Grateful "April" in the A-Z Blogging Challenge
were born outrageous animal lovers. I was not. My parents granted my brother and me the
obligatory pets: a poodle, turtle, parrot, rabbit, and cat. But when any of
them died, they were replaced faster than we could dry the tears on our face.
rabbit got out and the dog next door killed it."
Oh, no…. Redeye!"
worry. Here's a new one."
I looked at
the bunny my dad was handing me: it was white and also had red eyes. Huh. I did
not know rabbits were totally regenerable. I named him Redeye 2 and carried on.
regenerative practice stopped the tears but may have developed a certain apathy
in me toward pets. Sometimes I'd come home to find one of the indoor dogs had
mysteriously disappeared. Gone to doggie heaven because he was
"ready." Huh. And a new pup appeared before the water in the dog bowl
delivered my first baby, however, I discovered that kids were sooooo much
cooler than pets, and when the doctor put Jarret in my arms, my first instinct
was not, "Huh, seems totally replaceable." I couldn't keep naming
babies Jarret if something happened to this guy.
ensuing string of child rearing years, I could not go to extreme
measures to save an animal. If we had a sick dog and the vet's bill would be
over $50 to cure him, we took the dog home, gave him baby aspirin, and prayed for the best. We did not have much money raising three kids on one income, so
choosing baby formula over expensive overnight veterinary bills was humane… for
for children trumped the affection I had for animals, and I could not relate to
childless couples who treated their pets like children. "They are a-n-i-m-a-l-s," I could hear my inner voice snipe when friends would slip
into depression or call in to work sick over the loss of a pet. "It isn't
like you lost a child," I said to myself. I could not fathom spending hundreds of dollars to
keep a pet alive, particularly one who was at the end of his life anyway.
appear that God had some work to do on my empathy. A lesson was coming.
that an essential element in teaching children responsibility involves growing
up with pets. One of the first pets we adopted after having children was a
yellow and white stray cat who got pregnant on our front porch so often we
nearly hung privacy curtains and charged admission. The kids loved her, but she
was feral and would not stay indoors. On her second litter and before a visit
to the vet to fix the recurring pregnancy issue, I finally allowed Jordyn to choose one kitten to keep. She selected a yellow and white
tabby we named Marie.
I am not
proficient at identifying gender in kittens, a shortcoming I learned only after my toddler shoved "Marie"
inside a Fisher-Price plastic farm house and got the small kitty's head stuck
through a window.
mama… kitty is playing."
dislodging Marie using a surgical procedure that annihilated the plastic farm
house, the vet snapped a photo, laughed at me, then discovered that Marie was a
male kitten. We would need a new name.
I named him
Lucky for reasons I thought were obvious, and he became a hilarious family
member for the next fifteen years. He tolerated being dressed like a doll and
subjected to stroller rides and fake bottle feedings. To escape, he'd climb the
bunk bed ladder so he could sleep with his owner, Jordyn.
brings me nearly to the end of the A-Z Blogging Challenge, and my
second-to-last letter of the alphabet… "Y" for the yellow cat.
last several months, Lucky, now 15, showed signs that his body was slowing
down. On Mother's Day, he grew very ill, and I thought nothing of calling
emergency, after-hours, holiday vet services to see what was wrong with him.
Between that bill and the visit to Lucky's own vet a few days later, I spent
more than my first mortgage payment.
happening to me?
weeks wore on, I made sure Lucky was eating and drinking, and eventually he was
even allowed to sleep in the curve of my belly each night so he knew how much
he was loved. He wasn't getting better, but I would not accept that it
was the end. I couldn't imagine our lives without this silly cat. He had, after
all, grown up with Jordyn.
personality had emerged, and this Dana had morphed into a veterinary
spendthrift. I admitted our failing cat into the vet hospital to see if
Dr. Sheahan, the same vet involved in the farm house incident of '98, could
perform one last miracle. I knew that a rebound was a long shot, and I
understood that I may have to take out a loan to pay this vet bill.
behaving like one of those pet lovers I never understood.
As I drove
away with my empty cat carrier, my icy heart thawed. I was discovering how
wrong I had been for the 23 years I'd been grinchy toward passionate animal
lovers. Comparing loving a pet to loving a child is unfair--the losses would be
incomparable. But to discount one loss because it can't compare to another loss
isn't relevant; it's all pain, and it's personal. Pain does not change
characteristics depending on its source. Pain is pain, and it's authentic.
ownership is a double edged sword; we must love and lose many animals over the
course of our human lives, which means that we subject ourselves to intentional
pain each time we adopt a furry friend. Pet ownership is to bind yourself in
love for years, a silent contract between a person and an animal, a contract in
which the pet claims, "I will love you unconditionally forever. Just
take care of me."
this essay of gratitude for two reasons: I am grateful to Lucky for his years
of loving service to this family. And to Lucky, thank you for teaching me the
human capacity for loving a pet.
I will miss
you, Yellow cat.
Labels: A-Z Blogging Challenge, Pets