Another One Bites the Dust
June 12, 2009
This is a sad blog post, in memoriam of not one pet, but two that have recently left our household for bigger and better things (if you believe that animals go to heaven, that is.)
In the past two weeks, our cat Crisp and our white guinea pig Marshmallow have gone on.
We adopted Crisp just about one year ago from an animal shelter, on the condition that we would not allow him to be an outdoor cat. (They make all the adoptive parents promise this.) And we stuck with that promise, having lost our black cat a year ago to a coyote. The trouble is, our longtime cat, Beatrice, has always been a sensible indoor/outdoor cat. She is mostly an indoor cat but she also ventures out to sun herself around our yard and climb trees and catch an unsuspecting bird now and then. (Our next door neighbor has also said that Beatrice occasionally goes in their house for a mid-day nap, which is an oddly embarrassing and uncomfortable thing for me to think about, but that’s another story.) It’s an arrangement that has worked out quite well for her. She comes in at night. She doesn’t make herself a coyote meal.
Crisp, on the other hand, would stand at the sliding glass door, begging and pleading and meowing to get out. He’d wistfully watch Beatrice as she would dart out and tauntingly roll around on the patio. Finally I gave in. I let him outside. Just during the daylight, mind you. We always got him in at sunset. Well, until this last time. And he never made it home. I tacked up “Missing Cat” notices around our neighborhood, completely hypocritically since I always silently scoff at these notices when I see other people doing this. I mean, who are we kidding? A missing cat is a coyote meal.
I think there is a spectrum of animal understanding. They, in the created order of things, are below humans. We are to care for and respect their place in the world. I have good friends who fall on both sides of the “Animal-Stewardship Spectrum.” I have one friend who likes animals but doesn’t mind leaving kittens and puppies outside, even in coyote territory. A shrug and “circle of life” philosophy mark her understanding of pets. On the other end, I have a dear friend who thinks it is near-criminal behavior that I would allow our cats outside. I think I must fall somewhere in the middle.
And remember Marshmallow?
Marshmallow of the exotic pet doctor fame? Well, after all my work to rid her of lice, treat her itchy skin, give her antibiotics twice a day with a tiny oral syringe, and give her oatmeal baths, the oddest thing happened. She dropped dead last Saturday night. I thought everything was fine, she was doing great, her sores had finally healed, no lice, she and Ebony were back in the same cage, everything was great. I was out of town (Mom’s getaway trip with girlfriends…ahhh!) and Dave called and said, “Uh…I don’t know how to say this, but Marshmallow is DEAD.”
Poor Dave. He’s never been a big rodent person. And he had to deal with this. He thinks she may have died of a broken heart, since I, her beloved caretaker, had abandoned her for two days. Who knows? But she’s gone. She always was a bit more high-strung. Maybe her blood pressure was high and she had a heart attack. We’ll never know.
The interesting thing is this: either my children are becoming calloused to death (bad), or they are learning to grieve well the losses of life (good). They’ve been sad, but not devastated. In my hopeful “mom” heart, I want to think that all this dealing with loss and sadness is preparing them for life, where grieving is required for things both great and small.
Rest in peace, dear animals. And we won’t replace you too soon. Not because we can’t bear to try to fill the aching holes in our hearts, but because Dave has made me promise to have a “pet-acquisition” hiatus for a year.