Loss Never Gets Easier

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Many years ago when I was in college, I wrote a short story about taking our cat Midnight to be put to sleep. He had been our first cat, and I had adored him. One of my friends read it in its embryonic stage and laughed at the concept, so I never finished the story. But the loss was real. The pain was not as vivid and knife-sharp as the loss of my grandmother (which was my first initiation with death), but I never forgot the sorrow of losing the cat and my classmate’s rather callous reaction to the story.

Just today, I was faced with the unfortunate duty of taking the family cat, Oreo, to the vet. Riddled with cancer, she needed to be put to sleep. She was a rather ill-tempered old girl who liked chasing people and nipping at their ankles. She would jump up on the table during diner until I locked her in the pantry, and then emerge to give me a look of disdain before she rubbed against my husband until he gave her ice cream. She would allow you to pet her until she got tired of it, and then she would nip you, as if to say, “That’s enough, human.”

Yet for thirteen years, she’d snuggled with me at night, when I was sick, or whenever I was struck with a vicious migraine. Scientists say that you cannot anamorphize pets, that they do not think like humans or care like humans. It may be true. But scientists can’t explain the bond that develops between animals and humans. Is it just about food? I don’t know. I do know that I feel empty this evening because she isn’t waiting for me. I haven’t had the heart to pick up her toys or her food bowl or water. Tomorrow will be soon enough.

This is the first time I will be without a cat in over thirty years. I’ve always adored them because of their independence and energy, their quirks and yes, affection. I’ve made the trip to the vet more than once, and it never gets easier. Every time I vow, never again, but I know at some point I’ll be driving past the SPCA, and I’ll stop the car.

I’ll feel that pang of loss just before I open the door and go claim another lost baby.

 

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