Monday, January 28, 2019

I Just Knew She Would Outlive Me....Now What?

We put our cat down this week.  She was 23 years old.  It wasn’t a surprise.

Funny thing, she, for 95% of her life, defied the definition of ‘pet’ as no one could pet her.  For twenty plus years she was just this thing that lived under my bed and came out occasionally for food or to scratch someone.  She always looked like a kitten which always gave me the idea that she would outlive me, if for no other reason, then merely out of spite.

She was relatively unlikable for a long time.

But late in life something changed in her.  Perhaps it was age, perhaps it was the fact that she had outlived all of her other pet friends, perhaps it was one last dig at me, getting me to care about her before she shed her mortal coil.  Somewhere in the last year or so, she became a cat.  A somewhat pleasant creature who even ~ gasp~ let one of my daughters pet her in the last month or so.

Last Thursday we sat the girls down letting them know that we would be taking Phoebe to the vet the next morning and that they should spend the evening saying ‘goodbye’.  Macy, my animal whisperer, lost it completely.  It was no surprise.  Avery, my eldest also had a meltdown.  My youngest, Darby, ever the opportunist immediately asked for a new 'replacement' kitten.

Let’s get the body in the ground before we have that discussion, Darbs, but nice try.

My wife was able to keep herself together until the big day, as was I, but when the time came, we both became the same brand of puddles that our kids were 12 hours earlier.

Our reactions surprised me, but I was surprised for different reasons for each of us.  For my wife, it was surprising seeing her melt down considering she grew up on a ranch.  The rancher’s life requires that you often see things you’ve named appear on the dinner table.  It offers a bit of detachment from situations like this from a young age. For one reason or another, her immunity didn't work this time.

I was also surprised that I was bothered to the degree that I was.  I literally had a hate-hate relationship with the animal for half of my life and most of hers.  I have, in the past, tried to get my wife to get rid of it.  I have kicked it off the bed tens of thousands of times.  Simply put, she has been my nemesis since I was in my late twenties. So why was I upset?

I guess that’s the lesson here, little ladies.  I was affected for a variety of reasons.  The first is familiarity.  The little demon lived under my roof since we owned the roof.  I’ve thrown her off the bed ten times a night for the last fifteen years.  I was used to her.  But more importantly, it’s the weight of having to tell you guys, the weight of being there with mommy.  It’s seeing how it affects you three and your mother. I don’t want to see any of you hurting.  Sort of my dad job is to keep you safe and to see you that upset gives me a “I’m failing at dad jobs” sort of feeling.  One last thing it could be.  Perhaps we all need an nemesis.  A being that proves that you are good by the very nature of their existence.  I know I'm good because I'm hated by something evil.  Not entirely sure about that last one, but I'll take it.

Here’s the other thing though, ladies.  It’s important to learn the lessons that the death of a pet teaches.  You had it once with “The Claw” the hermit crab, but this one cuts a little deeper.   I can tell you this; there is no substitute for experience when it comes to loss.  It sucks, it sucks a lot, but down the road, you’ll be a little better for it.

Phoebe knew you loved her and deep down, super deep down, Mariana Trench deep, she appreciated it.

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