On the Death of a Pet
The inevitable, heart-breaking truth of animal guardianship is that we will almost always see our beloved pets pass away.
Three years ago, my family took our childhood cat Sweetie to the vet for the last time. We pet her for the last time, told her we loved her for the last time, and said goodbye to her for the last time.
Sweetie had just turned 21 years old. We’d had her since I was a toddler and, until the previous few years, it felt like she would always be around.
Sweetie was the last of 3 childhood pets that we grew up with. She was a world traveler. She was a shoe fanatic (particularly heels). She would always give “love bites” on our noses and snuggle beneath the blankets in bed.
It may sound a bit strange but, in my mind, I viewed her as a sort of maternal figure.
I don’t remember life before her. She was just always there.
Many of us have this idea that when a pet dies from old age, their final moments will be a little easier on us. After all, it was expected and we had plenty of time to prepare.
But even in the days leading up to it — all the difficult decisions you make for their health and any pain you see them going through — the finality of that last goodbye is always completely overwhelming.
I’ve heard it said that women forget the pain of childbirth so that they can desire to have another child. Whether that saying is true or not, I think it can be the same when we lose a pet.
Every time it happens, it feels like I had forgotten how soul-wrenching a feeling it is.
But that can be a good thing.
To forget the intensity of that pain enables us to be willing to open our hearts and homes to another animal in need, even though we will always arrive once again to the inevitable conclusion.
To people without pets, this concept can be foreign. What they may not realize is that animals aren’t objects we bring into our homes for entertainment. They aren’t commodities that we possess.
They are family members that are cherished, valued, and loved without end.
When we bring an animal into our home, we are pledging to them that we will care for them to the best of our ability. We are promising to house them, feed them, look after their health and well-being.
In return, they give us companionship and unwavering love for all their days. They make us laugh with their antics. They are the ones we can turn to when we need to cry without explanation.
They can frustrate us, annoy us, anger us (just like family)… But in the end, they make our lives more fulfilling and happier.
I choose to believe that there is an afterlife for animals. I have to. I have to believe that they will experience a perfect and pain-free eternity to make up for all the hardships so many of them face in this life.
They are deserving of no less.
To all the ones still yet to come,
And to those who went before…
We will never forget your time on earth;
The time when we were yours.
If you’ve had a pet that has passed away, please post something about them in the comments.
Even though it’s painful for us, their lives are worth remembering.