us, and Erik's girlfriend, all standing there crying, and Fargo and Nelly are hanging around wondering what's up, as we finally put Moonlight's ashes under the ferns in front of the house, where she loved to lurk.

Four adults crying over burying about half a cup of ashes of a cat who died three years ago -- but it really does make sense, because the sense of loss of anything is never about any "intrinsic" value -- it's about the emotional investment we make, and cats are real good at sucking us in, I think to a considerable degree because our relationships with them are so complex

Nancy Richardson - 07:12 pm Pacific Time - Sep 5, 2006 - #1640 of 1733

Erica, I have mourned pets in many ways more painfully and strongly than I did my own parents. For some reason, we see in the death of a pet an unjudgmental companion, who stands by us with no serious demands, yet is part of important milestones in our lives.

For the past weekend, I pretty much assumed I would be saying goodbye to Hillary. A lot of that had to do with my superstition that I couldn't be lucky enough to have a good outcome from my traumatic event ... but sometimes the fates are kind ... and sometimes, for no reason at all, we lose something precious.

During the past couple of days, I have been indulging in introspection, investing a lot in a cat who was there when I had lost literally everything ... and who was pretty decent company.

Its a crap shoot, but in loss we see what we had ... and an important piece of ourselves.

I am so sorry about your cat ... these things are never fair.

Karl Northman - 09:02 pm Pacific Time - Sep 5, 2006 - #1643 of 1733

A lot of people think that love is some sort of external thing, or something that just happens. But it's not -- real, long-term love is something you create, by playing games with your own head. You create it yourself -- you find something and turn it into something that you love. It isn't something that happens, in the real sense, quickly. It takes care, and it takes time, and it takes pee and poop and the learning to say, oh, whatever, I [still?] love you -- and that's true with babies as well as with cats.

This is why the longer we've had a relationship with something -- whether it's a cat, a kid, a boat, a piece of land -- the more we are hurt, if we are capable of growing care, of growing love, with respect to something like that, at all, the more we love it, and the more we miss its loss. And when the thing can give back, it just doubles the emotional effect.

When I look back on my whole life, I can remember a bunch of people who I can't remember their names. And I can remember cats, from the same time, from the same situation, where I can remember their names. And then, later, there are anonymous cats, and anonymous people. God may consider that there is some special virtue to humans. But to humans, often, the best friend they have in the world is not god, not human, but a cat.

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