Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Furry Family Members

Almost everyone I know with pets thinks of them this way--as family members who wear fur coats and run around on four feet--as opposed to just merely animals.  When it comes to our cats, we feel the same way.  I personally dread the day that we have to make the hard, right, horrible decision to offer our smallest family members the comfort of death.  In fact, I do my best to not think about it and enjoy life with my kitties.  Po is creeping up on 14, so I know it will be sooner rather than later, but this is one of those things where ignorance is far more blissful than reality.

In the last month or so, two of our friends have faced the loss of a beloved furry family member.

Pets are grieved just like any other loss.

I do not envy them their pain.  I know my turn is coming.

But I hope, in relating this story from my own childhood, I can help them through their hurt, help them answer the hard questions.  College Roomie #2 has already been told this story, because she has young children and I thought she'd need to hear it.  I didn't expect that I'd have to tell it again this soon, and this time, for Tab and Two-D.  At least CR2's kids knew their beloved doggy was old and sick.  Tab and her family didn't expect to lose their chocolate lab today.  (Yes, my heart breaks for them.)
Spooky Look-alike


When I was about 12, my best friend in the whole world was the kitty-corner (pardon the pun) neighbor's  16-year-old cat, Spooky.  In a world of angst and confusion, he loved unconditionally and without reservation. I could tell him secrets that I couldn't trust to anyone else. I was 12, puberty was already no fun, and my parents had put our house on the market. (I loved that house.)  And he was as close to having a kitty of my own as I'd ever get--we had a houseful of allergies.  I took care of him when his owners would go away on vacation.  He would tolerate all sorts of affection.  I loved him.

Spooky was sick. I didn't know it, but my mom saw the signs. And sixteen is pretty ancient for an indoor/outdoor cat.

I was devastated when his owners made the awful choice to put him to sleep. My mom recollected recently how I'd come to her in tears not long after that awful day, and I asked if I would see Spooky in heaven.

Apparently a degree in elementary education and English does not prepare a parent for deep theological questions out of the mouths of grieving children.

Mom managed not to panic, although she said her thoughts were racing for the right answer to that question. Because if she answered it wrong, the consequences would be traumatic. But by the same token, she wanted to be sure the answer she gave me was biblically correct.

I honestly believe she got a jolt of divine inspiration.

She said, "Well, I know that God has promised that whatever we need will be in heaven. So if you need Spooky to be there, God will have him there."

And I think she's right.

It's been a long time since I was twelve.  I have my own small children asking me tough questions, theological and otherwise.  I have cats of my own now that I love just as much as I loved Spooky, if not more.  I know the inevitable is coming.  I'm not the grieving little girl I was then...but I find just as much comfort in those words now.

Thankfully, my experience as a child will help my children as they grieve.  And help me, too, to be honest.  For as much as I'm convinced almost daily that my cats are purrfect little heathens and should probably go straight to hell for some of the stunts they've pulled, I cannot imagine life without them.

I hope heaven has rejuvenated Spooky.  He's going to need it, because I fully expect my fuzzy heathens to be there with him.

Come to think of it, the cats as a whole better be prepared, because I think they'll have to join JJ's Thatcher, CR2's Casey, and Tab's BayLeigh up there.


  1. Those were wise words from your mom! I'm filing that away for future reference :).

  2. I was finally able to bring myself to read this post this afternoon and I thank you for writing it for me. As a child growing up and even as an adult (before dogs) I didnt really think that heaven was for pets because I suppose "techincally they do not have a soul"
    here comes my conflict of interest because I want BayLeigh in heaven RIGHT NOW waiting for me and so I hope that the wise words your mother once told you and that Dan actually told me this week while we have been struggling are true.
    God wants us to be happy in heaven and BayLeigh makes us happy.
    Thank you again so much for making this week just a little more bearable for my family!

  3. Well, I figure...heaven has no waiting. Absolutely no reason why BayLeigh wouldn't be there now. Probably terrorizing my father-in-law, too. Especially if she was the type of doggy who couldn't hold her licker.

    Dad was something of a darkly-toasted marshmallow: all crispy and crunchy on the outside, but gooey on the inside. He might act all gruff, but he's an animal lover. He'll take good care of BayLeigh while she waits for you. I promise.

  4. And for those who frown on the idea of animals in heaven, I offer this: We know there are horses, at the very least. So animals will be there. God is so creative. I can't imagine him not wanting to enjoy ALL of his creation. That's enough proof for me that our fuzzy family members will be there.


If you are rude, spiteful, or just plain mean, there will be a $10 charge just for putting up with you.

Please be nice.